Over-keys recording

We like to record at least two camera angles  for piano – and to also blend an overhead keyboard view into a choir recording for example.
Recently we have begun following a YouTube jazz teaching channel called NewJazz– the teacher is a Dane named Oliver Prehn. His method is new and stimulating, as is his playing style. His visual presentation is technically inspiring — clean and dramatic as a foundation – permitting considerable visual creativity around the keyboard image itself.

We are working to emulate his visual technique – we can handle the upper part of the screen by simply cropping the image above the keyboard – that is quite common – but cropping doesn’t work below the keyboard as it would simply cut off the player’s hands and arms!

We imagine two possible approaches:

OverheadTechnique1. Use of a non-reflective black screen thus avoiding the sometimes critical set-up of a color key in post production. This is the method we follow as color keying is something we can do, but try to avoid. The photo shows our latest attempt – not bad but has obvious light reflections and shadows. The upper part of the screen is taken from one of Oliver Prehn’s many videos as a comparison and as the reference model.

GreenScreen2. A green screen covering the legs of the player and the surrounding area; thus using traditional “color keying” to eliminate the green screen – and hence provide the pure black background.

We could think Oliver Prehn might be using a green screen approach – he has produced videos with two angles for the keyboard players, each recorded separately, and a drummer which suggest larger screens (he cannot use a blue screen because in one video he is wearing a blue sweater!).

DrummerAloneHowever the secret is revealed in an early video of the drummer which shows a large black background – contrast between player and background made only with good direct lighting – thus avoiding any color keying.

It'sBlackCardboardIn another early video, we can make out black material (cardboard?) under the arms, above the legs. So we head also (and thankfully!) for the black screen and no color key option.
In fact the solution turns out to simple black cloth bought from IKEA and held to the keyboard front edge with double-faced sticky pads.



We have two cameras available which shoot FHD video and which are light enough to be mounted easily above the keyboard on a permanent basis: a GoPro3 and a Sony Cybershot.

The GoPro is quickly eliminated as it produces curved images due to its wide angle lens.

The Cybershot could be ok once we find a way to mount it while maintaining access to the charging/data cable. The unique fixing thread is right next to the connector slot.

Here is our latest attempt – Oliver Prehn upper keyboard, marcomathieumedia version is the lower one – sound from upper keyboard only.  Do visit and subscribe to Oliver’s channel, he is amazing.

Later, we changed the lighting to an LED strip, tested with our Sony video camera mounted (not yet high enough) and moved towards the back edge of the keyboard to avoid reflection of the LEDs by the keys (the keys of Oliver’s keyboard seem to have a mat finish to them).

Not quite there yet - but almost !

Not quite there yet – but almost !

To see how we came this far – please go to this detailed construction of the experimental set-up.