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AMD is proud to be sponsoring five senior thesis projects at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts in Orange, California. These projects range in subject matter and medium, from stop-motion to live action. Each project features visual effects powered by AMD Ryzen™ and Radeon™ hardware. We will be following these Chapman students and their projects through their post-production work on AMD hardware and Foundry’s Nuke software. This is one several updates on the progress of these student films.

Five students at Dodge College were inspired by French architecture and European folklore over a year ago and began dreaming up a children’s short film that would become their senior thesis project, The Sandman. The film follows a classic mythical character, called the Sandman, that sprinkles sand onto people’s eyes to send them to sleep. The adventure takes the small, flying, fairy-like character all over a French town putting people to sleep and getting into trouble.

Most of the film will be shot in live action but their main character, shown below, and a few other characters the Sandman meets in dreams will be computer generated. The students are using a range of innovative techniques and cutting-edge technology, including the AMD Ryzen™ 7 1800x Processor and Radeon™ Vega Frontier Edition graphics card, to produce their film.


Although the film is set in fantasy, the team of students is working hard make it appear as real as possible. Because this film is both computer-generated and live action, this can sometimes be difficult. A key to the believability in a film like this is the precise lighting of live and animated characters. To achieve lifelike lighting, the students are using three techniques. First, they are lighting live scenes and characters with what they call a “light pole” to achieve the golden glow of the Sandman on live characters. Second, they are using a sophisticated 3D imaging technique called photogrammetry to precisely edit 3D models of live images. Finally, the team is darkening live-action film of French streets taken during the day to convert it to night scenes to more carefully edit the lighting.


The Sandman character glows and is trailed by sparkling particles as he flies from house to house. To give live action shots this glow realistically, the shots are filmed with a “light-pole” in the place of the Sandman character. The “light-pole” is a combination of an old-fashioned boom pole with the microphone at the end replaced by a light source. These live action plates are edited to remove the pole but keep the light. This technique produces real and accurate lighting for the Sandman while also giving the actors something to react to in place of the character.

“Light-pole” being used to create the Sandman’s glow during live action shooting.


“Light-pole” being used to create the Sandman’s glow from below.


Before the “light-pole” was removed from a live-action scene.


After the “light-pole” was removed from the scene. Notice the small amount of light on the actor’s face and desk.



To further mesh the CG Sandman with the live action world he exists in, the team is experimenting with photogrammetry and 3D photo scanning. Photogrammetry is the process of taking many photos of an object, at all angles, to recreate a movable 3D version of that object on a computer. This way, the lighting and camera angles of the live action footage can be more easily edited during post-production to mesh animation with live action in the film.

The team is using this technique in several parts of their film such as bed sheets and tree stumps to make sure the lighting can be manipulated accurately when the CG Sandman is added to the film. Below is one example of how the team used photogrammetry to create a 3D render of a closet for their project.

Mapped polygons on wardrobe produced by photogrammetry
Wardrobe render from photogrammetry.



The team traveled to France to capture live-action footage of apartment buildings and neighborhood streets for the Sandman. This footage was originally taken during daylight hours but is heavily edited to be used in nighttime scenes. This technique is used much more commonly than you might expect because it is often too expensive or difficult to film at night. The video below demonstrates some of the steps in the steps in this editing process.

Day to night conversion process.


The Sandman animated character can then be brought into the film along with the light particles and golden glow that follow him.

Adding the Sandman Character into live action shots of French buildings.

Compositing the Sandman and lighting into converted live action shots.

Currently, the Sandman is set to be finished in the beginning of May. We will continue to follow their progress and post about where they are in their process until that time. Keep a lookout for more updates soon, the team is working quickly to meet their deadline.

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