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Recovering reflections from screen replacements

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Justin Lockwood
Recovering reflections from screen replacements
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:53:51 pm
Last Edited By Justin Lockwood on Jul 16, 2016 at 3:05:09 pm

I'm currently working on replacing the screens of some footage of iPads and phones. The footage I received, however, contain glossy surfaces, are mostly moving shots, and to make things worse, the screens were not turned off/greened out during the shoot (the app screens were captured and animating).

Reshooting is out of the question, unfortunately.

I know this is a long shot, but does anybody have any suggestions on how to recover the original reflections and comp it back into the shot? At the moment the screen replacement is looking a little strange, because the bezels are reflective but my screen replacement is matte.

Or perhaps some alternative way to simulate some reflections?

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Mike Sevigny
Re: Recovering reflections from screen replacements
on Jul 16, 2016 at 4:09:46 pm

Hey Justin. The situation you find yourself in is not uncommon. Ideally the screens would have been turned off and you could blend the original reflections back on top of your comps. However, if you're creating them yourself it can get very tricky very quickly.

Your case is particularly tricky because the viewer can compare the true reflections to your fake ones as the device/camera moves. The plus side is that you have a great reference as to how they should look. Depending on how sharp and close up those true reflections are will make all the difference.

What I do to recreate botched reflections is to simply use feathered white solids.
1) Duplicate your preComp (the screen) in your project panel and in your composition, then drag/replace the duplicate layer with the duplicate in the project panel. Now you have two unique copies of your screen in the composition on top of each other.
2) Inside the duplicated preComp (topmost), delete all the layers and create a white solid (as reflections are typically white/lights). Now add a very feathered mask to it (you will customize this later).
3) Back in your main comp, lock the viewer by clicking 'toggle viewer lock' at the top left of your composition viewer window.
4) Here's where things can get tricky.. You'll have to animate & tweak your white solid to move and look as close as possible like your true reflections. Of course you can use any type of layer you want for this but in the end it'll likely only look better, not perfect.

I'd love to hear other user's tricks on this one.


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Justin Lockwood
Re: Recovering reflections from screen replacements
on Jul 16, 2016 at 5:11:23 pm

Hey, thanks for the response Mike! Sounds tedious, but I'll give it a shot. I'm probably also gonna try pulling/keying out the original stuff on the screen through a keyer of some sort, or perhaps by using RGB curves or something. Hopefully that gives me something to work with.

Some of the shots are going to be tricky (impossible) though, especially the ones with reflected faces and fingers tapping on the screens.

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Michael Szalapski
Re: Recovering reflections from screen replacements
on Jul 19, 2016 at 7:58:13 pm

You could replace the bezels too... :/

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.

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Joe Clay
Re: Recovering reflections from screen replacements
on Jul 22, 2016 at 4:28:03 am

Unless your footage is crazy, it should be easy. It sucks that they left it green but you might be able to fix that.

1. Duplicate the layer that contains the iPads and use whatever screen you've tracked in there as a track matte so you basically have the original screen over the new screen. I hope that makes sense.
2. Add a tint effect to get rid of the green. If you need to retain the color of the faces, you can key the green back out, but I'd try it first without doing that (maybe add skin tone back in later).
3. Adjust the levels to dim the green and increase the contrast between the shadows and the highlights. The goal is to just have the highlights in white (or in a lighter grey).
4. Set that layer to screen. You should have your reflections back. If you need to get those skin tones in there, apply another tint, and set the white to a skin tone. Adjust opacity as necessary.

Joe Clay

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