Setup Tips, General Info & Support
Smaller Rooms: The subject can be positioned as close to the backdrop as possible (1-3 feet), and the camera 10-12 feet from the subject. We have used this setup for trade shows and it is very effective for that small footprint.
Larger apertures and lower shutter speeds are optimal for small setups, to avoid excess LED spill on the subject.
Larger Rooms: Place the subject 10-15 feet from the backdrop, and the camera 10-15 feet away from the subject. This is our preferred setup. It is much easier to keep excess light/shadows off of the backdrop, it allows the backdrop to blur more due to the DOF, and also makes any led ring shadows larger/more diffused, which often produces the best key.
Establish your subject lighting, manual exposure and manual white balance first! Then turn on the LED’s.
The objective of an LED-based system is to saturate the backdrop only as much as is necessary, while avoiding noticeable LED color spill on the talent. This is best accomplished by:
- Controlling the lighting
- Proper placement of key elements
- Adding just enough LED ring output to evenly illuminate the backdrop
The most common exposure for prosumer cams is an aperture of f2-f4 with a shutter speed of 1/60-1/90. If you over-light the talent, a faster shutter speed / smaller aperture will be necessary, mandating more LED output than is really needed (or accessible), thus “less than perfect” skin tones. At the same time, faster shutter speeds are better for green screen work to keep motion blur at a minimum. Experiment!
Do not light the backdrop. Keep it as dark and shadow free as possible (prior to turning on the LED’s), though soft shadows are typically not a problem. You want just enough output to saturate the backdrop well, with little to no visible fold lines.
As is common with any type of green screen work, a high backlight focused on the subject’s head and shoulders is recommended. This adds a nice separation line between the subject and the background, and just looks better.
Halos & Shadows: If you run into a subtle halo/shadow around the subject (a common and widely accepted artifact of all LED based systems), it is typically not problematic since a decent keyer will just ignore it, especially of you color pick that area when keying. Experimenting with different subject/camera placements and aperture settings will help to minimize or eliminate the issue. There are a lot of variables and you will get a good feel for where to place things, for each type of setup, after a small bit of noodling. Again, your keyer will likely just ignore it.
This is a very specialized material. It is durable, but should still be handled with care: Dust, oily fingerprints, make-up powder, pointy high-heels, cleats, etc., can degrade the reflectivity of these types of fabrics, so please be conscious of this. If it does occur, try using a soft clothing brush to gently clean the area. For marks or scuffs, gently use a damp cloth and allow it to air dry. Avoid heavy rubbing or abrasive pressure on the fabric.
For transportation or storage, the material can be carefully folded, with the “reflective side in”. Light fold lines typically disappear upon illumination and won’t show up on camera.
If you are not already familiar with general keying principles (i.e. when to use a Chroma Blur plug-in, when to use a Matte Choker, color correction, matching subject lighting to the background image/video lighting, etc.), a bit of web searching can cure that.
Using quality keying software is also essential, if you want truly professional results. By far, we prefer the After Effects “Keylight” plugin, but other good ones are “Ultra”, “BorisFX”, “Combustion Diamond Keyer”, just to name a few. The stock keyers in Final Cut & Premier are also fairly effective. Bottom-line… if you plan on routine use of a green screen, it is critical to invest in a good keyer!
As wonderful as these systems are, there are a few situations where creative modifications, or a traditional screen, might be necessary:
Shooting Outdoors: In bright sunlight, the LED’s can be overpowered by that giant LED ball in the sky, and optimal color saturation will be diminished and/or impossible. LED systems are best suited for controlled, indoor shoots, or dawn/dusk/evening outdoor use in a dirt/dust-free environment.
Excess Ambient Light: If you are shooting in an indoor situation where there is a very large amount of direct or ambient light (window, spotlight, etc.) coming from behind the camera, the retro-reflective fabric can perceive that as another light source to illuminate, also contributing to diminished saturation. However, this can easily be mitigated against by using a large black flag or backdrop behind the camera to mask that light source.
Teleprompter Work: When shooting with an LED system, we use an over-the-lens prompter, which consists of a 7″ LCD monitor on a shoe-mounted articulating arm, allowing the LCD to position directly above the lens… it’s very believable and works just fine. While we have experimented with “through-the-lens” prompters and the LED system, a good solution combining the two is still elusive.
Full-Body Shots: Full-body work can be, and has been, done effectively with LED systems, albeit a little bit more expensive due to the extra fabric and the need for a higher res cam. We often still prefer traditional screens for FB work when the camera must be a good distance away from the subject and a fair amount of movement is involved. A workflow of 4:2:2 or better will yield much finer results, and full body with an LED system then becomes a very viable option.
When shooting full body on reflective cloth, the fabric needs to have a slight cushion underneath it. Thin (1/8″-1/4″) cheap commercial carpeting, or a mousepad-like material, will work fine. Make sure there is no dirt or grease on the shoes, and have the talent avoid grinding or scraping on the material. High heels mashing it onto a hard floor is definitely not conducive to continued reflectivity in that area :).
Under Water: Actually, we’re not sure?? Haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on the list of things to do!
We stand behind everything we sell. We are a home-based business / video production company… our reputation, and the satisfaction of every user, far outweighs the $5 profit we make by selling something.
We test the first couple of backdrops we receive in a new shipment, though it is not practical for us to open and examine each backdrop we receive from the manufacturer. While their quality control is very good, it is always possible that something might slip by them/us. Consequently, if there is any problem with your order, or something doesn’t seem right, please let us know immediately and we will either correct it or issue a refund upon receipt of the item back to us in the original condition (within 14 days after you receive the system).
With the new DIY controller/rings kit, we hand-test every single component we ship. Nonetheless, if something is weird, or stupid, please let us know and we will correct that immediately!
For application issues, if the above Tips and Techniques don’t help, please give us a call… we can cover more ground via phone, versus email, and get a better idea of your setup and application details.