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By Adnan M. S. Fakir
Green Screen Setup by Scratch Films

Imagine a life without the color green… or blue! Think of all the shades of color that would be missing in our lives. In fact green and blue being two of the primary colors, and red being the only other one, everything in our lives would pretty much be red. Imagine eating red burgers, drinking red water and even becoming red! The only way to differentiate things would be through its shape and size! Bloody creepy ain't it? Along with that, not having green or blue to work with would indefinitely make a film maker's life much worse than Satan's life in heaven.

Other than the many other uses, you see green and blue are the primary dictators of the Chroma Key effect. For the more curious, by chroma we refer to the composition of the color (that defines its hue) depending on the balance of black and white it contains. In simple terms, chromatic purity of a color is when the color is free from dilution with white and hence is as vivid as possible; in other words, the pure form of the primary red, green and blue colors.

The Chroma key effect, also known as greenscreen (or bluescreen), is the “technique of mixing two images or frames (from two videos) together, in which a color from one image is removed revealing another image behind it.” For example, suppose a person is videoed in front of a green screen (where the background is of course entirely green). The green color can then be removed and some other background be placed in its place. For example, the person can then be put in front of the pyramids of Egypt or even flying sky high. Of course having a good match requires a lot of other techniques, but that's another issue. If you have seen Ornob's “Tor Jonno” music video where he floats around on the sketch of a cloud, it's by using the chroma effect. A common place where this effect is used is during weather forecast broadcasts, where the meteorologist stands in front of a green or blue screen which is then replaced with a video of a map displaying the forecast as needed.

Features of a Chroma Key Effect
The concept of Chroma Key was first used in 1930 by Larry Butler who won the Academy Award for Special Effects for the movie “Thief of Bagdad” (Aladdin's primitive form) in 1940. As you can imagine, this effect has developed tremendously since then and is used extensively. For example, the scene in Matrix where the entirety was white and stacks of guns suddenly appear out of nowhere was done with the aid of green-screening; the bike chase in recent 2006 Ultraviolet movie was also green-screened with miss hotness Milla Jovovish on the bike in front of the green, later replaced with a chase scene. Certainly this requires intensive editing, but frankly setting up an amateur green-screen is really not that difficult; professional ones are a different case. For the low budget homemade ones, just get and arrange the following:

1. Depending on your shoot, get one color (almost pure) green cloth which is not see through; poplyn cloth will do decent costing around Tk.35 per gauze (approx. equal to 36 inches or 3 feet), which you can get almost in any cloth store. It's best to avoid sewing pieces of cloth together, but if you need a rectangular piece with sides more than one gauze, you'll probably need to do so and be sure to do it using similar green threads. In one of our cases, we had to make an entire 12 by 12 by 7 feet room green so we needed 68 gauze of cloth!

2. Again depending on your set up you'll need stands to hang the cloth which will be acting as the background. Here you can use microphone stands or you can make your own using wood. Whichever you choose make sure it's stable enough not to fall from the weight of the cloth and is able to keep the green cloth taught. If the cloth is not taught, it will have folds which will appear dark or a darker shade of green making the keying out of the color more difficult or not possible, ultimately ruining the desired effect. So when using cloth I will recommend making a cubicle structure (out of wood or strong PVC pipes) to make sure that the cloth is taught enough. In our case, we made four 7 feet wooden stands and bought four 12 feet 1.5 inch diameter PVC pipes costing a total of ~Tk. 1,000.

3. Next make sure that the person you are filming (your subject) is not wearing any shade of green; of course, unless you wish make the person (or parts of him) disappear. It is also best to avoid wearing any reflective material as it will reflect the green, and eventually lower its opacity with the keying. Also the reason why green and blue screens are normally used is because they are furthest away from the skin tone, so we don't have to worry about covering open skin.

4. Lighting is probably the most difficult and tricky to set up primarily because, as logic flows, any shadows falling on the green screen will no longer be green. Like Duh! So you are going to have to disperse the shadows as much as possible with a decently useful (if not good) lighting system. Professional people achieve this by using “softbox” that softens the light (and hence the shadow) and also by using several reflected lightings from different angles (to disperse and weaken the shadows). Of course even the decent equipment costs well over 20,000, so if you want home-made ones go to a electronics stores and get some wires, bulb sockets, switch, a switch board, a plug and two to three energy saver bulbs and set up your own lights. Next get a reflective umbrella with silver lining inside and made-shift wooden stands and you are pretty much set. It cost us around Tk.800 for two of these and coupled with a tube light, it did get most of the dark shadows out when keyed properly.

So now you have the green screen set up and have hopefully shot a few scenes on it. So what do you do next? You put it in your computer and take (or key) the green out. There are several softwares available to do the keying out but to me the most effective method is by using the Keylight plugin in After Effects. Keylight 1.2 normally comes along After Effects CS3 but you can also download it from the net. Keying out the green using Keylight is very simple where you choose the green using a dropper and viola! it's out. There are also several fine tuning features in Keylight and if you are that curious about it you can email me adnanfakir@yahoo.com and I'll get back to you with it.

Setting up a professional green screen studio costs well over US$1,000, so as you can imagine that a Tk.5,000 green screen setup really won't give the professional Hollywood look. Even still, with proper tweaking, editing and a perfectionist attitude you can get a pretty decent outlook similar to Yaatri's music video “Akta Gopon Kotha.” So what are you waiting for? Get going and let that dormant imagination of yours rolling! Be sure to make creativity flawless!

There's lots of first-person shooters but few come close to the spectacular gameplay and depth of Frontline. You've had Call of Duty 4, BioShock, Halo 3 and now it's

Frontlines: Fuel of War.

The game:
Frontlines' core gameplay includes maps riddled with predetermined capture points. As you steal them from the enemy you advance the frontline of the battle more and more until you eventually own the map.

The plot:
The war that rages on throughout Frontlines is between the Western Coalition Army (United States and European Union) and the Red Star Alliance (Russia and China) with the bulk of the action happening throughout the Middle East. The cutscenes which bookend each mission are delivered from the perspective of an embedded journalist reporting on the war. While you don't have a defined squad with character names and specific personalities you still get to hear inspirational speeches and be a part of other moments of reasonably effective drama, but it never reaches the bar that has been set by others.

Single player:
The game isn't too hot on its storytelling due to a lack of originality. But then again these games aren't always played for their award winning scripting. There fantastic and often difficult sections where you're repelling a massive enemy force across a monstrous battlefield that you can't help but define as "cool".

With all of the different roles, character classes, and vehicles that come together to make Frontlines, it's a good thing that the control schemes for each are well crafted and fairly intuitive once you get the hang of things. The jets are easily the hardest to maneuver, but tanks and hummers are easy from the onset. Weapon selection is handled with a radial menu that only becomes a nuisance when you're carrying more than eight weapons which is a rare occurrence in single-player and it never happens online.

The main attraction of Fuel of War isn't its campaign. The real hook is its 50-player multiplayer. If you can manage to find 49 friends and have one hell of a connection at your disposal then there's the potential for one of the best experiences on Xbox Live. With planes, helicopters, tanks, and the myriad of drones and devices doing battle at one time on a few of the massive landscapes the action is undeniably fun and fast paced.

But there are flaws. In the multiplayer version there's only one game mode so you might tire of playing the same thing repeatedly.

The battles are massive in Frontlines and that alone will keep you going for hours on end with several ways to approach different situations thanks to the list of weapons, vehicles and drones. All of this action does come at a pretty steep price, though. The visuals occasionally look flat out bad with draw in and texture pop in running rampant in a few scenes. Then there are the moments when the opposite is true; like when a rocket comes slamming into a stone barrier, shattering it and sending all of the debris right into your living room.

The sound performs a bit better with nicely crafted themes and rock music that help to build the tension of a scene. And while the dialogue might not be of the highest quality, it's still effective nonetheless.

If you can forget about the fact that you've been playing this style game for years with the Battlefield franchise then Frontlines will hook you for some time with its gargantuan battles.

By Anika Tabassum

A visit to Canada or USA is incomplete without visiting the Niagara Falls. It isn't known as a natural wonder for nothing, you know. Thousands of tourists flock the celebrated tourist spot everyday just to watch the water (and indeed, it is water at its best) fall from its heights. So when I was visiting Niagara Falls for the second time in my life, I was quite excited, more so because I remembered almost nothing of my first visit to the Falls when I was a kid.

The Niagara Falls, which comprises of water from 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, is not just a waterfall. It is the pioneer that evokes one of those rare feelings which can only arise once you've seen something you believe defines Divinity. More than 6 million cubic feet of water falls from the Falls every minute. The Niagara Falls consists of three parts: the American falls (on the American border), the Horseshoe/Canadian Falls (on the Canadian border) and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls.

"Maid of the Mist", one of the most popular attractions, is a ship ride which takes people near the Falls. Before the ride, we were handed raincoats to protect us from getting completely drenched. (The ship does get pretty close to the Falls, so obviously, not getting drenched at all is not an option). When we boarded, there was a mad rush to make it to the corners of the ship for the best view of the Falls.

The boat finally started its journey. It glided towards the American Falls, over which less than 10% of the water of the Niagara Falls passes. The water of the gorge below was turbulently bobbing up and down- God was stirring His giant cup of coffee and enjoying the wonder the mortals expressed at his creation. We were heading towards the Horseshoe Falls, which is separated from the American Falls by Goat Island. There was a temporary period of time when everyone on the boat went silent and the only thing you could hear was the distant roar of water. Then the people on the ship simultaneously broke out into excited half-muffled screams and chatter as they spotted the Horseshoe Falls.

It was a sight I can guarantee no one on the ship will easily forget. Thousands of gallons of water poured down from the Falls with a thunderous resounding sound. The foamy water that fell was blue-green in colour, said to be so because of the massive volume of water passing over the Falls. As the water fell, it created spurts of water vapour which formed a dense mist over and towards the Falls. Pristine white birds were swooping into the water of the Falls as suddenly as they were emerging from it and flying away.

The force of the wind was such that the raincoats almost wanted to yield to it and fly away, so that we ended up looking like balloons in the attempt to retain them. Even from quite a distance, the water reached us and regularly swept our skin, though it wasn't unwelcome. The cold drops of water that sprang out a surprise had some weird soothing, redeeming quality; or maybe it was just me loosing my head from the breathtaking experience, I do not know. Probably the latter.

The euphoria that had hung over the ship was short-lived though, as the ride seemed to come to an end too soon, even though it had been approximately more than half an hour. If you want to get more wet, there's always "Journey Behind the Falls", another tourist attraction. This takes you up and close to the Falls through elevators and tunnels, where you can view it from a deck. The Falls is even more adorable from here, but you can't look continuously at it for too long from the edge of the deck because of the foggy cloud of mist hanging over the Falls and the giant quantities of water that leap at you. When our visit to Niagara was almost over and we were preparing to say goodbye to it, we had no idea that it had another surprise in store for us from nature itself. A gigantic rainbow, the biggest I've ever seen, shimmered from one end of the Falls to the gorge in the soft sunlight, dazzling in its beautiful hues and eliciting clicks of numerous cameras to capture the moment in time.

Although we only viewed the Niagara Falls at daytime, at night it is said to be a different sight altogether with different resplendent colours illuminating it. At winter, you can get yet another glimpse of its beauty, when the some of the water freezes forming ice and the rest oozes through in defiant rebellion.

If you're looking for the next holiday destination, trust me and visit Niagara Falls. There's something not only unforgettable, but also ethereal, that makes it the experience of a lifetime.


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