Remember the scene in the Wizard Of Oz when Dorthy's dog Toto pulled back the curtain on "Oz" as he orchestrated all the special effects only a wizard can do? A few Zoom movie editors are achieving just that. Some are doing it with stunning results.

Native Taoseño Martin Roaque is the "Oz" behind the Taos Children's Theatre zoom movies. On Saturday (May 1) at 8:30 p.m., as part of the Drive-In series at the Taos Center for the Arts (TCA), the movie "The Shell of Aphrodite'' is premiering with a bevy of mermaids swimming in green screen oceans, submarines and bathyspheres, the king of Atlantis and Poseidon's storms.

Adapted by TCT's Director Karen Thibodeau, assisted by Christopher Heron and Victoria Ortiz, as well as TCT's company of young actors as "invading Gorgons in a faceoff with Mermaids, Sirens and Atlantean royals," Bakhane Chandler heads up "The Gorgons;" Jesús Rosales Captains the good guys.

The green screening mermaids (also featured on a PBS special) Dani Loumena, Eve Gordon, Mila Datta and Celi Heron swim in virtual seas, suspended by green suited parents.The production vision is steampunk, and opens with underwater dancers from the Taos Academy for Performing Arts.

Thibodeau said there will be an Atlantean trivia quiz with prizes, buttered popcorn available, and special discounts from Pizaño's Pizza (Just show your ticket) to round out your parking lot theater experience. Tickets are available at tcataos.org/calendar.

If you miss this opportunity, don't despair. "The Shell of Aphrodite'' premieres the next day on YouTube, Sunday (May 2) at 5 p.m. by donation via PayPal (louiseida42@hotmail.com). To view the movie click this link youtu.be/W78tI1Pt4tY.

Tempo caught up with the busy Roaque and asked a few questions about how his pandemic editing process progressed.

How has the process evolved for you starting with the first film last year? What were the biggest challenges, big victories, and moments you are most proud of?

In the beginning of our journey using zoom to create a movie, it was simple. People used a virtual background. I added sound effects, some music, spliced clips of the show, added credits, and that was the show. Now with each project the vision of what I could do has expanded to where I have removed backgrounds and replaced them with a view of space, and added watercolor planets that moved around on screen.

With the current show I am isolating individuals and creating more clarity in their video, and adding them to an underwater scene where each character has a place. I'm also enhancing green screen shots of parents holding their kids in the air to give the effect of swimming. In "The Shell of Aphrodite" we have more special effects happening than all of our other shows combined. It was very exciting to work on.

How long does it take you to develop, edit and produce a TCT project?

It varies from project to project. The first project with TCT took a couple of weeks. Our current project took over a month. Editing tasks that require time are mining through many hours of video and sorting them to the effects creation software.

Challenges present themselves, like how to make an earthquake happen underwater or add star dust floating in the sky. The editing and the sound clean up can be time-consuming as well. When I get a full clip I trim out the parts at the start and end, then I listen to who is talking through the scene to see if anyone is not audible. To adjust, I isolate each individual in each video. If I need to add a background to one or more people, I use a keying tool to remove a green screen. Then I add backgrounds if needed and determine if any visual effects need to be added. Later in the process come the audio effects, then I monitor through the scene and try to balance sounds throughout.

Where do you see this technology going?

I can see developing this into a VR (virtual reality) experience of each movie with the help of game engines and technology using a screen background rather than a green screen. This would enable interaction with the background. But with VR, I believe it will make the show much more of a visceral experience and bring each person into the world you try to create on screen.

If money were no object, what equipment would you like to have in your home studio?

A new desk would be great. An isolated studio and a small recording space to record vocals for overdubs, and a space to record green screen/virtual effect walls to record scenes in. A more robust computer to handle VR and 3D effect creation would also be a delightful addition.

This project is produced in part by New Mexico Arts, Jones Family Fund, McCune Foundation, Taos Center for the Arts, and Sheila Fortune Foundation.

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