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Virtual News Sets?

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Craig SeemanVirtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 3:39:58 pm

I'm hunting for Virtual News Sets for green screen job.

These seem to look good at a reasonable cost.
These look a bit cheap

This is all I've been able to find though. One problem is not knowing the quality of the mattes to put newscaster behind anchor desk as well as filling the windows/wall monitors. Non of the sites offer watermarked demos with mattes.

Anybody have any experience with the above or know of any other sets?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 5:37:06 pm

I've seen all these, and don't much care for any of them; they look like they are made by a guy who's full-time job is mapping DOOM levels or other FPS game art. Okay for Space Ghost Coast To Coast, or some more frivolous kind of look, but hardly realistic looking. If you're trying to do somethign serious, these are all too cartoony.

The most photo-realistic newsroom type sets I ever saw came bundled with toasters and globecasters. I liked theirs so much I used what they did as a pattern to make my own.

I went into our real control room with a cheap 60-dollar 2 MP still camera and shot monitors, decks, scopes, panels and rack sections, threw it all into photoshop and started cloning and duplicating and layering until I had a suitable mass of techno filling the frame. (Decks by the score, yeah, we can do A/B/C/D/E/F/G/H/I/J/K/L/M-roll edits!):-)

I added a layer with a vertical "glass" panel made using blur and extrude filters, which takes up the left hand third of the scene and looks like a glass shower curtain affair, you can still see motion and faint form "thru" it, but no detail. This is for keeping the background softer in support of any CG or PIP window I want to put up there.

The next step was the real key to selling the shot. I made two identical copies of the master shot, went into one, and did some subtle work on some of the visible video screens as well as the scopes. For some screens that were basically blank, they had a monochrome gradient on them: I flipped this gradient vertically on a few random monitors. I also displaced the image in the vector and waveform scopes a little bit, and picked a few red lights and LED's on a few panels here and there and either erased or brightened/softened them. Don't go overboard on that step!It's a spice, not a main ingredient!

Then I put both layers into a DVE we have handy (you can also do this with any compositing software handy, from Boris to Motion to AE or whatever) and set the DVE/stillstore to cut between these two slightly different shots, looping nonstop about 2-3 times per second. Perfect flicker effect. Not too obtrusive, but it maeks the shot look live instead of like a still. Saved ths off to tape and hard drive as a loop. Greenscreened my actors in front of this doing standups as well as sit-downs behind a real desk. Free, and the client loved it. Took all of an hour to make.

The trick to selling this shot is that the background must also get bigger and possibly softer when you cut to a close-up of your talent. In my case, I can put the looping newsroom track on the old Alladin and preset a couple "focal lengths" with it that can pop to a close-up when I take the CU camera shot thru the switcher that's doing the keys live. I do this stuff live to tape for the most part, then do minor clean-up in post.

You can do it in less time than I took to write it.

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Craig SeemanRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 6:18:09 pm

So are you going to write a tutorial for Cow/Cow Magazine and include a link to the layered Photshop file (with watermark if you need)?

I'd love to see it (with layers of course) but even without might be ok.

I honestly thought this looked ok for low budget work
It looks very close to what News12 is using locally.

See these
Story 1
and this
Story 2

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Mark SuszkoRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 6:43:36 pm

I think I just WROTE the tutorial in my last message:-)

Seriously, the photoshop part of this is just not that hard if you have even a FEW real elements around the shop to work with. Go try it for a goof, you've got nothing to lose.

I feel photoreal elements always look better than animated ones rendered with simple shaders, particularly for procedural objects and materials like wood, glass, metal, stone: those always seem to have a plastic, fake look to them unless rendered with a very sohisticated engine. The latest ones you showed were less heinous than most, then again, they did not dominate the frame.

To make a real tutorial out of this probably means asking Aaron the AE King to throw together a 2.5 or 3-d version in After Effects that would allow you to do some subtle pans, tilts and trucks around the set, plus have lighting interact with the set and talent, and expressions controlling displays. AE is not my area of expertise. Then again, I only need this effect once or twice a year and usually for a few minutes of simple locked-down medium and tight shots, so this simple method works well for me without the AE workload.

I can't show you my finished fake set here, it would create an ethical problem involving sharing stuff from work that might be used commercially by someone. Sorry, have to make do with plain words. Use you imagination though, and you can set up your own set with almost any rack geometry and cosmetic details you can dream up.

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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 7:56:49 pm

This may or may not be appropriate, but I think some folks might find the technique interesting...

We recently did an industrial, and part of it was a parody of a 1970s era newscast (think Will Farrell's Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman").

We didn't have a budget for a real set, so we knew we were going to have to go greenscreen. The problem was, I never thought any of the virtual sets I've seen (the computer generated ones) really looked truly photorealistic, and even if they did I knew it would be doubtful that I could find a virtual news set circa 1973.

So... we ended up designing and constructing a scale model (oh, about a foot and a half high and two and a half feet wide) of our 70s era set design. It had the bad wallpaper, the bad formica, the ugly blonde wood trim, the framed logo backdrop that looked as if was painted in two different shades of blue (remember those?), etc.

Then after the project was rough-cut (just using greenscreen footage), we went back through the entire show and I carefully shot the model with a still camera to get all the various angles and shots for all of the background plates that I needed.

The advantage of having a real practical 1/8th scale version of the set is that I was not limited to the couple or three views of a virtual set that we might acquire... I could move the camera around anywhere on it and get whatever shots I needed (and obviously, it was much cheaper to construct than a full-size set). And it looked completely like a "real" set, because it was real... just real little.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Craig SeemanRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 8:10:54 pm

Building scale models. Isn't that a fundemental skill for low budget Sci-Fi. Sci-Fi and News . . . they are almost the same thing aren't they?

I like the idea but $69-$390 for someone's 3D news set seems like such a simple "quick fix."
Can you show us a still frame of what you did?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 11:11:57 pm

LOL, Todd, reminds me of a promo I once did for the State Fair in the 80's that used a model shot or two and lots of green screen skulduggery.

The copy talked about how expensive gas was at a DOLLAR SEVENTY a GALLON!) (the more things change...) and that you could waste a lot of time and gas traveling a long way to questionable "sights" for the family summer vacation, or, you could go to the nearby state fair and see (insert a panoply of spectacles here).

The questionable tourist destinations included a gigantic yarn ball ( standard yarn ball and macro lens) that we posed a guy in front of and made look like it was 50-feet high. Also I took some HO scale railroad decor, little plastic scale billboards, and made a quick passing highway scene out of it, shot with the macro setting. The sign read "Mall of Many Wonders, next seven exits". A sight that would strike terror into most dads travelling by car with the family.

We also shot a location practical, where a guy rises out of a farm pond into frame with a swimming mask, shaking his head side to side violently and with a rubber fish in his mouth, and a t-shirt that said: "Fred's You-Catch-'Em Catfish Farm".

These all went by in a handful of quick-cut frames, just long enough to read and make you smile or scratch your head, but not see just how cheesy the shots were. Fred's was based on a real place in town called the "You catch "em, You Eat 'Em Trout farm". The idea of catching catfish with those spiny fins in your mouth made the locals chuckle. One of my more expensive spots, the extra props, art, FX and actors set me back about $30, most of it for the t-shirt.

I like your idea of the model for the virtual set. It's not original though: early experiments in the 60's and 70's used two cameras, mechanically linked via cables and servomotors, to make a camera with macro snorkel lens track a tabletop model in synch with a nearby camera shooting the actor against a backdrop wall. The actor was luma keyed into the "virtual" set. If the full scale cam trucked left to right or zoomed in or out, the model cam followed the model set in proportion. This never took off though because of the complexity and expense of the rigs which were very Rube Goldberg looking, and the linkage systems had just enough play in them that they were too sloppy to really make the effect pay off properly.

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Craig SeemanRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 30, 2007 at 8:07:24 pm

Actually a lot of the "real" sets I'm seeing look like virtual sets. Look at the Daily Show for example. Heck a good part of what I see at CNN looks almost "virtual" such as the Situation Room.

Of course if I had access to a studio to shoot real items I could consider doing it your way. One could actually move around all sorts of things and take photos as various perspectives that way.

Maybe a side "career" for you is to do just that and sell them. Of course I'm not sure how the actual equipment designers would feel about finding their monitors, racks, desks as "clip art" but then again maybe that's a lucrative deal for someone.

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Eric PrattRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 24, 2012 at 3:53:59 pm

Just an FYI, we do have a watermarked virtual set download page which includes the mattes:

Eric Pratt

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Craig SeemanRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 24, 2012 at 4:33:21 pm

Eric, nice collection. Bet you weren't expecting a response on a five year old thread.

I see amongst your format support you mention Wirecast for example. I don't see specs next to that though. Can you explain in more detail about that?

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Eric PrattRe: Virtual News Sets?
by on Aug 24, 2012 at 4:57:08 pm

Mea culpa for not checking the age of the thread, I had just been trying to figure out where people were finding coupons for our store and this thread came up as a top link.
The Wirecast version can come as .png or .psd version in 1920x1080 or 2560x1620 respectively.
Wirecast actually surprised me a bit; it's virtual set layering engine is probably the most advanced live compositor I've seen. I had something like a dozen layers put together right in the software with an average computer.
That said, the versions we have for wirecast aren't dissimilar to the versions we sell for Premiere and Final Cut, they're essentially layered graphic elements, fundamentally the only difference in format options is resolution and file format.

Eric Pratt

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