Greenscreen has been a critical tool in film and video productions, especially in the past two decades. Once a technology reserved for Hollywood blockbusters with big VFX budgets, the accessibility and improvement of chroma keying technology and innovations in both Virtual and Broadcast productions means shooting on green screen is now accessible to everybody.
The possibilities of a green painted wall are limitless!
Visual Effect Software
VFX and compositing software used to be expensive, clunky and hard to use, but now with open-source apps such as Unreal Engine and Blender, we are going through a revolution akin to that of the DSLR movement of the early 2010s. However, rather than putting a 4k camera in everyone’s hands, filmmakers of any level now have access to the tools needed to create convincing visual effects.
Take Ian Hubert, for example, an Indie filmmaker able to create an entire world using free and open-source software:
Computing power continues to become more affordable. Nvidia’s 3070 graphics card release shows that the hardware cost to run these programs is dramatically decreasing. With 5G networks and superfast broadband around the corner, soon everyone will be able to link up to powerful quantum computers over the internet, probably for the cost of a cheap monthly subscription!
Virtual and Mixed Reality Sculpting Tools
Virtual / Mixed reality sculpting and 3D tools have come on leaps and bounds. BMW now design cars in virtual reality. Apps such as Gravity Sketch, Adobe Medium & Unreal Engine give you the ability to create 3D objects and environments with all the fidelity of using your hands and a real sense of depth compared to a 2D screen, keyboard and mouse. These apps also allow multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously, meaning they can work collaboratively in real-time like a traditional art department.
Virtual Production / AR Solutions
Everyone has seen and been wowed by The Mandalorian Volume One. A giant LED cove that projects virtual sets in real-time with Unreal Engine and all customisable in real-time. But this is not the death of the green screen as many are calling it. While the benefits are clear – real reflections, the ability for the crew and talent to see and interact with the environment, it is very early days and still a few years from being usable to most productions. Moire and the lack of ability to focus on the screen severely limit its uses at the moment, and the cost of hiring/setting up these screens is beyond the scope of most budgets.
Hybrid Greenscreen VR
We believe a hybrid approach utilising green screen is the most affordable and achievable route into virtual production. By live keying and tracking the camera, you can achieve impressive almost-final-pixel results, especially when combining your lighting or LED panels to match the lighting of your 3D scene. At the very least, this is a fantastic previs tool for your green screen shoots. Here is an excellent example of a green screen virtual productions:
Playing basketball and showing a 3d transition
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is also something to keep a close eye on. Most of us interact with AR at the moment through its face-tracking feature – think Snapchat & Instagram filters. However, this technology is utilised to extend sets beyond the studios’ walls’ confines – in real-time. This, combined with virtual production, can create some compelling photo-realistic environments.
Beam your talent around the globe
Covid has forced the world into remote, online work. Despite the obvious restrictions and heartache caused by the pandemic, we have created opportunities from it in true human fashion.
The world is now more connected than ever, and with broadcast and live streaming tech directly accessible to everyone. In true Star Trek fashion, participants can be beamed from around the world using remote production solutions and a green screen. The Oprah Winfrey and Obama interview being the most famous example of this – click link.
We see this technology as the future for conferences, talks and interviews as it removes the limitations of a contributors’ geographical location. So long as they have a green screen, a camera and an internet connection, they can be beamed anywhere.
Green Screen is Environmentally Green
As commercial & indie productions become more environmentally conscious, the green screen lives up to its name. Gone are the days of needing to build big expensive sets for your production, just to be torn down and thrown away the next day. Or flying an entire film crew out to a remote location for a one-day shoot.
Environments can now be created digitally and utilised again and again in the comfort of a studio rather than a tricky location. They are perfect for use in TV Series or a branded commercial/corporate set that will need to be utilised for multiple shoots over the years and remain consistent – reducing locations fees, logistical headaches and the environmental impact of these productions.
Fun, Flexible & Affordable
Whether you’re looking to film a lo-fi music video or high-end commercial, a green screen is an important tool that democratises the filmmaker’s arsenal. The only limit to what you can create with a green screen is your imagination.
Written by Jay Newby – March 2021
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