Last week, Erin and Rob (Gaffer) did some lens tests with the Epic in the green screen studio. Since we had the camera reserved, Ryan and I figured it would be a good time to test out our “live-keying” process.
I’ve been doing some basic research on live-keying for over a year. At first, I thought it was essential to this project — while I’ve shot on all types of green screen set-ups and cameras (learning many lessons along the way), I’ve never done anything on this scale, with stakes this high, and I wanted to make sure the time we spend in production is worth it.
But then I started looking at prices. A bare bones system (that can work with the Red) could be as low as $1,000, if you use software trials and a confusing web of piggy-backed cables. Even then, the process never seemed reliable enough to justify spending that much of our budget.
So I nixed the concept entirely by the time we conducted our first test shoots over the summer. I figured that as long as we took the proper measurements, the monitor and a trained eye would suffice. And I was wrong.
Though adequate, the green screen was still underexposed in many shots, causing significant graininess in the blacks (which is a huge problem if your main characters only wear tuxedos). The footage was certainly salvageable, but not without significant doctoring, which I’m trying to avoid like the plague to keep the post-production time table as short as possible.
So I started researching again — this time more open to the idea of opening my wallet. But in the midst of my Googling, I noticed this piece of equipment…
… the NewTek TriCaster… basically a mini-PC that accepts multiple camera feeds for live-editing news broadcasts. While we won’t be using multiple cameras or doing any live edits, the TriCaster also has a built in waveform monitor and can pull a live key. It also allows us to upload images that we can use for on-set compositing!
So I see this thing online and think, “that looks familiar… I’ve seen that somewhere.” I e-mail Sharon Mooney (Video Artist/Lecturer), who runs the TV Studio at DePaul, and ask if the school happens to have something similar. Sure enough, they do.
Moreover, she also said they just purchased an AJA Ki Pro, a file-based recorder, which we can use to capture H.264 copies of our footage, for simple playback on set.
So we tested all this out last week, and I must say, I couldn’t be happier. The live key worked so well and having a waveform monitor will save us so much time during set-up.
You have no idea how much I needed this “win” after the past few months. It was good for the soul.
Big thanks to Sharon Mooney (Video Artist/Lecturer at DePaul) for convincing DePaul to buy this expensive-as-shit equipment.