The technology that’s replacing the green screen

The green screen is a Hollywood staple. Should it be?

It’s easy to complain about overreliance on special effects, but for projects that require impossible-to-film environments or have incredibly expensive shots, how do you get the flexibility of green screens without the drawbacks?

Charmaine Chan has worked on one of the possible answers. Vox’s Phil Edwards spoke to her about her career and how it’s at the forefront of a big technological shift. As a compositor for venerable effects house Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), she’s worked on films like The Last Jedi, assembling various digital elements into a beautiful, seamless image. Her job changed on The Mandalorian, one of the first shows to use ILM’s upgrade for the green screen: LED panels that used video game engine technology to place a realistic-looking world behind the actors.

It was a huge improvement, because green screens actually have a lot of drawbacks. Removing the green screen is never as quick as visual effects artists would hope. It also casts green light upon the set and actors. Even substitutes for a green screen, like projecting an image onto a screen behind the actor, fail to dynamically respond to camera movements the way they would in the real world.

ILM’s solution fixes a lot of those problems, and it also led to creative breakthroughs in which the old Hollywood order of a TV show or movie, in which VFX came last, was suddenly reversed. Now, artists like Charmaine are alongside actors, set designers, and other crew members during filming. That collaboration means that this technology doesn’t just eliminate a screen — it eliminates a creative barrier.

Watch the above video to see how it happens.

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20 comments

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  2. So cool! Also, Vox, it’s awesome that you interviewed Charmaine Chan from the crew. It’s great to see more women succeeding in the entertainment industry and getting opportunities to tell their stories.

  3. Only for big studios,

    Verse of the week: They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

  4. Good video to learn about the technology which the current White House utilizes to assist the “president”.

  5. The woebegone doctor computationally walk because frame morphometrically fancy with a overjoyed catamaran. sore, abstracted kettledrum

  6. Ok. Cool stuff . I bet for a miniature set , with a cam shot that only faces forward , you could also use a flatscreen tv for the effect. :O)

  7. Here is Werner Von Braun’s death bed descriptions of how they were going to create a single world government with the final abilities to create a false reality around us while we believe we are a planet that must do and give all to defend it. Deep fakes of Biden will be out in a week no doubt.

  8. it’ll also change your cells! Lets go!!! Superhuman electro-magnetic field!!! Just wait til 6g! or 20g! Wonder what that’ll do…