When it was suggested that another session with the club’s green screen was due Chris quickly volunteered to organize the requisite practical evening. Never one to shy away from a challenge he decided to put on a demonstration of the use of green screen AND show how to use the effect in an editing programme. But that’s not all! The ever ambitious Chris wanted to project the demonstration on our screen in real time AND use an editing programme that was unfamiliar to him. PHEW! Was he mad or what? This promised to be quite a night!
Practical evenings at the club are always popular and Tuesday 30th August was no exception. Our little hall was soon heaving with OVFMers eager to look, learn, share and experience as chairs and tables were put out, refreshments prepared and all the behind the scenes work of club night was done.
Chris arrived with mountains of gear and with the help of Pete, Bob, John, Sam and others set up the four lights (important so that the background and subject are both properly lit), the green cloth back drop, the camera, the projector, the PA system and the laptop…GULP! All this was achieved surprisingly quickly, very efficiently and with commendably little swearing
Once the hardware was up and running the challenge of putting on an entertaining and informative green screen demonstration in the space of just two hours was on. Would the evening be a success and make Chris a hero? Or would it crash and burn and demote Chris to zero status? Only time would tell.
The evening got off to a great start with a fascinating compilation of video clips showing how green screen is used in television in some very unexpected situations. The compilation brought to mind the fabulous visit we’d had from Andrew Bishop of Darkside Animation back in March. If you were fortunate enough to have attended Andrew Bishop’s night you wont have forgotten the passion and craft he and his team bring to film and television as they use the latest computer software to create special effects that are breath taking in their complexity. The Darkside Animation team worked on the recent BBC Sci-Fi drama Outcasts and it was amazing to see how locations could be replicated in the studio using sophisiticated green screen techniques. Naturally after such inspiration many of us were fired up at the thought of all the possibilities at our own fingertips.
With the intro over it was time for the practical part of the demo to begin. Chris called for his first victim, I mean volunteer! With Jane on camera Mike stepped up to be shot against the green screen and although painfully shy he did manage to put on a performance for us worthy of the West End stage while lighting and exposure were adjusted for optimum effect.
Chris explained the principles and fielded questions while victim number two Sam donned Jane’s purpose made green suit. Looking very much like a character from The Incredibles and acting the part too Sam made a perfect subject for stage two of the filming. Working like a real double act Mike and Sam improvised some very amusing scenes. All this was projected and recorded ready for stage three of the demonstration.
While the rest of us partook of Peggy and Jo’s teas, coffees and biscuits Chris and his tech team of Mike, David and Bob worked on the editing. It’s no mean feat to capture, edit and apply effects in limited time and on unfamiliar software but as Chris always says ‘He who dares wins!’. Pinnacle was chosen as the video editing software de jour because it’s relatively inexpensive, already has a number of followers amongst the ranks of OVFMers (see their user group elsewhere on this site) and is capable of working with green screen effects. Other software is available and the principles are the same whether you work on an £80 programme or £800 one. Of course the end results may differ though.
After the break Chris was able to show us the fruits of their labour, but not before we watched a couple of hilarious films by Jim, Jane and Barbara, the contingent from the sticks. We cheered, we clapped, we laughed….and we gasped as we watched not just Jane in her green suit but Jim as well as he cavorted with abandon in his figure hugging costume. It’s an image seared onto my memory but I’m hopeful counselling will help! Jim and Jane you are great sports.
The evening ended with Sam frolicking amongst the baa lambs and Mike being thrown on the mercy of the audience all thanks to the magic of green screen, Pinnacle and little bit of expertise. Naturally with so much going on there was bound to be the odd hiccup in the evening but several of the most attentive club members were quick to call out advice, offer suggestions and generally do their utmost to help. In response to these unsolicited but really useful contributions I’m sure I heard Chris mumble several words of thanks…at least I think it was thanks!
So after two eventful hours what did I learn? That getting the lighting right is vital, green screen can be a lot of fun, what some club members get up to in their spare time, and that ‘tolerance’ is an adjustment tool in Pinnacle as well as the ability to rise above trial and tribulation. Chris your fortitude was an example to us all, well done for producing a great evening!
So Hero or Zero? Well Chris will always be MY hero! But what’s your verdict?
Here Comes The Science
Why green screen? Basically green screen is a method of filming and isolating your subject from the background so that a substitute background can be added. Most video editing software allow the layering of film and the facility to select a particular colour in your clip and make it transparent (sometimes called chroma key). By using this facility in conjunction with a clip shot against a green screen background it is possible to put your subject anywhere from the moon to the bottom of the sea… just as long as you have the necessary replacement footage!
But why ‘green’ you ask? Well a colour is needed that is as different from skin tone as possible while being suitable for the colour sensitivity of the camera. Video cameras are particularly sensitive to green while the film used in movie cameras is more sensitive to blue.
I’ve posted a few Photoshopped images to show the principle of green screen. Using Photoshop on a still image is easier than applying an effect to a video clip but even so the exercise keenly highlighted the difficulties with green screen. Colour spill from the back drop and show through of the back drop in areas of hair etc both cause problems, as does the colour variation across the back drop as a result of uneven lighting. If you attempt green screen give yourself the best chance of success with plenty of time to set up and perhaps try some dry runs first too. Why not join the club members who’ve already used green screen in their films with great success. Good luck!