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Green Screen Shoot in P-51 Mustang Cockpit

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I am planning on doing a short scene inside a P-51 Mustang cockpit, shooting on the ground in front of a green screen and adding the environment in post. We are on an extremely low budget that would not allow for artificial lighting, so we plan to shoot outside, next to a hangar, in the shade. Hopefully the natural skylight we get on the ground will be an acceptable approximation of skylight in the air and provide adequate illumination of the screen.


The main shots I would like to get are the pilot’s face through the windshield and a pilot POV shot showing the windshield and the dash.




I may also get a low, wide shot of the pilot from within the cockpit.


I am somewhat concerned about reflections, so I plan to have a polarizer on hand to help control them, especially for the shots from outside looking in. But the front-facing panels are also angled in such a way that I think I may be able to get a natural-looking sky reflection in them. I took a quick test shot of a real Mustang to help get an idea of the direction of the reflections, but it is inside a hangar. From this angle, I am a bit concerned about the reflections on the side of the aircraft, though they will look better when the plane is outside. Any tips for dealing with these?


In our current scheme, the green screen will be about 12m away from the cockpit, and about 7m away from the outer bounds of the plane. To keep the screen at this distance and allow for ample wiggle room, I would need about an 8m tall by 15m wide green screen. I am thinking of sewing together muslin sections and hanging it somehow from the exterior of a hangar, or possibly taping strips of green paper to a hangar wall (maybe I could even use the gaff tape as tracking markers). What would be the best way to leverage the existing hangar wall to support a green screen? Would I be able to get by with a smaller screen and moving it closer to the plane? Is this even a sane approach?

For the POV shots, I may have to rotoscope out one or two of the prop blades. I don’t imagine that should be too difficult if I keep the blades from overlapping with the glass in the gunsight (if we have a gunsight).

There is a small amount of forest green metal that may possibly appear in one or two shots. I might be able to work with this with framing and/or roto, but would I be better off going with a blue screen instead to sidestep this issue?

Also, I plan on shooting with an a6300 and an external recorder which would provide an 8-bit UHD 4:2:2 image source encoded with ProRes. Do I need to rent a 10-bit camera given the transparent surfaces, or will this suffice?

Are there any other significant hurdles I am not thinking of?

I know it will be a challenge, but I really hope we'll be able to pull this off; any help would be greatly appreciated!

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From someone who is currently working on a project that is heavily chroma-key dependent, I'll chime in here:


First, shooting this outside could actually be your friend vs a studio. The sun is an amazing light source - but you'll likely need some bounce cards to bounce some of the light to fill in shadows and clean up 'green wash' on your actors and props to make keying easier.


Second, your better off with a 10-bit or even RAW recording with full 4:4:4 when shooting chrome key work. This is because unlike with regular film making, its not just about highlight roll-offs, compression artifacts etc --- it's about getting a realistic looking key. Color sampling and bit depth, as well as less compression will be a lifesaver here. Regardless, as long as you're not shooting a difficult to key scene, 8-bit 4:2:2 should be enough. Personally, if you have the budget, I'd rent a camera that can shoot RAW for this shoot. RAW in a chroma key environment is a lifesaver.


Third, how are you posting this? Actually SHOOTING things on a green screen is not the hard part --- it's making it look good in post. What software are you using? I'd highly recommend Fusion or Nuke when doing film compositing - avoiding the likes of the motion-graphics centers After Effects. Just keep in mind that proper green screen work requires that you ensure your lighting matches from the live action to the background plate, as this is a dead giveaway. You'll also likely need to understand light wrap, etc.


Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

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I'd consider surrounding the plane with big day blue muslin frames instead of green screen, blow some smoke past the cockpit now and then. But yes, you don't want the reflections of the hanger in the side of the glass so you'd either need to extend the green screen to cover that, or day blues or blacks to block the reflections.

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Thank you very much for the generous help!


I strongly agree that it's best to try and get everything in camera and really like the idea of surrounding the plane with sky blue muslin and/or using the real sky instead of a green screen. As for the reflections, it will be even more challenging to manage them as well as the backdrop in the space and budget we have, but I will give some more thought as to how this could be arranged.


One thing that will work in our favor that I neglected to take into account for the initial previz scene is that the plane is at a pretty significant angle when sitting on the ground, so we should be able to get a natural sky for the POV shot, and whatever muslin we use for the shot of the pilot won't need to be mounted as high as I thought (I think ~5m high should be fine).




There are some elements other than sky that need to be added outside the plane, but only birds need to be added to the sky in the rear-facing shot, and I think that could be easily managed with a sky-colored muslin and a small amount of roto. The POV shot will involve some more elaborate work (looking down at a landscape and diving towards a German squadron). Maybe I could shoot against the real sky for that shot and roto in the German squadron and ground, and add a layer of haze between him and the ground to keep the color palette somewhat close to what is shot.


There is a significant change in plane orientation as it dives. Any thoughts on ways to sell this with natural lighting and without a rotatable cockpit set?

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  • 1 year later...
  • Sustaining Member
On 4/21/2018 at 4:32 PM, Grant Hobbs said:

There is a significant change in plane orientation as it dives. Any thoughts on ways to sell this with natural lighting and without a rotatable cockpit set?

Possibly playing with some nets in front of the cockpit to simulate the ground's luminance during a dive?

Maybe consider silking the sun and redirecting it with a reflector board?


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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Stephen—and thanks again to Landon, Stuart and David for your advice last year!

I wound up just building a rotatable cockpit set. It took a lot of research and hard work—and tremendous generosity from people more skilled than myself—but I think it was the right way to go. The instrument panel is also animatable now. There will still be some VFX shots where specific things have to be shown outside the craft, but I can now get almost everything else in-camera, including the reticle pattern in the reflector gunsight. 

The next challenge is filming in such a way that everything feels natural while keeping the horizon out of the frame (or driving 4 hours to the nearest location where I could get a believable aerial horizon).

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  • 7 months later...

Finally posted the video today. Thanks again for the input—I'm really glad I changed my approach to avoid the green screen and use the real sky as much as possible (I did have to use it for some shots like the plane getting shot down, but it was the right call to get as much as possible in-camera). 






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Also, here are a few pictures of the setup I wound up using:




Instrument panel area. Some of the peripheral components didn't make the cut. This particular shot unfortunately shows the wear on the gunsight, the base of which is real. It still powers up when connected to a 24V power supply, so I was able to get the gunsight reticle in-camera. 




Edited by Grant Hobbs
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  • 5 months later...

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