Screen replacement advice for producers

Hi all - first time posting on the forums.

Relative noob to flame so sorry in advance if my questions are a tad on the basic side.

This isn’t strictly a Flame question, but hopefully it’s okay to post as I thought it a question relevant to Flame artists:

I get a bunch of producers asking me for advice about setting up shots for ideal screen replacement stuff like when to use green screen, when to use trackers, when to leave black. And additional stuff like should I keep motion blur to a maximum, will whip pans be helpful, should we have the talent dance in translucent clothing to whip their copious, very fine hair back forth in front of the screen we are replacing…etc.

I will give them advice when then disturb me in the middle of a job and then they will forget or ignore it come shoot time - does anyone have a list of guidelines that can be given to a producer listing advice in different for scenarios? Or know of any resources for such thing.

Shooting screen replacement on-set tips for producers, directors and cinematographers?

The best I’ve found so far is this (not allowed to post links):
blog frame io screen-replacement-after-effects
devenjames 5-tips-to-make-screen-replacement-easier-in-post

If not I guess I’ll just summarize the above and try and condense them and print them out for people to consult onset.

Just got in a bunch of material with a tight deadline, where they did everything wrong and it sucks.

Many thanks in advance.


The posts you’ve found already seem like a good start.
It seems to come down to your preference between illumination and reflections.
If it’s a phone screen then before shooting I would ask what the interaction is going to be like with the user of the phone.
If there are lots of close ups so that you can read text etc and they are texting / swiping then you really need to make sure this is trackable (markers). To be safe my preference is to have a darker chroma key so that you still get reflections and some illumination on the subject.
Do you want to Bullet point or post your findings so far and then others can add?

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Here’s where you run into trouble:

I just read the Deven James post and I disagree with most of it. Haha.

I hate shooting emissive blue or green screens, and my advice in a vacuum is always to shoot the phone off. Add five tracking markers: four, each inset from the corners by 1/4", one in the center.

If it’s an indoor night shoot, I may have them turn the phone on and have it throw the darkest gray card they’ve got–phones are usually too bright, but I STILL have physical tracking markers on the phone. Painting out five dots is way less trouble than getting a track while a reflection passes over.

The problem with blue and green is they’re VERY bright and VERY saturated, so you’re going to have loads of spill. With phone stuff, It’s just not worth the hassle.

For me, the biggest pain is always tracking. Screw up that part and it doesn’t matter how good the rest is.


Agree with Andy. I have foregone tracking markers on a phone with a white bezel, but only if you’re certain the talent won’t cover a corner with some thumb meat.


PS. If you do use any form of screen illumination, then it’s best to provide them with something yourself (and as Andy says if its not black make sure it’s low luminance / not bright… ) . Also you can get APPS for phones that display tracking markers that are static even when you are swiping (it kind of locks the screen)


I’ll agree nearly 100% with andy, but I like to have at least a 20% grey on the phone. It helps to see how close to the bezel the edge of the actual screen is. Not so important on Generic phones, but important when it’s the product. That said, a lot of times the phones on set don’t even turn on, so be prepared for black. Two things I will add is that focus and steadiness are important. I’ve gotten a few people grumpy over this request, but I ask, especially if the camera is not mounted, that there be a brace behind the actors hand so that the phone stays steady. It only takes an inch or so closer or farther to completely screw up the focus and few things look worse than a sharp image on a blurry phone. If it’s too shaky, you won’t be able to read what we put in there anyway. We can steady it, but the motion blur will remain. A loose camera and a loose phone will multiply the shakes exponentially. And last: nearly every phone I have done in the past two years they have asked me to get rid of all the reflections.


Yes, when I go on set, if the shoot has phones I determine what the screen size is and I provide them with a 20% grey with 5 trackers (or more if we are in super tight and only see the top or bottom half) that is customized to their screen size.


Oh god yes, there is nothing DPs love more than shooting phone closeups with long lenses and shallow depth of field, and conversely nothing clients seem to hate more than (realistically) blurry UIs.

A brace for the actors hand is a great idea. I’ll be stealing that if I ever go on set again.


Agree with a lot of what’s been said… IF you have the luxury of pre-prep, it comes down to the content in the screen, the exposure of the shot (dark environment, bright environment), and what types of reflections you’re going to have to deal with and want to re-integrate over your comp. Many times a quick conversation with the DP will help mitigate any situation where a nuclear bright reflection passes over and renders your marks invisible (much harder to lose with physical dots vs. in-phone app.) If it’s a phone shot that’s actually highlighting content, to Tim’s point, clients will likely err on the side of the crappily unrealistic zero reflection situation to better read their content. Yay.

I also second Andy’s methodology and use some variant of that most of the time. Physical dots inset from the corners of the screen, one in the center, or at least away from the interaction. Relatively simple to front source and clean up. Spill and illumination from the screen is a factor, and a dark grey helps define the edge of the screen from the black black inset bezel. If the hand needs to be illuminated by the screen, I’ll usually have a wedge of a few shades of grey, and darker greens loaded on the device. This is where those apps come in handy, because you can usually set a solid color and luminance in context of how the shot is lit, run over to DIT, check levels and tune it up without having props try to mess with the phone’s brightness settings and usually muck about for way too long.

I usually bring a little kit with me to set with a bunch of hole punched vinyl appropriate to the device scale, in both white and green (in case I lose the DP/Director battle on reflections over the device), and a pair of tweezers and toothpicks.

That being said, sometimes it all goes out the window, everything’s shot already, and you’re handed shots to comp with screen level 100% white, no markers, fetishly shallow depth of field, and talent with hand tremors…


Hahaha. I can’t even count the number of times where the “it looks realistic” gets thrown out the window in favor of the on-screen graphics being sharp.

That said, the devil sitting on my shoulder loves it when I’m asked to make bad VFX.


Personal pet peeve: dops and editors who light phones with a massive reflection across the screen and choose this take when mr client wants to see the ui in action and not some big highlight occluding it.


“Error 422: Accounting Error - your invoice will be marked NET 999 due to missing Depth of Field on screen comps.”

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By the way @Edd, you have been promoted and are now able to post hyperlinks. Thanks for being here!


Thanks for all the help and thoughtful feedback folks, much appreciated!

I will post a list of the guidelines I gather from them and add it here once my workload lessens - but I am currently trying to fix shots

  • where the actor has a phone in a soft focus hand- with his fingers partially obscuring the screen (grey with tracking markers displayed on screen) - and there is lots of motion blur and he is gesticulating with the hand holding the phone.
  • also there is a tv in another shot - the majority of which goes out of from as the camera simultaneously dolly+pans in - where the black screen might as well be a mirror with no bevel to speak of - of yes and most of the reflection in unusable due to it being of a camera and a rig. Keep looking for different approaches to racking in mocha and just failing miserably.

These are just two in a number of headaches. Including several whip pans into screens that need to be replaced. Ugh.

I find Flame’s planar tracker deals with reflections much better than Mocha (TBH, I find it superior in all ways but I digress…). Have you tried setting up a perspective grid aligned with your screen and turned on the Lighting and/or Occlusion options in the planar tracker options?

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While my demo is hacky, this might be useful for anything that wont track.


Hi! this hack for screens is awesome. However, because the youtube video is soo low res I can’t see the setups. I have a number of questions:

  1. I tracked the UVs in action but the output does not give me the UV track; it’s just just showing me the BG. How do I get the output of the “square flat phone”?

  2. Checking the ref using cyan and blue multipliers…what do you do to show the difference between those for the cool 3D style image?


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Hey @digitalbanshee

Not my trick but it is pretty cool right. Makes we sweat a little just thinking about doing this in the field but anyways.

  1. Not sure what is up here. Are you using Bilinear, Extended bicubic, perspective? Maybe your image has fallen back in Z ? Try the usual. Z-buffer and camera distance tricks. Maybe you did vertices and not UV?

  2. The stereo difference matte is just a 50% blend of those two colours using a comp node.

Might help. Good luck


Thanks! Andy just buzzed me - I hadn’t hit the reset on the UV points in the surface to get them to output correctly from the comp, and then I hadn’t “froze” my ref frame! Derp :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Wow I somehow missed this back then…thanks for bumping this @digitalbanshee, and of course, @andy_dill …this is a top 5 for me.