How Screen Tracking Markers Streamline Digital Screen Replacement

How Screen Tracking Markers Streamline Digital Screen Replacement

June 21, 2023
David Lugo

This blog explores the role of screen tracking markers in VFX, explains their usage, and provides tips for optimized post-production.

For a long time, VFX artists have used screen tracking markers on green screens and digital devices. Tracking markers can make the process of keying (removing a green screen and replacing it with something else) much easier. While markerless tracking with software like Mocha Pro has dramatically improved, there are still times when it is necessary to use tracking markers on-set. In this article, we will explore how screen tracking markers can make your VFX workflow more efficient.

What Are Screen Tracking Markers?

Screen tracking markers are visual cues used during the filming process that enable post-production teams to seamlessly replace the contents of a screen in a shot. They are particularly useful in scenes that involve devices like smartphones, TVs, smartwatches, and other digital screens.

For example, imagine a scene where an actor is interacting with a smartphone. Instead of displaying the actual content on the screen during filming, screen replacement tracking markers can be displayed. These markers allow the VFX team to replace the screen content quickly with whatever they need during post-production.

Basically, screen tracking markers are dots on a screen that serve as an anchor point for motion tracking. The size, shape, and color of these markers varies depending on the project. The goal of using tracking markers on-set is to save time in post-production. They are strategically placed to provide reference points for accurate tracking.

Benefits of Screen Tracking Markers

Screen tracking markers can save time and money in the post-production process. By providing accurate tracking information, VFX artists can quickly and efficiently manipulate objects in a scene without having to spend hours manually tracking movement. This means that projects can be completed faster and with fewer resources, which is essential in the fast-paced world of film production.

Markerless Tracking

While tracking markers can be important, they are not always necessary. Markerless tracking has made the keying process much more efficient. For example, this tutorial covers planar tracking in Mocha.

However, there are times when markerless tracking is difficult and inefficient. Markerless tracking often works in simple scenarios, but it becomes challenging when complex camera movements or elements obstructing the screen are involved. In such cases, screen tracking markers can help streamline the VFX process.

As we outline in another blog, as a general rule of thumb, tracking markers would be required if there is no stark contrast between objects and the background, or if you have nothing but a blurry or glossy surface to work with.

Tracking Markers for Digital Screen Replacement

Sometimes digital screens can be simple to replace with corner pin tracking. However, other times, it is more difficult, and digital screen tracking markers are required.

Here is a tutorial on screen replacement on a moving screen with tracking markers in Mocha AE:

Choosing the Right Screen Tracking Markers

Choosing the right screen tracking markers for your project might seem challenging, but by considering factors like the complexity of the scene, lighting conditions, and type of screen being tracked, you can make an informed decision. That is why our Screen Tracking Markers collection comes in a variety of background colors, sizes, and shapes.

Tracking Marker Size and Shape

The size and shape of the markers will depend on the specific scene being shot. Larger tracking markers should be used if you plan to track the phone or device screen from a greater distance. They provide a larger visual footprint, making it easier for the software to identify and track the markers accurately. However, smaller markers may be necessary if you have limited screen space or need high accuracy.

Tracking Marker Background Color

The background color for your screen tracking markers will be determined by a number of factors, including lighting conditions and color contrast. For example, often green screens on phones can end up creating green spill and overexposing the image. In that scenario, a darker color would be preferable. Our collection comes five different background color variations for you to choose from.

Screen Type

It may seem obvious, but different screen types will require different tracking markers. Our collection has a variety of image sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios, ensuring a suitable fit for any screen type.

ActionVFX Screen Replacement Tracking Markers

At ActionVFX, we recognize the importance of having the right tools for your unique needs. That's why we've developed our new Screen Tracking Markers collection. Created with feedback from numerous VFX editors, this collection is designed to meet various use cases and filming environments.

With 640 graphics for screen tracking and replacement, this collection covers a wide range of device screen sizes, from smartwatches to TVs. It offers a variety of background colors, image resolutions, and aspect ratios to ensure a suitable fit for any screen type.

These markers streamline your on-set workflow, allowing you to focus on capturing the perfect shots, making the post-production process simpler and quicker.

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