Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Making Your Own Green Screen | A Creative Alliance Workshop in Baltimore

My summer education adventures have consisted exclusively of Creative Alliance workshops in Baltimore. The Film, Video and Digital department at the Creative Alliance is truly an amazing resource that grants people of all levels of experience to learn, experiment and participate in the dialogue of film making in Baltimore.

On May 26, 2012 I attended the workshop Green Screen Basics with Craig Herron. With several tubes of PVC pipe, green fleece and the right lighting, we assembled a pretty nifty DIY green screen. Along the way he explained both the high- and low-end options for construction and lighting and the specific corners that could be cut.

As we lit and tested our green screen, Herron emphasized the importance of strong, even light that did not overwhelm or overexpose the screen. He made technical adjustments to his camera, like lowering the ISO to reduce noise, and steadied his shot with a tripod. Lighting your screen and subject separately is important and makes a huge difference once you move your footage into the editing stage.

Once in Adobe After Effects, we learned about the finer details that are often overlooked and how to not settle for "that looks pretty good". As a test subject, I was transported to the Bahamas and layered into a Maryland barn still (video below).

I had never considered the green screen to be such an art or even a real "replacement" for realism. But with the right amount of technical expertise, studio and equipment (DIY or professional), you can accomplish a great deal. Herron himself is working on a film set in the Bahamas - except he is bringing the scenery to his actors in Maryland via several cruises with his wife and the trusty green screen.

Herron will be working on the set of a new indie western film to be shot in Maryland this summer. This film is written and directed by Wayne Shipley and I've been told they are looking for volunteers to be townspeople, help build sets and even audition for some main roles. Herron, in charge of special effects, will be green screening a steam engine from the 1890s into a train station set. Follow the production on Facebook or check out Shipley's other movie Come Hell or High Water on Netflix.

Over these past few weeks, each workshop I have attended has been hosted by a knowledgeable, experienced and generous instructor. These educational opportunities are held in a small classroom and allow you to easily ask questions and interact with your classmates. Take some time to view current workshops online and sign up to support this dynamic Baltimore institution.

PVC Setup

Parts assembled
Hanging the screen (or green fleece).
A light made from PVC, an extension cord,
sockets and an ice cube tray.

Yes, an ice cube tray.

Energy saving light bulbs lower the heat generated,
wattage used and help prevent burns and blown fuses.
Five bulb light for the key light.
Flagpole base.
A critical look at his creation.
PVC tripod - assembly required.
Lighting the screen.
Camera settings.
Clamps are a screen's best friend
(get out of here wrinkles).
Keying out the green in Adobe After Effects.
Tutorial on rotoscoping
(for those with patience).
How did we get into that barn?

Some Resources:

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