The Unusuals, an ABC primetime show, made for an interesting project for The Molecule. The show had three key sets that required compositing – a diner, a Chinese restaurant, and a cop’s apartment. Each set, built on Steiner Studios, was constructed in front of green screens so the outside world could be added later in post. However, instead of using a traditional green screen, production opted for a different technology called Reflecmedia.
Basically, the way Reflecmedia works is by projecting color LED lights, arranged along a ring fitted to the front of a video camera, onto a Chromatte fabric that is set up behind the shot. The light emitted from the ring is bounced off the gray, iridescent, beaded curtain- giving it a green appearance to the camera lens.
Primary advantages include its ease of use, its ability to cut down on traditional green screen lighting challenges, and the avoidance if traditional green spill. However, Reflecmedia introduces a new set of complications including the introduction of a different green spill (this time from the front versus the back), newly created reflections on glass or shiny surfaces, and the projection of shadows on the Chromatte (due to the front illumination of the technology).
Some of these issues were unavoidable on set so they had to be addressed in post. The background plates were almost always to be composited behind glass, such as a window or a storefront. Some effort went into hiding the LED ring from bouncing off the glass, and rotoscoping was always an option, but there was very little garbage area because we wanted to keep all of the reflections except for the ring.
Rather than doing a traditional key, we would suppress the green down to black, and add the foreground unpremultiplied over the background plate. This allowed us to keep fine details like strands of hair and the reflections on the glass. The Chinese restaurant was especially tricky because they had sheer curtains, green plants, and a neon sign in the window. Ultimately, all of this made for an interesting experience and we figured out some good techniques along the way.