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Shooting with a pure white background?

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Mike JefferiesShooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 8, 2008 at 1:00:48 am


Hi,

I'm hoping to make some videos of a person in front of a pure white background. This is pretty much the exact effect that I'm looking for:
http://specials.washingtonpost.com/onbeing/

Can anyone advise on how I can create this effect on a budget?

At the moment I have a consumer grade DV camera (no manual controls) and no lights whatsoever.

From the research I've done, it seem thats using a green screen to key out the background and replace it with white would be the cheapest way to achieve a similar effect. Using a few 'work lights' to evenly light the green screen and then 1 (high temp?) light to illuminate the subject (any suggestions of this light appreciated).

Would this work? Or will I simply not get a reasonable look with this setup?

I've looked at using a white background - sheet/roll of paper, then over exposing the background but the lighting for such a setup looks more difficult (and expensive) not to mention the fact that my 'auto' camcorder will probably try and correctly expose the brighter background rather than the foreground subject.

Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks!


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Bruce BennettRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 8, 2008 at 4:00:32 am

Hi Mike,

If I were you, I would also post your question in the Cinematography forum.

Good luck,
Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC


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Mark SuszkoRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 8, 2008 at 2:38:47 pm

Here's a nice low budget example.

http://videopia.org/content/view/103/231/

I'm not sure if Eric is using that white wall background setup to do a luminance key over fake white, or if that's really the real white. I'm guessing the former, because the set is tiny but he moves aound in the frame a lot.

When I do this I tend to use greenscreen. If you go with white paper,
you NEED manual control of the camera functions, no exception. You also need to give the set enough depth so that the lighting of the talent can be completely separate from the lighting of the backdrop.
Something else to consider: if everything is peaking at or right under 100 IRE on the scope, you don't leave a lot of room for adjustments.

My favorite technique for a white limbo set is to buy a piece of the cheapest vinyl kitchen/bathroom flooring you can find. Paint the reverse side, the side that takes the glue. First prime it with Kilz brand LATEX (not oil) based primer. Then your flat white or flat latex chromakey blue or green paint. Trap one edge between 2x4 boards and hang that so it naturally drapes down in a curve, let enough run down to walk on for full-body shots. Works awesome, cheap to do, very durable, somewhat portable (heavy, but rolls up).


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Mike JefferiesRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 3:59:40 am

Thanks for that link - useful stuff.

The lack of manual controls means I'll be going for the green screen option for sure.

This is going to be a one time setup, any lights I buy will probably not be used again, so I'm conscious about cost. The low budget lighting in the video has created a good effect, but I'm also without suitable household lamps that I can use.

Finding a 'household' stand with 5 lamps will probably be pretty tough and not necessarily cheap in comparison to a proper entry level light. If you were to suggest a couple of lights, presumably a 5 lamp and some sort of weaker diffused one, what would it be? Any specific models I should consider. I'm in the UK if that makes and difference.

Many thanks!



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Mark SuszkoRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 4:23:42 am

No, let me be clear, whether it is white or green you shoot, you need to have manual control of the iris to make this work right. If you can't get manual iris control on your camera, forget this whole thing. You need very even lighting across the backdrop and a way to control the contrast ratio between back and front. That's before you even get into the keying software.

Shooting green without lights can be done... outdoors in the sun, preferably on an overcast day where the light is very even and casts little shadow. You still need a backdrop, and need to angle it so the sun shines on it evenly. Cheap home made reflectors can be used to bounce additional light on your talent. But now I'm skeptical that you have the bare minimum to make this work right at all. Perhaps you can get together with a couple friends to pool resources and make this more practical to achieve? I don't want you getting your hopes up by using inadequate means and expecting great results...


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Mike JefferiesRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 2:43:30 pm

I've just checked my camera, and there is a control which I assume to be the iris. When I move the dial the f number changes and eventually indicates +db which I assume is a digital gain.

I'd already ordered a green chroma screen, so will still be using green rather than white.

Still looking for any light suggestions.

Thanks again for the help.



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Adam SmithRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 7:51:50 pm

You sound really focused on chromakeying, but I strongly suggest that after you shoot on the green screen, throw up some white sheets or a paper backdrop and shoot it again. Expose for the subject.

You will have a much better chance of success if all you have to do is some color correction and to blow out the whites with maybe some soft matte work, versus trying to pull a usable first-time key from an unlit set with a DV camera.

- - -
Video Photographer / Avid & Final Cut Editor


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David RichterRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 2:46:12 pm

Mike,

Sounds like you have a pretty tough setup. For my two cents don't go with a green screen. Without the proper lights and camera it will be a nightmare removing the green from the person's hair, let alone the glow you can sometimes get on clothing and skin. Use a white backdrop and have your subject wear darker clothes and then treat the white background as a green screen and mask it out. That way any left over white will naturally flow into the new white background. Good luck!



David
Richter Studios
http://www.richterstudios.com
Video Production | Interactive CD-DVD | Presentation Services


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Mike JefferiesRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 9:16:51 pm

Thanks again for the advice guys, I have green chroma on its way but I'll certainly try shooting with a white background as well. The one thing that I do have a lot of is time, so hopefully one way or another I'll be able to get a reasonable effect.

I now need to choose some lights for illuminating the subject. Will these be powerful enough/suitable. I'm not planning on full body shots, most will be waist up only.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Continuous-Studio-Lighting-softbox-Kit-Digital-Video_...

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Pro-Studio-Lighting-Kit-105w-5500k-Daylight-Bulbs-NT_...

or maybe a couple of these:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/1KW-4-Lamp-Cool-Day-light-Fluorescent-Softbox-Light-5...




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Mark SuszkoRe: Shooting with a pure white background?
by on Sep 9, 2008 at 11:19:56 pm

Those softboxes look like what I use (Lowel Rifalights) to light my chromakey walls.

Be sure they really ARE designed for continuous duty: some folks bought still photographer's softlights which were designed only for use with momentary flash units, and these melted or caught fire when used with tungsten lights inside.

Another shooting and editing tip: if you shoot on white paper, you can try layering in your FCP timeline using simply the "multiply" compositing mode right in the timeline. Can be surprisingly effective.


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