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Shooting Computer Screen for Composing

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Jon CollinsShooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 11, 2012 at 3:41:41 pm

Not so sure where to post this as the forum is so massive now, I don't know where things go... anyway, heres my question:

I'm directing a shoot where a large percentage of the action will be on an actor using a laptop. Its essentially a twist on an instructional video on how to use an online system. Due to reasons beyond my control, a lot of the screen shots aren't going to be ready/will change when we shoot this. Because of that the client is insisting we composite the screens in, in post. I've tried this before and found that the shine from the laptop has interfered with the composite and the end product looks so unrealistic.

To avoid that in this shoot has anyone got any tips for doing this? Starting from capturing the laptop screen as flat as possible to start with going through to composing this in AE.

Thanks in advance, and if this is in the wrong section, please advise where I should post this.


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Jacob LanumRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:22:59 pm

I've done this recently. I went to Walgreens & bought a piece of green poster board. Measured & cut to the size of the screen, taped it on. Worked well, just gotta make sure it's lit right.

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Dave LaRondeRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:08:01 pm

Will there be any camera movement in the shot? Pans, tilts, arcs, dollies, etc.?

Will the laptops themselves move even though it's a locked-down shot?

Two big considerations there.

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

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Jon CollinsRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 12, 2012 at 9:28:36 am

Its going to be a mixture. I'll get static locked off shots as fall backs but ideally I'd like to dolly around. I don't think tracking is really the issue in my case. Mocha is great for that but I think the key area I failed in last time was ensuring the screen was as flat as possible, particularly as everyone seems to be keen on using MacBook Pros and their glossy screens.

Looks like the greencard could be a way to go but then surely you still need to add some kind of grain and lighting gradients in post to make it look realistic? At least if it was a matt black screen you could use some of that with blending modes.

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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 12, 2012 at 2:06:13 pm

Hi Jon -

I just did a project in which exactly the same situation presented itself. The software for the computers was in alpha, and all they had was screen shots. The footage was shot, and handed to me to track, roto hands, and replace screens. I used The Foundry's Camera Tracker for AE, and it worked out well (you be the judge, here's the link - first clip in the Video Gallery):

I'm pretty sure you could do the same with AE CS6's camera tracker, but I haven't used it for this type of project yet.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media

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Chris ButtacoliRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 15, 2012 at 3:43:12 am

Not sure why you wouldn't want the reflections - for compositing it seems so necessary. Unless you mean it interferes with the tracking. But if you aren't needing them, what does it matter what is on the screen? As long as you can get a good track, you could replace the screen with anything opaque that you wanted. No need for green either, because you're not going to key the footage. Again, the track is the only important part. Mocha corner pin for panning shots on a tripod, 3d tracker for shots that change perspective.

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Ross ShainRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 17, 2012 at 7:06:31 pm

You can absolutely use mocha on shots that have perspective and are not on a tripod. Most often, planar tracking is the ideal solution for tracking screen inserts and mocha excels at tracking things that can give 3D trackers issues, such as objects that go offscreen, are blurred or get obscured by foreground images.

The key to getting a good mocha track on a screen or phone with reflections is intelligently placing the tracking layers to track the object edges and avoid reflections. You can view this older video to get the general concept:

hope this helps

Ross Shain
Imagineer Systems

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Sandeep SajeevRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 17, 2012 at 11:14:36 pm

-You don't need the green card.
-You might want to place tracking markers on the 4 corners of the screen if you're doing a 4 point track. If you're using Mocha they may not be necessary
-You should absolutely shoot the scene with the reflections and comp them back in once you've inserted your screenshot.
-Shoot a reference plate with a screenshot that's similar to what you'll end up comping in - this way you'll know what your scene should look like if was done for real.


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Jon CollinsRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Oct 18, 2012 at 10:28:25 am

Thats great thanks.

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Jean-Fran├žois RobichaudRe: Shooting Computer Screen for Composing
by on Nov 27, 2012 at 7:49:43 pm

The green card is useful if any foreground subjects are located in front of the screen. Unless one likes to do unnecessary roto work.

Markers on the green card's corners can be great for tracking (they can be a different shade of green so they will key out).

Screen reflections could be faked by shooting whatever is supposed to be in the other direction and compositing that as highlights on the computer screen. I've done this by roughly animating a still picture of overblown windows, overlayed over the computer screen. The illusion was perfect.

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