09 January 2021

Vox: “The technology that’s replacing the green screen”

As a compositor for venerable visual-effects house Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Chan has worked on films like The Last Jedi, assembling various digital elements into a beautiful, seamless image. Her job changed while working on The Mandalorian, one of the first shows to use ILM’s upgrade for the green screen: LED panels that use the same technology as video game engines to place a realistic-looking world behind the actors.

The result was a huge improvement, as green screens actually have a lot of drawbacks. Removing the green screen is never as quick as VFX artists would hope, and it also casts green light over the set and the actors. Even green-screen substitutes, like projecting an image onto a screen behind the actor, fail to dynamically respond to camera movements the way they would in the real world.

Phil Edwards

This looks like an early prototype for Star Trek’s holodecks!

The technology that’s replacing the green screen

As a second remark, I find it ironic how so many photographers these days are relying on Photoshop and postprocessing to fix imperfections in their images, while professional video producers are moving in the opposite direction, by creating their desired composition as faithfully as possible and capturing it directly in camera. Replacing skies, modifying lighting in postprocessing can easily lead to unnatural effects, such as wrong reflections and color casts, this is why I prefer to keep editing to a minimum and try to capture the image on site, not to manufacture it later.

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