Green screen – a beautiful cinematic deception, which gives birth to the most complex scenes
In almost 10 years of operation, numerous advertisements, TV series, music videos and films have been filmed in the Green Screen Studio. According to Vytautas Laucius who organizes filming in the studio, thanks to the green screen, this place had been transformed into factories, a stormy sea, and even a space station. How does the green screen technology work, what most interesting projects were turned into reality here and what is the future of filmmaking – in a conversation initiated by the Vilnius Film Office.
– Let’s begin at the beginning. Green screen – what kind of technology is it and when is it used in film?
– In a certain sense, green screen is an optical illusion, which allows the imitation that you are in another space, use and express various ideas that come up in one’s imagination. For example, if there is no possibility to send the whole crew to another country action can be filmed in the studio and thanks to the green screen, during the post-production the background of the desired country can be added.
A person who is not familiar with this technology, upon arriving at the studio will see various cubes, ladders, moving people, however, they won’t understand what is really happening. Only once the visual material is turned on it can be seen that all the effort was not in vain.
When speaking about the green screen history, these green paints discovered by Americans were first used in the 50s. This colour is not found in nature, is not used in manufacture of clothes or other items. The paint itself is like velvet – it does not reflect other shades, completely absorbs colour, and its structure is completely different from conventional paints. Truth to be told blue is sometimes also used in television instead of green.
– Towards what attention should be paid when filming next to the green screen?
– It’s important that the green screen is curved and there are no right angles – then there will be no shadow and the colour will not spread out. A lot of attention is paid to lighting, appropriate distance. Because the screen is very big – 335 sq. m. floor area – during filming it is hard to feel its scale, therefore the screen is marked.
As is true for everything, all technologies evolve, and the green screen is no exception. It is slowly replaced by virtual studios. These are rooms, where the ceilings, walls and floors are made of LED screens, thus when filming instead of green colour the desired background image is seen. There is a great interest in this technology felt in the industry, its quality, adaptation to film cameras is stressed. In a virtual room, by implementing all the knowledge and technologies, Lithuanian filmmakers’ film Night Fishing was filmed.
– How does preparation for filming process take place?
– The idea is born to the director, film or advertisement maker, who begins developing the filming sequence. They visit the studio, solve the questions of actors and equipment logistics, later decorations and art department arrives. One of the first people to show up is the camera person, who needs to know about the lights, filming angles and other related things. Finally, technical rehearsal takes place, during which it is finally decided whether everything is ready for filming. Actors, stunt people, medics, make-up artists and other members of the team come to the studio. After filming, the tidying up work remains and once completed, most often, a new project already awaits.
– What has this studio been – what scenes, unexpected ideas were realised here?
– Firstly, there have been many animals here – cows have grazed here, when filming Santa deer walked through this space, we have filmed sheep, llama, numerous dogs and a monkey dressed as Bruce Lee… A space station was also filmed at the studio, a car drove over the flyover, once we even filmed a room being flooded. Even though we have made a pool from special film, when the water is making its way through the doors and windows with such great force, the whole studio is sinking. Of course, it is adapted for that – the water flows into the drains, electricity installation is built at the safe height etc.
Once we filmed a ship sailing across a stormy sea – it was one of the most memorable projects. We moved the real construction of the ship, using the hoses of the fire engines pouring water in great quantities from above, we directed the wind towards the ship – the effect was very impressive.
– Some of the scenes sound quite dangerous. Do you often need the assistance of stunt people?
– We have some of the best stunt people in Lithuania, who are known around the world. They know their job perfectly and they know the studio like the back of their hand – after plenty of filming here they feel like at home. Whether their stunts are dangerous is another question, it is safer completing them in the studio rather than in reality.
– Have you had any ridiculous situations in your almost a decade of operations?
– Once we had a real force majeure situation. We were filming a well-known mini-series Tokyo Trial – world famous actors, a strong film crew gathered at the studio. Unexpectedly, an all washing and flooding summer storm broke out. You can imagine, what it was like when the water began rising and flooding the studio. On the floor there are filming props, decorations, equipment… We had to react swiftly and even though we got it all under control, filming had to be postponed for a few hours.
– Tokyo Trial a historical drama known to audiences around the world. Is Lithuania ready to welcome other big budget series, films, special effect features?
– When speaking about projects which demand for the special effects, the studio is too small for a large project. To be able to work with really large decorations, to film explosions or other complicated scenes, the studio should be at least twice as big. Then we could invite the truly important international filmmakers. On the other hand, Netflix, HBO projects were filmed more than once in Lithuania, and we do have things to be proud of. Maybe we don’t work with the largest international projects, but to a really high standard.
– For the end I would like to guess about the future. Maybe in a decade all films will be made with the assistance of only the green screens or virtual rooms?
– The green screen has many advantages – firstly, filming in the studio is often cheaper than going to the chosen location. Finally, lighting and other filming equipment does not need to be taken to the location on daily basis, weather conditions and noises do not influence the filming process, streets don’t need to be closed, traffic redirected etc.
Yet technologies cannot recreate simple, earthly things, beautiful human errors and various details – for example, the way the leaves fall off of the trees in nature. Therefore, it is like comparing a film with digital media – film has its own depth, a certain “soul” of filming, whereas digital media has the sense of flatness and appears on screen very differently. I think that all of the filmmaking will never move exclusively to the studio.
– Thank you for the conversation.