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Chroma Key (Green Screen) Photos: How Has It Worked at SCI?
Date: July 26, 2016 10:27AM

Chroma Key (Green Screen) Photos: How Has It Worked at SCI?

Technology is moving ahead day by day. When educators face budget cuts and limited resources they sometimes turn to ingenuity. They find new uses for old things. At Stanley Correctional Institution (Wisconsin), teacher Lori Koenig is facilitating the use of green screen technology in creating photo and video products. The end result of these efforts will be digital images that are custom and unique.

The digital images are broken into layers. With the help of photo editing software, the green surrounding a digital photo can be pulled out and become transparent. The next step is to swap in a new digital image or layer right behind the subject. This resulting chromakey image has a new background and can be saved as such. You could easily print off a photo of someone at the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China.

Why does the neon green work best?
The most important factor is contrast. In order to isolate one area from the rest, the background color must be distinctly different. The bright, neon green is generally not found within the natural colorings of people and the clothing they wear. Other colors may be utilized; however the editing time for the individual photos will increase.

How it has worked at SCI?
After permission from administration, a period of green screen exploration began. It all started with a few dollar store plastic tablecloths affixed to a bulletin board. The subject stood in front of the wall where the first digital photos were taken and then merged with new background layers. The plastic tablecloth did not work very well. Eventually some green paint was purchased and a full wall (10’ tall x 8’ wide) was painted for taking the digital photos.

After the digital images are captured, they are edited on a stand-alone computer with the Adobe Creative Suite 6 software. Lori Koenig then takes responsibly for locating a volunteer to edit the digital images. She also oversees the transfer of high-resolution background images to be used for the layering effect. (No one is ever pictured at the Taj Mahal.)

Graduation Photos
Every other month, a graduation photo shoot is held in front of the green wall to provide a free photo in cap and gown. The graduates are presented with one 4x6 image with their choice of 6 backgrounds. The photo is prepared and delivered. The inmate can then choose to purchase additional photos after they approve the first one.

Fathers With Books
Twice a year, the chroma key backdrop is used to take photos of fathers as they read to their children. Within this family literacy project, a DVD is created and sent off to the child where they can see their father reading age appropriate stories. Using chroma key, a photo right out of the story is merged behind the reader. So Curious George can appear right on the TV screen next to “Dad” while he reads that same story.

The Software Used: Adobe Creative Suite 6
The project makes use of state of the art editing software, handed down from the CAD vocational program in operation at SCI. For photos, Adobe Photoshop is used to edit and add layers. An approximate 10 minutes of time is spent on each photo. For the Fathers With Books videos, three components are used. Adobe Photoshop is used to take a photo from the children’s book. Adobe Premier takes the raw video from the camera and edits out mistakes. Adobe Encore is used to convert the raw video image to a DVD format and menus are added. This complete process uses a stand-alone computer.

For more information about how Stanley Correctional Institution uses green screen technology, contact Lori Koenig at lori.koenig@wisconsin.gov.

By: Lori Koenig, SCI

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