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chroma

History of The Greenscreen aka Chroma Key

By | Lighting, Photography, Production

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.

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