Looking to make a sci-fi epic? Need to shoot a weatherman spoof? Wanna spice up your skype life? Don’t worry, no matter why you want to know how to use a green screen, we got you covered.
We’ll talk about set-up, lighting, editing, all that stuff. Forget the key to the city, once you know how to use green screen/chroma key, you get the key to the universe.
How do You Use a Green Screen
Common uses - why green screen?
Now, I’ll assume we’re all familiar with chroma key and what green screen is, but you might not know how accessible green screen has become.
Turns out, you don’t have to be a million-dollar movie studio to go use Chroma Key and green screen Software. You might not need to spend any money at all. Today, using a green screen is easy and commonly used by:
- YouTube stars
- People on Zoom
But be careful! Just because people use a green screen technology doesn't mean they use it well. There are few images more distracting than a bad green screen.
Creative takes on How to Use a Green Screen
How to use a green screen creatively
The classic green screen setup involves a green wall in the background of a shot, but modern green screen effects can do so much more.
Today, actors have to be more and more comfortable using a green screen in all aspects of filmmaking. They might wear green suits, ride green dragons, or react to a TV green screen.
Shows like Game of Thrones are ripe for green screen. Whether for dragon riding, ice-zombies, or enhancing sets, to create a new world, chances are a lot of the world will be green during production.
Similar to the use of large green dragons, green suits have become commonplace for stunts. Pictured above, instead of pretending to get attacked by animals, actors are attacked by stuntmen in green/blue. I’m not sure which is more terrifying.
Other uses aren’t quite as innovative, but very practical. With green screen on a TV set, you can later add any video/image you want. It’s a lifesaver for continuity and you wont need to secure rights before filming. Oh, it also helps if you need someone to crawl out of the TV.
Green screen technology is constantly expanding and evolving. It’s in the background, the foreground, the ground, and maybe the ceiling.
Working With A Green Screen
How to use a green screen
Let’s cover some general dos and don'ts on how to use a green screen.
- Get a green backdrop. Generally, bright green is better than blue so the background is as different as possible from everything else in the shot.
- Make the backdrop as smooth and even as possible.
- Use a digital camera that shoots at minimum 24 fps with HD quality.
- Avoid shadows! This requires some lighting tinkering, and maybe some distance between yourself and the screen. A big shadow can seriously hinder green screen effects.
- Make sure the green screen lighting is even (more on this later).
- Match your background. For example, if using a bright, sun-filled background, you want brighter lighting on the day of the shoot.
- Stand 5 feet away from the green screen. This will avoid green spilling onto the border of your image/subject. Make sure you have your blocking down.
- Keep your camera steady. No tracking shots and no pushing in/out. At least when getting started.
- Sharpen the camera focus. Blurry images will have a green hue.
- Practice a few times before doing it for real.
- Start editing, and don’t be afraid to outsource to someone a little more adept in chroma key and green screen effects.
- Wear Green!
- Wear watches or anything too reflective.
- Stand too close to the screen. 5 feet is a good number.
- Shoot outside your green backdrop.
- No motion blur! Raise your shutter speed, motion blur may end up showing a green tint.
- Get too fancy the first time. Keep it simple and start small. Learn how to work a green screen through experience.
Green screen setup and execution takes planning, thorough planning. It’s important to know your surroundings, scout your location, and understand exactly what you want to achieve before you get on set. Using a green screen doesn’t have to be hard, but it is if you don’t learn how to green screen first.
Chroma Key Lighting - How to Green Screen
Green screen lighting
Now, along those dos and don’ts, lighting popped up a few times. Lighting is a crucial aspect of any shoot, but it is especially important when using a green screen.
Remember, it’s much easier to fix things in the moment than in post. The keys to green screen lighting are:
- Make sure the subject lighting matches the background you’re going to put them in.
- The lighting on the screen should be balanced so there’s one consistent shade of green.
- Avoid shadows. For the same reason as the point above.
- The areas right around your subject are the most important.
- Use a smartphone app to measure how even the green screen lighting is.
You can’t skip steps. The real answer to how to green screen is educate yourself and be thorough.
How to Use a Green Screen - Chroma Key Editing
Editing with green screen softwares
Okay, you have your chroma key footage, now what? Does your editor have a green screen software? Most likely.
Final cut, Davinci Resolve 16, and Adobe all have well regarded green screen features. I’d recommend using the same editor you regularly use.
However, if you’re new to video editing, there are a few softwares like Wondershare Filmora and Lightworks that specialize in green screen and chroma key.
Green Screen Lighting
Eager to see what a green screen can do but still unsure you can pull it off?
We talked about the importance of lighting earlier, and I truly can’t stress it enough. In fact, we have a whole article dedicated to green screen lighting. Make sure you get it just right your first time.