Virtual Sets for live broadcasing & post-production

virtual sets
using virtual sets

Virtual Sets what are they & why would you use them.

Virtual Sets also referred to as Virtual Studios & can come in a loop video version or a simple image. Virtual sets are becoming a must in the video production industry as they simply provide a professional set at a minimum cost.  Both video or image version serve the same purpose but of course the video loop can be much larger in size & will use up some additional processing power. For me personally the image set is my preference for several reasons.

With the image version without being a graphic designer myself I still would be able to make small changes to the set using something like Photoshop, it might be as simple as a colour change to part of the set. Another advantage of a virtual set as an image is you can add additional images to it, like desk & other bits of furniture as separate images.

For those who are new to virtual sets they are not much good without putting someone in them like the presenter of a show. How is this done you might think? When the presenter is in a green background on camera or if you prefer being filmed beside a green screen (read our article on green screens) their background becomes transparent and then using special software like Finncast Studio you can put the presenter into the virtual set. This will give a real effect of the presenter being in a real studio.

Real studios cost big and I do mean big money and they require a physical location. With a virtual set, you could have a green screen in your bedroom and achieve the full effect of being in a real studio. Let’s face it! the more professional you’re broadcast the bigger the audience. What do I mean by that? a phone is a phone right? not really! people upgrade their phone even when the old phone is still perfect, people upgrade their cars even though the old card is perfect, you most likely will go to a business meeting in a suit not a track suit, simply because it is more professional and it will get more attention. Broadcasting on YouTube about technology from your bedroom may have an audience but to do it from a studio, now that is professional!.

 

Virtual sets can have screens monitors included in the graphics like a large screen behind the presenter and it will have a green or transparent background all depending on the creator of the virtual set. If it is green then it will be Chroma keyed to make transparent or if it is already transparent you are good to go and put some sort of video or image behind it and give the effect of a large screen showing footage. Of course, myself I find this method to be a little messy a lot of work and more aimed at post production using something like Sony Vegas or Adobe after effects. Finncast have come up with a great method where they have created virtual screens which can be added to any image of a virtual set using Finncast Studio and you know this also means no screens need to be in the original graphic of the set thus cutting down on graphics cost and time. Basically, these virtual screens are just added on to the set with a click of a button and have their own switcher for adding footage, truly brilliant & simple! You can see exactly how it is done if you watch the video in Finncast Tutorial section on How to use virtual sets & use virtual screens.

One more thing the mention at least in Fincast Studio when it comes to virtual sets is the ability to pan & zoom around the set, yes! it is easy done in Finncast Studio simply click where to zoom & pan with a mouse and you will have the effect of a real camera person in the studio and also doing away with the need for various shots of the virtual set like a left, right & straight ahead sets meaning 3 separate set images to give the effect. With pan & zoom the same can be achieved with just one set image.

The last thing to mention here is various broadcasting & post production software’s can be used and will all have their way of setting up your virtual sets, some will only be for post-production & some will work for live broadcast.

Green Screen Chroma Keying

green screen chroma key
Green screen

 

Green screens what are they & when or why would we just them ? For those getting int video production or live broadcasting greens screens hold a valuable way to produce virtual situations. Green screens are still used today by television companies for reading the weather , as back drops for live interviews & now growing largely  in the market with virtual studios also referred to as virtual sets.

Of course  green is the most popular screen color used but blue screen is also another popular chosen color. Blue would be used if the presenter was wearing green clothing for example & some would say that blue screen works better with fair, blonde hair. Blonde hair can carry green spill around the edges in some cases not all.

But it is not as simple as just standing in front  of a green screen to get the perfect transparent background, a few things need to be taken into consideration. One of the most important! lighting yes the lighting up of a green screen “evenly” is a must, having the correct number of lights to do so is also important. You will find green screens been sold as a kit with just two lights in most cases, this is not enough. There should be two lights behind the presenter & one in front as a minimum. In most cases you will see five lights being used & in professional studios a greater range of lights fixed to ceilings lights stands etc.

So to try and simplify imagine you are going to wash a floor with a mop & water. It will take more water to clean a big dinning room than a small bath room. The size of the screen will also define the amount of lighting required or rather the area of the screen bring used.

Which now brings us to the consideration of the size of the green screen. Like most things in life green screens come in various sizes & if you are using green paint how much of the wall will you paint. Light the area well that the presenter is comfortable in but as small as possible & then zoom in the camera. Total result least lighting required smaller area. To prevent confusion what i am saying is you can have a large green screen but light up well! a small area of the green screen that the presenter is comfortable in and zoom in on that area with the camera this will cut down on the required lighting.

 

The bottom line is however you do it, the aim is for a well & even lit green screen with as few creases in the screen as possible (if using a cloth screen). Positioning of the presenter is also something to take into consideration basically to be not too close t the screen creating a shadow. Shadows can make even the best chroma keying software a difficult task to remove all the green or have unwanted green spill. Why is this! because a shadow on the screen is uneven light.

Special green screen paint can also be used for green screens and does work very well. So which choice do you make well it depends on your productions, your environment, your needs. If you do a few videos for you tube on say technology , yeah a cloth green screen kit maybe efficient. But if you are professionally doing live shows or productions very week you might consider setting up more of a professional studio using green paint and professional lighting.

However we have at Finncast we believe have done a good job on our built-in chroma keying to deal with green screen removal. Have a look at our tutorial video for green screen removal http://finncast.com/TutorialVideos