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Green screen or chromakey allows you to remove the background of a shot easily. Suddenly you can be in space, underwater or anywhere your imagination wanders. A powerful tool for helping your videos but if done wrong can be very distracting and detract from your videos effect. Here’s how to make the most of it.

When to use it?

Shooting on a green screen has gotten easier over time. The software built into to editors like FCPX and Premiere and other VFX programs has gotten better and better over the years. This means you can achieve a better looking shot with worse footage.

The simple truth is however that if you don’t shoot your green screen footage correctly it can look poor. Green around the edges of your subject, bits of them flickering, hair going missing are all symptoms you need to try and avoid.

Shooting green screen footage correctly though can be a challenge so the decision you need to understand is why you choose to use green screen or chromakey in the first place.

If you can shoot in a location or make your set look like the intended background this will always look better and in this instance chromakey should be avoided.

Other than VFX and adding in backgrounds that you cannot access or replicate in real life you should avoid chromakey.

How to use green screen?

Shooting against a green screen requires a couple of thing:

  • A well, evenly lit green background
  • A properly lit subject.

Getting the background evenly lit is a bit of an art. Any part of the background that is going to be in shot should be identical. Avoid wrinkles in the background and avoid areas of shadow or highlight.

Before you light your subject you need to make sure that they are far enough from the screen that their shadow and any lighting you put on them doesn’t affect the background.

The way you light them however should not just be to make them look good on camera and here is the secret to getting a good green screen effect.

The secret to getting good green screen

The secret for getting food green screen is actually surprisingly simple. It all comes down to planning. Choose the background you intend to use in advance. Whether it is a picture, video or animation make that decision before you organise the shoot.

Knowing what the background is in advance allows you to carefully match the lighting of that scene on your subject. If your background is outdoors light your subject in the same way, match the lighting to the scene, to the location fo the sun, to any other light sources visible or implied. If they are meant to be in space work out how they should be lit in that scene and match that when lighting them during production.

An evenly lit background will remove easily. Distance between the background and the subject will ensure that the subject doesn’t have random bits missing and matching the lighting will ensure that, when you put the background in, they look like they belong.

Choosing your background

One mistake a lot of people make is choosing the wrong background. I have a simple rule with green screen:

If there is going to be time and budget to do it properly then we can pick any background. If there isn’t and all too often there isn’t then I choose a background that isn’t meant to look like real life. I find something abstract that shows this was shot on a green screen.

The reason is simple. If people know it is shot on a green screen any minor imperfections don’t distract because they are congruent with the environment. As a result these videos are much better at engaging people.

Here is an example of embracing the green screen look.

For more information about Smarter Video take a look here.

Please get in touch and let me know what you would like to learn or read about.

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