Big Deahl innovates a LED-based green screen update

Marty Rhomberg in an ELI composite shot

Big Deahl Productions, working with Resolution Production Group, has perfected a new green screen-like technique for commercials that will save advertisers time and money.

The process that they call “Environmental LED Immersion,” or ELI, uses LED lights that allows directors to shoot multiple “virtual” locations in a single day, without leaving the stage.

“If used properly, this method cannot only stretch a location budget, but will also allow filmmakers shoot many more diverse locations within one day,” says director David Deahl, who sold his Chicago studio property last summer and moved to Los Angeles, splitting his time between Chicago and LA. 

Todd Klein, who joined Deahl in 2013 after many years as a director/founder at now-closed Silent Partners, and gaffer Marty Rhomberg, now working exclusively with Big Deahl, are located at RPG’s studios on the Near West Side.

The ELI process began in early 2015 when Deahl and Rhomberg attended a seminar hosted by former Fletcher Cameras. A small group of techies were demonstrating how some of the visual effects in the 2013 sci-fi movie “Gravity” had been created.

For those effects, a room had been built from LED panels, in which gimbaled-rigs supported the actors at various angles. Once video images were fed into the panels, a virtual outer space was created. The resolution of the LED panels, however, was too coarse to use as the actual background for “Gravity,” so these images were only used as ambient light and reflections within the final film.    

After the demo, Klein and Rhomberg realized the potential in using higher resolution LED panels as the actual backgrounds for commercials, as well as productions of all genres.  

Klein and Rhomberg teamed with RPG, which has one of the biggest inventories of LED lights in the industry, and tested the LED lighting panels on small tabletop subjects.

That test having met their specifications, the filmmakers headed for an outdoor location — a daytime “L” platform where Klein, using a Blackmagic camera, shot background scenes.  

Director Todd Klein explains how ELI successfully merges an actor and a background shot into one imageBack in the studio, their lighting mimicked the “L” platform locale. With Rhomberg then standing in front of the 10×16-ft. LED lights, Klein shot Rhomberg and the background together.

“The effect was stunning,” says Rhomberg. “I was convinced I was actually standing on that ‘L’ platform, looking around waiting for my train.”

Because Rhomberg could see the action being projected onto the LED panels, he was able to interact with the virtual L-train in real time, as it pulled away from the station.  

“This process will also be a huge benefit to actors who normally would be looking at a blank green wall behind them,” Deahl notes.

Impressed by the tests she’s viewed, Stephanie Franke, VP/CD at MARC USA, considers ELI to be “a hugew in for creatives, producers, clients and, of course, viewers. Environmental LED Immersion delivers a mch more realistic sense of ‘place’ in a way that better accomdates many of our clients’ budgets.”

As a result of the success of their initial tests, ELI production should make its official bow in a month or so. “We will continue to do tests and demonstrations,” says Deahl, “and we invite agencies to participate with us.”

Adds Snake Roth, MARC USA EP, “Thanks to the folks at Big Deahl for teaching this old dog new tricks.  ELI wil open some doors that previously were closed to us.”

Deahl is setting up a West Hollywood studio. A new Big Deahl website will be launched shortly that includes a section explaining ELI and new videos of ELI perfectly applies to tabletop, Big Deahl’s specialty.

David Deahl may be reached at 312/573-0733.  Big Deahl is repped in Chicago and the Midwest by Donna D’Aguanno.