Adventures in Green Screen with the Canon 5D Mark 2 Part 1. The Still Shoot.



Canon 5D MK2 Mounted on Zacuto Indie. Lowel Rifa Lights, Datavideo CKL-100 Chromakey System

Canon 5D MK2 Mounted on Zacuto DSLR Indie Kit. Lowel Rifa Lights, Datavideo CKL-100 Chromakey System

 In my last post, Bling for Your Canon 5D MK2, we talked about one very cool, and sometimes very necessary accessory; the Zacuto DSLR Indie Kit. In the next couple of posts we will dive even deeper down the rabbit hole. In my past life, I worked in the Pro Lighting Department at B&H Photo in NY. At least 5 times a day someone would come to me looking for a way to do Chromakey on the cheap and easy. Well, there are ways, but things get problematic when doing full length, especially with regards to lights casting shadows onto the background. I of course would also get requests from still photographers looking for a chromakey solution. Usually this was for school or event photography, so it was a little easier to accommodate those requests. But, what if your shooting with a camera like the Canon 5D Mark 2? A camera that shoots both video and still photos? I recently came across a product from a company called Datavideo. The CLK-100 Dual Color Chromakey Light System is Chromakey light system that does not require the user to light a background. Basically the background is made from a highly reflective material that produces a nearly perfect green or blue key when illuminated by the the included LED ring light. Since the LED Ring Light mounts on the front of the lens the background is always perfectly illuminated corner to corner; edge to edge; regardless of the orientation of the camera to the background.


The bottom line is that you focus on lighting your talent, and not fighting with trying to totally evenly light your Chromakey background. When I saw this, I knew I had to try it. I wanted to shoot both video and stills and to see how easy it would be to drop the key in both. So, I did what I always do, I got on the horn with Datavideo and got them to send me a kit to evaluate. I should tell you right now that I have done plenty of masking with still images in Photoshop. I have however, never tried keying out a background with video. But since the 5D MK2 came out, I’ve been wanting to try lots of new things. Anyhoo, the kit arrived promptly from Datavideo and was very easy to set up. It comes complete with a 10 ‘ X 8’ background, the Ring Light, adapter rings and a power supply that is both AC/DC (Nice!). It will fit lenses up to 82mm in diameter.

Its scary how easy this is to use. The only caveat for me was the size of my apt. It was very small so I found myself setting up the background and lights in one room and shooting from another. I found that it’s good to keep your subject about 3 feet from the background, and about 9 feet or so for the subject to camera distance. The first thing I wanted to do was a still shoot with continuous lighting. Lowel was kind enough to let me borrow a set of Rifa Light 88’s, and a Rifa Light 66. I also obtained a Fabric Grid for one of the 88’s, and the 66. Fabric Grids are great on soft boxes as they give you directional soft light, and minimize spill. for this shoot I used 1 Rifa 88 with the Fabric Grid. Set it up camera right 45 degrees from and over Angelia. I used the Rifa 66 with a Fabric Grid as a backlight, I boomed it over Angelia using a C-stand with a Grip Arm. When doing Chromakey, having a backlight works nicely in most situations to eliminate spill from and give your subject separation from the background. I bounced the other Rifa 88 off the wall camera left and used it as a weak fill. Once I had Angelia seated I used the Live View function on the 5D MK2 and the Z-focus on the Zacuto Indie rig to focus while I gave Angelia direction. It is nice to work this way, just a quick glance to LCD display while using the Zwhip to quiclky adjust the focus , and actually be completely involved with what is going on in front of the lens. I was really impressed at the settings I could use with these lights. These days you can easily shoot at and around ISO 400 with no appreciable degradation in image quality. After a few shots I had the one I wanted and, set about importing it into DPP and then Photoshop. 


Canon 5D MK2, 85mm f1.2L, Zacuto DSLR Indie, Lowel 88, Datavideo CLK-100 Dual Color Chromakey System

Canon 5D MK2, 135mm F2L, ISO 500, F2.8, 1/250 sec, Zacuto DSLR Indie, Lowel 88, Datavideo CLK-100 Dual Color Chromakey System

For elimination of backgrounds I use an application from OnOne Software called Mask Pro 4. It is extremely easy to use and does an amazing job if extracting your subject – hair and all from even poorly lit backgrounds. I figured this would be a cinch.


Mask Pro 4 Photoshop Plugin

Mask Pro 4 Photoshop Plugin


Isolating the subject from background.

Isolating the subject from background.

This is a really simple technique in OnOne software. Simply select the colors you want to omit, and the colors you want to keep. After you simply use the brush tool on the edge of your subject. After, you drop the background.


Green background is easily eliminated, leaving subject intact.

Green background is easily eliminated, leaving subject intact.

Once I eliminated the background I brought the image back into Photoshop and selected a background to put Angelia on.


Composited image processed with OneOne Mask Pro4 and Photoshop CS3.

Composited image processed with OneOne Mask Pro4 and Photoshop CS3.

Not bad for 20 minutes!

10 thoughts on “Adventures in Green Screen with the Canon 5D Mark 2 Part 1. The Still Shoot.

  1. I too have been taking still images using the CLK-100 for a while now. The problem I’ve run into is in low light situations, say a dinner party, the LEDs are soo bright for the subject that they see dots for a long time afterwards (not good customer service). I’m currently working out the bugs on a new system still using the reflective background and THIS cool object that uses your existing on-camera flash:

    It’s really only designed for macro work, but since the background only needs a fraction of the light that the subject needs it’s been working out well. Simply put some colored gels on it and you are set!

    I haven’t tried the OneOne Mask Pro4 yet. I’ll give it a shot. thanks for the tip.

    • Oh yeah, the Ray Flash. I was also wondering about the effectiveness of a Ring Flash with the reflective background. As far as still shooting goes, color makes no difference, only how evenly illuminated it is. Personally I would prefer to mask off of a white background. I found when I was using the CLK-100 I didn’t really have to turn it up more then half way. A Ring Flash can be pretty bright too though..

  2. What I’m impressed with is the wisp of hair just above her shoulder on the right side of her head, and how the transparency was maintained after compositing on the final background. That’s the type of thing that normally requires a lot of fine mask work, and it looks like your test setup did quite well with it.

    • MaskPro is pretty amazing. You do have to be careful though, and toggle between mask view and solid background view. Sometimes I’ve thought that the background was completely gone, only to find things I missed when I bring the image back into Photoshop

    • The LEDs aren’t that bright. The LEDs are only half the story. The magic comes from the super reflective screen.

  3. Question from a non-photographer. If I want this system for video, I need to be able to tell the still photographers how to use it too. Did you use any flash when using the CLK-100 or just the Lowel studio lights? Usual 3-point lighting?

  4. Has anyone had any experience using regular studio strobe lighting instead of hot lights while trying to shoot stills with a Nikon D300 at 200 on manual with the CLK-100? I am running a speedotron system, with the lights up as prescribed by the directions, but the best that comes out is a very nicely exposed portrait against a really nice, gray background! I completely loose all aspects of a green or blue screen! I have seen this type of system used for the last few years at trade shows with what appear to be high power systems, and they deliver absolutely flawless results in very close confines with all types of light spilling over from many different sources. It’s got to be something very simple I’m missing….but what? Appreciate any advice that anyone in the same situation can share. Thanks.

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