No Budget Greenscreening – Try it at home

Kitchen Scenes Studio: Greenscreen kit test, October 12, 2014

I finally figured out the mystery of why I can shoot myself so close to greenscreen in my living room and have re-created the light situation in my kitchen, which is half-painted Chroma green. It’s not magic – it’s science.

1. The micro-climate in my San Francisco neighborhood (Hayes Valley) is sunnier on average.
2. My living room window is almost wide as the 12′ x 15′ room itself. The window is along the longer side of the room.
3. Though it is a northern exposure, the buildings on my block are all three stories or less and painted light colors, so there is all-round, even brightness in the room, in large part because it is so shallow.
4. The light shines on the big window and the window reflects evenly onto the whole room, turning the walls and the ceiling into diffusers.
5. This creates a lighting situation for shooting where there is even lighting on both actor and greenscreen, as well as minimal shadows.

The kitchen is square, 15′ x 15′. I bought a worklight set up (2 halogen lamps on an adjustable stand) at my favorite hardware store for about 45 USD. I bought a reflector kit with a 40″ x 60″ reflector and a stand that is adjustable up to 79″. I will need sandbags, but, other than that, I can now green screen 24/7 in my kitchen.

I put this test vid out into the Universe, hoping someone else finds it encouraging.

A Tech “Rehearsal” in My Kitchen, October 14, 2014

The key to greenscreening in a small and or shallow space is diffusion.

A Greenscreening Lighting Problem, November 5, 2014

Sylvia Toy VOICE-The Others Ⓒ2014 3

Still, VOICE: The Others

Paying it forward.

These are two green-screened clips. You can see a halo around the figure in the chair. I’m 99.9% sure that halo happened because the chair and figure created a shadow on the greenscreen rug on the floor. I’m sure of this because when you play the video (, you see the halo vibrating. I can tinker the vibration away, most likely, but it will take a lot of experimentation or luck or both.

The two clips shot at the same time from 2 other angles on 2 other different cameras have even lighting and Chromakeyed just fine. I am going to fix the vibrations and will not reshoot the video, most likely.

But next time I shoot with this set up (2 first-gen Canon Vixias and a new Canon Vixia Mini-X), I will attach puck lights or something similar to the underside of the seat of the chair to light the space under the chair and better match the light in the rest of the frame.

My No-Budget Greenscreening videos showing the setup for greenscreening in my kitchen are in a playlist on my YouTube channel,

Blogging a Movie: There are cameras, and then, there is lighting, April 28, 2015

These few seconds are the most difficult clip of my movie THE BLUE LADY: three layered clips that were each shot on a Canon Vixia Mini. The sound was recorded on a Rode condensor mic connected to a bigger Vixia that was set for the primary wider shots and closeups. I will not be able to perfect the Chroma key effect to the extent that I would like to on these clips, but I felt that I really needed this shot because there is nothing quite like the members of a household coming into a kitchen for a confrontation with one another. And here they are in this scene, lined up like soldiers. 
This was the first time that I used the Mini for such a busy scene. I realize that in order to use this lovely but limited little camera for greenscreening in the future, I need to light specifically for what the camera can do. 

My Sketchbook, June 18, 2015

Recently, I was an actor in a minor role in someone else’s movie. There were so many people involved, so much crew. I have done everything by myself for most of my movies. But during production of any project that winds up 20 minutes or more, it still feels like there are too many people in this apartment. I keep expecting some continuity girl to remind remind remind me.
I know that not every major project a person starts gets finished and that finishing my last few long projects has earned me some respect that just wasn’t there for me as video artist or filmmaker before. But I have a consistent track record of finishing a lot of major projects long before I even knew how to turn on a video camera. I have finished a novel, gotten 15 plays from page to runs on stage (four in “legitimate” theatre) and I produced a very large body of sculpture for professional showing. I have been a grant recipient and I have had artist residencies in several venues.
It is one thing to be a self-taught sculptor – maybe even “noble” if you go by the reverence people seem to have for self-taught sculptors.
It is quite another thing to be a self-taught video artist/filmmaker. That quite another thing is not merely about the technical competency curve or mastering continuity – a year ago when I was one-third of the way through pre-production I still thought it was. Yes, I have hit some technical milestones and I finally really get it that continuity is your BFF. But the “quite another thing” is the difference between having a budget and not having a budget – not merely that, but conceiving without having budget as part of the concept.
While I was on the set of someone else’s movie last month, I decided that while, if I had to, I could abide up to 20 or so people as cast for one of my projects, I really could not tolerate having so many people behind the camera tripping all over each other (or so it seemed to me). Having spent 20 years in small theater, creating a story that has more than 5 or 6 characters would not even occur to me. And having spent 20 years in small theater, I know how to streamline crew tasks since crew are often the only folks in small theater who get paid.
It is more liberating every day that I spend in my home study – sometimes until 2 p.m. still wearing my pajamas while sewing or fabricating – so liberating not to be burdened with budget.