One of the important things with greenscreen production is how much it can open up your horizons as a low-budget filmmaker. If done properly, it can give an unimaginable edge to the microfilmmaker (or “micro-budget filmmaker”). However, the fact that we are capable of doing greenscreen does not mean that we should shoot films just for the sake of shooting greenscreen. The choice to shoot with this production workflow needs to be one that has been thought through and really chosen because it serves the storyline.
Recently, Tom Stern, one of our writers at MFM decided that he would do a film based on a video game, in which the mani character has to live out the mystery of their lives in a virtual world where they keep getting killed. Obviously, a virtual world is ideally suited to greenscreen and it was necessary to tell his tale. As it turned out, the amount of greenscreen that went into this film (Titled, Lives Lost) rivals Sin City.
Well, we’re in the early stages of pre-production on a film that equally requires greenscreen. A time-crossing adventure, the plot of Movie Gods deals with people in the 1930’s. There are two components to the storyline: one is set in the modern era, while the other is set in the past. The modern era will not be shot with greenscreen and will be in full color. However, because of the costliness of shooting a true period piece in the 1930’s with traditional props and set dressing, we will be using greenscreen for this. To further isolate the modern elements of the story from those happening in the past, the greenscreen footage will be converted to black and white after compositing. While this may seem like a lazy way to avoid fringing that can result with bad keys, it is actually a very specifically chosen style.
Rather than simply desaturating footage to black and white, we will be blooming the whites and damaging the footage in post so that it is more in keeping with newsreel footage of the ’30’s. (Oddly enough, the Great Depression was essentially a golden era for actual theater attendance, with more people going to the movies than at any other time in our nation’s history. For more on this and how it compares with the modern day, check out my editorial on the subject from MFM.) In addition to going through archives to find believable photos from the 1930’s, we’re also looking at historical locations that look like the 1930’s. For example, we found the Leed’s theater in historic Winchester, KY, which was build at the end of ’20’s which definitely has that vintage feel. Using a simple Nikon D40 DSLR in RAW mode, we then experimented both with taking properly adjusted photos and damaging them in post, as well as taking photos where the shutter allowed in too much light. While white clips completely in digital if the shutter is open too long, a lot of information was still available on noticeably washed out shots in RAW mode. When contrast, darks, and restoration were all maxed out, the style of look was very interesting, although only time will tell whether this will be useable technique for the film. (The embedded picture is from the Leed’s with basic black and white conversion and image damage to more closely resemble 1930’s pictures.)
We are currently in story writing mode, at which point the film will be converted to a script and then final pre-production can begin. As we continue, I will update this information so folks can follow along with our newest greenscreen adventure!