One man and a teleprompter – part 2

This is part 2 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.

It may sound self-evident, but if you want to 'sell the shot' when chromakeying, it pays to spend a little time improving the match between the finished look of the talent and the background that will be keyed.

This is especially true with virtual backgrounds like the one I wanted to use. (As an aside, I'd say it's probably easier to work with a high-resolution photo of a real scene as your background).

In my case, there were three things I did that helped in this respect.

First, I color corrected the virtual set. The set I used was the 'Late Night' set from the Serious Magic MSL 1 collection.

Serious Magic virtual set - original
Serious Magic virtual set - desaturated

The original .png supplied for this set (image 9 above) was over saturated for my purposes, so I reduced the saturation in Paint Shop Pro (image 10) before keying in ULTRA. I also tweaked the saturation during editing but getting it close beforehand made things a lot easier.

The next item I looked at was my presentation stance.

Talent stance - right shoulder forward
Talent stance - left shoulder forward

Note how I'm standing in the two images above. I'm not standing square on to the camera. Instead, I'm right shoulder slightly forward in the first image, while in the second it's the opposite. Doing that matched the perspective of the scene behind.

Finally, I reinforced that perspective with key and fill lighting. For scenes where the monitor was over my left shoulder, I had the stronger 'key' lights (not to be confused with the act of 'keying') set up to my left and the weaker 'fill' light coming in from my right (filling the shadow created).

For 'monitor right' scenes, I swapped the key and fill lights from left to right (the individually switched bulbs on the Alzo lights made this job much faster).

Sony HVR-Z1U


The reality is that if you want to produce higher quality chromakey work, you need to think beyond a regular DV camera. I shot the AdWords video with a Sony HVR-Z1U.

The Z1 was one of the first HDV cameras to come onto the market and although I came up with a good result, it could have been even better. The reason is that the Z1 shoots interlaced footage. Interlacing produces the so-called 'jaggies' at the edge of the subject being keyed which were such a problem with DV cameras.

Cameras which shoot native 'progressive' format video produce definitively superior results when keying because they smooth the edge of the key.


Ceiling mounted Rode NT1-A mic

The mic I used was a Rode NT1-A connected direct to the camera via XLR cable. As with the Alzo lights, I hung the mic from the roof, but an extended boom on a mic stand would work just as well.

If your camera doesn't have an XLR connection, think seriously about a Beachtek XLR adaptor. XLR cables are designed to carry a balanced signal. Balanced signals reject interference better than unbalanced signals.

As one old hand that I read put it . . . "with balanced audio, you just connect everything together and get to work. With unbalanced systems, you play hunt the buzz, where's the crackle, oh dear we'll just have to put up with it".

Been there, done that. Not fun.

I also used auralex acoustic tiles on a false ceiling immediately above the mic. Although this certainly had a beneficial damping effect on the recorded audio, it was probably overkill.

Computer Hardware

The hardware I used to capture and edit with was not even close to cutting edge at the time of purchase, let alone now. But if you plan on dealing with HDV, you'll need more horsepower than what you might have got by with for DV in the past. Here's the essential specs for the gear I used:


AMD Athalon 64 X2 Dual Core 4400

Hard Drive: 

Seagate 500 GB Raid 0


nVidia GeForce 6600 GT


2 GB

Op Sys: 

Win XP Pro


You can read part 1 of this series here and part 3 here.