Have you ever watched a movie or a video that features twins? Do you think they actually are twins and wonder how many acting/presenting identical twins there are in the world? Well if so, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
One of the easiest practical effects that anyone can achieve with pretty much any camera and basic knowledge of editing can do, is to create twins. Watch this video for an example of what I mean by ‘twins’.
At around the 22 seconds mark of this video you will see the presenter interacting with himself like this:
The simple solution to shooting this is to find identical twins who happen to be presenters as well. Like in the movie Terminator 2, when the prison guard was killed by, well, himself. That was actually done with real twins. There was no special effects there until the real prison guard was stabbed in the eye.
But sadly for most of use that is not a viable option… obviously…
So here is how this ‘effect’ can be done. The best part is, this does not need to be done on a green screen. Although doing it on a green screen is much easier. Here are the ingredients needed:
You should already have a script that details what each twin is going to say, and have a good idea of how they are need to ‘interact’.
Whether it is in a Green Screen Studio or on location, what you need is a nice “quiet” place. This means there shouldn’t be movement in the background like people, animals, traffic, etc. The location should also be relatively quiet. There shouldn’t be any distinct and inconsistent noises in the background, like horns, birds chirping, or aeroplanes flying past.
This talent needs to play 2 characters. So he or she will need to be able to react to someone who is not necessarily there and deliver a script in a consistent fashion when switching roles. The timing of reactions need to be relatively spot on.
Now that you have all the key ingredients, let’s shoot.
Once you are on location, pick your background, and then set up the camera with your talent. This is technically the most complicated part of the shoot.
Divide your frame (what you see on the camera screen) into halves.
Put the talent on one half of the screen and get your framing and focus. Mark the spot that the talent is standing at.
Next get your talent to move to the other half of the screen and make sure that you do not move the camera. Move the talent so that he/she looks similar in size and that the focus is correct. Mark the second spot.
You may need to repeat these 2 steps several times to make sure that the composition of the shot is what you want when both sides of the screen is occupied by the talent. This is where having a body double becomes useful. Anyone of similar height can be a body double. What the body double needs to do is to be the other “twin” when setting up the shot and during the shoot.
This body double will help you visualise how the final shot will look, and also give the presenter or actor someone to perform with or to.
Lastly lock off the camera and mark its spot as well. Measure how high the camera is off the ground; if using a zoom lens, record the focal distance; and aperture of the lens. All this is optional, but you will be very thankful that you have that information if the camera is accidently moved during the shoot.
Finally shoot the puppy… I mean the script. Make sure that the talent keeps his/her body and arms on only one side of the screen, and do not cross the “invisible” middle line. (The assumption here is that the presenter does not need to physically touch the other twin. That requires much more preparation to get it right).
If this is done correctly, then the next step in post-production is easy. Simply put the 2 videos one on top of the other, and crop both images so that they meet in the middle. Then, if the timing of the talent is good, it should look like they are talking to each other .
I mentioned that having a body double is optional. It is good to have one because it will help the talent with where he/she is looking when talking to his/her twin. It also helps if the body double can deliver the lines as well; so that it will be easier for the talent to perform better.
I hope this has been insightful, and I wish you best of luck in your future shoots. Till next time!