When considering filming a theatre production for streaming, we often default to using green screens (or “Chroma Key”) as a means of artificially creating different settings - but doing it right is hard. You can learn about it at this link. “Keying-in” – the process of replacing the green or blue screen with an image after filming (post-production) – is a discipline unique to film requiring significant expertise and time to achieve properly, as handily demonstrated by this popular zombie show.
#2 How to Light Your Actors When Filming a Show for Streaming
Instead, use projections! As theatrefolk, we are well-versed in lighting action alongside set pieces and digital scenery - similar techniques apply to filming in front of projections. You can see an excellent example of that for Bradford High School’s film-adapted production of Something Rotten! For EdTA’s International Thespian Festival.
A wash that lights all angles of the actor – directed away from the screen or surface – creates a great, consistent image without any visual aberrations.
#3 How to create visual depth that makes sense
There are a bunch of variables to consider when filming a production with green screen that relate to depth of field. Getting your aperture right for filming with a green screen is *vital* if you want a crisp image and your “keying” process to be more straightforward. Too shallow and you get a sharp focus on the face and soft shoulders – couple that with sharp backdrop footage, you get an unnatural image (notwithstanding it being really hard to key a subject with fuzzy edges). A more open lens runs the risk of flattening your entire composition.
You have a much broader creative license with depth of field when it comes to projections. Applying distance between your subject and the projections, coupled with aperture choices gives you flexibility and ease-of-use. You can make a lot of decisions on what looks right when you’re filming when you use projections.
#4 The best way to use scenery for streaming
This article from Backstage gives great advice on how to act with a green screen, recommending a close relationship with the creative team to make sure you’re reflecting the environment through your performance: what you are “expected to imagine”.
Using projections somewhat alleviates this burden, and gives actors something to interact with in the space – a technique much more familiar to the theatre performance, and making the leap to a recorded performance that *little bit* smaller. When it comes to selecting scenery for streaming your play or musical, Broadway Media’s Scenic Projections are available for in-camera recording (rather than green screen), giving you the option to have all the scenes and settings for a complete show.
#5 Front v Rear Projection – Which is the most effective when recording your production?
Ultra Short Throw Projectors. When you’re in a limited space and want a large image, there is really no better way to go than using an ultra short throw projectors. We’ve recommended them for onstage productions, and the same applies here. You get a super large, bright image, when the projector is mounted close to the surface (a 5ft distance will give you a 20ft-wide image) – saving you valuable space while preventing any shadows.
Rear Projection. If you have the space to do rear projection, it gives your actor the most flexibility for movement in front of the camera. You do need a specially translucent screen to project through, and you will lose brightness and clarity (depending on the surface and projector quality) in the process – in some instances requiring you to rent or purchase a brighter projector.
Front Projection. With front-facing projectors, you will lose a couple of feet of performance space, but it saves the rear-projection screen purchase: you can project onto nearly anything. The flexibility this affords – in our opinion – outweighs the usefulness of a rear projection set up.
During 2020, EdTA Hall-of-Famer Holly Stanfield converted an onstage production for online performances. We sat down with Holly to discuss Something Rotten! and her experience bringing a production to life on-screen using projections.