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I was pleasantly surprised. The lens was about a foot away from the subject with no cast from the LED. To help me achieve this, I used the LiteRing controller which acts just like a dimmer switch. It is powered off with any 12V AC or battery power supply, and runs from power to dimmer to ring. Controlling the intensity of the LEDs does two things: 1) It pulls back cast light on the subject if in close proximity; and 2) It intensifies the appearance of the “green” screen effect on the curtain. I found that in far, wide shots bringing up the LEDs on the dimmer made for an overall bright “green,” even background. While on close-ups, dimming down allowed me to get the lens right in there for macros, and hand-held shots on live actions, where the lens saw less of the curtain/background and therefore “green” intensity could be sacrificed. Also, the obvious upside is that you are using fewer lights overall – save rental money, electricity, the planet, and it doesn’t get as hot on set. Makes sense to me. I am not sure of the large-scale application of this as I haven’t shot the next Matrix yet, but there is a challenge for anyone in chroma key feature land.
A quick note on reflection in the eye - I also shot a person in frame for a test. At about 3 to 4 feet away from the subject's face no visible green ring light reflection appeared in the eye. When freezing a frame in post and zooming into the face, I could see a tiny green speck at the edge of the pupil, however the dominant light reflection was that of the key light. A suggestion would be to pull further back, dim the LEDs, and use a longer lens to avoid any potential green ring light reflection in the eye.
Now, the real part of the test was in post— how well does it actually key? Amazingly well, fast and clean! Jim Hardie, an industry expert in post, says it’s the best key he has ever seen. I used FCP, a Chroma Keyer tool. Using the eye dropper, I grabbed only one spot of the green background, tweaked the range of options – greens, luminance, etc., and presto! The key was complete and clean. Edges of the subject were perfect. I was doubly impressed as the still life subject I shot was a fresh bloom of orchids, which have green parts to the buds, and stems. Yet despite the close proximity of the green LED while shooting, using the LiteRing dimmer and a bit of countering light source on the orchids, there were absolutely no issues in post of trying to separate only the green background from the green tones on the flowers. It truly was a snap!
A great example of the literal flexibility of this technology is in the first Harry Potter film. Remember Harry Potter’s “invisibility cloak”? Well, that was the early development of Chromatte and LiteRing. The technology itself has been around since the mid-1990s and stemmed from an idea created by the BBC and developed by Reflec, a UK company. Reflecmedia was set up in 2001 to bring Chromatte to the mass market. Technically Yours Inc. (TY) has been the exclusive Canadian representative since 2009. You can contact Jennifer Mallette there for use of Reflecmedia products, and yes, there are even more tools!
Sarah Moffat’s camera experience includes motion picture and still photography. She has worked in drama, documentary and live broadcast.