SACRAMENTO – In a recent article published in Capitol Weekly, reporter Malcolm Mclachlan details the progress that proponents of mandatory condom use in adult productions are making in the state capital. But in addition to several other factual errors in the article, Mclachlan quotes AIDS Healthcare Foundation lobbyist Rand Martin as saying that "[t]he advent of digital technology could make the issue of condoms moot" because "[i]t is possible to quickly and easily take any visual indication of the condom out of the form or image before sale."
"The condom is digitally removed," Mclachlan quotes Martin as saying. "We've actually talked about taking a visual example to the committee when we present the bill," then added quickly, "I'm joking."
However, according to an expert on videography contacted by AVN, Martin would have to be joking, since the digital replacement of a condom-clad penis in a sex scene is both technologically difficult and prohibitively expensive.
"First, you'd have to have shot the scene using a condom made of some colored material that's chromakeyed so you could digitally remove it later," said the expert, who still works in the mainstream entertainment industry and therefore asked that his name not be used. "You couldn't do it with material that's already been shot."
"But it's not just a matter of keying out the green condom," he continued. "The question is, what do you replace it with? Because otherwise, the viewer will just see a blank space where the penis should be. And since it's an image in motion, you couldn't just key in a photo of a penis, because that would look two-dimensional and completely unreal; you'd have to create an animated penis with coloration and shading that would match the lighting in the scene you're placing it into, and that would take a special effects person with Hollywood studio know-how and a budget to match."
Let's say the average sex scene in an adult movie runs nine minutes – a conservative estimate considering the number of three-hour-long DVDs currently being released by some companies. If the scene were shot on film, it would consist of 12,960 individual images at 24 frames per second – and if shot on video, as is the norm in today's market, it would be 16,200 images since video is figured at 30 frames per second.
"To composite a condom out of 12,960 frames of film would take days," the expert estimated, "and the kind of effects person that could do a project of that magnitude doesn't come cheap."
According to the expert, the average cost of a special effects artist of the necessary caliber is $125 per hour, and he estimated that it would take at least 100 hours of work for each sex scene, for a total of $62,500 for a five-scene movie – and that's on top of whatever other costs – talent, cameraperson, editor, director, location, etc. – would be associated with the production.
And considering that the average adult video is currently shot on a budget ranging from $15,000 to $30,000, to digitally remove the condoms from the sex scenes in such a production would cost two to four times the cost of the entire production.
Removing condoms from adult movies, therefore, is not a viable option.