The “Field of Dreams” phase of online video is long past. You can no longer assume if you build it they will come. And even if a viewer does find your masterpiece, will they watch? All too often a simple mistake in your video becomes a barrier to viewers. They become disinterested, or worse, frustrated, and they move to another offering from someone else.
How do you spot your problem areas? And how do you fix them?
Robyn Bloch has created a nice three part series on the jeffbullas.com site about how to create an online video people will watch. Part one covers equipment, part two covers audio and lighting, and they conclude the series with thoughts on effects and music. The content they cover is a concise overview for getting started and improving your online videos. The series is well worth investing a few minutes of your time and attention.
But watching their video for the third part of the series got me thinking. I am afraid I disagree with their emphasis with using green-screen for backgrounds. Just hear me out and see if you can understand why I think using this production tool is fraught with danger.
A good green-screen should be invisible. The audience should have no clue your subject is in a studio rather in your fictional locale. But rarely do you see a good green screen in online videos. Usually they are just plain awful. With 30-plus years of editing experience, nearly half of that working in post-production editing and effects, seeing bad keys drive me crazy.
Why do we see so many bad keys? A good green screen is insanely difficult to accomplish. The green background has to be properly illuminated (flat lighting with no hot-spots), you need to eliminate the green spill (the subject needs to be far enough away from the green surface that there is no green light reflecting in their hair, skin or clothing), and your software needs to be sophisticated enough to mitigate the problems that invariably arise.
If you are just starting out in video production and try to create a green screen effect you are likely to be disappointed with the results. A bigger issue is it’s likely to interfere with how your audience perceives your message. I have had to work with too many projects where the surface was wrinkled, the lighting was bad, and the clip on the key either gave the people “helmet hair” or looked as if someone had outlined them with an El Marko. You can sometimes pull a decent key in AfterEffects, Primatte or KeyLight (my personal favorite). But those solutions are not cheap and can be very labor intensive.
The bottom line, a poorly executed green screen cannot be fixed in post. And if you don’t know how to get the best results, your learning curve can create videos that are downright embarrassing. From outline to transparency problems, if you don’t shoot it right then it wont key right.
I don’t want to sound like the crotchety guy on the porch here in the neighborhood of online video. But I do think it is important to understand that green screen may initially seem to be the easiest production path, but in the end it can prove to be the most difficult. You don’t want your next video featured in this Funny or Die rogues gallery of awful green screens.
© 2012 StoryGuide | Drew Keller