Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Turning the 5D Mk III into a Green (Screen) Monster

My hiatus from TV commercials has resulted in a very good relationship with the online AV crowd. After the first Samsung promo I did a few months ago, I recently finished up two more. The last promo I shot was based on the intro concept from the movie Juno. Ridwan Hafiz, Innovator (that's just saying cool CEO) of Analyzen, the online marketing company, called me at 1am asking for an idea. While this seems odd to some of you, this is quite normal for the both of us. After a few single malts I called him back and pitched him the idea. He and I are usually on the same wavelength, so he was immediately into it. It took him around 12 hours to get the clients to ok the project as well and when the client happens to be Samsung Mobile, promoting their new Note 3, this was no small feat.

On my side, I knew I was going to have to shoot a majority of this promo in front of a green screen. I even had some crazy ideas of using the same character passing the Note 3 to himself on a regular basis, via split screens (just like the phone itself!), so he had to move around a lot as well. The Canon 5D Mk III shoots 4:2:0 at 100mbps internally, something which would make life hell trying to key out the green screen. Since Canon recently released the 4:2:2 8-Bit HDMI out for the 5D Mk III, I thought I'd use my trusty old Convergent Design Nanoflash recording XDCAM 422 at 220Mbps I Frame so get a nice key. The camera still recorded internally, just as a backup, since I find HDMI connections very fickle.

From the shoot, the important thing I found about shooting green screens with DSLRs are as follows:
1) Try to shoot with a low ISO that gives the least amount of grain. My sweet spot was 400.
2) Shoot with a higher shutter speed to avoid motion blur. Instead of the usual 1/50th shutter speed, I stuck to 1/100th. The staccato movement from Juno helped here as well. I'll cover the more about this in the post section.
3) Adjust the white balance. Even though I was using 3200K Tungsten lights, I set the color temperature down to 2900K. This creates a nice separation from the green screen and the actor.

The shoot went smoothly. The phone was really a prototype, so it had to be handled with extreme care. We even made a Flip Wallet from chart paper, since the leather version is still on its way to the Samsung shelves. We set up the small corner stage in the old Coke factory with a large green screen and churned out the shots. After wrapping up the shoot there, we went to the Samsung Smart Cafe and wrapped up the shoot before sunset.

Post was a completely different beast. Each footage was animated and rendered out to 10fps from the original 25fps. The actor was given a "paper cut out" like Toner effect with white and black borders. Each element of the animation also had to feel like it was cut out and bordered with black. The videos used from YouTube had to have this effect as well. After 24 hours and many coffee/Red Bull breaks later, I had the finished product. You decide if it was worth it.

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