Digital Image Makers Partner with American Humane Association

A California company that uses green screen technology to produce digital images of horses and other animals for use in print and film advertisements and other applications has partnered with the American Humane Association, a national organization that monitors the care of animals used in film and television projects to ensure they are photographed in safe, low-stress environments.

Mark Schockley, head producer for the Los Angeles-based GreenScreen Animals (GSA) said the firm creates its images by photographing and videotaping horses and other animals against a green background. A computer program later replaces portions of the so-called "green screen" with another background. As a result, a horse can be photographed or filmed in its own pastures and later be depicted in a city street scene without ever actually being in that location.

Equine behaviorist Jennifer Williams, PhD, said technology that allows horses to be photographed in familiar surroundings benefits most animals, especially those unaccustomed to film or photography sets. Horses can experience boredom or exhibit signs of stress such as body tension, wide-eyed looks, and raised heads during long periods of filming, she said.

"When they're surrounded by things they know; animals they know; their own handler, they know what to expect and they feel safe," said Williams, who is also the president and founder of the Texas and Arkansas-based Bluebonnet Humane Society. "Even so, people who are doing the filming or photography need to be warned that they're dealing with a living, breathing animal, not a robot."

American Humane spokesperson Jone Bouman said the agency's Film and Television Unit animal safety representatives monitor on-set activities to minimize stress on horses working on film or photographic projects. American Humane Association is the animal welfare organization with the authority to issue the "No Animals Were Harmed" end credit disclaimer on films and other media. Agency animal safety representatives began monitoring GSA projects involving animals in August 2010.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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