Module 26 - 2


Updated: 02/11/2017

Part IIModule 26-2












TV Graphics

and Virtual

Reality Sets


Virtual Reality Sets

Within the last decade computer-generated graphics have moved into a whole new arena: simulating complete settings.

These are referred to as virtual reality sets.

The color of the background that can be used for keying is normally either green or blue.

As shown below, the color can be electronically removed and another video source inserted (keyed in) to replace it.  

fantasy background

In the example above a model in a studio sitting in front of a blue background is placed (keyed into) a computer-generated scene, as shown on the right.

Although this is a fantasy scene, very realistic settings can now be computer generated and keyed in behind talent. Note the computer-generated scene below.

 realistic comupter generated home


>> "Green screen" backgrounds have been common in movies for decades.

In the 2007, three-part, network production, Tin Man, for example, the elaborate backgrounds were created in a computer and the actors simply acted in front of a solid green background.  jet-ski chroma key

>>On the left a model with a fan in front of her is made to look as if she is bouncing along on a jet-ski in the ocean. The large electric fan provides the "breeze."

A video recording of the ocean and surrounding scenery taken from the back of a speeding boat is keyed into the green area behind her.

This results in a realistic scene and the model doesn't even get wet!

>> If it stopped here, the "realism" would be confined to one point of view.  But in the real world cameras move and perspectives change. Let's look at an example.chroma key setting

Note the woman standing against the blue background on the right.

Now look in the two monitors at the top of the photo and notice that a complete setting has been inserted (keyed into) this live scene.

Although the woman may not be able to actually sit down in the chairs seen in the setting, she can convincing walk behind them and they will pass in front of her body as she moves.

However, she can sit down on the blue box shown behind her in this photo, which, if things are positioned correctly, can make it appear that she is sitting down on one of the virtual reality chairs.

The camera can pan, tilt, and zoom in on her, and the keyed-in setting will shift appropriately.

This virtual reality settingenlargement of the TV monitor above the woman shows the complete effect in more detail as seen from the camera's position.

Why use virtual reality settings? 

A computer can store scores of instantly available backgrounds -- backgrounds that would take thousands of square feet or meters of storage space within a production facility, not to mention thousands of dollars in materials and many hours of construction and setup time. 


Matching the Sources

When video sources are combined into a single scene the effect should be "seamless," that is, the combined result should blend together unnoticed.

Six characteristics of the video sources should be consistent.

1. The brightness and contrast of the video sources must be the same.

2. The lighting must match, including the direction of the key (primary frontal) light. 

3. The color balance of the different video sources must match, especially if skin tones are involved.

4.  The sharpness of the video sources should be the same. As a last resort you may have to slightly soften one source so that it will not "stand out" from a companion source.

5. Video sources as well as film have a subtle but inherent "grain" or "noise" pattern.  If one video source is "cleaner" than another, the difference will tip off views that something is amiss, especially in HDTV.

Although it's not a totally desirable solution, as we've noted, subtle differences can be addressed by slightly degrading one video source with the electronic filters.

6. The relative perspectives must match.  This is primarily established by camera angles, original lens focal length and camera-to-subject distance. 

With a sophisticated photo program such as Photoshop not only can image perspective be altered but (within limits) video sources can be matched.

In the not-to-distant future we'll be talking about totally realistic virtual (computer-generated) actors and on-camera talent.  

No union contracts; no worry about working overtime or on weekends; no personal accommodations or "artistic differences" to contend with; and no 20-million dollar salaries! But can technology duplicate "the human factor?"

Motion Tracking

motion trackingThe little white dots on the male and female subjects in this photo are used in motion tracking (also referred to as motion capture or mocap, and performance capture).

A video camera tracks the movement of these subjects (actually, the dots) and transfers the data to animated figures in a computer.

The action is normally transferred to an elemental wire frame version of the animated drawings.

Once the action is established, the computer can be used to "flesh out" the drawings to resemble any desired figure.

This process not only greatly simplifies the process of animating figures, but since the white dots represent numerous points of movement, it results in more realistic action.

>> Motion tracking took a major step forward with the 2007, 3-D film Beowulf, based on the English epic poem, circa 700 A.D.Beowkulf

In this case both the actors and the backgrounds originated in digital electronics.

Real actors such as Angelina Jolie (here) and Anthony Hopkins were used, but they were digitized by motion tracking, altered, and then put into virtual reality sets.

Added to this was a bevy of computer created creatures and monsters that are (fortunately) worse than anything we find in reality.

>> In late 2009, James Cameron's film, Avatar, was released. The futuristic 3-D spectacle about love and war set on a distant moon, took motion tracking (performance capture) and animated realism to a new level.

Using this motion or performance capture technique, camera movements were also recorded while the "real" human actors went through their parts and animated their respective computer generated counterparts. 

Backgrounds, props and associated scenery moved in relation to the actors.

For subtle facial expressions a separate camera was focused on colored dots on the faces of "real" actors that went through all the motions of their associated avatars.

This enabled computers to track changes in facial expressions and transfer the changes to their computer generated likenesses.

In 2015, similar techniques were used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which set a new box office record by garnering over a billion dollars in less than two weeks.

"Spotless" Motion Tracking


>> A major step in motion tracking was taken when computers could be programmed to recognize the basic form of subjects and movements without the need for colored spots or dots.

As the (human) subject in this photo moves, the cartoon character mimics every change in body, leg, arm, and hand movement.

The hands and legs of the human subject are different colors so that the computer will not get the left and right confused when the subject spins around. 

>>In the next section we'll introduce a new topic, and one that is central to the medium of television: lighting.

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