It was recently brought to our attention that the new Computer character in Month of the Novel Season 2 is not unlike Malfhok in appearance. You remember Malfhok, right? He was the floating head who played a pretty large role in iSundae, plus he had a cameo appearance in iSundae II. We jumped through all sorts of special effects hoops to make him work, and we pretty much ended the iSundae films vowing never to do something like that again.
And yet, here we are, about five years later, doing something like that again. What have we learned? What’s different?
First off, the green screen is reversed, if you will. With Malfhok, we shot the character on green screen, then added him to the background plate in post-production.
For the Computer, we shot the character on a black background. Instead of keying out his background and adding him to a scene, we’ll be putting him on a green screen “computer” from the set.
This concept is more like Mr. Kitty’s visual aids screen than Malfhok, actually.
Next, our Computer character won’t always be on the screen, cutting down on the number of shots we have to process. Malfhok required us to add him to almost every shot in the film. Here, about half of the episodes involve the Computer’s android body, and that helps a lot with the workload, especially considering Month of the Novel Season 2 will be about the length of iSundae II all told!
We’ve also learned a lot about lighting green screen since we did the iSundae movies. Back then, we pointed lights around willy-nilly and kept our fingers crossed that it would work. Now we know better how to light a scene, and that makes things easier in post-production. We’ve had plenty of practice with other projects, such as this setup we did for Handicrafts Made Simple to create a custom transition.
Speaking of post-production, we get a little bit of a break with the Computer. Because he’s on a square screen, we don’t necessarily need to do a full-fledged green screen key every time. If the shot doesn’t involve anyone moving in front of the screen, we can just matte the green with a four-point garbage matte, which is much simpler. That accounts for maybe 30-40% of the Computer shots we’re doing.
(Not the final effect.)
It doesn’t hurt that we’re now using Final Cut Pro X, which has a fantastic green screen filter built in. We’ve been amazed at how we can drop the filter onto a clip and get a decent key without any adjustments. We’ll still need to fiddle with it to make it look really, really good, but gone are the days of dreading the green screen shots. (Though it helps that we shot it correctly this time.)
So that’s a look into what we’ve learned since our last extensive green screen production. How will this all turn out? It’s looking pretty good so far, and you can catch the second season of Month of the Novel on YouTube starting November 1 to see for yourself.
The set looks amazing! Can’t wait to see how the story plays out.
I didn’t realize how much work you put into these. I’m really excited about season 2. Last NaNoWriMo I found season 1 when I was having a case of writers block. They made me laugh so hard I forgot I was frustrated and got to writing again. 🙂
Season 2 has definitely been a big step up in terms of the amount of work we’ve put into it. We quite literally produced Season 1 in five months. This time, we started planning in May 2012, so by November 1, we’ll have been working on it for about eighteen months. But that means we have room for more special effects, additional episodes, and so on. It’s going to be great!