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Virtual Sets for FCP

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Ann Clark
Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 29, 2009 at 8:13:35 pm

My company is adding virtual sets as a feature for our video productions, and we need some ready-made sets that work in FCP on a Mac.

What are the best FCP-compatible virtual sets: best for price, usability, and appearance? The web turns up a few different vendors, but how to choose?

We use NTSC SD format (for TV commercials, etc.). But HD would be great, too.

Links to vendors appreciated.

Thanks!



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John Fishback
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:01:39 pm

What works with FCP - probably all of them. They are simply backgrounds on top of which you key the talent. Just make sure the aspect ratio of the set fits the format you're using. A 4x3 background won't work the way you want in a 16x9 sequence. However, a 16x9 background might work for 4x3 (you'd use an appropriate 4x3 area of the larger 16x9 background).

As for which to use? Pick the ones that look the way you want. I'm sure some of the virtual set companies have free or trial backgrounds you can experiment with.

I'm assume you intend to use a green screen to put your talent "on the set." In that case, consider using Motion's keyer rather than FCP's, or purchase a third-party keyer. You'll find many recommendations by searching the Cow.

John

MacPro 8-core 2.8GHz 8 GB RAM OS 10.5.5 QT7.5.5 Kona 3 Dual Cinema 23 ATI Radeon HD 3870, 24" TV-Logic Monitor, ATTO ExpressSAS R380 RAID Adapter, PDE enclosure with 8-drive 6TB RAID 5
FCS 2 (FCP 6.0.5, Comp 3.0.5, DVDSP 4.2.1, Color 1.0.3)

Pro Tools HD w SYNC IO, Yamaha DM1000, Millennia Media HV-3C, Neumann U87, Schoeps Mk41 mics, Genelec Monitors, PrimaLT ISDN


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:03:10 pm

First thing: I most earnestly hope that your company has shelled out sufficient money to get a decent camera to use for chroma keying; at the very LEAST a P2 camera that records in DVCProHD.

HDV cameras will not do. They won't. If you're the person who will be responsible for the keying, you can count on many painful hours of work if your company won't budge on using HDV cameras.

The reason: lousy color resolution, probably even worse than DV cameras, which are just about the worst camera choice in the SD world for chroma keying.

Check out this MacBreak podcast about the differences in color resolution and how it affects chroma keys. Incidentally, the folks at MacBreak also work work on virtual sets:
http://macbreak.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=70596

Second thing: NO chroma key is successful without good lighting. Again, I hope your company has taken that into consideration.

Third thing: don't rely on the keyers that come with FCP. They stink. If you intend to do the keying in FCP, get a really good chroma keying plugin.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Mark Petereit
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:47:41 pm

If I had a dollar for everyone who says you can't key with a HDV camera...I could BUY a P2! Sheesh!

I key footage shot on my JVC GY-HD110U all the time and get spectacular results:

1) I know my camera and how to use it to capture spectacular color,
2) I spent the TIME and MONEY on the right lighting for my green screen and my talent,
3) I use a large HD field monitor on the shoot to make sure I get an absolute razor-sharp focus,
4) I ingest through my Kona to ProRes422 (What? Not 444? EVERYBODY PANIC!!)
5) and (HORROR OF HORRORS!) I don't use third-party plugins, just FCP, Color and Motion, right out of the box.

Spend your time learning your camera and getting your lighting right. Spend your money for what counts -- food for your crew!


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walter biscardi
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:52:29 pm

[Mark Petereit] "Spend your time learning your camera and getting your lighting right."

That's the part nobody gets, even some of the big professionals who shoot green screen and seem to forget to throw enough light on the actual green screen itself. I've worked on some national shows and the green screen lighting that's presented to me for keying is just terrible. Generally I'll send any green screen shot into Color first to really enhance the color of the screen to make the keying process easier.

Though I would never use HDV for keying here even with correct lighting. Glad you've been able to get good results with that format, but even converted to ProRes I would not use that format for acquisition.



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Ann Clark
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:49:29 pm

Thanks everyone for the input.

At my company, we are all set for camera and lighting, and we have great keying software that we've used successfully for other projects.

Now, we are turning our focus to purchasing great-looking virtual sets to "up" the production value.

Again, my question is what, if any, company produces the best-looking virtual sets for the money - for the Mac?

Your help is appreciated.


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John Fishback
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:55:47 pm

There really aren't any technical parameters to measure. It's what you and your team think look the best. A minor point of comparison would be the number of different angle views you get of each set. Those would allow you to simulate different camera positions. As I said, some companies have free or trial versions of their sets. Try them out. Ask them why they are better than their competitor and see if they come up with useful information. If they do, please post back.

John

MacPro 8-core 2.8GHz 8 GB RAM OS 10.5.5 QT7.5.5 Kona 3 Dual Cinema 23 ATI Radeon HD 3870, 24" TV-Logic Monitor, ATTO ExpressSAS R380 RAID Adapter, PDE enclosure with 8-drive 6TB RAID 5
FCS 2 (FCP 6.0.5, Comp 3.0.5, DVDSP 4.2.1, Color 1.0.3)

Pro Tools HD w SYNC IO, Yamaha DM1000, Millennia Media HV-3C, Neumann U87, Schoeps Mk41 mics, Genelec Monitors, PrimaLT ISDN


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Ann Clark
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 30, 2009 at 8:34:27 pm

Thanks. Actually, I was hoping that others would share their experience with vendors so that I would not have to make the rounds. If you don't have a favorite vendor for these sets, or haven't used them, that's fine. Just wanted to cut to the chase.


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Michael Parks
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Oct 31, 2009 at 4:51:52 am

Ann,

We've used virtual sets for quite a few projects over the past two years. For keying, we have tried everything that comes with FCP, AfterEffects, and some others. With good footage, they are all generally OK. When we had a really tough project (bad footage), we couldn't get good results with anything we tried...until we tried Ultimatte AdvantEdge. Do a google search for 'ultimatte free demo plugin' to get the link to the free demo version. It solved our problem on that project very well. We then started using it for "good" footage, too. It does a great job (better than anything else we've tried) on that, too. We often get footage that we didn't shoot (screwed up footage), so it's important to have a keying plugin that is very robust.

For virtual sets, I'm sure that you have seen many of the "download now for $199" web sites. Those are OK for our very low budget clients, but the sets often look very low budget (sometimes very cheezy) when you actually start to use them with your footage. That's often OK for some (very low budget) projects.

When we have a project that absolutely must look great, we've used virtualsets.com They are much more expensive (think thousands, not hundreds), but their stuff looks great (great lighting, high realism). They also customize everything for you (logos, graphics, camera angles). Everything we have gotten from them lately was HD, so that shouldn't be a problem, either.

Hope this helps!

-Mike


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Sergey Sergevich
Re: Virtual Sets for FCP
on Aug 12, 2010 at 4:39:08 pm

If you interested in virtual sets, greenscreen backgrounds check our website http://www.cg4tv.com/


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