For a number of years, we have been manufacturing and selling custom LED-Based Chroma Key Systems (via the previous website location at hollowbamboo.net and, on occasion, ebay).
Well over a hundred of our systems are still in use by many different individuals and production facilities around the world, ranging from the home user to network broadcast studios.
At the moment, we are concentrating on just providing high quality, retro-reflective backdrops, though our Complete System will be available again in the near future.
The system utilizes a ring of colored LED’s around the camera lens, which reflect off of a gray, retro-reflective backdrop. The result is a beautifully smooth wash of color (blue or green, depending on the color of the LED’s being used) that makes pulling a great key close to effortless… it is an amazing thing!
Just a few of the main advantages over a traditional green screen setup are:
- A perfectly smooth, even wash of color, with adjustable luminance
- No separate lighting needed for the screen
- Easily portable, with a lightning quick setup
- Much smaller physical footprint since the subject can be right next to the backdrop
- Allows certain applications not possible with a traditional green screen
- LED Color can be changed instantly to accommodate clothing color variations
- Very good tolerance for wind movement, shadows and wrinkles
Reflective fabrics have been around since the 1930′s, and using a ring of light around the camera lens has been around for decades, especially for still, microscopic, dental, and technological quality control applications. Even the process of camera-mounted lights used in conjunction with a reflective backdrop has been utilized in different capacities, for many years, even prior to the mainstream utilization of chroma key.
In the late 1990′s, the BBC pursued development on a highly refined reflective fabric that offered better functionality for chroma key applications. This fabric, created through their own patented process, was initially called “TrueMatte”, and later deemed “ChromatteTM“. It was subsequently combined with the LED lens ring and marketed as the “Holoset” system by Play, Inc., later bought out by GlobalStreams, and finally becoming “Reflecmedia”, who is still active in producing that amazing product. Their systems are top-notch and can be found in production facilities worldwide. We highly recommend their system, if your budget allows it.
A number of years back, Datavideo began to market a slightly more economical version of this approach, using a very nice blue/green switchable LED ring, and a slightly different, yet effective fabric (this was the same material we sold with our own systems in the first year of producing them). The retro-reflectivity was excellent, though the luminosity was not as sensitive as it is today, and the tiny hexagon pattern on the material could prove problematic for HD close-ups where the fabric might be near the focus point. Since we have not seen their most recent systems, it is unknown if Datavideo has transitioned to the newer material.
How and Why We Began Making LED Systems
Since our primary business is a video production company (Rhythmlake Media) and we regularly have the need for a quality chroma key setup, we purchased one of the commercial systems back in 2008 and were immediately drawn to the beauty of the concept and ease of use. It came with an 8ft backdrop, but we needed a lot more material for a shoot at that time. For the size we needed, which was well over 20ft x 20ft, the price of the highly specialized reflective material unfortunately made it non cost-effective for us
Through industry contacts, we came into contact with the present day manufacturer of this material and placed a (very) large order, much more than needed. Once that shoot was finished, we were then faced with a lot of extra fabric and no need for that much on-hand.
Fortunately, with one of our other ventures being a music product manufacturing company, we are very familiar with the ins & outs of developing a quality product. We decided to produce a handful of custom LED rigs and controllers within this principle, allowing us to recoup some of the material costs, as well as provide an avenue for this type of system to those who might not have been able to afford it otherwise.
Those initial systems sold very quickly and we began to get many more requests for the same. And so it began, with the rings, controllers and material gradually evolving and improving over the past few years.
Thanks for reading!