One of Canon’s partners at Inter Bee 2018 was presenting RayBrid KeyMaker, a 100% software solution designed to replace the old and expensive “blue screen” technology widely in studios today.

Blue screen (also called chroma-keying) is a commonly used technique in which the TV host is filmed in front of a blue (or green) screen, and that color is replaced in real-time by a virtual set or an image. The Weather reports are a good example of this.

However, Blue Screen requires more studio space and a large color surface area, which makes it relatively expensive to build and operate. RayBrid KeyMaker replaces the physical Blue Screen with a depth-camera, which is similar (in principle) to the Xbox’s Kinect camera.

This camera is mounted on existing broadcast equipment and create a depth-map view of the recording that helps software distinguish between the TV host and the background, which is farther away. It’s completely based on distance and removes the need for having a colored background.

Anything that lies beyond a specific distance will be automatically deemed to be removable, and only the host should remain in the video feed. The rest of the workflow is compatible with existing chroma-key / Blue Screen solutions, so it’s a drop-in replacement.

The demo we looked at worked quite well and is very suitable for very tight, more affordable, spaces. However, there are still technical challenges that need to be solved. In the photos, you can easily see that there are blocks at the edge of the would-be hosts. Blocks are probably due to the low resolution in the current depth map.

I can only speculate as for how it will be solved since the product is still under development. With a launch scheduled for next year, it’s unlikely that the depth-camera resolution will increase significantly. In any case, this depth sensing tech doesn’t scale to 1080p and more. It might be possible to get the depth-camera to do the heavy lifting, then use a detouring algorithm to remove the remaining blocks. It looks like this company already has this technology as well.

Some consumer webcams are already capable of doing this, but again not at the level of image quality that makes them suitable for broadcasting purposes. At least, we know that the concept works.

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