Green Screen & Motion Control – Everything you need to know

Do you remember Michel Gondry’s video for Kylie Minogue where she walks around and around a busy street and by the end there are six Kylies walking around? Well, that was our introduction to the requirements of a recent Motion Control studio enquiry. Could we do this?

If you get asked the same question and are wondering where to start, here is what we learned.

Experience Counts

Find a proven Motion Control operator who has showreel and client names to back them up. They will know the answers to director and client questions. We worked with Mark Robert Motion Control who supplied the kit and the crew to operate it.

motion control set up in studio 1

Pre-Production: A picture paints a thousand words

Firstly, you really do need a visual reference to the shot, words are not enough. If it’s a shot never been done before you will need a step by step breakdown as if looking through the camera. Traditional story boards can do the job but ‘pre-visualisation’ software packages allow you to build the scene more realistically in 3D.

This preparation is so that the end-client, the agency, the director, the motion control rig operator, the post-production team and you are on the same page. This is generally sage advice, but whereas we all know experience lets you ‘wing’ a lot of stuff, in this case it is really does make sense to plan ahead.

Get Real

A technical recce is highly recommended. First of all, is the space big enough for the moves planned? Where is the optimum place to lay the track for most shots? Moving the track can take up to an hour! One of our best decisions was to book out the studios for the recce.

This included the motion control rig operator, the DOP and post-production team/rep getting together, preferably in the studio and work through the shot(s) step-by-step. Of all of these roles the motion control rig operator is the one who really needs to know, and they are the ones likely to have the solutions.

A natural consequence of this is that you arrive on the day of filming relaxed in the right frame of mind.

Thinking it all the way through

There are a number of different motion control rigs available. The Bolt operates at the hi-speed end (imagine tracking a drop of water coming from a shower head). We used the Milo which comes recommended for a wide a variety of shots and is physically compact and ideal for our studio.

Understanding the Post Requirement – a MoCo shot is usually all about the post-production work. Knowing where and how the shot is going to be used ensures end-to-end continuity. One area easily overlooked in this regard is the lighting. If the shot requires a dramatic shift in lighting at any key point having the lighting set up to cater for this shot-in-camera is better because you may have to multiple passes of the same shot where consistency is crucial. For the same reason having a gaffer on set is a no-brainer.

Filming Day

After the technical recce we decided to get in extra lights and a gaffer to set them up. Brand new furniture arrived and was in place from the outset. We planned the most complex shot first and made up for any lost time on the easy shots. Motion Control is a slow business.

So yes, we could do this, playing our role as both producer and team member. Knowing where to get the expertise and what questions to think about before our client did. In many ways a normal shoot.

motion control set up studio 1

Client Feedback

“Great film studio at London. First class facilities and above all, the staff went to great lengths to help our production in every aspect. Thank you guys for an amazing experience! We will be back for sure!”

– Arbel Rom, ISRAEL

You can view all of our client testimonials for both green screen studios, here.

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