Tips for Setting up Green Screens for Video

This is a collaborative blog post.

Whether you’re gaming, presenting a project, or making an impression on online clients, nothing lets you flex your imagination more than green screen effects. With a digital camera, chroma key software, and vibrant green background, you can place yourself in any place or situation, highlight points and data, and keep your audience’s attention. If you’re just starting out or already have some hours under your belt employing green screen, it’s always good to learn (or relearn) some handy tips for setting up green screens for video shoots and streams.

Get the Lighting Right

When you get the lighting exactly right for your shoot, you’ve taken care of most of your postproduction problems. Start by ensuring the green screen itself is evenly lit. You can achieve this by setting up two fill lights off-screen and on either side of the green screen. Avoid flares and match the brightness of the key light on the talent (that is, the person you’re filming). Have some distance between the screen and your talent, so they aren’t shadowed, as well. This also prevents reflected green light from entering the shot and turning up on their skin. Have the talent stand on a black drop cloth to prevent further spillage. Shadows are your enemy! Use fill lights to kill shadows in the background, otherwise you won’t be able to pull a decent key.

Keep It Flat

Speaking of shadows, they’re easier to fight if you keep your screen free of imperfections. Fabric green screens can be steamed flat, but any tears will still cast marks that mess up your key. Painted green screens are consistent, though you need to watch for nicks, porous surfaces, and the like that reflect or otherwise interfere with the lighting. Collapsible green screens that attach to chairs are also available, but the above rules still apply.

No Green but the Screen

The main reason why the screen is green is simple: there are no green people (and if there are, they’ve been hiding). The vivid green of green screens permits the use of chroma key technology, which lets you replace the screen with separate footage, an image, computer graphics, and more. If your talent wears anything green, however, the image will project onto them as well, creating bizarre effects. Reflective surfaces can also interfere with shoots, so ensure the talent is free of jewelry, buttons, and other shiny things. Consider makeup before a shoot to eliminate shiny skin as well.

Miscellaneous Things To Keep in Mind

Here are two more tips for setting up green screens for video shoots. Review footage before the postproduction phase. Otherwise, you or your editor will spend extra time (and possibly money) fixing things that could have been fixed during the shoot. Finally, check your camera settings. This is a bit more technical, but raising shutter speed and setting your format to the highest level will improve your effects overall.

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