Special F/X: Two's A Crowd

Turn any room into a crowded restaurant.

So, you’re planning to shoot a scene that calls for a couple involved in
an intimate conversation in a crowded upscale restaurant. You grab the Yellow
Pages and let your fingers do the walking through the dining section. After
just a few phone calls you begin to realize that even the friendliest proprietors
are a bit … shall we say, "uncomfortable" with having a camera
crew in their place of business, especially when it’s busy. Not to mention
talk of paper work and … yikes! Payment??? As it turns out, acquiring
a fine restaurant for your production is more involved than you had first
thought. But wait! There’s another option. With a little creativity and
some Hollywood-style trickery a crowded restaurant can be as easy as pie.

The first thing we’ll need to pull off our restaurant illusion is a shot
of our couple walking into a real eatery. Very few places will object to
this type of shot. This piece of footage is essential to the believability
of our effect. Got the shot? OK, cut.

Next we’ll create the restaurant interior. To do this, we’ll need a small
table furnished with a tablecloth, place settings, a flower in a vase and
other out-to-eat-style table decor. You might even find an oil painting
to hang on the wall near the table. Gather the proper props to sell the
idea that this table is in a restaurant. You get the idea.

Position the table against an appropriate wall. While you’ll want to be
a bit choosy about the type of wall (painted, papered, brick, or whatever)
the size of the wall is not as important. While we’re at it, remember that
although many restaurants have seats near windows, outdoor light streaming
from behind your talent will wreak havoc on your camcorder’s automatic iris
and white-balance controls. Trust me, the wall is the way to go.

Seat your couple at the table and frame the shot to crop out any non-restaurant-like
objects in the room . Showing a closet door or a photo of your
mom is a dead giveaway that the bistro where the couple is supposed to be
dining is actually your spare bedroom. Adding two extra people in strategically
placed chairs will add to the realism. Later, if you have a VCR with the
audio dub feature, you can add in some soft music and ambient restaurant
noise to make the scene complete.

When it comes to creating locations, remember that if you imply something
exists, it does, and what the viewer can’t see doesn’t. In fact, with a
few props and clever framing, two can be a crowd.

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