Production Diary: My First Greenscreen Project

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Avatar of Alex Coulombe
Alex Coulombe on January 30, 2014 at 1:33 pm

… actually it’s really my first real film, period.

A little background: I’m a 26 year old architect whose never felt content doing just architecture. I design boardgames, create music, write plays, and very recently, have started to dive into video editing. I love editing– I don’t have a great eye for composition, but I do have a sense of pacing, so it was very natural for me to start off making mashups of pre-existing content. Some of my recent work has been featured on Slacktory and can be viewed here:

On Monday I was given the opportunity to turn one of my short plays about The Sims ( into a film on a very tight budget. I started by securing the two actors from the original play with a SAG New Media contract, used two $100 Panasonic Handycams, and with the help of the head of Slacktory, was able to find a large apartment to shoot in, complete with greenscreens and nice audio equipment (audio is always the quickest way I’m able to tell if something is professional or not). The only real problem was lighting, but more on that later. We filmed everything in 4 hours and it was loads of fun.

Anyway, I’ve got a ton of lead time on this– it’s going to be a 5 minute-or-so sketch video, and doesn’t need to be done until The Sims 4 comes out sometime in the Fall. Since I can take my time and really do this right, I thought it would be neat to chronicle my progress here with all the great members of Film Punch; I’ll articulate my thoughts, problems, and questions as I progress through the post-production process, and hopefully you’ll give me your advice and ask me the kinds of questions that will lead to a better product. It’s also nice to imagine that many of the struggles I’m bound to go through in the coming months will be common ones, and hopefully solutions we find to my issues will be helpful to others as well.

Here’s some things I currently know very little about that I’m going to have to learn a lot about:
– Color grading
– Camera tracking/stabilization
– Chroma Key (I made this for my office’s Holiday Party a few weeks ago, but that’s about it:
– Inserting virtual 3D models into real-life footage
– Simulating explosions
– Simulating stuff appearing and disappearing out of nowhere
– Matching shots of this with shots from the actual Sims video game
– A whole host of things I don’t even know that I’ll need to know about yet

To start, I’ve decided to upload all of my footage at private links on youtube so that I can peruse what we captured at my leisure and use youtube’s comment section to call out anything from takes I like to issues that will need addressing. If you’d like to make such comments, you’re more than welcome!

Footage from Camera A:
Footage from Camera B:

Here’s some of the software I’ll be using:
Adobe Premiere CS6
Adobe After Effects CS6
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Audacity (never really liked Adobe Audition)
3ds Max 2014
Vray 2.0

If you plan on following this, thanks~! I look forward to your feedback and hopefully teaching each other a few things. I’ll also be charting these posts on my tumblr:

Have a great day!

Avatar of Josh Bailey
Josh Bailey on February 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hey Alex,

This looks like a fun opportunity you have! I kind of quickly watched through the footage and it looks like you shot almost the whole thing with a tripod so you shouldn’t really have to worry about tracking (although you could easily add some realistic movement in post if you wanted to). On shot 00016 on the A Camera, were you planning on having the chess table float? If so it may be a little hard to cut out him holding the table since his hand is covering it in places and it’s not staying completely still since he’s holding it. I think perhaps an easier way would be to shoot the table separately against the green screen so you could easily control it (may require a tiny a bit of rotoscoping so that the foreground character can be in front of it, but shouldn’t be too bad…After Effects Rotobrush tool is great). Also noticed on a section of the shaky shot of Bob through the chair (video 00005) that because of the angle there is no green screen behind his head. That part of the shot would probably be a nightmare to rotoscope with the light background behind him, the shaky camera movement, and the bars on the chair. Honestly, I would just scrap that part of the shot, I think it’s one of the weaker shots anyway. One other thing I noticed is that the camera seems to be on auto-exposure because there are times when the shot becomes a little bit brighter or darker, and the brightness and darkness varies a little between the shots. I don’t think that should be too hard to deal with in post though, but I might try to avoid the parts of the clips when the brightness changes in the middle of the shot (this didn’t happen very much so it should be easy to avoid). Also, you probably already know this since you did that other green screen video but I would definitely use Keylight in After Effects to do the keying. Video Copilot is a great resource for tutorials that show various techniques for chroma keying. I might copy and paste this comment on your youtube video because I’m not sure if you’re going to check back here or not.

Avatar of Alex Coulombe
Alex Coulombe on February 9, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Wow! Thanks so much Josh. That’s all great advice. A few responses to your excellent comments:

1) the stuff with the chess table “floating” and similar shots are meant to look like when a player in The Sims is adding new furniture in while the game is paused. Honestly I’m probably going to be doing all of that digitally as 3D objects, so my assistant who was moving that stuff was serving just as a scale/perspective guide for when I paint all that out. I agree rotoscoping would be difficult there.
2) I actually did do a manual white balance on both of my cameras, so I think the changes in exposure you’re seeing are actually because a lot of our light was coming from a big skylight, and so sometimes a cloud passed over and changed the brightness level. Oh well!
3) Agree on dealing with the shaky camera movement and ditching the shots through the chair.
4) Never used Video Copilot– thanks for the resource! Any suggestions for a good place to find tutorials for color correction and that kind of stuff?

Thanks so much for your help!

Also, just for anyone perusing this forum, I’ve discovered my first SUPER USEFUL EASY THING TO DO WITH ADOBE PREMIERE: delete the file called cuda_supported_cards.txt in the premiere directory, and then you can take advantage of on-the-fly video rendering with your GPU. It’s sped up my workflow considerably.

Avatar of Josh Bailey
Josh Bailey on February 13, 2014 at 2:03 am

Hey Alex,

Awesome, 1, 2 make sense to me now.

This has been a go to tutorial for me for color grading:

It’s like 35 minutes long, but basically he takes you through the color of 4 popular films that all have different looks, and how you can color to achieve a similar look for your film.

Whoa, did not know about that Adobe Premiere trick, gonna have to check that out!

Avatar of Alex Coulombe
Alex Coulombe on August 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Hey all!! Trying to get this video out before my the new Sims game. Definitely in crunch time! Vaguely charting my day by day progress here:

Basically, I’m working on the film after work, then loading a draft onto my Kindle Fire every night, then reviewing it on my way to work each day, making notes, and then continuing from there the next night. Weeeee! Please let me know if you want to compose music for it ;)

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Alex Coulombe on September 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm

So I’m wrapping up the film this week! I’m trying to do way too much by myself but that’s okay. Check out my current rough cut at this private link and let me know if you have any suggestions. Appreciate all feedback!

Here’s my current notes:

1) After Effects handling transparency incorrectly when linked in Premiere. Just render GUI from After Effects on top of a finished Premiere video.
2) Tracking dots still need removal
3) make the fire sounds more intentional
4) add glowing face moments when the person is directly engaging
5) do we want a title card? Something before we fade in? Or just jump right into it?
6) tighten greenscreen boundaries and see if I can soften the flickering colors.
7) still need to pick music tracks.
8) Should I show the mood bars again later on, or only at the beginning?
9) Tighten sky stuff, especially going into night

00:11 fade out mood bars
00:42 “idiots!” maybe a + social…
00:48 not a priority, but see if you can even out the lighting in the cut from the lid to no lid
01:07 sad thing seems to jump
01:14 show a double — briefly as he goes down
01:35 show low hygeine icon
01:58 fade out the ++ just a half second sooner
02:50 show a red x or something in the queue to show the compliment was canceled?
03:08 confirm that the icon doesn’t actually fade out onto the next cut
03:09 add the pause sound
03:14 add the play sound
03:23 cut to Mortimer to ease that transition
03:35 stablize camera.
03:37 louder ‘that’s your sidewalk’
03:40 stabilize chess motion. Move skill bar back to where it was. Move the glow or sound cue to match up.
03:38 speed up clock… make it go as fast as it needs to to make the end time 06:66
04:09 mask cuts off Bob’s face.
04:21 Bob looks a little too red.
04:25 two backgrounds visible
04:26 add a ‘combination’ sound and maybe glow for merging the two actions.
04:56 bob’s shoulder cut off
05:28 cut to Mortimer for a moment on ‘I go play chess by myself for a while’ so we don’t have two Bob shots
05:46 compliment missing +
06:06 rustle on ‘gnomes’
06:13 either don’t have mortimer looking down, or cut back to the ‘normal’ bob shot
06:14 ‘I clean up the ashes’ Bob looks particularly clipped. Can I ‘grow’ the key boundary?
06:23 two backgrounds visible
06:40 clean this up or just use a less artsy take
07:00 clean up this shot first and confirm it’s possible to get it looking really good. Oh, and try to have the background blue, appropriately offset from Bob’s face.
07:21 does the friendship icon want to stay centered or follow them somehow?
07:33 THIS is where the music and fireplaces icons should come in… when his intentions become clear.
07:35 shakey background (clean up this whole camera track). Also, it’s too small there. Rerender a larger shot? Or just cut it back close
07:39 something to the right of Bob’s head between him and the bookshelf? Oh, ha it’s the filing cabinet.
07:56 bring up walky icon a lot earlier (maybe 7:33), also add a ‘pop’ when he uses it.
08:00 show the chair icon in multiple shots, or at least the wide shot– see 2 of those, even if it’s just for a second.
08:10 smooth out shaky cam. Also, the cry is a little crackly.
08:13 add a pop and make Bob’s whimpers louder
08:15 push the animation forward half a second or slow it down so we can really appreciate it’s shape.
08:17 cut out Mortimer’s ‘oh’ or have something that flows more smoothly into ‘ahh Bob…’
08:25 sleep icon actually should pop up in the wide shot…
08:34, have fires start a second later (should the smokey fires be visible in the first shot?), add a pop, and give it a nice fire lighting sound (right now can’t hear any fire sound). Also add some techno kill music for the beginning…
08:40, should we see a pause, play icon? Also, again here I think we want to see the chair icon in two shots. Also, have the new music icon appear with the pop.
08:42, there’s some fire clipping on the leftmost fireplace.
08:47, right before sitting there’s a gap where we don’t see the fire
09:07 add a nice explosion here
09:13 still some clipping on the leftmost cabinet/fireplace. Fade in the ‘cabinet fire’ smoother or slower.
09:15 there’s a blink of black before going overheard.
09:19 remove that weird After Effects particle fire that snuck in there
09:21/22 add a nice (but different explosion) for the gnomes exploding. Maybe high pitched screams? Also color the stool fire to be more like the other fire
09:25 after the explosion there’s a still a gnome fire… hm.
09:45 let the fire sounds continue into the credits
09:56 add the choir version of the Buy song in now that I have permission

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Alex Coulombe on September 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Here’s the final product!

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