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December 2014
Issue: July 1, 2010

GREENSCREEN & DSLR CAMERAS

By: Randi Altman
There certainly is excitement surrounding the DSLR format, but we can’t forget that these cameras were a happy accident in terms of their professional use. While pros are taking advantage of their benefits, there are shortcomings for which they have to find workarounds.

Most everyone agrees that the picture quality of the format is gorgeous, but its compressed nature brings with it some hurdles that can be conquered… if you go in with your eyes wide open and prepare ahead of time.

Jim Geduldick, a NYC-based VFX artist, offers this tip: “Although your dealing with H.264 compression from the Canon 5D/7D, the best step is to transcode to something like ProRes before keying, and turning off any sharpening prior to the shoot. Obviously, lighting the subject evenly is extremely important, but the DSLRs are very capable of giving you a good image if shot correctly.”

NYC’s Perception has embraced the format’s benefits. “Being able to capture beautiful footage on the current wave of DSLRs has aided our process in numerous ways,” reports associate CD John LePore. “At a recent greenscreen shoot for a series of watercolor-themed British Open promos for ESPN, we depended on the flexibility that can be found with a DSLR. After capturing some live-action shots, we were able to quickly arrange a few different set-ups to capture additional elements for our compositing process.” The studio likes how the size of the cameras enables them to be flexible in the way they work. “We were able to place [the camera] underneath a plexiglass tabletop, shooting upwards while an artist comfortably painted across the surface of the glass. Just having the DSLR in the studio allows us to quickly capture elements on a whim, often saving time in trying to recreate complex organic elements digitally.”

Fred Ruckel, CD/Inferno artist at NYC’s Stitch acknowledges that a lot of people are shooting nice work with DSLRs, but he did come across an issue on a recent spot. “I found the camera couldn’t handle the hard edge from white to red. It created a black line around the image.” But he is still impressed with the “amazing pictures made with that type of lensing.”

Ruckel asks, “DSLRs are going to turn photographers into filmmakers; will it make filmmakers into photographers?” He also wonders about its effect on commercial production. “For under 2K almost anyone can now make a high-end HD commercial. This will have an impact on production companies as agencies try do more for less money.”

This brings up the “democratization of tools” debate: just because someone has access to a pro-type tool, does that make them a pro?