Setbuilding 101: How to Add a Digital Window to Your Movie Set

by Jack Smotherine

Setbuilding has become rather easy in the digital age.  There used to be a time when you had to build everything, but that has changed in the digital age.

Many pieces of set can be added digitally, or if you're going to shoot on a blue screen or a green screen, you can create the entire set digitally.  

For our example here, we are going to explain how to add a digital window wall to your set in the foreground.  

Firstly, you will need your regular set.  This can be just an ordinary room.  Film the actions of your characters in there.  

Now, we'll be adding a digital window wall in the foreground.  

For this, what you need to find is a photo of a wall with a window, as seen from the outside.  There are many wonderful royalty free photos that you can use.  The angle has to be workable with your shot footage though.  

Once you have a picture of a wall with a window in it, now you need to cut out the window panes.  This is very simple to do, and can be done in something as simple as Microsoft Paint.  At the same time, you can use better imaging software though.  

What you want to do is to have your window panes a pure green.  

Save the image, and now you can import it into your video editing software.  You simply place it over your previously shot footage.  

Now add a Keying filter.  Green screen keying filters should do, or chroma key, or color key.  Smoothen it out nicely.  

Now you can see your live action footage underneath it.

The first important thing that you need to do now is to digitally move your foregound image to fit right over the bottom footage.  How does it look now?  Is the relation still right?  

Once you have that done, now you need to set the color balance.  The color temperature of the footage of your inside has to match that of the outside wall, or vice versa.  It's not difficult to do, but it will need a good eye.  You may do it, go have a drink or something, then come back.  Does it look right still?  

Once you've done that, you can render out your scene.  

It might also be good to use better keying software, like Visionlab Studio (now Hitfilm) or Adobe After Effects.

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