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New Oil—and a Huge Challenge—for Ghana

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An oil rig near Takoradi Port in Ghana, about 40 miles (65 km) from Jubilee field, which has just begun producing oil. Like many in Ghana, port officials hope to share in an economic boom from new oil, but challenges are ahead.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Ghana starts producing oil Wednesday from a massive offshore field, while trying to avert the mistakes of other African nations.

The Jubilee field is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue for the government's coffers—money that could help this poor West African country improve people's lives by investing in education, health care, industry, and infrastructure.

(Related: National Geographic Guide to Ghana)

But Ghana faces an enormous challenge. While praised for its stability and democratic government, the country has a poor record of managing revenues transparently and protecting the environment.

Some even worry that greed could transform Ghana into a smaller-scale Nigeria, a nearby oil-rich country plagued by corruption, ethnic violence, and frequent spills—often tied to vandalism.

(Related: "Curse of the Black Gold")

Oil also has played a role in civil strife in other African countries rich in the resource, such as Angola, the Republic of Congo, and Sudan.

"We say we don't want to be like Nigeria," said Emmanuel Kuyole, Africa regional coordinator for Revenue Watch Institute, a nonprofit that promotes transparency of government expenditures. But Kuyole, who is based in Ghana, said the country must go beyond the rhetoric.

Kuyole and other civil society groups were dismayed that key legislation to manage the allocation of oil revenues was still being debated in Ghana's parliament last week. They also bristle that the government, which some believe already is burdened by debt added in the past three years, wants to use oil money as collateral for more loans. Ghana also is still working on a national environmental policy that will include a regulatory framework for the petroleum sector.

Measuring the Gains for Ghana

Ghana has produced oil in the past, but from reservoirs that were relatively small. The nation has never seen anything like Jubilee, estimated to contain up to 1 billion barrels of oil and 800 billion cubic feet of natural gas. It was discovered in 2007 about 35 miles (60 km) off the west coast of Ghana by a partnership that includes London-based Tullow Oil, Dallas-based Kosmos Energy, and Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

Ghana's national oil company has a 13.75 percent interest in Jubilee and will collect an additional royalty payment. Sabre Oil and Gas and EO Group Ghana have small stakes.

The oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Guinea are among a number of new finds being counted on to meet the world's energy demand. Since Jubilee, additional promising offshore fields have been discovered in Ghana.

But in recent months, government officials have tried to lower expectations that Ghanaians will benefit immediately from the new source of revenue.

Ghana's government anticipates that oil and gas will generate about $500 million in revenues in 2011—less than 3 percent of the forecasted gross domestic product.

Jubilee is expected to produce 120,000 barrels of oil a day within three to six months. In comparison, Nigeria produces more than 2 million barrels of oil a day.

"Jubilee alone . . . will not fire our economy," said Edward Bawa, communications officer for Ghana's Ministry of Energy.

Ghana is the second leading producer of cocoa in the world and is rich in minerals. The gold mining industry contributes about 5 percent of the country's GDP.

However, Steve Manteaw, campaigns coordinator for the Ghana-based Integrated Social Development Center, which promotes social and economic justice, said Ghana over the years has treated natural resource income as something to spend rather than invest, and has little to show for it.

Ghana ranked 130th out of 169 countries in the U.N. Development Program's annual Human Development Index, putting it in the category of "low human development." Annual per capita income is about $1,500.

Revenue Watch rated Ghana as having "scant revenue transparency" in its extractive industries. The group pointed to the ineffective use of royalty payments to reduce poverty in mining communities, weak legislative oversight, and conflicts of interest including legislators who sat on the boards of mining companies they oversaw.

Long Shadow of the BP Oil Spill

Memories also are fresh from BP's massive spill off the coast of Louisiana in the United States last spring.

(Related: National Geographic Gulf Oil Spill News and Pictures)

"Everything is colored by what happened in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dai Jones, president and general manager of Tullow Ghana Ltd, the operating partner of Jubilee.

Although Jones works for a British company, he is quick to point out that he was born in Ghana and sees great personal significance in the chance to play a role in oil development here. He said he thinks the project will benefit from the lessons learned. In particular, he cites the experience of Anadarko, a BP partner in the Gulf disaster.

(Related: "Is Another Deepwater Disaster Inevitable?")

Ghana's Environmental Protection Agency has a poor record regulating the mining industry and managing cyanide spills, according to Oxfam America. But Ghana Minister of Environment Science and Technology Sherry Ayittey assured reporters in September that the government is ready to meet the challenges.

She noted that Ghana had revised its oil spill response plan and developed guidelines as a step toward a regulatory framework. And she said Norway's Ministry of Environment had helped Ghana collect baseline information about the offshore environment.

"We will not cut corners," she said in a statement. "We shall caution when we have to and punish when we must in cases of environmental breaches" by oil companies.

Jones said Tullow is confident it can prevent a massive spill, although he acknowledges that "humans are the weakest link." Tullow experienced a minor spill of 37 liters of hydraulic oil during exploratory drilling operations unrelated to Jubilee operations last year, he said, and immediately reported it to the authorities.

According to local reports, Kosmos allegedly spilled 706 barrels of toxic substances in the past year while drilling nearby. But the company is fighting a fine of about $30 million, which it argues was levied unlawfully.

Ministry of Environment officials in Ghana declined comment about the case, and Kosmos didn't respond to requests for comment.

(Kosmos and the Ghana government have a tense relationship. The government blocked Kosmos from selling its stake in Jubilee to ExxonMobil Corporation for $4 billion; Kosmos then refused to sell to a Ghana-China National Offshore Oil Corporation joint venture for $5 billion.)

Reaction Within the Community

Many who live near the coast in western Ghana make their living fishing. Tullow has held public hearings and worked closely with tribal chiefs and fishermen to stem discontent. Jones said compensation hasn't been offered directly to fishermen, but nearly $8 million has been spent on such things as high school science laboratories and community centers, and health screening.

But Manteaw said many who attended the hearings didn't understand the technical jargon, and the hearings turned into "fanfares" touting the benefits oil would bring. Jones disagreed, saying the company has tried hard to manage expectations.

Western tribal chiefs have demanded a percentage of the oil revenue, but the Ministry of Energy's Bawa said that would open a "Pandora's Box" and that there are other ways to support affected communities. The oil project is employing hundreds of Ghanaians, and communities already are under pressure as more families move into the area.

In a country where only police are seen as more corrupt than politicians, some tribal chiefs have appointed themselves to be government watchdogs.

Jones recalled a meeting in which a group of tribal chiefs were informed that the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation would be responsible for offloading the government's share of oil.

A tribal chief only half-jokingly warned a GNPC official in these approximate words: "I am going to have a man on the beach in Takoradi watching the oil leave [western Ghana] and a man in Tema [the location of an oil refinery in east Ghana] watching it arrive. And if it doesn't, I'm going to come looking for you."

(Related: Learn about Ghana on National Geographic Kids)

(Related: Explore the music of Ghana at National Geographic World Music)

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How Does Green Screen Work?

Chuck Peters Wed, 12/25/2013 - 8:50pm

How do you move characters around in a world that lives only in your imagination? By following this easy step-by-step guide to going green.

Through the magic of video effects and technology, you can superimpose your subjects onto virtual backgrounds, place them over animated digital backdrops or transport them to a desert oasis. You can shrink down a full-grown man so he can stand on a tabletop, use visual effects to make him fly through the sky like a superhero or simply simulate your own TV weather report. But to do it right, you’re going to need a lot of green. No, we’re not talking about money. The green we mean comes in the form of a green screen. The secret to pulling your subject out of the real world and placing him or her into a digital domain is chromakey, and that means going green. In this article we’ll cover all the essentials you need to know to pull off keen, clean keys and composite digital backdrops and virtual backgrounds into your edits.

What is Keying?

Keying is the process of isolating a single color or brightness value in an electronic image and using software to make that value transparent, allowing another image to show through the affected areas. Luminance keying, or lumakeying, is the process of keying out a brightness value or range, like black or white. Luminance keys are often used for applying mattes. Color keying, or chromakeying, identifies a specific color to remove.

Why Green?

Many people use the terms chromakeying and greenscreening interchangeably, but the principle that powers chrominance keying is not limited to the green parts of the spectrum. In the visual effects world of Hollywood, blue screens are far more common than green. In fact, you can key out any color; red, yellow, purple or pink, blue and yes, green. So why is that odd and ugly shade of green the hue of choice for television and video? The biggest factor is contrast. In order to isolate one area from the rest, the background color must be distinctly different. Bright green beats blue partially because it is not a color commonly worn by talent. Any clothing that matches the background too closely will also key out, punching a hole in your subject’s body, or making him invisible altogether. We narrowly escaped a chromakey crisis a few years ago when I was working at a Northern California TV station. One St. Patrick’s Day our wacky weatherman showed up to work dressed head-to-toe in a bright green leprechaun suit. Fortunately, we quickly pointed out the flaw in his logic and he was able to find a change of clothes before it was time to go live.

What do I Need?

You can erect a simple chromakey setup almost anywhere with just a few basic tools. In order to shoot footage that will key cleanly, you will need a green background, a source of bright, even lighting, and a tripod to lock your camcorder in place. We will cover each of these elements in detail.

1 - Buy or Build a Background. The most obvious need is for the background itself. Fortunately, there are many options, and many of them are inexpensive. In short, anything that’s bright green will work, and anything that works is valid. I have produced professional green screen scenes using giant dedicated cyclone sets, large professional fabric chromakey backdrops, sheets of material purchased by the yard from a fabric store, smooth walls or pieces of paneling painted with a gallon of dinosaur-green paint from the kids section of the hardware store, even sheets of green poster board taped together. (NOTE: Be sure to avoid textured walls if you’re painting it green. Texture causes shadows.) The only requirements are that your background be large enough to fill your screen, smooth enough to take light evenly without showing wrinkles or casting shadows, and bright enough to contrast well with your subject. If you intend to chromakey a sock puppet your backdrop may be relatively small. If you need to chromakey a full-body shot of an adult actor, you will need a much larger background. If you are experimenting with chromakeying for the first time, you can test the process on a small scale before you build a big set. You can quickly create a functional miniature table-top set with an action figure and a sheet of posterboard. It doesn’t take much more effort, however, to stretch a sheet of green fabric between two step ladders or to paint a small section of wall.

Many people use the terms chromakeying and greenscreening interchangeably, but the principle that powers chrominance keying is not limited to the green parts of the spectrum.

2 - Light it Smoothly. Even a professional-quality cyc wall won’t key well without proper lighting. If there is a secret technique to getting good keys, it is in lighting the wall. The goal is to light the set as evenly as possible using soft light. Any variation in lighting will read as gradient coloring and will complicate your key in post. Achieving even lighting can be more difficult than you might think. Hard light sources cast narrow and focused beams that create circular hot spots in their center, then fall off rapidly leaving outer portions gradually darker. It helps to move small lights farther away so they cast broader, soft light beams. If you have access to soft boxes, they are excellent options for casting evenly spread light. I have had great success lighting green screens with long tubular fluorescent fixtures along the top and sides of the backdrop. You can get a six-foot garage-style fixture from your local home hardware store for less than lunch. These fixtures cast a soft light that is quite appealing for your green screen. You don’t want to light your talent with a flo-fixture, but when you are lighting a green set the color temperature of the instrument is not as important as lighting your background evenly.

3 - Light it Separately. Another important, but often overlooked, essential is lighting your subject independently of your set. This is important for two “key” reasons: shadows and reflections. Part of keeping your wall evenly lit is keeping your subject’s shadow from falling across it. To do this you need to position the talent at a distance of at least a few feet from the screen, and light him separately using three point lighting.

If you do not have a lot of distance to work with, position your key & fill lights slightly to the sides, not straight on, so any resulting shadows will fall outside the visible frame. Another advantage of moving your subject away from the wall is the reduction of reflected green spill light on your talent. Reflected spill light can rim your subject in a tinted halo that can be difficult to discern with the naked eye, but if your actor is too close to your wall, it will be there, and any green bouncing off your actor will mess up the cleanliness of your key. You can wash away a fair amount of reflected green using a bright backlight, but you will find that distance is your best friend.

4 - Lock it Down. Unless you are planning to use motion tracking markers and a complicated visual effects compositing software to motion track your subject into a virtual 3D environment so that the movement of the camera perfectly matches that of the digital background shot, even the smallest camera motion is unacceptable. This is a case where it’s got to be all or nothing. Either commit to motion tracking, or set your camera in cement, and take your hand off when you roll to prevent any vibration. The trick is to shoot your subject in a way that blends well with the background. In most green screen scenes the digital backdrops will be a still, a stable computer generated (CG) image or animation, or a clip of video shot from a locked down camera. If the camera moves or shakes, even a little, your subject will appear to bounce around in front of your keyed background scene, and that’s a chromakey faux pas to avoid at all costs.

5 - Frame and Focus. For the same reason, do not zoom in or out as you record. This will make your subject appear to shrink or grow in size in relation to the background. Use the zoom to frame the subject where you need her to be, and once you have set up the shot, step away from the controls. Focus is another important consideration. The only way to know that you have the sharpest focus possible is to zoom all the way in to your lens’ maximum telephoto setting when you adjust your focus. I typically recommend setting your focus on the sparkle, or specular highlight, in the eyes, but in a chromakey setup, I make an exception. The best keys come from clean, sharp edges, so it is important that the edges of your talent be in crisp focus when you shoot on green.

6 - Pull the Key. If you have successfully shot your subject in front of a smooth, bright, evenly-lit wall, lit your subject independent of the background to avoid shadows and spill, and shot with a crisp, clear focus, then pulling the key to reveal your digital backdrops or virtual backgrounds should be a relatively easy process.

Simply import the clip to your timeline, place the footage you would like to show through on a lower track, and apply a chromakey filter from your effects menu to the green screen shot. The key filter will offer you adjustment options in the effects control panel. With a little tweaking, you can use these controls to dial in the key, eliminating grainy areas or green edges. Poorly lit green screen footage may still be keyable, but might require multiple key passes. The best bet is to take the time to light and shoot the scene well to make things as easy as possible in the edit.



The camera you use for shooting green screen footage for visual effects and virtual backgrounds does make a difference. Because chromakeying is a digital process, the way your camera creates the image directly affects your ability to pull a clean key. Footage with a 4:2:2 ratio is much easier to key than 4:2:0, which typically leaves a ring of pixels around the edge of the subject. With some effort the halo can be removed, but footage with a ratio of 4:1:1 or below are not an optimal option for chromakey. Check your camera’s specs to find out what type of color subsampling your model uses.

Chuck Peters is a 3-time Emmy award winning writer and producer.

let the cat out of the bag

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to let the cat out of the bag: Truth will out

let the cat out of the bag

Fig. to reveal a secret or a surprise by accident. When Bill glanced at the door, he let the cat out of the bag. We knew then that he was expecting someone to arrive. It's a secret. Try not to let the cat out of the bag.
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out

let the cat out of the bag

Give away a secret, as in Mom let the cat out of the bag and told us Karen was engaged. This expression alludes to the dishonest practice of a merchant substituting a worthless cat for a valuable pig, which is discovered only when the buyer gets home and opens the bag. [Mid-1700s] Also see pig in a poke.
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out

let the cat out of the bag

If you let the cat out of the bag, you reveal something secret or private, often without meaning to. `The Mosses didn't tell the cops my name, did they?' `Of course not,' she said. `They wouldn't want to let the cat out of the bag.' She'd known she was taking a risk in letting the cat out of the bag about Jacobs. Note: You can say that the cat is out of the bag when a secret has been revealed. The cat was well and truly out of the bag. The biggest scandal for years was about to overtake the government. Note: This expression may have its origin in an old trick where one person pretended to sell a piglet in a bag to another, although the bag really contained a cat. If the cat was let out of the bag, then the trick would be exposed.
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out

let the cat out of the bag

reveal a secret, especially carelessly or by mistake.
A similar metaphorical use of bag may be found in the French phrase vider le sac , literally ‘empty the bag’, meaning ‘tell the whole story’.
1996 Bernard Connolly The Rotten Heart of Europe Tim Renton …at odds with his leader on Europe, let the cat out of the bag when he told a television audience, ‘we need a strong Europe to maintain our independence from the United States and the Pacific Rim’.
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out

let the ˈcat out of the bag

(informal) make known a secret, usually without realizing what you are doing: ‘Who let the cat out of the bag?’ ‘I’m afraid I did. I thought everybody already knew.’Nobody knew she had been offered the job until her husband let the cat out of the bag. OPPOSITE: keep something under your hat
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out

let the cat out of the bag

To let a secret be known.
See also: bag, cat, let, of, out
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Her prediction took Downing Street by surprise and led to Tory claims that she had let the cat out of the bag over the scrapping of the pound.
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jag älskar denna recension, den roligaste jag läst tror jag! designen på flaska haha, ja alltså det ser ut som en vriden kola med ett hål eller nått.

Billigt parfym från 80-talet, haha!

Jag vill göra mig besväret att dofta på dom bara för att!