Just Press Record · 19 December 2020

A funny thing happened in the studio the other day. I forgot to press record.

It might sound funny (it does to some people I know), but I record videos in my garage. They are mostly educational videos for the students in my class. I have been making them for years. And sometimes they are even helpful. At any rate, I have not really started calling the garage my studio, but I might now that I installed a green screen.

I have had fun with the green screen. I have really only made a few videos with it, but I have enjoyed the process. Make the video in front of the green screen. Key that color out of the video. Place what you want behind whatever is not keyed out. Actually, not that difficult if you have the right software and the time to learn how to do it.

The reason I got the green screen was because I wanted to do some better videos. I have made lots of boring lecture videos. I have boring physics videos and boring computer programming (in C++) videos, where I stand in front of a whiteboard and give lectures about the respective content. But I actually did a video where I was writing on the whiteboard and then I lectured on top of the video where I am writing. I was in the video twice! It worked out okay, but it was not nearly as easy as using a green screen. So I got one and installed it in my garage, rather my studio.

One of the most important things about green screens is that you need consistent lighting. Or at least pretty consistent lighting. Lots of people suggest getting diffusers so that the lighting is even and the color is consistent for keying. But I am not most people. I am frugal, spelled C-H-E-A-P. Frugal. Which just means that I like to use what I have if possible.

I started with just a clip-on light that is hung from the structure that holds the garage door opener. I have used it for years to provide just a little more light than the lights in the garage provide by themselves. But when I got the green screen hung (that is another story), I knew I needed more light. So I mounted another clip-on light to a short two-by-six board. The clip had been broken for many years, but I just knew the light would come in handy someday. Usually, that realization that something would be useful comes right after I have thrown it away, but this time, I still had what many would call junk. So I used my junk. It just took a few screws and a scrap piece of wood, and I had half of my lighting for my green screen. The other half was just a desk lamp that was not being used.

So armed with my new lights, I pointed my ceiling light a little lower. Then, I lit up the bottom half of my green screen with my two new lights and I was in business. My first video with green screen worked out great with my lighting setup. I did not need to illuminate myself with those three lights, just the green screen. It worked great. And I was excited when I put my first couple videos using green screen technology on YouTube.

Then, I decided that I was going to create a story to teach some fundamental principles of programming in C++. I already had my own book that I give my students to use and I had those boring lecture videos. Instead of updating the lecture videos, I figured I would just tell a story. And that story would be used as the framework for teaching the programming concepts. So I wrote the script in my mind and decided what shots to shoot in front of my green screen.

Well, to make a short story a little longer, I was almost giddy when I got everything set up. I had all my props and costumes ready. I decided I was going to do these shots in one take. Just like all my others. (I do not always get them right in one take, but it is a good goal.) Like I said, I was giddy with excitement. Even though I do not really like being in front of the camera that much. Really.

I rehearsed the shots a few more times in my mind. The camera was ready and the props were ready. Everything was ready for action. So I pushed the button and started to act. I was not brilliant. I did not get everything right the first time. But I persevered and did retakes of what I messed up. All with the camera rolling. I moved my props and moved the camera and readjusted the tripod. It was so much fun. Then, I did some still shots and close in video of some props that I might use in the final production. When I was done, I took the camera to my computer and was ready to download all the footage.

For some reason, I decided to look at the footage on the camera first. I guess I was excited to see what I had saved there. To my surprise, there were only the still shots and close in video of my props. My acting was nowhere to be seen. I checked the camera at least three times. But the video was still not there.

I laughed at myself. I must have pressed the wrong button or not pressed the record button hard enough.

Thinking about it now, there must have been some camera glitch along with my user error. I say that because usually the LCD screen turns off after a short time. It never did that. So maybe I did press the record button, but it just did not record. Or maybe I just never looked at the LCD screen. Not that it matters. I just did the whole thing again. And it was still fun to do the second time. This time, I made sure I had pressed the record button. (I even peeked at the LCD to make sure the indicator said it was recording.)

I do not know how the story will turn out. I am not sure the lessons will come through. But I had fun doing the takes for the story. I had fun doing all the acting. Even though I had to do it twice, because the first time I forgot to press the record button on the camera.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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