Blog

11/19/2012

Behind the Spoons:
Making a Crazy Kickstarter Video Part 2:
Lighting, Sound, Special Effects

I am a movie nerd. I love watching movies, making movies, and all the technical aspects that go into creating movies. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over the years that I used to make my low-budget Kickstarter video.

Warning, the following contains tech-talk:

Lighting

Throughout the video, I used a pretty tried and true technique called "three point lighting." These handy numbered photos below illustrate what a three point setup for my video looked like:

Three point lighting setup for opening shot. Numbers below correspond to numbers in this photo.

1. This is a simple, dimmable, LED light. This is the "key" or main light that illuminates the subject.

2. This is a dirt cheap clamp lamp and fill light. It mainly adds a little bit of extra light to fill in shadowy bits that the key light doesn't hit.

3. This is a very small camera-mountable LED light. It's functioning here as a kicker (rim light, back light, etc) and it adds extra highlights to the subject.

4. This big black thing is a "flag." It's just a big piece of foam core that cuts/blocks part of the light out, which creates shadows and gives a more cinematic feel.

5. This is real pizza I put on my keyboard. Do not try this at home.

The shot as lit by the lighting setup previously shown.

Again, the numbers below correspond to the photo above:

1. The key light has been dimmed to create a soft fill, illuminating the whole frame but mainly hitting my face from camera right. The light level has been matched to the monitor's light level so that the computer screens are not blown out. The strong top light also creates shadows under the desk, blocking out unnecessary visual clutter.

2. The fill light adds extra light to fill in some of the junk food on my desk and evens out some areas that would otherwise be cast in shadow.

3. The kicker light adds a nice semi-hot (or overexposed) highlight to my shoulder, arm, and left side of my face (camera left). This creates a little more drama and separation from subject and background.

4. The flag blocks light on a diagonal axis, creating a dramatic shadow that also directs the viewer's eye from the monitor to my face.

5. Again, this is real pizza. Do not try this at home.

And finally here is a comparison between what my room looked like before and after the lighting:

LEFT: No fancy lighting. RIGHT: Three point lighting. (click to enlarge)

Sound

In making a low budget video, or any video for that matter, sound is crucial, if not more crucial than a good looking image. Nice mics don't cost that much to rent, and the production quality they add to your video is night and day. That said, nice mic or not, there is only one basic rule you need to follow to get good sound:

Get that mic as close to the person speaking as possible.

That's pretty much it. That's how they do it in Hollywood... of course in Hollywood they do use very, very nice mics, and they go to great lengths to keep those mics invisible. Whether it's hiding them in the set decoration or in the talent's wardrobe, or holding boom poles just off frame for hours, that's how it's done.

You don't have to be a Hollywood pro to get that mic close. Get creative: hide the mic in a plant or behind a goofy box. You can shoot a close-up of your subject so the mic is just out of frame. Or, create a video you narrate rather than speak in live. It's easy to record narration after the fact with a nice close mic.

Special Effects

Jeff flies into space thanks to his Kickstarter backers.

When Clarence and The Spoon passed its funding goal on the 1st of November, I had to make another video out of sheer excitement and gratitude.

I wasn't planning on doing this, but my friend Blake suggested a funny idea whereby I fly into space with the aid of a ridiculous computer watch.

Mr. Computer Watch 2000: a state-of-the-art super computer jammed into a slim and sexy wrist watch.

I whipped up another animatic, twice as sloppy as the previous one:

Animatic for stretch goal video.

Editing the stretch goal video and compositing took a lot longer than the first video because my iMac is pretty slow when it comes to rendering effects, and every shot in this video was an effects shot. Outside of building simple props out of cardboard (computer watch, rocket boosters), the main effect I dealt with was green screen compositing.

Here are four basic tips to help you shoot successful green screen footage:

1) Have your subject fill as much of the frame as possible. If your shot is a close-up, shoot a close-up. Don't shoot wide and zoom in later in post. This is because you want to utilize the maximum resolution of the camera. Generally, the more resolution you have to work with, the better the key (AKA the ability to remove the green screen later).

2) Light the green screen as evenly as possible. Avoid shadows and lighting hotspots on the screen. You'll see in these photos that sometimes the green screen isn't perfectly lit. You can get away with this if the direct screen area around the subject is as evenly lit as possible. Don't have lights? Shooting outside works great, preferably on a cloudy day. I moved between inside and outside lighting depending on the time of day.

3) Avoid green "spill." Spill, in this case, refers to the color of the light from the green screen reflecting onto your subject. Remember, anything that's green will "disappear" when you do the final key. If you're wearing a green shirt, or have a green subject, or have green spill light hitting your subject, you're in trouble. Spill is the most nightmarish thing to fix in post, so avoid it like the plague. How do you avoid spill? Back-lighting your subject is a great technique, but the easiest low-cost way is to simply move your subject further away from the green screen. This will minimize shadows cast onto the screen as well as spill.

4) A green screen doesn't have to be green. It can be blue, pink, banana or ham colored. The reason it's usually green is because green is barely found in human skin tone as well as in tungsten and daylight bulbs. The goal is to create maximum contrast between subject and screen, without any spill. So if you're shooting a lime eating green eggs and ham, shoot it against a pink screen!

A lime, eating green eggs and ham.

That's it for the Kickstarter video behind-the-scenes, tips and tricks. Hope it was helpful and entertaining.

Happy shooting and flying!

Do not attempt flight into space without special effects or space programs like NASA.

Original Kickstarter Video

Stretch Goal Follow-up Video