How to Make and Use a Green Screen the Easy Way
These days you would be hard-pressed to find a major Hollywood adventure, fantasy, or science fiction feature film that didn’t use a green screen. Movies like Twilight Saga, A Good Day To Die Hard, Titanic, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings trilogies all relied heavily on the use of green screens. In fact, the green screen was so instrumental in these movies that the production of them would have been near impossible without them!
Nowadays, green screen technology isn’t just limited to big Hollywood productions, in fact with just a few simple pieces of equipment and know-how, you can make your own green screen right at home! Whether you’re creating green screens for YouTube videos, school projects, or to have a little fun with family videos, you can use this incredible technique to impress viewers with your own mind-boggling special effects quite easily!
Best App for Green Screen Effects
To get the best results using a green screen, you're going to need an app trusted by professional video editors. Check out PowerDirector, ranked #1 Green Screen App in 2021 by Videomaker Magazine.
- What is a green screen?
- How does a green screen work?
- How to make a green screen?
- How to Shoot on a Green Screen Setup?
- How to Edit a Green Screen Video?
- Green Screen Effect Without a Green Screen
- Final thoughts on Green Screens
1. What is a green screen?
A green screen is exactly what it sounds like! It’s literally a green screen that is used as a backdrop when filming. By filming on this green backdrop, an editor or visual effects artist can use software to separate the green background from the subject in the video to replace the background with another image.
2. How does a green screen work?
Green screening allows a videomaker to layer different images so they look like one cohesive video. Think of those weather reporters on the news. They are filming with a green screen behind them, but on your TV, the graphics of weather systems have been superimposed onto the green sections so it looks like the reporter is standing in front of a giant, wall-sized TV screen with vibrant graphics.
When done well, the images are layered in such a way that you would never know there was a green screen there. Convincing results are possible whether you are working on a shoestring budget or have a feature film producer's backing.
3. How to make a green screen
Special effects used to be incredibly expensive due largely to the specialized equipment and loads of experience a team of people needed to have just to pull off realistic imagery. Now, all you need is a green background and the right video editing software. Here are a few ways to approach making your own green screen setup.
What You’ll Need to Make Your Green Screen
No matter how you go about making your green screen, there are a few essential components you’ll need for a successful green screen shoot.
- A Green Screen - This one should be obvious! You’ll need a green surface to act as your screen. Using a non-reflective fabric or paper are your best options. Make sure your material is large enough to extend around your entire subject when you shoot!
- Screen Stand - Simply, you’ll need a way to hold up your screen in the background of your shoot. Depending on your screen material and your set, you can use stands, tape, or even string. Whichever you choose, it’s important that your support system can hold up your screen securely!
- Lights - To capture good green screen footage, you’ll need to have good lighting. This part cannot be emphasized enough. Without defined light on your subject and green background, it will be very difficult to edit out your background when you go to edit!
Green Screen Kits
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box green screen setup and have a bit of a budget, you can buy a ready-made green screen kit that comes with everything you need.
They typically contain a screen with different size options, stands, and most often, lights. It might be a pull-down, pull up, or unfold-and-hang-it-up situation, but most kits will have a way for you to hang your green screen.
Here are some great affordable options that have everything you need:
- Ubesgoo Studio Kit - $148
- Neewer Chroma Key Studio - $116
Whatever you choose, make sure you have the right size screen for your project. It should be easy to set up and take down. And it should be easy to store or travel with, depending on your goals and how you’ll be using your new kit.
DIY Green Screen
If you’re putting together your own green screen kit, you just have to make a few choices. It’s not a complicated process as long as you have your filming goals in mind. Here are a few of the key configurations you’ll want to have in mind.
Green Screen Materials
For your green screen, all you really need is a green surface. As long as it covers enough space for your vision to come to life on the screen, the material is an easy choice.
Fabric is useful because it can cover a large backdrop, it’s light, easy to set up, take down, and store, and it is easy to light without reflections. The downside is that it can wrinkle and will always need to be hung up.
Seamless Paper is a great material because it comes in many different sizes, it has a smooth, non-reflective surface, it can easily roll up for storage, and can be discarded if it becomes dirty or torn. One thing to consider is that it will need a way to hang so this option might require the use of stands to hold it up!
Savage Widetone Seamless Background Paper, 26" wide x 36', Tech Green, #46 - $18.99
Posterboard is perfect for smaller spaces. It can also be easier to set-up and take down. The only downside is that you’re limited by the size of the poster board you can find. Additionally, some posterboard is reflective so be sure to use paper with a matte finish!
Paint is the best solution for larger spaces. When you need to scale and want to move or pan through an indoor scene, paint is the way to go. It can also be used on other surfaces, including some objects, making paint the most versatile option. The downside is that the paint doesn’t wash off. Plan for cleanup or have an agreement with the facility before donning paint suits and brushes.
Green Screen Color
It’s called a green screen, but the screen's purpose is that other images can be layered on the screen without confusing your editing software. That means as long as it is a different color from the foreground, it can be used as a green screen. Blue and red can also be used.
Bright lime green is often selected for a green screen because it is the least likely to be used on a set and doesn’t often show up naturally in other spaces.
Green Screen Setup
Setting up your green screen shoot starts with the screen. No matter what equipment you’re using, these are important tips for properly setting up your green screen backdrop:
- Make sure your screen is large enough to frame your entire subject. Anything that is outside of the green area will be difficult to remove.
- Keep your screen smooth. Any inconsistencies like wrinkles or creases in your screen make it difficult to select in your editing process.
- Make sure your screen is secure. Nothing is worse than having to stop your shoot to reset your backdrop! It can also throw off the consistency of your footage if the backdrop changes between shots. It’s best to set up your screen correctly and securely!
4. How to Shoot on a Green Screen Setup
Once you have your green screen in place, it’s time to set up the shot for filming. There are a few key factors to consider before you start rolling to get suitable footage for your green screen.
Lighting a Green Screen
Whether you have a kit or create your own set, lighting is crucial. It sets up the aesthetic and ensures the screen has a consistent color for use in editing. We recommend using 3 lights for a classic “3-point” lighting setup. One light to directly light your subject, one to fill in shadows on your subject, and one for your backdrop. This will ensure the subject will be clearly defined from the backdrop and make the editing much easier.
Camera Setup for Green Screen
With your backdrop and lights set up, now it’s time to start rolling! While shooting style is largely up to you, here are a few tips to make sure the footage you capture will be easy to edit for green screen.
- Use a tripod. A moving camera makes it more difficult to edit out green screen! Keep your camera in place with a good tripod.
- Turn off automatic settings. If your camera settings like focus and exposure change while you’re shooting, your software will have a difficult time identifying your green screen. Using manual mode will give you a consistent shot, ideal for your green screen edit.
- Shoot high-definition. The higher definition, the better! Have a clear, sharp image will make your subject POP off the green screen background and give you the best results when combining your images.
5. How to Edit a Green Screen Video
Video editing software for your green screen film is crucial. This is where the magic happens.
First, check whether your editing software has a chroma key editor. Chroma keying is the editing process that selects your target color (chroma) and removes it (keying). By selecting the green hue of your screen and replacing it with your alternate image or video, you’re attempting to get a clean key that makes your scene look realistic. With this process, you can remove your green screen background and layer or composite your images together.
Pro tip: If the software you’re using doesn’t have a chroma key editor, download the PowerDirector Essential editor for free. It has one of the best chroma key engines on the market!
See how Chroma key works in PowerDirector in this tutorial:
Using your editing software, be sure to adjust your settings to get the best possible selection, removing all the unwanted green. Then place your background in its place. You can use a still image or video. If you want stock footage, you’ll find plenty of options in PowerDirector 365 - it has full access to hundreds of thousands of images and video clips you can use for your background.
6. Green Screen Effect Without a Green Screen
Did you know you can still remove your background even if you didn’t shoot on a green screen? Until recently, this was nearly impossible but with an advanced tool like ColorDirector, now you can. Using advanced algorithms to track and trace objects in your video, ColorDirectors Green Screen Maker tool allows you to select objects and replace backgrounds on any footage!
7. Final thoughts on Green Screens
Craft the best green screen for your video goals and get the best possible video software to ensure your efforts aren’t wasted. These two steps are crucial. Luckily, you now understand what tools you need and the best practices that should be in place to make your green screen project effortless and the outcome as realistic as possible. Happy shooting!
Download PowerDirector, ranked #1 Green Screen App in 2021 by Videomaker Magazine.