There are more reasons to figure out green screen technology than first meet the eye: you may want to take your student film to the next level (or the next location), or you may simply want to participate in a crazy internet challenge and create your own funny clips:
To help you get there, if you aren’t already, here are the first few things you should know!
The basics of using a green screen for video production
What to buy
Step one: get a green screen (also known as a chroma key)
The most direct way to accomplish this task is purchasing a green screen yourself. There are a few good options from our old pal, Amazon. (If you can’t see these suggestions, please turn off your ad blocker for a sec.)
When looking at these products, or others, you want to keep the following factors in mind:
1. What is the material? Much of using a green screen comes down to wrinkles and washing. A few video editing programs can improve the green screen quality in post-production, but many free applications – like iMovie – have more difficulty working through those defects. You can make your life easier by finding material that washes easily and remains smooth.
2. What size? Bigger isn’t always better: the larger the screen, the harder to work with. Of course, the smaller a screen, the harder it is to frame your camera shot. If you’re buying a green screen “just in case,” consider the average sizes available: 6×9 or 6×15 feet (these are often used for photoshoots). If you’re completing a specific project, measure the area in need of coverage and choose based on that information.
3. How’s it hangin’? Some green screens come with a setup frame. Some come as a collapsible backdrop. Others are simply the screen itself. We included examples of each from Amazon, above. What do you need?
4. Logistics. What’s the price, how’s it being shipped to you, and when will you need it? These are just the normal considerations when ordering/buying a product.
Finding a green screen
Remember, there are other options: our local library provides a “studio” with excellent lighting and a back wall that is painted vibrant green. If you look around your area, you never know where a usable screen will appear! Of course, there is a slight downside: you can’t alter someone else’s screen or studio without asking, and it may not fit the specifications of your project. But then again, it might!
Using the screen
Now that you have your screen, frame your shot as you wish, create your set, and block your actors.
With so many projects, the best general knowledge we can provide is: light the screen well and don’t put green items in the shot!
If you really need to use a green prop, however, remember there is a lesser-known item called a blue screen, the green screen’s less popular sibling. Food for thought!
Most modern video editing programs offer green screen capabilities. For this example, we’re using iMovie as an example. Y’know, because we’re Mac users (woot woot).
Generally, when combining green screen footage, you’ll have two videos: the main clip, which holds the green screen, and the insert clip(s). NOTE: the inserted clip can have as much green as you like!
To create the green screen effect in iMovie, begin by dragging the main clip over the insert clip (it seems backward, yes, but it works). The toolbar will now include an “overlay” option:
Selecting “Green/Blue Screen” starts the process: every green pixel in your main clip is replaced with a corresponding pixel from the insert clip! You’ve successfully created a green screen video, no problem.
Of course, other video editors may work differently. For specific information, check a users guide for your app of choice.
We covered a few simple concepts. To better learn, remember, and understand these ideas and more, create a few videos yourself with green screen! You may be surprised by the level of variability and personality that can be achieved: every user applies green screens differently, but the tool itself leads to interesting results across the board.
We hope this helps you get started, have a blast!