Practical Effects: Keying Around Detailed Props and Makeup

Practical effects essentially mean that the effects on a movie set, that are tied to a particular prop or talent, simply appear to work in the context of the given situation. There is a bare minimum involvement of special effects. When done correctly, practical effects add a lot of realism to the scene and can cost much less when compared to special effects.

Step 1: Create a Proper Chroma Key Setup

Make sure that you remove any and all of the harsh shadows, hot spots, poor lighting and reflections from the chroma setup. Also keep in mind that the talent does not wear clothes that match the color of the background.

To do this, you will have to make sure that the talent gets rid of any shiny objects like specs. You can also remove the glasses from the specs and make sure that they do not have fuzzy clothing or frizzled hair. Your talent and props need to be at least 5-6 feet ahead of the chroma screen. The distance is essential to obtain a high quality key while using detailed props and makeup.

You will use professional lighting by using soft boxes. Try to go for the standardized soft background lighting and use the three point lighting systems to light up the talent and props. This should get you a decent Chroma Key setup.

Step 2: Setup Camera

You will want to use a large aperture and a shallow depth of field. Make sure that you slightly zoom in on the subject and put the background slightly out of focus. Additionally make sure that the white balance on the camera is properly setup to get a high quality key.

Step 3: Setup Screen

To get a nice, uniform and high quality key, you will need to select the materials of the screen very carefully. Make sure that the material is cotton and does not produce any shine under the lights. If it shines, it will produce a lot of trouble while trying to finalize the shot.

If the screen does not match your requirements, say for a large area, you can go in for chroma key paints. A gallon should cover about 300 square feet of area for you.

Step 4: Use Chroma Key Software to Key around Detailed Areas

You can use any of the conventional non-linear video editing software to edit the chroma key videos – Avid, Vegas, Pinnacle, Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Simply import the video footage into the software suite and drag the chroma key filters onto the video footage. Move the tracks to the top. This will key out most of the areas and replace them with the background of your choice. You will then increase or decrease the similar color filters to get the appropriate level of detail for your video.