Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Making A Books Page Turn

I need some ideas on how-to pull off the effect of making a real, not 3D, book's pages turn by themselves as an off-camera narrator reads the pages. Much like a Winnie the Pooh's magical story book works. It has been about 30 years since I have seen the effect.


Sean Harris
Harris Television Productions

>>I need some ideas on how-to pull off the effect of making a real, not >>3D, book's pages turn by themselves as an off-camera narrator reads >>the pages.

I've used tungsten thread which is quite strong yet thinner that a human hair, secured to each page and then manipulated marionette style. If you have a dark background the thread won't be seen. If it happens to pick up some light, it's a relatively simple task to "paint out" later. A small, low powered fan off set, can help to get the pages moving. It takes some practice and certain types of books and paper work better than others...

Bruce Barham
Producer, Director/Cameraman
American Production Services, Inc.
669 NE 74th Street
Miami, Fl 33138
305 757-6644
Fax: 305 757-0040
Cel. 305 934-6644

There are a couple of ways I can think of doing this.

The easiest would obviously be to frame the book with the edges out of frame. That way someone can flip the pages, but I'm sure you thought of that. An other way would be to have someone wear a key coloured glove and flip the pages. You can key the hand out and fill the blanks in with some extra footage of the book and the pages flipping. In other words shoot some additional footage of the pages where they are being touched at a different spot, so the compositor has material to work with.

Now the 3D solution is actually not as difficult as it may seem. I'm sure you can find a 3D book to download online an a site such as Turbosquid. There is a great tutorial for this in "Exploring Maya 4" by Maximilian Schonherr (ISBN 0-201-74216-0).

I hope this was any help.

Joerg Schodl,

Cinematographer, Los Angeles

Or affix fishing line or thread to the backs of the pages and shoot the book on a dark surface. It may require some “rig removal” but I bet you could get away with the in-camera effect. Have one fishing line for each page. It would help if you didn’t have to show the very top of the back of the page.

Steve Hullfish
Verascope Pictures

Old school "mess around" solution that might work:

Get a scuba tank or air tank or air compressor

Make a nozzle by taking a piece of copper or brass tubing and flattening it to make a wide, thin nozzle.

Try blowing air at different angles and pressures to see if you can get the pages to riffle and flip.

Pre-crease each individual page at both left and right positions.

Try blowing pages across with air while shooting at a higher speed so you can slow down the flips
(Assuming a lock-off)

This might be a total waste of time, but it would be really cheap and easy to test.

Another way to go would be to get two books.

Cut the pages out of one of them, and glue them to the backs of the pages that are still in the hero book with a very thin rigid wire sandwiched in between the pasted on page and the bound page so that the wire sticks out the bottom. This could be fairly close to the binding - maybe an inch or two out, so that it doesn't have to be moved in a big arc.

Flip the wires from right to left at the bottom of the book (and at the bottom of frame.

If you colour/paint the wire the same colour as the background on which the book is sitting (I would recommend a dark piece of cloth for obvious reasons) or if you frame the very bottom of the book out or hide it with a bit of prop or something to hide the pupetteering, you can puppeteer the pages with impunity.

Depending on how you design the shot, you could also hide the wires with a piece of wood closer to the camera that matches the tabletop and shoot at a deep stop other words, a hanging miniature acting as a flag to hide the wires.

Of course if it is a lock-off, the wires would never cross the print - only a bit of paper at the bottom as they flip, so painting the wires out in post would be a relatively painless operation

Obviously, all this is dependent on creative framing

Let us know what you end up doing

Mark Weinartner
VFX Photography and Supervision
LA based

Thanks to those who have replied.

I am leaning towards a tab or wire sandwiched between the custom book's pages. To green or not to green is the question now. I will let you know about or see the final result (if /when... I am bidding on a story board presently).

Once again, to CML and its members, thanks for all the help. I usually just lurk and learn so much.

Sean Harris

Harris Television Productions

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