Greenscreen Family Fun Day

I was recently asked if I’d help out at a family fun day and take photos that could be greenscreened onto an appropriate background.

As I work in the oil industry for my day job, the plan was to have the children dress up in Personal Protective Equipment (hard hats and overalls to you and me) and then superimpose them onto a picture of a refinery.

After some searching I came across a great tool called DSLR Remote Pro that has the ability to connect with my Canon 5D mkII so that I could automatically shoot, download an image, remove the green and replace it with the background. The software also enables Live View shooting so I could see on the laptop exactly how the final image was going to look – perfect (although not particularly cheap, and not all that intuitive to use).

I got a projector from the IT department which was set up to project onto a white board directly from the laptop, so every shot was composed ‘live’ by looking at the whiteboard image.

The whole thing worked out really well and everyone enjoyed the experience. It took about 30 seconds from taking the shot to completing the final conversion and the program was ‘frozen’ during this period which seemed a long time but in most cases gave time for one child to move out and the next one to move in.

Here are a few more tips –

  • Take time to get to know the software before the day. Get used to running it and setting it up.
  • Allow plenty of time before hand to get the camera angle/ height correct for the background image you’ve chosen. I spent about an hour setting up the kit and testing.
  • I marked a centre-line on the floor with clear tape. This was easy enough to see but didn’t show up on the pictures. I also added crosses front and back to indicate where the taller and shorter people should stand.
  • It took a few goes to get the right angle, scale and position of the image on the background but it was worth making the effort to get it right.
  • Shooting in live view mode eats the battery power. Mine just lasted the two hours we needed – at the end I was charging between shots – although I have a couple of spare batteries I couldn’t find them at home.
  • I didn’t need lights here as it was bright enough shooting at 5000 iso, I wasn’t looking for top image quality.
  • I boosted the background image in Photoshop and gave it an HDR work-out to make it really punchy.
  • Watch out for people wearing green – they disappear! You can set the software up to save a copy of the photo without the background replaced, then you can go in and use masks in Photoshop to add back anything that was missing.
  • If you want full length images, make sure the heads of the tallest people don’t fall outside the frame – tricky when some of the kids were only a few years old and quite small.
  • Some people wanted to watch the live view rather than look at the camera – annoying – just be firm and tell them they can see the final image in a minute, just look at the camera first.
  • The software allows a countdown from pressing the button to taking the shot. I used three seconds and counted down out loud so the kids knew they had to concentrate – and smile.

Finally, I imported all 66 photos from the day into Photoshop and created a GIF animation of all of them – just for a bit of fun.

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