One Man and a Teleprompter – Part 1

This is part 1 in a series by guest author Gary Elley. Armed only with our teleprompter, Gary set out to produce his first video DVD without any outside assistance. This is the story behind the rest of the tech required to bring the project to fruition.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has a lot to answer for. Not only has he taken Hollywood by storm, but the proximity of his studios to my house (about 1 km as the crow flies) was partially responsible for the decision to create my first video DVD using the same technology Jackson used to create some of the most spectacular scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and his remake of King Kong.

On many nights during filming of those blockbusters, a giant outdoor chromakey screen constructed from shipping containers was lit up by massive flood lights that could clearly by seen by anyone living in the vicinity.

Mixed together in a coctail of encouragement and mentoring from veteran ‘how-to’ genre video producer Bill Myers, it was all too much . . . I just had to produce my own video using the same techniques.

The result was The Keyword Marketer’s Google AdWords Training Workshop.

Since launching that site, I’ve received many compliments about the quality of the finished product and requests to share details of the equipment I used to produce the video.

What follows is a description of the tools and workflow I employed. Click on any of the images to open a larger view in a new window.

Locale

The video was shot in the double garage at left in image 1 below. That garage belongs my Dad (Ted) who lives on the slopes overlooking Evans Bay in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ted's garage
1
Miramar peninsular
2
Park Road Post
3
Venture - the boat used in Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong
4

His house faces east toward Miramar peninsular (image 2), an island that I share with Peter Jackson, his staff . . . and a few thousand other residents.

Of course, Peter’s facilities are a little more substantial than mine (his $40 million post-production center ‘Park Road Post’ is pictured in image 3), and he can afford to park old props like the boat Venture (from King Kong) at the wharf opposite Ted’s place for as long as he wants.

Greenscreen studio
The entire AdWords video was shot in front of a green screen and then keyed over a virtual background using ULTRA 2 from Serious Magic.

The usable area inside Ted’s garage measured 5m wide x 6m deep. Width wise, that was fine. The depth, however, was only just enough (I could have done with at least 2m more).

Lighting

All lighting (except as noted below) was fluroescent daylight temperature in the range 5500-6500k.

The setup used to light the talent was a simple key and fill arrangement, with a hair light mounted above and behind the talent. The green screen was lit with fluro tubes mounted vertically on either side of the screen.

  • Both the key and fill lights were approx 1.5m from the talent at 45 deg
  • The talent mark was 2.5m from the camera
  • The green screen was 3m behind the talent

The distance I was able to put between the talent and the screen was of course constrained by the depth of the garage. Based on what I’ve read from others ‘at home’ producers, 3m separation seems to be the minimum required to avoid spill (green light reflected off the screen back onto the talent). But even at 3m, I did get some spill, so I suspect it really needs about 5 meters.

Having said that, I’m of the opinion that using a quality screen helped in this respect. I used the foam backed variety from eefx.com

Used in combination with ULTRA, the eefx screen requires very little light to pull a good key, and therefore throws minimal reflection.

vertical mount color balanced fluro light
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Ceiling mounted Alzo key lights
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Lowel Pro-Light
8

Image 6 above shows fluoro tubes (2 off) mounted vertically on DJ speaker stands either side of the green screen. Tubes were Osram L58w daylight temperature.

The screen must be evenly lit over the entire surface, with no shadows. DV Rack software is a tremendous help in this respect as I’ll explain later.

Image 7 shows the key light setup. The principal lights were Alzo 600 watt fluro hardboxes from alzovideo.com. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the result when using just that light for the key, so I added the small Lowel Pro-Light you can see on a stand in image 4.

The Pro-Light throws a beautiful light and really made a difference.

One trick (among many) that I learned from Dennis Sladek over on the Serious Magic forum was to drape baker’s paper over the front of the Alzo hard box. The light from these fluoros tends to have a bluish hue when lighting skin tones, but baking paper seems to make those tones more acceptable.

Although each Alzo fitting has 4 individually switched 150-watt fluoro bulbs, in the end I found the best combination for my set up was 3 bulbs on for the key light (plus Pro-light as previously mentioned), and 2 bulbs on for the fill light on the other side.

Image 8 above shows a second Pro-Light fitted to a roof truss above and slightly behind the talent. This so-called ‘hair light’ is crucial for creating separation between the talent and the green screen.

I bought the Pro-Lights from B & H Photo along with dichroic filters to convert the lamp’s native tungsten output to daylight temperature.

Finally . . . you’ll note that we went to considerable trouble to hang black linen drops around the entire studio to neutralize any potential problem with reflected light. This worked great in all respects except one. The extreme contrast between the black back-drop and the key/fill lights made it tough on the eyes after more than an hour or two. Next time, I plan to use material closer to gray than black.

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You can read part 2 of this series here.

 

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