Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

GreenScreen versus RotoBrush

Tuesday, December 14 2010 @ 04:27 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,229
Technology

Please take a moment to watch GreenScreenCinema's latest release: "Gingerlicious". While "Gingerlicious" is the story of two gingerbread cookies in search of a new home, it's also a demonstration of the three most powerful matte effects found in Adobe After Effects CS5: color key, color range and rotobrush.
    Color key - After Effect's color key is a pretty straightforward greenscreen tool. When the user chooses a key color that color is then removed from the scene. Hopefully this only removes your background from the scene (leaving your subject intact).

    Color range - The color range effect attempts to give the user a few more knobs to twist. Color range allows the user to pick multiple colors that need to be removed from the scene. Color range is often used when shadows and background color variation make a single color key ineffective. Color range is essentially the poor cousin of Premiere's Pro Ultra key effect (which I am madly in love with). Why Adobe didn't ship After Effects with the Ultra effect is beyond me.

    Rotobrush - The rotobrush tool gives filmmakers a way to lift an image out of the visual plane as if by magic. Hours and hours of tedious, time consuming magic, that is. With rotobrush you have to brush an outline over the area you want to keep. The effect tries to follow the object you've outlined as it moves across the frame, but the effect appears to be under the influence of some mind altering substance. It will randomly decide that your subject's arm should no longer be connected to his body, for example. You can almost hear the effect's drug-induced giggle as it makes these crazy decisions. You can correct these mistakes, but after you've repaired the damage you'll have to listen to the effect call you a "big downer" and threaten to never drive you to Burning Man ever again.
 
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Josh Olson is not going to read your script

Sunday, September 13 2009 @ 07:05 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,629
Free Film School

Here at GreenScreenCinema we try to give you the best possible advice without a hint of derision or sarcasm. We do this because we know that once you get on set you'll probably face nothing but derision. Not because you're doing a poor job. But because that's the nature of the business. There are simply too many applicants for the limited number of jobs that exist. And there is literally nothing to differentiate one applicant from another. So those in power can say and do whatever they want. They'll simply replace you if you ask for more than your daily allotment of gruel. Which brings us to the curious case of Josh Olson ("A History of Violence"), a successful screenwriter that absolutely will not read your script.
 
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Adobe Sparks Green Screen Revolution with CS5 Release

Sunday, July 04 2010 @ 04:37 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,252
Technology

You can now make big budget, Hollywood-style special effects at used car prices. If this is not the beginning of a revolution then I don't know what is. In Adobe's latest release of the Creative Suite product line (known as CS5) they've brought back the Ultra green screen product (which went missing in CS4) and given it so much bang for the buck that I think it could topple a small third-world nation.

To begin with, the green screen product is no longer a stand-alone application, the functionality is now built right into Adobe's Premiere Pro editing package. This gives you, the filmmaker, a crazy amount of control over how your composites integrate into your scenes. For example, you can add any other Premiere effect on top of a composite and see the results instantaneously. In the sample composite I created for this article ("The Big Spider"), I added motion to my keyed layer so that it would match the motion of the layer underneath. I was also able to shrink and grow the dimensions of my keyed layer over the length of the piece (in attempt to hide some lights at the edge of my green screen). I was able to play with each of these effects one at a time, independent of the Ultra key effect, which allowed my project to act like a big special effects sandwich. I could easily open it up, throw in a different flavor and see what the results were. This is a monumental change from Adobe's previous approach which baked the green screen effect into the footage at the outset.
 
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Free Film School: How to Distribute Your Film Over the Internet

Monday, July 20 2009 @ 04:43 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,628
Free Film School

Wondering how you are going to get your film out into the wild? Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber had the same thought on their minds after winning the Best Documentary prize at the Westchester International Film Festival (back in 2007). Though they had a film festival win under their belts they couldn't land a distribution deal.
 
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Free Film School: How to Get Along With Actors

Tuesday, February 03 2009 @ 09:45 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,848
Free Film School

Imagine if Christian Bale said to you on the first day of shooting,"I ain?t walking on the set if you?re still hired. I?m serious." Well, cinematographer Shane Hurlbut doesn't have to imagine. In fact, each time he gets passed over for a job in the future he gets to wonder if Christian had anything to do with it. And what was Shane's crime? He wandered into Christian's line of sight while Christian was acting.

Actors are like the tent-pole in the big top: they create the space in which the production can exist. But like all sticks they have a pointy end. Here is some advice for not getting poked in the eye while you're on set.
 
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Free Film School: Dissonance

Monday, July 21 2008 @ 12:16 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,792
Free Film School

At long last I am proud to present the movie that Moby doesn't want you to see: "Giant Baby Attack!" This film is a demonstration of the concepts of dissonance and ostinato as they are found in the Poltergeist score, written by Jerry Goldsmith. Dissonance (a clashing or unresolved musical interval) and ostinato (a constantly recurring melodic fragment) are staples of the horror genre. To see how these concepts work to make otherwise brave people sleep with a light on, read more.
 
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'He won many battles, his childhood friends became famous soldiers'

Thursday, July 17 2008 @ 07:23 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,793
Free Film School

If you're a science fiction fan like me then you've probably seen your fair share of the SCI FI Channel. I think I can even say without fear of marital retribution that the SCI FI Channel is hands down better than the Food Channel. One of the great things about the channel is that they fund their own "Original Movie" productions. And the movies they produce are great. Take the case of "Grendel", which debuted about ten months before Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf hit theaters. It was the exact right product at the exact right time.

I'm so enamored of their productions that I wanted to find out what kind of people actually work for the SCI FI Channel. As luck would have it I was able to get in contact with Ron Fernandez, the screenwriter for "Grendel". Ron also wrote Rock Monster for the channel.

Here's how Ron broke into the business:
 
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Ten Minute Film School

Monday, July 07 2008 @ 04:02 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 4,976
Free Film School

Robert Rodriguez has been in the press lately for his marital woes (pictured here with his woes), but I prefer to think of him as the UT film student that shopped a $7,000 feature for the spanish home video market (El Mariachi) all the way to fame and fortune. If you want to know how he went from total obscurity to being represented by Robert Newman at ICM you should read this early interview. The interview took place during Robert's first trip to Sundance and in it he announced "I created my own film school, the Robert Rodriguez Film School."

Though the school only operated for a short time, six years later Robert released a short called Ten Minute Film School that dissected a chase scene from El Mariachi. He's released additional episodes over the years, which together make up a nice primer on low budget filmmaking. The videos are worth a look, but I wouldn't be much of a whaling captain if I could be comforted with just that. After a little digging I was able to find an early class transcript in which Robert promised to teach the students everything they needed to know about film in ten minutes.

For your consideration, here is the original Ten Minute Film School:
 
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Free Film School: HDV 24p Workflow

Saturday, July 05 2008 @ 07:52 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 6,584
Free Film School

If you've ever physically spliced two pieces of film together you know how magical the 24 fps frame cadence is. I don't know if there is a psychometric test that can confirm this, but it seems like the images linger just long enough to make a lasting impression, while maintaining the proper motion of objects. When Sony 24p cameras were first used to shoot a feature it was clear that a new age of cinema was upon us. In today's article I am going to detail a low cost workflow that will allow you to shoot high definition video at 24 fps.

This workflow employs the tools detailed in my previous workflow article. To recap, it relies on a low cost HDV camera (the Canon HV20) and a low cost post production environment (Adobe Creative Suite 3). There are two reasons why HDV was selected for the video format: camera cost and disk space requirement. When it comes to cost per pixel, HDV cameras cannot be beat. HDV is considered a consumer format and as a result the cameras are a fraction of the cost of DVCPro HD gear. In regard to disk space, you'll find that the 25 Mbps data rate of HDV allows you to squeeze 5,000 minutes of footage onto an entry level PC with a terabyte of storage. The DVCPro HD format, on the other hand, eats up to four times the disk space and also requires greater disk throughput (which means your disk subsystem needs to be gold plated). Don't get me wrong, we're not against professional gear here at Free Film School, we just want to define an affordable option for filmmakers that aren't sitting on a big pile of cash.

Let's begin with your camera set-up.
 
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Should You Take a Screenwriting Class From this Man?

Wednesday, June 25 2008 @ 02:56 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,471
Free Film School

There's not a whole lot of show business going on in Silicon Valley, so when I heard that Santa Clara University offered a screenwriting class I thought I'd sit in and see what kind of gems could be found. The fact that SCU offered the class really caught my attention. As you know there are more scam artists than you can shake a script at preying on the Hollywood bound. If you're an actor you'll be told to get new headshots and take acting classes. And if you're a writer you'll be tempted to salve your artistic anguish with an occasional dose of screenwriting class. So what kind of pill is SCU selling?
 
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Anatomy of a Web Video Hit

Tuesday, June 17 2008 @ 04:26 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,762
Free Film SchoolBefore we get into the details of my recommended HDV workflow I thought you might like to see just what success in the web video space looks like. Take a look at this YouTube Insight graph, provided by Solomon Chase:



This is a chart of the daily views that Solomon gets on YouTube. Solomon is a young cinematographer based in Georgia, and his impressive, stylized videos are a YouTube sensation. He gets emailed by directors that want to work with him; men want to be him and women throw their underwear at him. He will get to work in his chosen profession until the end of days.

When I first spoke with Solomon he was completely shocked by his success on YouTube. He told me that the response was so overwhelming at first that he didn't even get through all the email. Months later he discovered that the director of the Winnie the Pooh movie wanted to work with him (among other offers). When I asked him if he wanted to work on features his response really surprised me. He said that he wanted to work on short films to keep the quality of his output high and then build from there. This is a guy that, when Hollywood calls, doesn't even read the email. How'd he do it?
 
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Free Film School: Affordable HD Workflow

Sunday, June 15 2008 @ 06:06 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 3,455
Free Film School

Today's column is being written for the filmmaker that does not have $10,000 laying around to spend on their cinematic debut. If you have a big chunk of change you'll find no end to the people that'll help you spend it (whenever I want to put a huge hole in my budget I call Snader and Associates ). But I don't want to see you spend that kind of money. HD technology is moving so fast that whatever you buy today is going to be gathering dust in a couple years. That's why an affordable HD workflow is so important. It's a great way to try out the format and learn the pitfalls without parting with your hard-earned cash.

I'm going to review a workflow that employs a $600 HDV camera, a $600 software suite and a $1500 PC. What kind of results can you expect for $2700? Take a look at the clip I'm running at the top of this article. The filmmaker, Solomon Chase, garnered almost 100,000 views on YouTube with this clip (which exemplifies affordability). And just look at the thing. It's gorgeous. It's dripping with gorgeous. They'll have to mop the gorgeous off the floor once the clip leaves the building. And the whole thing was shot with a $600 camera.
 
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A Worthwhile Internship?

Monday, June 09 2008 @ 03:16 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,320
Free Film School

Just recently I was able to pry a "how I broke into the business" story out of the hands of Ashley Michael Karitis. Ashley is currently a student at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and her script "Saving Tulips" was just named a finalist in the 480 competition.

For those of you that have not lived under the yoke of the 480 process, it's a "competition" that USC runs to see which students will actually get to make a final thesis film. Only a few thesis films are shot each year, which means there are numerous students at USC that spend $35,000 a year to not make a final film. I know, it boggles the mind. Now do you see why your parents were pushing for Free Film School?

Here's Ashley's account of how she broke into the business with an internship at an independent film production company:
 
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Free Film School: Tempo

Wednesday, June 04 2008 @ 05:36 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 7,580
Free Film School

Today were are going to look at a key video concept that is taught at USC: tempo. Three things control the tempo of your film: your editing paradigm, your on-screen action and your music. What do I mean by editing paradigm? Your editing paradigm is the expectation you set up in the mind of the viewer from the edits they've seen thus far. If you take the case of the film "Iron Man", you'll find that most of the action shots run somewhere between two and four seconds in duration. This is consistent throughout the entire film. The audience is trained early on that they need to pay close attention, and they are also comforted to know that scenes will be paid-off quickly. It is a joy to watch a film with a tight and consistent editing paradigm.

You can't do much about on-screen action after the film has been shot, so let's move on to music selection. If you take a quick look at the short film I've prepared for this article, you'll see a chase scene set to the theme music from "Indiana Jones" (composed by John Williams). The music has a very fast tempo (allegro) and is somewhat agitated (agitato). Music that is allegro agitato adds energy to your video, regardless of the video content. If the on-screen action does not fit well with the energy created by the music the result is a visual discord that makes the audience want to leave the theater, go home and write scathing reviews for the New York Times. This is what we want to avoid.

How can we bring the soundtrack into harmony with the visuals?
 
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Never Take Their First Offer

Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 01:25 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 4,878
Free Film SchoolI just received a great "how I got into the business" story from Melinda Briana Epler, production designer. She turned down an offer to work for free on the Richard Linklater film "SubUrbia" but made such an impression on the production design team that they eventually offered to pay her, proving that you can break into the business and make a car payment at the same time.

Melinda writes:

 
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Camera Set-ups of the Rich and Famous

Saturday, May 31 2008 @ 02:35 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,523
Free Film School

I promised that we would get into low-cost HD camera gear next, but before we come down to Earth I thought we should keep our heads in the stars for one more post. Let's take a look at the camera set-ups that are employed when money is not an object and assistants are hired so phones can be thrown at them. Let's look at the camera set-ups of the rich and famous.
 
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Free Film School: HD Workflow

Monday, May 26 2008 @ 05:21 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 3,576
Free Film School

It's finally time to get your hands on a camera. Here's Bryan Singer with his. Since this is Free Film School we're not going to have access to the Panavision Genesis HD camera that Bryan prefers, but neither will we waste your time with the silent movie nonsense that USC starts you out with. We're going to look at an affordable HD workflow that will allow you to easily publish to the web. I hope you're fine with distributing your work online. Consider that 240 million people watched Evolution of Dance while less than 40 million people paid to see "Superman Returns".

While you've probably heard me say there's no money in online video, YouTube is the best way to get immediate feedback on your work. At this stage in your career you need as much audience exposure as possible. Using an HD workflow and distributing your results online will give you both useful skills and a chance to see how your work resonates with bored teenagers the world over.

We'll first look at how workflows evolved over time so that we can come up with the most optimal HD workflow.
 
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