What is a Green Screen Used For, and How Do They Work?
A green screen, also known as a chroma key screen, is a background used in video and photography production to enable a different background to be inserted or composited behind the subject. The green screen works by separating the subject from the background and making it transparent, allowing the desired background to be added in its place.
Watch our video demonstration below on how to set up a green screen video shoot.
The most common colour used for green screens is a bright shade of green because it is a colour that is distinct from most human skin tones and is easily recognised by most video editing software. However, depending on the situation, blue screens and other colours are also used.
Green screens are used in various settings, including film and television production, video game development, virtual events, and live streaming. In film and television, green screens are commonly used for special effects, allowing actors to be placed in fantastic or imaginary environments without needing elaborate set designs or expensive location shoots.
Video game development also utilises green screens to create realistic environments for characters. At the same time, virtual events use them to provide attendees with virtual backgrounds that can be customised to their liking. Live streaming platforms also use green screens to add professional-looking backgrounds to video calls and interviews, enhancing the production value of the content.
Setting up a green screen for filming can be a process, but it’s doable with the right tools and know-how. There are many options when setting up a green screen, and knowing where to start can be overwhelming and hard. But don’t worry because we have some options and links to our equipment. Here are the basic steps to get you started.
CHOOSE A LOCATION
Selecting a suitable space for your green screen video shoot is crucial. You need enough space to set up your green screen, lighting, and camera equipment. A room at least 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep is ideal for most small to medium-sized shoots. Ensure that the space is well-lit and you can control the lighting. Avoid areas with windows or strong sunlight, which can cause unwanted shadows and glare. Ideally, you want a room with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. You’ll also want to ensure the room is free of any background distractions or patterns that might clash with your green screen. Finally, you’ll want to cover as much space behind you as possible, floor-to-ceiling and side-to-side, so you have enough room to deliver your message and move freely.
CHOOSE YOUR GREEN SCREEN
The most important part of the process is the green screen itself. The most common colour for green screens is chroma green, a bright green hue that can easily be removed during post-production. In addition, you can purchase green screen backdrops made from muslin or vinyl or paint a wall with chroma-green paint. Whatever option you choose, please ensure the green screen is wrinkle-free to avoid shadows and inconsistencies in your final video.
We use chromakey green photographic paper, an expandable pole system pushed through the middle of the paper roll holder, and stands and clips to hold the form in place. Again, having someone help you is a good idea, so you don’t rip the paper.
Set up your lights
Lighting is critical when it comes to green-screen video shoots. You’ll need at least three to five lights. One or three to light the subject and two to light the green screen to fill light the shadows. Use soft-box lights or diffusers to create soft, even lighting. You can also use studio lights or continuous LED lights. Adjust the lighting to avoid hotspots and ensure the green screen is evenly lit with no harsh shadows.
It’s always good to have dimmer control switches to bring the lights up or down from being too bright, depending on what the person being filmed is wearing or their hair/skin colour.
Separate the subject from the background. You’ll want to ensure that the person being filmed is in front of the lights, lighting the green screen, so no shadows are bleeding on the backdrop. Have them stand about 3-5 feet away from your green screen.
We use the Interfit F5 Two-Head Fluorescent Lighting Kit to light our green screen to have an even spread of lighting. And the Interfit F5 Three-Head Fluorescent Lighting Kit allows us to light (slightly angled) our subjects’ face/body and overhead.
Position Your Camera
Next, you need to decide on what you’re using to film. We use a DSLR camera, but you can use a mirrorless camera, smartphone, laptop, or tablet. For our audio, we use an overhead boom mic placed above, in front of the person we’re filming, and a wireless lapel. They both run into a recording device so we can capture the audio separately from the cameras. That way, we have more control over how we want to edit the final video, and it’s always good to have separate audio tracks as a backup.
Position your camera in a location that allows you to capture the entire green screen and subject. Ensure the camera is level and the same height as your subject’s eyes. If you’re shooting a video that involves movement, consider using a tripod or stabiliser to avoid shaky footage.
Your camera settings will depend on the type of camera you’re using, but generally, you’ll want to set your aperture to f/5.6 or higher, your ISO to 100, and your shutter speed to 1/50th or 1/60th of a second.
Once you’ve set up, it’s time to position your subject. Ensure they’re standing at a 90-degree angle to the green screen and that there’s enough distance between them and the screen to avoid shadows.
OUR EQUIPMENT LIST
Now that everything is set up correctly, it’s time to start filming. Ensure you have plenty of storage space on your camera or memory card and that the camera is set to record at the highest quality possible. Record several takes to ensure that you have enough footage to work with during post-production.
Both mics run into a Zoom H5 audio recorder.
We film on a Canon 80D DSLR camera with an 18-135mm lens.
Being held up on a Velbon DV-7000N Video Tripod.
We also use the TeleprompterPAD iLight Pro so our subjects can read their script as we’re filming.
You can also use a smartphone or tablet with this type of teleprompter. As well as a Teleprompter app.
Setting up a green screen video shoot takes preparation and attention to detail. However, with the right equipment and techniques, you can create professional-looking videos that grab your audience’s attention. Remember to choose the right space, green screen, lighting, and camera position, and direct your subject well. Once you have all these elements in place, it’s time to start filming and creating content that will stand out.