TECH

How Did Green Screen Work Before Computers? (Hint: It Was No Piece Of Cake)

02/05/2015 01:55 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2015

The use of computers and green screens to create special effects in films and TV shows is so commonplace today that it’s hard to imagine a time when this technology didn’t exist.

“These days, green screen is easy,” says YouTuber Tom Scott in this fascinating video about the history of these visual effects. “You get your lighting right, you point a camera at someone, and then you click a few buttons and tweak a few settings in your graphics software, and there you go. Perfect.”

But how did these fancy effects -- created by the compositing of layers of images or videos -- work before the age of computers?

In short, it was far, far more complicated, and enormously labor-intensive to boot.

There was a time, in the early days of video, when people worked with “no pixels, no memory or hard drives, no ability to just tweak your settings and try something else,” Scott said. “If it didn’t work, you did the best you could, because every day in the studio cost an incredible amount of money.”

Watch Scott’s brief history of modern green screen compositing in the video above. We’re betting that, right about now, there are filmmakers out there gazing at their laptops with a renewed sense of gratitude.

H/T Reddit

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