BOOK REVIEW: Greenscreen Made Easy

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A few weeks ago, I finished writing on Reality Binge, a Fox Reality sketch comedy/clip show, which—like The Soup and many other TV shows and movies (including Sin City, 300, and skits on shows like The Daily Show and Best Week Ever)—was shot entirely in front of a greenscreen.

It was a blast, but I’ll be honest… I had almost no idea how the show was put together technically. We’d write greenscreen bits, and I understood, creatively, some of the basic things we could do with the greenscreen, but I never understood the full breadth or potential of the technology.

And I wish I had…

Not only because I think it always help to know as much as possible about the big picture of whatever you’re doing, but because if I would understood more about the technology, I may have been able to utilize more of it—write more innovative sketches, think of creative ideas to produce stuff we thought was impossible, etc.

Fortunately, thanks to Greenscreen Made Easy: Keying and Compositing Techniques for Indie Filmmakers, a new book by Jeremy Hanke & Michele Yamazaki, all that information is now available to luddites like me everywhere.

Greenscreen Made Easy, which comes out April 1, is not a book that simply skims the surface or explains the basics of greenscreen technology, which is now used globally in everything from big budget movies to local weather forecasts. This is a book that details—in an easy to read, digestible manner—how to execute specific, actual tricks and techniques.

In other words, this isn’t the book you buy if you’re an aspiring screenwriter or producer simply flirting with the idea of making a greenscreen movie. This is the book you use if you’re ready to go and have Final Cut Pro or Adobe Ultra CS3 sitting in front of you.

One of the best parts of the book is the chapter about building your own greenscreen… which is remarkable easy (or, at least, the book makes it seem easy). This is an important chapter, because greenscreen can be daunting, especially to first-timers or filmmakers who may have very limited resources. But Hanke and Yamazaki put that technology in the fingertips of everyone; sure, you’ll have to buy some software, but software is available and buyable… I think the part that often seems most out-of-reach is the notion of an actual greenscreen “studio.” Well—no more. GreenScreen Made Easy walks you through making various kinds of greenscreens using cloth, paper, vinyl, etc. Sou could, in theory, be shooting Sin City 2 in your garage by this weekend.

Greenscreen Made Easy
is also a great resource to help newbies and non-techies understand the lingo and concepts of chromakeying technology. This book will still be more helpful if you’re in the middle of a process… or have the software, equipment, and machines to experiment or work as you’re playing… but—at the very least—this book will open the eyes of aspiring filmmakers who may know about greenscreen… but find it too formidable to tackle on limited time, energy, resources, or budgets.

Anyway, if you're into-- or thinking of getting into-- greenscreen filmmaking, take a look... and lemme know what you think!

John B. Thompson | Book Wars

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