Materials for blue screen masking.
The same techniques of bluescreening known from movies can be applied for still digital photography. Kaidan, PhaseOne, and Ultimatte Corporation all employ blue screen (and green screen) backdrops and software to achieve improved results.
Since I frequently need to knock out the backgrounds of ancient art and Mayan artifacts, I have begun to look into these bluescreening techniques for large format digital photography.
A good article on "The Black Art of Bluescreening" is by Jim Heid, in Macworld, May 1998, page 111-113. Although this article is directed towards video footage, the basic facts are usable for still digital photography.
The blue screen can be painted on (Markertek Video Supply, markertek.com) or you can use fabric or other appropriately colored material (also from Markertek). Bluescreen paper backdrop material is also available. I believe you can get chroma key background material from Rosco (try them). Since any background gets skuffed rather quickly, I prefer rolls where you can renew the background as often as necessary.
The main reason I have not used bluescreening more often is because the blue color (or green color) bleeds onto the object, coloring the object light blue. This is especially true with Maya vases, since the slip on the ceramics is often reflective. Here is where the article by Heid helps, as he suggests using straw- or yellow-colored light on the object, to minimize the blue reflection.
The best known software for dropping out the background is from Ultimatte.
Design updated April 9, 2001.