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Pixel Perfection

Salient was built with a high attention to details both in design & code

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chroma

History of The Greenscreen aka Chroma Key

By | Lighting, Photography, Production | No Comments

It’s hard to believe that you can film with any background you choose. Everyone alive today understands this is not some hocus pocus magic but a simple technique of replacing patterns in overlaying images. Still, the final effect is something to awe in as our imaginations take flight. Chroma key applications allow our favorite cartoons to meet live action players. Green screen makes it possible for actors to delve into imaginary worlds across the globe, in time, or on another planet. Let’s take a brief look at how this technology came to be and where it might be heading.

Formulating the Impossible

RKO Studios developed the hidden sequence imager in the 1930’s. Finally after years of work, they developed the bluescreen method. It took a compilation of minds to formulate this concept. Editors using wipe transitions and scientists working with ultraviolet films combined forces. The result was essentially a split screen at first. Still, this has the astonishing entertainment value for novice film audiences.

Optimal Color Choice

The hues of blue in fabrics would contribute to the replacement by green in the chroma key spectrum. Television was a big help to this as the RGB format distributed the green with more contrast and less overlapping. Lighting affects the contrast level of your shoot and post-production overlays. Consider what your background will be when you choose the backdrop. If you want to simulate green rolling hills then use a greenscreen. When you want to pretend you are fake surfing like a cheesy 80’s movie then go with the bluescreen. Play into the notion of wardrobe. What colors do you want your subjects to wear will matter when selecting color. White screen aka infinity wall, is optimal for still photography fashion shoots. It adds depth and is modifiable like any chroma key.

The Digitalization of Color

The original overlapping process of chemical reaction is making way for the simple mathematics of “If A then B.” Editing programs can very simply replace background colors with various backdrops in seconds. The replacement of one specific color with a pattern background is run the program.

Taking It to the Next Level

Changing the backdrop is not enough for modern audiences. The level of model prosthetics at the end of the 20th century was lifelike enough. However, the integration of the chroma key suit allows new integration of visual immersion to bring the viewer more into that world. Because programs can now operate within real-time, the entire future of virtual reality really started at the RKO studio with a simple transition wipe.

organized

Apps for Organizing Video Projects

By | Production, Uncategorized | No Comments

So you have reviewed your photos and video clips but how do you organize them? My computer desktop is full of movies and scraps of videos that I have yet to assemble. I store some finished projects in a folder and on Youtube but can never access them when needed. Plus I have huge problems telling which version I am looking for. This is how I used to be. When it comes to keeping my professional files organized I am on top of every kilobyte.

Windows or Mac?

You can do this all within your Windows operating system or Mac OS. You have to be diligent and for those who edit more often, there are better solutions.

Finder Folder Approach

The folder approach for video project organization is to create a project folder for each project. This will fit under a working project umbrella. Then eventually, you can move them to the finished project folder. You need to move the bulk raw footage files into these working folders under the specific project. Then label them with titles and takes and order for further assembly.

You want to avoid duplicates if you edit in high quality. Then you have your grab bag folder. It is full of all the audio files such as sound FX’s, music, unsynced recorded dialogue. Don’t forget about visual grab bag folders for FX’s, text, logos, animated gif files, etc. If you are well-organized, this is the best approach to stay that way.

Post Haste

Post Haste from Digital Rebellion is a PC and Mac compatible application. It allows for unlimited templates and micro folders to store all those grab bag goodies. Many post houses use this and have the ability to share among many computers and a server. Post Haste uniquely offers templates that help you narrow down the type of project you want to create. Some users feel it is a little too complex and prefers a more simplistic approach.

For Mac only you can use the app called Editing Folders. This is really the product of the OS X Automator. You simply select what type of project you want and the appropriate folders are at your fingertips. The only downfall to this is you need to keep things well labeled. Otherwise, they will not be accessible when you need them.

Filemaker Pro

FileMaker Pro is a versatile app for keeping you organized on many levels. You can store recipes or collections of furniture or anything you have in the real world. There is also a feature that allows you to attach digital files to it. The thing I like about this is the automated titling. You still need to label everything. There are more ways to cross-reference the data and tags generate after a few keystrokes.

The bottom line comes down to keeping your files well labeled and easily accessible. You want to do this with the least amount of typing possible. Post Haste and Editing Folders are free apps and definitely worth a try. If you choose to store some data in one of them you will quickly notice a sense of peace. This is from having things in their proper place.

interview

3 Camera Interview Setup

By | Interviews, Lighting, Photography | No Comments

Normally when conducting a video interview, a one or two camera setup is sufficient.  When introducing a third camera, you can achieve a whole new dynamic. Perhaps the goal is to add the interviewer into the scene or capture the subject from a third angle. Maybe it is to expand on the dimensions and increase the emotional level. A third camera setup is a simple task.  Here are the following steps necessary to get this done.

A and B Cameras

Using a single camera setup for an interview tends to be on the dull side.  Most filmmakers prefer the A and B camera setup to focus head-on the subject and from a side angle.  These are usually stationary on tripods and focussed. With a third camera, you can establish and focus for extreme close-ups or as a moving dolly shot.  Having to readjust one of the primary cameras takes too long. This distracts from the necessary establishment the director is trying to create with the subject.

Setting Up 3rd Cam

To accommodate three cameras and the associated equipment and crew, a lot of space is necessary.  Once set into focus, the stationary cameras can be left unmanned. By having a third camera that moves around must have sufficient space to do so.  Clear out any furniture that will not be in the shot. Next, track the possible movements the third camera will follow.

Lighting is Crucial

Setting up the lighting for the third camera will be the hardest part as shadows will be inconsistent.  After setting up the key lights, find ways to adjust L lights. They need to suit the needs of lighting the subject before adding in the fill lights.  If your third camera has a path of motion then have stand-in actors. They should get into place and follow the track of the third camera to see if any of the lights are visible.  If so, readjust them as necessary. If glare is the only issue then have a crew member follow along with a flag to absorb said glare.  

Footage to the Max

Having extra footage for shots enables the editor to be more creative with the options available.  Since the audio is coming from one source, manipulating all the clips will not be too much additional trouble.  For this reason, you might want to set everything on the same timecode. While a third camera setup is not very common for interviews, it provides some well-needed advantages. Particularly when working with products or trying to establish various emotional settings.

photogenic

5 Tips to Being More Photogenic

By | Photography, Production, Talent | No Comments

On-screen talent wants to look the best they can and confidence to deliver talented charisma comes from within. The best way to achieve this is to focus on the internal craft of acting. But many actors, as well as anyone who steps in front of the camera, are self-conscious about their image. These simple tips to being more photogenic will help anyone look their best on screen. That way they can worry about the many other facets such as memorizing lines and delivering them in a convincing manner.

Wardrobe

The basic rule is to wear solid colors. They become less distracting but that might not be the option you want to go towards. They can wear a logo t-shirt. But remember if it is a large center logo or image on the shirt it can detract from the face. Color plays an important part and each person’s complexion will respond differently to the colors they wear. Dark blues play well against a pale or ruddish complexion as well as many other skin types and is a good basic choice. A more swarthy skin tone might want brighter colors to accentuate the contrast. Discuss these concerns with wardrobe to achieve the desired look of the shoot. The fabric plays a huge part as certain polyesters give off an immense glare when filmed. Cottons are always best and smooth works better than course. You want the viewers noticing the face not the clothing.

Makeup

Most of the job of makeup in a shoot is to not be noticed. Giving a smooth concealer and wipedown to keep face oils at a minimum is really all that is required in most shoots. Doing the minimum will go a lot better than overdoing it unless it special effects related. However, having no makeup at all might display an over aged face on screen. Remember, the lights will be hot and makeup tends to run so touchups in between takes is a good idea.

Camera Placement

From a profile view, everyone has a good and less good side. Know which side you look better on and discuss that as an option with the director. When doing a straight on facing view, try to keep the eyes aligned with the camera. This makes the viewer more comfortable about the onscreen person speaking.

Lighting

The bright lights of a production will enhance all the features on the subject’s face, sometimes creating unwarranted shadows. If they place the lights directly behind the camera and just above the subject’s eye line you should get the best results.

Confidence

When stepping in front of the camera or a live audience, a wave of unfamiliar feelings come over a novice. Spending time rehearsing so the talent knows what to say and how comes only with practice. It is something that can be achieved. The best way to focus on one’s onscreen confidence is to forget about all the preceding tips and work from within. The best way to achieve that is by having all the preceding tips already done.

The viewers of any video will subconsciously judge these details and just looking good isn’t enough to convey a message. Accepting your appearance is something that comes hard to even the best-looking people. Providing cast members with positive reinforcement will go a lot further than what their fears tell them. So boost each other with compliments and in the end, just let go of your personal worries about looks.

cleaning lenses

Cleaning Camera Lenses

By | Photography | No Comments

Professions take extreme care with their gear. They keep each lens in a case with foam inserts and polish them after each use. This is more than a habit; it is a ritual. Most camera owners like to clean the lenses themselves to ensure it is done properly and others will assign an apprentice to help. For those beginning here are a few pieces of advice for caring for the equipment, specifically cleaning the camera lenses.

Blowers

Imagine the camera lens is as fragile as a baby’s ears. No more huffing your breath and rubbing your t-shirt on junior. Use a soft hand pumping blower to remove dust and specks of dirt that it may have acquired. The less you have to touch the lens, the better.

Cloths

Wiping with a dry microfiber cloth is the next step. The microfiber cloth should be kept in plastic when not in use. Larger fabrics will definitely scratch the glass beyond reasonable repair. Keep a cloth that always stays dry and another for using chemicals.

Cleaning Solutions

If there still some stubborn smudge or oil on the glass you can apply a couple drops of lens cleaning solution. Drop it on a microfiber cloth NEVER DROP CHEMICALS DIRECTLY TO THE LENS. Then repeat the wiping process delicately. A lens pen is an alternative solution to applying the liquid to the cloth and wiping which also always the user to be a bit more vigorous with their strokes.

Covers

Keep the lens covers on both sides at all times. Unless they are being used by the camera or in cleaning. Checking the covers themselves is also a good practice as they are often not treated with as much care as the lens glass but are the items that come in closest contact with the lenses.

Filters

When shooting in tough environments like rain or wind it is advisable to use a filter to protect the glass from real damage. Using a UV filter will also protect from sun exposure on long, hot shoot days as the crew does their work and the camera sits there in focus waiting to record.

Since the lens is out in the elements it will attract dirt and smudges. These will drastically ruin the quality of the videos you take with them. It is poor practice to be cleaning the lenses when you take them out for use but a quick check is always good. The idea is to keep all your lenses clean after each use before putting them away in their proper place. This will ensure they can stand up to mint condition for every use and last for as long as you need them.

focus

4 Tips For Sharper Focus

By | Photography | One Comment

Out of focus footage can make your production look low budget and unprofessional. Blurry images are hard on the viewer’s eyes which detract from overall engagement. This is a technical aspect of filmmaking that doesn’t often require many expenses. Getting it right is essential to a production of any budget. A lot of time goes into setting up the camera for the determined angle. When the actors finally are performing you might not have the chance for another take as magical. Here are a few tips to getting it right the first time:

Know Your Lens  

As a professional, you will keep several scopes of lenses in your bag. You should know which one will be best for the shot but also know that particular item. As you adjust the ring you are setting the focal point distance. With practice, you should be able to adjust it into focus without looking at the monitor. Novices and even advanced photographers should start practicing with this all the time. Constantly be holding your camera and pick out objects at various distances to practice with. You could be walking to the store, just keep adjusting. Eventually, your hand knowledge knows precisely where the focal point will be.

Focus Pulling

Apply this technique to focus on a point at a distance. Redraw the focus to a point closer or vice versa. As an object is closer to the lens, it will be harder to stay in focus. You can take advantage of this by focusing on something at a closer distance. Then pull back as the range of staying in focus will become easier. Pulling towards an object that is closer can mean the camera needs a moment to refocus. With practice, you should be able to gauge the ring adjustment to staying in focus the whole time.

Following the Subject

Walk in sync with a moving subject. Become aware of the direction you will need to turn your ring to stay in focus. This comes back to knowing your lens but also being able to properly gauge the distance of the subject. Practice walking with the subject to get a sense of pace. If your movements are at the same pace there should be no problem staying in focus.

Controlled Movements

Know if the subject will switch to a certain location. Mark a piece of tape on the ring and the meter. Align the pieces of tape to focus on the secondary position. Then focus on the subject at the starting point. As the subject moves from one position, it is simply a matter of re-aligning the marks of the tape. You can do this for multiple positions. Ideally, use tape you can write on so you will know which order to scroll through.

In addition to these technical tips, you can purchase a focal gear to assist with smaller focus rings. Most camera offer autofocus. Using it is not a bad solution but set the pace of the drive speed to the subject points as they move. Don’t forget to always review your photos and footage at the end of the day before wrapping up.

review

Review Your Photos Before Wrapping a Shoot

By | Photography | 2 Comments

You got through the day without killing your crew! We call that a successful day in the biz. What is left besides wrapping up and hitting the road for a hot shower at home? Check your work. As a writer, I am constantly pushing alt+S to save my work. Reviewing what you have done in the studio is the final essential to ending the shoot day. If you are shooting video then check your list and make sure you got all the scenes you need shot to remain on schedule.

Gate Checks

There is a famous phrase after a take, “check the gate.” Can you imagine if a spec of dirt was in the lens? I’ve been on set as this has happened. It means stop packing up the trucks and start setting up for reshoots. Hey, it’s better than finding out in post that you need to reshoot.

For Photographers

The important thing is to catch the errors as soon as you can. Thankfully we live in a digital age. Photographers can scroll through a series of images on their camera in an instant. Take a few minutes at the end of the shoot to review. You should have a good chunk of quality shots to select at a future date with your client. Do this before dismissing your model or packing up your products.

Steady Throughout the Day

You can do this as you go. Each time you switch lighting you can review the work thus far. I like to upload from my sd cards to my computer while a P.A. helps with the stage transitions. Putting the data on a computer means I can free space on my camera cards and send samples to the client. So many times do I hear, “Oh, can we get this shot but different” and if I’m still in the studio I can reply back without hesitation “Not a problem.”

Review Privately

Ok, this is actually a good question. As a photographer, you work for a client. If you are shooting for your own art then this is different. When you are shooting for a company and they assign you a model. The talent does not usually have a say in this case about which photos to select. Now, I ask the question about headshots. If the model is the client then ideally they should be able to decide about the work as it proceeds. Dealing with talent can sometimes be an issue. There is a subjective nature to how people see themselves. Their perception can change once they leave the studio. The best is to weigh the quality against the personality of the model.

Share Live

We have another form of review to discuss. We live in a digital age that is soaked with social media. The fat of the bacon if you will. Maybe it is your intention to distribute images as you shoot. Upload and send a quickie sample to your Instagram and hashtag for those searching in the same vein. If you are shooting and uploading to live stream then post a review link for followers to catch up on.

This concludes the 4-part blog series on essential studio shoot day tips. Catch up with the rest here and keep reading for more awesome tips, facts, and stories at DK3 Studios Blog and New Evolution Video Blog with new articles every week.

Here are the first three parts in the series:

1: Setting Up the Studio

2: Casting Talent and Product Shots

3: Musts and Mustn’ts for the Day of the Shoot

shoot

Day of the Shoot – Must’s and Must Not’s

By | Production | One Comment

The day of any production will be stressful. There are chances that you can’t miss and deadlines up the wazoo. This series of how-to shoot picks up from talent casting and product display. You can begin the series here. Don’t panic. Millions have been through this before and their advice can help. Even the best need a basic refresher. We’ve boiled down the essentials with a few bonus tips so you can make the most out of your studio time.

Let’s break this down into three categories. The first is the list of things to do the day before the shoot. Then the things you must do the day of the shoot. And finally, the things you should never do during a shoot.

The Night Before

Remember to get everyone on the same page. This means confirming arrival times with all cast and crew members and arranging rides for talent if necessary. Gather all your equipment. Itemize any expensive components for insurance purposes. Charge any batteries or electrical devices so they are ready for the long day ahead. Review the contracts. You will specs to cover within the contract with the client. You will want a checklist of shots to procure to fulfill the contract. Any vendors you use such as a studio, talent, or crew will have their own contracts and guidelines. Make sure everything is accessible in case there are contradictions the day of. Your studio contract may be digital. This an awesome convenience. Get a good night’s rest and prepare for madness.

Must Do’s During Shot Days

On Time Means Early

Arrive on set 15 minutes before your call time. This may mean waiting patiently in our near your vehicle but that’s just part of being responsible. Who knows, traffic could hold you up that little bit of time.

Check That List

Make sure all equipment, crew, talent, and products made it on time. This might require the help of a specific crew member tasked with such responsibility. That’s why checklists come in handy, and include phone numbers to crew and vendors for easy contact.

Keep On Schedule

When you book your shoot, you should have a specific working time. Plan for breaks and know what shots you need at each point. Use breaks to review the collected materials and gauge how you are doing against the clock.

Polite and Proper

Be mindful of other productions at work in your area. This also includes the way you treat the facilities you will share with another unit afterwards. We are all a community so work together.  Wrapping early to clean the set is always a solid notion. It’s the right thing to do and the best way to ensure you didn’t leave anything valuable behind.

Don’t Do Any of These

Order New Equipment

You’re wasting valuable time and crew labor when you don’t have everything you need on set. Sending a P.A. out to grab lunch or some general item is not a major pitfall. However, relying on him to return on a Saturday shoot with a matte silver lens flag is the sign of an undisciplined production unit. Unless you can get it from 7-11, don’t send someone out for it.

Over Eat or Do Too Much Coffee

The snacks can be outrageously delicious. Have you had these thingies from Costco… Not important. You are here to work. Yes, proper catering can help provide sustenance for the grueling days of a shoot. This can have a positive or negative effect on the mood of the crew and the overall shoot. The point is to be productive. Over-engaging in any activity can be bad. From an experienced stagehand take this advice, cut out the red bull and leave the excessive weed smoking to guys with handlebar mustaches.

Assume Overtime

It does happen. You don’t always get the day you want and reshoots might be inevitable. Don’t assume you can keep the shoot going through the night. You need to know ahead of time if the studio, your crew, rental equipment, and talent are available. Know these factors and check them throughout the day. If you need overtime and it is possible then you have that window open.

Go Ballistic and…

Freak out! Just remain calm and focus on what needs to be done and what you can control. Being on set can have the same implications as an emergency situation. Even if you are dealing with a medical emergency on set, you follow the same functions. Remain calm, contact a person who knows what to do. Then treat the situation with as much care and attention as possible.

We will wrap up this series next week with Review Photos Before Leaving.

talent

Casting Talent That Sells The Image of Your Design

By | Casting, Photography, Preproduction | 2 Comments

This blog is continuing from the previous blog Setting Up the Studio For Your Shoot.

It is the dream of every production to have a smooth operation. You want your days to be steady, fluid, and productive. The best ways to maximize your shoot days is to prepare everything in advance. The previous article examined all the factors of pre-production that go into a shoot. Not every shoot will require large crews. This article will focus on just the talent and products you want to capture under the camera to boost sales for your product.

Casting Talent

Casting is one of the essential components of any production. Even animation requires live models for conceptual derivation and voices. Voice over talent can be redone easily in post-production. However, the face you see in the video or photo is a little more permanent. For corporate video and entertainment, you want to find a face that represents your vision. There are neurological reasons why viewers have a greater correlation to the product and message when it accompanied by a human face.

Professional Actors

Casting talent that can deliver the lines you want and have the look you are trying to relate can be a daunting process. There are many casting sites that allow you to pull the exact look you need. For photography this usually all you need. For video, an audition is really the only way to know if you are hiring the right actors. Many burgeoning actors are eager for work. Assure the production schedule with them before agreed to hire them. Even after you hire talent, do consistently keep everyone current to their set arrival times and ensure they have a solid ride to set.

Inexperienced Talent aka Normal People

Many times, as with real interviews, you might recruit an inexperienced actor. This can be a great resolve if you have a charismatic executive. The audience wants to see the real people behind the logo. Providing ample time for both hair and makeup and rehearsal is crucial. Even the most professional and talented actors have nervous moments just as the cameras begin to roll. The lights in many shoots both for photography and video can be extremely bright and hot. First-time talent looking directly into the camera can feel their eyes burning. Make sure your talent can cope with these details.

Getting That Perfect Product Shot

If the term “money shot” was not already in use by another industry then it would perfectly describe this aspect of commercial photography. When you want to sell your message to an audience you need that exact, pristine example of the item in question. Even if it is a service such as law or medicine, then you still want to capture the essence of the moment. Many times in video you will see the actors and then a close up of the product. In these examples, the product could seem a little unnaturally placed from real life. This is fine and actually expected to transmit the message.

Look at these fine examples of video commercials that completely grasp the idea of showing the “product shot”

Vivioptal – 20 seconds in:

Green Mountain Coffee – 3 seconds in:

To read more about why this short Green Mountain ad is so genius click this sentence

When you are ready to book your studio time, it is a good idea to be on the same page as the rest of your talent. Work with them and make sure to have them rehearse before-hand. Get the look you want and inform them to keep or cut their hair or beard appropriate to the needs of the shoot.

studio

Setting Up the Studio for Your Shoot

By | Preproduction | 2 Comments

Setting up the studio begins with proper planning. For this article, we will focus on an indoor studio. This is because lights are the major obstacle to obtaining the right look for your visual project. Of course, the visual arts are all about how the artist controls the flow of light in the environment. The camera is simply a catalyst to capture what you setup. Before we enter into this technical topic of exploration, let’s give a crack at the rudimentary basics.

Group Coordination

Even if you only need a photography and an inanimate subject, you need to plan the shoot. What time of day are you shooting? What angles do you need to capture? Did you test out your equipment recently or retrieve it from a reliable source? When you add in actors and crews the minutia multiplies.

Time Management for Crews

Getting your crew on the same page literally means using a similar schedule sheet. This is usually on a xeroxed spreadsheet page passed around to everyone in participation. Oh, what? We can get more 21st Century with schedules? Well, maybe you want to control your privacy so you use code. Just make sure your crew understands their arrival times.

Who Arrives at the Studio and When?

Often hair and makeup can be the first to prep the talent for a shoot. This could begin as early as Buttcrack AM as they say for shoots with special effects latex bodysuits as the reason Alan Cumming would never play Nightcrawler again. Then production crews trickle in. The Line Producer is responsible on a large scale production for scheduling shifts during a shoot. P.A.’s will accompany the crew units. Model and carpentry departments might need to set up early. Or you could book at a professional green screen studio and jump right into the next paragraph.

Filming at a Green Screen Studio

The term “fix it in post” was born long before the digital revolution. Yet, we think of all the magic we can do and we got here. No time for dilly-dallying, we got a production to arrange. Lighting is going to be the main focus of most of the crew’s efforts. Some of the things you can’t fix easily in post or really improve on are why you higher a proper production crew in the first place. You might not begin rolling until 10am but you need to set up and be ready for talent in their costume and makeup.

A Feast of Crews

Sorry for the GoT reference. Still got 16 more months until final season. Don’t forget about catering. They should be on set to feed Union crews a meal every 6 hours. But the rest of us non-unionites are die hard cinefiles who require no sleep or sustenance. Or you could arrange for some healthy snacks.

This topic to setup a studio shoot can go on in an extension of blogs. That is why it is the perfect exercise to kick off our revamped site.

Over the next couple weeks we will examine these practices for setting up the best photo/video studio shoot you can:

Next issue: Casting Talent That Sells The Image of Your Design

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