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Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 Tutorial Series: Chromakeying with DV

Premiere Pro's improved color characteristics make it easier By Charlie White

In this next episode of our Premiere Pro 2.0 tutorial series, let's take a look at a technique many people find excruciatingly difficult. Chromakeying using DV footage is indeed a challenge, and I'll show you to put together a nice-looking chromakey in Premiere Pro 2.0, and I'll give you some tips on how to shoot your footage so that you won't have such a difficult time in postproduction.

As you've probably heard many times before, preparation is crucial when it comes to a chromakey shot. The first thing you need to do is be sure that your blue screen or green screen is as free of creases and folds as possible. This gets you off to a good start, and gives you a smooth surface off which you can bounce light. I've had good results with a Photoflex FlexDrop 2 chromakey screen, which is about 7 feet high and 5 feet wide, which folds up into a compact size and fits into a convenient carrying case. Highly recommended, check it out here. I hung the green screen from the rafters in my studio, and then attached the bottoms of it to heavy objects on the floor. So if you need to, batten down your chromakey screen with ropes or sandbags so it's stretched tight, or better yet, paint a bright green or blue chromakey color on a wall.

The next step is to make sure the chromakey surface is properly lit. To light the area, get your hands on at least three quality professional television lights in addition to the lights used to illuminate your talent, preferably ones that are equipped with spot and flood controls. A crucial piece of equipment to also have in your toolkit is a light meter. It doesn't have to be anything fancy?you can find a serviceable light meter on the Internet for around $100.  In this instance, you use the light meter not to determine specific numbers of candlepower or lux, but simply to ensure that your chromakey screen is evenly lit. 

In the simplest of low-cost setups, I've had the best results using three lights on the chromakey screen itself. I placed two floodable lights out about 70 angles to each side of the green screen at a height of about 7 feet, and made sure each was fully flooded. Then as close as I could get to a perpendicular angle from the green screen, I placed a broad floodlight about 5 feet away, also at a height of about 7 feet; this can be a non-spottable instrument. Since that perpendicular position may be slightly in the way of your talent and camera, place it is close as possible to where your talent will be standing without it getting the light or its stand into your shot. After the lights are roughly in the proper position, get your light meter and move it around while holding it with its back facing the chromakey screen. If you can keep the light level from varying more than 5%, you'll have an easier time adjusting this chromakey in postproduction. For key light, I used two soft lights to light myself from the waist up. For this, I used to Lowell Ego lights, low-cost ($99 apiece) fluorescents that work well at close range and don't cast harsh shadows that might spill into the chromakey area. 

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