Bluescreening Tips & Tricks: 9 Helpful Pointers


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<p><strong><font size="5" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Bluescreening Tips & Tricks</font></strong><font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br>
<em><font size="4">9 Bluescreen Shooting Tips</font></em><br>
<font size="2">by Sherri Sheridan</font></font></p>
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<td><strong><font size="3" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">9 Helpful Pointers </font></strong><font size="3" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br>
</font><font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br>
<strong><font size="2">(1.) </font></strong><font size="2">Carefully storyboard and time out each shot, to know
which angle the character needs to be positioned, and
for how long, to fit with the background footage layers. <br>
<strong>(2.) </strong>Have the character pretend to react to things that will
be composited later, such as screaming at approaching
3D monsters or holding their hands up right before a
car is suppose to run then over in the final composited
shot. If possible, use monitors on the set to key out the
blue behind the actors, and drop in background layers,
or digital set pieces. This will help you to see how well
the actors are fitting in to your virtual sets as you shoot.
Making bluescreen characters appear to really be in the
final environment is an evolving art form. <br>
<strong>(3.)</strong> For compositing one bluescreen character, actor, or pet
onto another, try matching simple head turn motions for
shots. If you are putting a human face on a cat, shoot
the cat first. If the cat turns his head to the right after
three seconds, have your bluescreen actor turn their
head to the right after three seconds. In post you would
place the face of the actor over the cat's face. Ideally the
heads would not be moving at all, but simple motions
can be matched with a little planning. <br>
<strong>(4.) </strong>Light so there are no shadows or hotspots from lights
cast against your bluescreen. Your goal is to create a
flat solid blue background behind the subject that make
pulling a flat color key easy. <br>
<strong>(5.)</strong> Avoid see through fabrics or reflective surfaces that will
pick up the color blue and be hard to key out. <br>
<strong>(6.)</strong> Avoid shiny objects on characters, such as mirrored
sunglasses or chrome guitars that will pick up reflections
of lights and blue floor. <br>
<strong>(7.) </strong>Try to give yourself plenty of framing room between
the bluescreen character and edge of the frame. If their
hands or feet are out of the frame, it will limit your
ability to composite them anywhere inside the frame
as a full character. You can always take a fully framed
bluescreen character and move them out of the frame a
little. <br>
<strong>(8.)</strong> You never want to scale any bluescreen footage up past
100% for good looking resolution. If you need a close up
of a bluescreen character make sure and shoot for that
size. <br>
<strong>(9.) </strong>Turn your DV camera sideways for a maximum resolution
when shooting full body bluescreened actors. If you shoot
in regular landscape 4:3 mode, your bluescreen actor
will be much smaller and lower resolution. </font></font></td>
<p><font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Using bluescreen special FX in your film will make it stand
out more if you have a good reason to do it, and a solid story idea
behind it to justify the wow shot productions. Bluescreening
allows you to play with scale, location, physics, body parts,
impossible stunts and character design collages in new ways.
You could create huge monsters walking over little cities or live
actors doing Kung Fu in a Barbie Dream House toy house. A
dog head can be placed on a motorcycle racer's body to create a
new superhero fast. Characters could fly through the air, leap
over buildings, ride skateboard down freeways, disappear in a
flash, camp on the surface of Mars or walk around the inside
of an atom. Bluescreen characters can be duplicated into an
army, fall down bottomless pits, ride a flying chicken over New
York or have their faces placed on objects that start talking. <br>
<strong>Using Bluescreened Characters</strong>
Bluescreened characters are shot against a blue (or green)
background, which is then made transparent in post using
color filters. Other layers of video, animation or still images
are dropped in behind, and around the characters, to create
new environments. Actors are the most common subjects
placed on bluescreens, but these same techniques could be
used for stop motion sets or any time you want isolate a subject
from a background as a layer. After Effects is the preferred
software for keying bluescreen characters. The more expensive
production bundle version has more features that make
keying bluescreen characters much easier, along with several
third party plug ins. You can also use simple color difference
techniques to pull a character off of a background, if that is
all you have available. What new narrative approaches could
you invent to utilize bluescreen ideas for plot, character or
theme? <br>
<strong>How to Pull a Bluescreen</strong>
Everyone who does lots of bluescreening will have their
own favorite presets of filter combinations to pull the blue
color out and make a clean alpha channel in a program like
After Effects. Each blue or greenscreen will be a slightly
different color depending on the lighting, requiring different
number settings sometimes. <br>
There are two basic approaches to pulling a bluescreen
you may want to try. Lots of people say to use the Color
Difference key first to pull the blue out, but I think you get
a cleaner alpha channel using Color Range first. <br>
I then use the third party Puffin Composite Wizard
(CW) effects plugins for cleaning up the edges around the
bluescreen after the standard Color Range filter. Spill Killer
or Suppressor removes the blue tinged halo from around the
edges of your subject. You can type the setting in for both
ways below and see which combination works best for your
bluescreen situation. <br>
<strong>Creating Shadows for Bluescreen</strong>
Once you key out the blue areas around your character,
and place them in your background, duplicate the character
layer and fill it with black. Use a 3D tilt effect to place the
black silhouette at a shadow perspective angle that fits
the lighting in the scene. Add a 10 pixel feather around
the edges of the shadow and take the opacity down to 70%
depending on how hard you want the shadow to look. The
shadow will then appear to be walking with the character,
since it's the same alpha channel image, just slanted and
filled with black. How could you have the shadows doing
different activities then the characters casting them?
Perhaps one character is walking peacefully behind another,
with shadows that are fighting to develop visually how they
feel about each other. You would to do separate bluescreen
shots for animated shadows to use this idea. <br>
<img src="" alt="BlueScreen Tips - Film and Video Making" width="658" height="673"></p>
<p><img src="" alt="BlueScreen Tips - Film and Video Making" width="658" height="619"><br>
<em><font size="2" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Sherri Sherridan" width="125" height="125" hspace="5" border="0" align="left"></a>Sherri Sheridan teaches storytelling techniques to
digital filmmakers and animators with her books, classes
and workshops. She's also the creative director at Minds Eye
Media in San Francisco (, where she
directs, produces, animates, writes and designs projects for a
wide range of clients. Sherri is the author of the books, "Maya
2 Character Animation" (New Riders 1999) and "Developing
Digital Short Films" (New Riders / Peachpit / Pearson
2004). Recently, she created a 20 hour DV workshop based on
the books called, "Writing a Great Script Fast," available at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.</font></em></p>