/Lounge Blogs/Current Flow/From green to green screen
13, Feb, 2018

From green to green screen Dave Austin's screen test

I’ve been presenting in front of video cameras for nearly thirty years now.  It all began when I was a presenter on BBC Radio Kent.  The programme organiser, Clive Lawrence, casually dropped a slip of paper on my desk one morning in 1989.  It said that a local video company were auditioning presenters.  “You might fancy a go at that.” he said.


Now I have always been a bit of a show off. I was always at the front of the queue for anything performance. Amateur dramatics, school plays, pantos (I’ve played Dame nine times) and hospital radio. Let me in there, me, me, me. What a luvvy! As a result, I was straight on the phone and, before long, I was reading from a script bathed in light and feeling less sure that this was for me.  


elstree.jpgThe paraphernalia of television is quite daunting.  In my early years I trained as an engineer for the BBC. Some of that time was spent in television as a sound supervisor so I know about the studio environment. That’s all very well but it’s a different thing when you are in front of the camera. Suddenly the need to breathe and swallow and not blink too much becomes a major focus and the old dry mouth and sweaty palms are all too obvious.  I stumbled through some script about something electrical.


Happily, they decided I was the best they would get and I started working with the company that is now Navigator Productions. They have matured and become a first-rate production company making terrific content for online learning. I have also matured. The hair is a completely different colour, the waistline a little fuller and, thankfully, I am a little bit more relaxed in front of the camera.  

greenscreen.jpg­­All this came back to me between takes as we filmed a sequence for the 18th Edition course a few days ago. We were in the green screen studio. When the shot is treated in post-production, everything that was green can be replaced with some other picture or background. It’s how the weather map appears behind the presenter and, nowadays, it provides the background for many feature films and TV shows. For our work it allows the graphics team to add all manner of illustrations and put whatever background is deemed appropriate.  


As a presenter, it can be far less interesting than filming on location, but it is much more productive as we can rattle though shots quickly without lugging tons of gear from location to location. It also allows us to film sections now and add detail in when we know it. The 18th Edition course will take hundreds of hours to film and we need to get as much in the can as possible ahead of the new regs being released on June 28th. Some we can’t do but a lot that is unlikely to change can be set down. However, the freedom to amend what is actually used to illustrate a point when better detail is known is a real benefit. I can allude to something that will appear over my left shoulder and the actual shot can be added on the 29th June.  


postproduction.jpgThe amount now done in post-production has changed dramatically since those ancient videotape days of 1989.  Then what you shot is what you got and the edit was copying tape to tape in little sections.  Now they whizz up and down the timeline in seconds, create all manner of glorious graphics and replace bits with ease. Not long ago we replaced a shot in a sequence from a three-year-old video.  By green screening me and inserting me over a still frame of the workshop background in the original, we replaced the outdated words in the shot and no-one would notice.  If you can spot it, I’ll buy you a pint!  Would I go back to the video technology of thirty years ago?  No thanks.





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