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Compositing foreground action with actors and a background shot elsewhere onto the same piece of film has been the concern of filmmakers since the beginning years of the commercial film industry. An original solution to this problem was resolved through rear projection. The translucent projection screen was substituted for the glass (as in the painted glass shot) and a projected photographic film image was applied to the back of the screen instead of paint. The rest is self-explanatory. More complicated compositing processes allowed actors to move about within the frame without disappearing behind matted background areas. The Dunning-Pomeroy self-matting process accomplished this by allowing changes in background position, size, and composition from frame to frame, giving the actor and director free movement within the picture frame. This revolutionized moviemaking but had its drawbacks: it was limited to black-and-white cinematography, and was not flexible in the editing or post-production process. Unfortunately, once the final positive was composited that is how it remained.

Early cinema pioneers continued to learn valuable lessons from color photography and applied this knowledge to the filmmaking process. Each of the primary colors of red, blue, and green (also known as hues or chroma) could be separated and placed on their own filmstrips. Combining this fact with the need to solve the flexibility problem mentioned above, the traveling matte process improved dramatically. Chromakeying, or separating the primary light colors out of the original color image, and using the black-and-white photographic process in conjunction with the color process utilized a more exacting and successful compositing system.

The key steps in contact printing, a conventional traveling matte in popular use during the last quarter of the last century (Fig. 4-11), begin with an actor shot in color negative in front of a bluescreen (Step A in Table 4-1). The entire process as seen in steps A to H shows a flip-flopping between color and B/W negatives and positives to arrive at the male and female composite strips to be married onto a single strip of film. Table 4-1 replaces words for images in explaining Fig. 4-11. Hopefully, this will simplify your understanding.

Once these challenging concepts are understood, the reader will be able to easily apply the fundamentals of the traveling matte process to the current applications of this relatively simple technique to digital filmmaking.

Rotoscoping, borrowed from animation, was a technique of tracing each frame of live action and then hand painting in the silhouette (see Fig. 4-7, Figs. 4-10A and 4-10B). The silhouetted artwork was either photographed or used directly to composite the foreground and background with the same camera to create the matte. This technique is still used today with imaging programs like Avid Illusion® or Commotion® (Pinnacle Systems). Although

Traveling Matte
Figure 4-11 Conventional bluescreen traveling matte. Courtesy of Dr. Raymond Fielding.

Explanation of the Bluescreen Traveling Matte Printing Process

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  • ansegar
    What is the dunningpomeroy?
    7 years ago

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