7 tips for on-set Tracking

Several tracking tips to keep in mind the next time you supervise on set.
Tip Number 1 - Try Using Yellow Markers on Green

On green screen - use yellow markers and separate the components separately for tracking and keying. On the left, you can see what the full color rgb image looks like. Note that if you use the green channel only (middle image), the markers are easily keyed and you avoid time consuming marker removal. The red channel provides a great high contrast image for tracking.

Tip Number 2 - Use Newspaper as Pattern for 3D Tracks

Newspaper makes an excellent tracking pattern for 3D trackers. If you have a large green screen set, lay down newspaper away from the keying area and the non repeating - highly detailed patterns of the news paper will track really well.

Tip Number 3 - Marker Placement for 3D Tracks

If you are filming a greenscreen, it is important to not just have markers on the same flat greenscreen background, markers need to be at different distances from the camera for a good 3D solution.

Tip Number 4 - Round Adhesive Labels

Good premade tracking marks are as close as your nearest Office Depot or other office supply store. Avery makes a variety of colored dot stickers in a variety of sizes. Their web site shows a large variety of sizes and colors and don't take up much room in your travel bag.

Tip Number 5 - Keep the Greenscreen in Focus When it Makes Sense

For compositors, this is a pretty obvious tip. Sure, there are times when this isn't a steadfast rule and the lens choice requires a soft-focus background. But we mention it here because you might be surprised how many times this isn't simply basic procedure on set. It never hurts to mention it on a technical call, especially if you're not going to be on set for the supervision. The first time you get back some footage with all the tracking marks way out of focus and you don't need it that way, you'll remember to mention this

Tip Number 6 - Special Case - TV and monitor screens

One area that people tend to "over mark" is when shooting TV and monitor screens. Often the best comp can be done by shooting with the unit just turned off instead of covering the tube with blue or green screen. This let's you get realistic reflections that you can kiss back in to make the comp better. You can usually pull tracks off of the corners easily or off some detail in the case. If tracking marks are put on the face of the screen, and you are trying to keep the reflections, removing the marks can be tedious.

Obviously you will have to use some judgement on each shot. If someone with frizzy hair is going to linger in front of the monitor you may prefer to cover the face with blue or green material and add tracking marks. This will result in you not getting any real reflections, but general reflections can be faked easily.

One thing you DON'T want to do is let them feed a color generator to the monitor - "look it's blue" ... this is a frequent production thought and one that rarely works well, if at all.

Also check carefully thru the viewfinder for what is actually being reflected to make sure it is what you want and is not the camera, some lights and a crew member. Reflections can be hard to see on video assist.
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