However, for the truly minted there is another alternative. In the last few years, a technology originally developed by engineers at the BBC has started to win favour from the traditional blue or green backcloth.
The primary proponent of this technology is Reflecmedia. Instead of a coloured cloth, a special material is used which looks grey under normal lighting. But in fact it is stitched with thousands of little glass beads, which act like cat’s eyes, only reflecting light back in the direction it has come from.
This is why the material looks grey to the naked eye. To harness its power for keying, an LED light ring is placed round the lens of your camcorder, making the background appear green or blue when you shoot it, depending on the colour of the LEDs. The beauty of this compared to regular blue or green screens is that, because of its directionality, it is mostly impervious to any other lighting. You can light your subjects how you want, because light sources other than the LEDs will not reflect off the background into the lens.
Not surprisingly, this brilliant system doesn’t come cheap. A basic Reflecmedia bundle costs around £1,500 from creativevideo. However, you can also get similar kit not manufactured by Reflecmedia for around half the price from Holdan.
The Reflecmedia system is definitely worth getting if you can afford it, as it takes most of the pain out of chroma keying. However, you can still achieve very respectable results with more traditional coloured backcloth, as professionals have been doing for decades. So, with your background set up and properly lit, you can start shooting. Next week, we explain how to take your footage, remove the background cleanly, and insert something else.