Filmmaking Blog Posts by Indie Film Factory

How to make your green-screen look realistic

Just because you have a green-screen in your living room, doesn’t always mean you can place your talent anywhere… At least some place that looks realistic!

There is a ton of bad green-screen work out there. Surprisingly enough, most of it can be improved by planning a few basic items. One of the biggest issues we see (even when clients rent our chroma key studio and cyc wall) is that they DO NOT plan for the background. In fact, most of the time, the background is an after thought. We’ve all heard the term “we’ll fix it in post”. The reality of that fix is made much more stressful for the editor, when key planning isn’t taken into consideration.

Lets explore three basic tips:

  1. Flat, Clean surfaces.¬†There’s nothing like shooting in a real green-screen, (like Indie Film Factory!!!). However, if you cannot afford to rent a studio, you can always use a chroma key green paper roll, or fabric. These are relatively inexpensive to purchase at your local camera shops or online. BUT WARNING — BE SURE your green-screen backdrop is flat, unwrinkled and clear of any blemishes such as creases, oil spots or tears. These should be fixed on set. By doing this it can save you or your editor tremendous amounts of time. If you are using a green-screen fabric backdrop, you can use a fabric steamer (on the low setting) to push out the creases. Be sure to check with the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to care for your fabric. Another thing you can do is use sandbags or weights to stretch out the fabric, and pull the material completely flat.
  2. Figure out what backdrop you are wanting to place. Do some planning on what image you are placing behind the talent. This will help you determine the lighting you need to set up in the green-screen. If your scene takes place outside, then be sure to use “daylight” temperature lights. Additionally, determine the angle of the sunlight that is coming from your pre-determined backdrop. Another trick is to set up a mobile green screen studio outside during the time of day our background image is set in. If the background you are placing behind your subject takes place at dusk, then try shooting your scene during that time frame outside. There’s nothing like real sunlight. It can add a realism that studio lights cannot re-create.
  3. Use a video background if possible. We know its tempting. People love to throw a still image behind subjects. But why not try using an actual video clip instead? This way it allows the background to come alive with atmospheric movement and lighting fluctuations, much like it would in the real world. A static image screams bad green-screen work! There are tons of resources out there for video backgrounds. One we like using is InstaBackgrounds.

By applying these few basic tips to your green-screen work, you can bring your compositing look to a Hollywood standard. That’s all we have for you today.


-Kelly Schwarze

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