Green Screen Made Easier
Green screen can be a huge creative tool if you know what you’re doing.
We’ve all seen green screens before. The technology is super old, and its nothing too exciting here. But I felt it would be a great topic to start the week off, considering that 90% of what we do at the Indie Film Factory is green screen!
Now a disclaimer here: I am not an expert compositor, nor grip, but I hire allot of them! Moreover, I do allot of one-man-band interviews that require me to do quick green screen set ups. That said, I will not be discussing tracking or any of that guru stuff today. In this post I will offer up a few simple tips on making your green screen a little better and easier to work with in editing.
If you know what you’re doing on a basic level, you can turn a green screen into pretty much anything.
Lighting green screen properly is key – No Pun!:
Regardless if you have a hard “cyc” (green screen studio) in your house, a fold up fabric, or one of those fancy pop up green screens in a bag, lighting can make or break your process. Lighting the screen evenly is very important. You want to make sure that the green color is well lit and the lighting is evenly distributed across the back wall. You want to avoid shadows or “hot-spots”. Theses can create headaches when trying to drop out the color in editing.
In studio, we have our lighting pre-set, so its a flip of a switch. But in the few times that I take a portable green screen with me to locations, I typically use two-three lights to light the back wall (screen). From there I use two lighting with defusers or dimmers (stage right and left of talent) for their fill lights. I also use a small lower capacity light to back-light the talent so it helps minimize spill color from the green screen, and creates separation.
Depending on your lights, you may need to use delusion paper, silks, or flags to help shape your situation. At the Indie Film Factory, we use LED based lighting that is temperature for daylight. However, we can also warm or cool the lights based on the situation. We like LED lights or Kino-Flos because they don’t give off allot of heat, and are easy to work with. Plus, Kinos are large, and they spread lighting for the back wall nicely.
2- Location of Talent
Knowing the location of your actors or talent is very important. However for the sake of not going into a long rant about blocking, I will keep this conversation to technical placement. When working with green screen, you should always aim to get your actors as far away from the back wall as possible. On location, I am typically working in small spaces, so at the very least, I keep my subjects atleast 3-4 feet from the back wall. The main reason for this is to minimize the green screen’s color from spilling onto the shoulders of my talent. If there is allot of spill, then the “key” is not as clean, and creates challenges in editing.
I suggest placing marks on the floor for your talent, so they know where they can move and flow around without moving into the “spill-zone”.
3- Other Stuff
In today’s world of After Effects, FCX and Premiere, even the least experienced person can manage green screen footage effectively. I always recommend doing tests before your shoot. Make sure your camera is exposed right and your temperature settings match the environment you are shooting.
If you can adhere to these few basic ideas, then your green screen experience will be much more pleasant.
That’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed this post. Best of luck. Happy filming!
Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy © Nominated filmmaker who has written directed and produced 6 feature films, dozens of music vides and commercials, and has owned successful media companies in Las Vegas.
Kelly also does one-on-one consulting for filmmakers. Click here for more details.
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