Hollywood studios use green screen to create all kinds of incredible special effects. Your local weatherperson uses it to look like they’re standing in front of a cool weather map.
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But you don’t have to be a big-shot movie director or even a local TV station to enjoy the many benefits green screen (or, as it’s technically called — chroma key) offers.
Oct 15, 2020 - Explore Will's board 'GREEN SCREEN IDEAS' on Pinterest. See more ideas about greenscreen, movie special effects, greenscreen ideas.
- One of my favorite apps for the iPad has got to be Green Screen by Do Ink. This post will share some ideas which I hope you may be able to share with your students or other teachers. Here comes the historical background section of this post My past with Green Screen goes back quite a few years ago to a conference when I saw Hall Davidson speak.
- Browse 109 Green Screen Ideas on Houzz Whether you want inspiration for planning green screen or are building designer green screen from scratch, Houzz has 109 pictures from the best designers, decorators, and architects in the country, including Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery and M & D Roofing & Renovations. Look through green.
In fact, all you need to make a professional-quality green screen video is a smartphone or webcam, some fabric, good video editing software, and a little know-how.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Before we get started on the how, let’s talk about the what and why.
What exactly is a green screen, and why would you ever want to use a green screen effect in your video?
What is green screen?
Using green screen in video replaces the background of a video with a digital or virtual background. It offers the most natural-looking way to integrate your subject into your video.
Instead of putting each visual element in its own frame (a la picture-in-picture), green screen lets you blend them. In fact, done correctly, you would never suspect they were two separate video streams.
In the most technical terms, green screen, blue screen, chroma key, chroma key compositing all refer to the same idea. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on color hues (chroma range).
In layperson’s terms, it’s superimposing one image or video stream over another so it looks like one image or stream.
Newscasting, motion picture, and video game industries love this technique, but anyone can use the green screen effect.
Given the current working conditions of most people during the global pandemic, it’s a safe bet you’ve had a Zoom meeting or two with coworkers or others who’ve had cool virtual backgrounds. Green screen is really the same concept, but will typically provide a more professional result.
Green screen has come a long way since Lawrence Butler won an academy award for his special effects in the 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad.
Back then, the process was quite complex. Adding green screen required a lot of time and highly specialized equipment.
Now, you can easily do it in the comfort of your own home with minimal equipment and technical skills.
Make professional-quality videos — no pro skills required!
Download a free trial of Camtasia and see how easy it can be to create amazing videos.
Why use green screen?
As noted above, you’ve likely seen a meteorologist use a green screen to report the weather. Meteorologists stand in front of the green screen point out specific parts of the forecast. But the green screen does more than provide clarity. It also allows them to personalize their broadcast and connect to their viewers.
Although you may not be detailing cold fronts from your desk, I’d bet you still have opportunities to connect with an audience at work. A green screen is a great option for adding a personal touch to lots of different types of videos.
Consider using it the next time you need to:
Chroma key (remember, that’s green screen’s “technical name”) is a big deal for anyone who needs to connect with viewers. When done well, a green screen can give your video a professional aesthetic on the cheap.Create an online training video by superimposing yourself over all or just part of the lesson. This is an instant upgrade over talking through a PowerPoint presentation — and it’s way more impressive than just doing picture-in-picture with your webcam.
Whether you want to make it look like you (or your video subject) is on the moon or an African safari — or you just want to obscure the drab or uninspiring walls of your office or home studio, green screen makes it easy.
And, you don’t need to build a fancy set or rent studio time. You can shoot your video anywhere and replace the background with a branded graphic, stock photo, or video element.
In fact, TechSmith Assets for Camtasia offers a huge library of potential backgrounds you can use!
How to create your own green screen background
To pull off this technique, all you need is a few things: A green or blue piece of cloth/fabric, a camera, lights, and some video editing software.
Step 1: Get a backdrop
First, get a piece of muslin cloth that’s a bright shade of green.
Best Green Screen Ideas
Avoid a color that matches your skin tone so you don’t blend into your background.
Blue screen backdrops are also available, but they can cause problems if the person on camera has blue eyes or clothes. If you don’t want to mess around with hanging a cloth, a collapsible green screen panel is a nice option.
This example from Amazon includes both a green and blue collapsible screen.
Since it’s not too big (5′ x 7′), it’s perfect for when you need to travel for a shoot. We’ll discuss shadows and more when we get into lighting. But for now, remember to stand as close to the backdrop as you can without casting a shadow on it. This is usually around two or three feet. Also, make sure to keep your hands close to your body. Any part of your arm or hand that extends past the backdrop will look cut off in your final video.
Step 2: Pick your camera
Next, you’ll want to pick a camera or webcam that shoots HD quality video (720p or higher) at a decent frame rate (24 fps or above). Make sure your camera saves out files in a format your green screen software can import. We’ve had good success using an iPhone, but most any digital camcorder will work.
No matter what camera you choose, Camtasia makes it easy to import your video and make your edits.
When you’re just starting out, recording footage on your smartphone might seem daunting. We’ve put together some tips and advice for shooting videos on your mobile device. We cover everything you need to know about audio, shot composition, and lighting.
Step 3: Set up your lighting
The next step is optional but recommended. It may take a little trial and error to get it right, but you’ll love the results.
Shadows can be the enemy of great green screen video, so you want to be sure your background is as well-lit as possible. Use a flat green background. The flatter the green, the easier it will be to remove the screen.
Don’t worry too much about getting a perfectly lit set, though. The Remove a Color effect in Camtasia is quite forgiving of background shadows. Spend a few minutes tweaking the settings and you should be good.
More advanced lighting for green screen
If you’re having trouble getting the background to disappear or there’s a slight halo around the person, try to upgrade your lighting. The more even your lighting, the better the effect will be.
The easiest thing to try is a couple of hardware store clamp-on work lights with high-output LED bulbs. You’ll also need something to clamp them on. Aim the lights so that the green screen doesn’t have dark areas or bright areas. Focus your efforts on the area directly behind the person you’re shooting. You’ll be able to crop out the excess space later.
To throw a lot of light, you need a few bulbs in each fixture. You could build your own video lighting rig for less than $100 (see video below). Or if you’re not into DIY projects, you can shop around for a video softbox. CowboyStudio is a good place to start. Look for “continuous lighting” as opposed to flash or strobe lighting.
Whether you buy or build, it’s best to use a diffusion filter for each light. That will help keep your lights from throwing shadows.
This quick video shows you how to build your own lighting kit on the cheap.
(You can also get a few tips of the trade for making your subjects look more natural.)
Not seeing the video? Watch it on YouTube…
Step 4: Get the right software
In the Camtasia video editor, you can remove your green screen with just a few clicks. In fact, Camtasia 2020 makes it easier than ever to create professional-quality videos — no pro skills required.
From easy-to-use and share video templates and themes to a wide variety of assets and resources to help you on your way, Camtasia 2020 takes the guesswork out of video creation and puts you and your team at ease.
Anyone can make a green screen video
Green screen video may seem intimidating and difficult, but with the right tools and a few tips and tricks, anyone can master this useful technique. Whether you’re making videos for 5 or 5,000 people, they’ll be amazed at the professional quality and engaging experience green screen provides.
Make professional-quality videos — no pro skills required!
Download a free trial of Camtasia and see how easy it can be to create amazing videos.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Cover image via
There’s no shortage of movies that use visual effects, but only a few have been totally cutting-edge and crazy when it comes to green screen.
The art of an innovative chroma key is truly underrated. It can turn a good movie into a great movie. It can take a bad movie and make it tolerable. The idea is simple — use a green screen (sometimes a blue screen), cloth, or paint to composite images together during the post-production process. With most of the big-budget blockbuster tent poles you see in theaters nowadays, you’re bound to see some creative green screen uses taking place. But the truth is, great green screen happens without you ever knowing it.
Some of the best visual effects ever attempted on the silver screen were so meticulously and flawlessly executed that I left the theater not even realizing I had seen a computer-generated image. It was only later that I found out the entire background was a composite. From the iconic cartoon-live-action hybrid of Who Framed Roger Rabbit to David Fincher’s subtly feigned suburbia in Gone Girl, these are some of the most innovative and creative uses of the green screen ever, in no particular order.
1. The Great Train Robbery
Technically, The Great Train Robbery didn’t incorporate a green screen. But, the film features one of the first known uses of visual effects. The makers pulled off their desired VFX by cleverly layering footage on top of each other. To do this, they simply took the route of double exposing a negative. They recorded a scene first with the windows blacked out. Then they rewound or removed and replaced the negative and recorded the same shot, but this time the rest of the room was dark and the windows were exposed to show a train passing by. Its basically two exposures on one negative frame. Does that make sense? Watch the clip above so you can see for yourself.
This is one of cinema’s earliest films, proving that filmmaking has always been built on the back of the DIY mentality. These artists pushed boundaries and found new ways to tell stories. It’s a reminder to throw out the budget. Throw out conventional techniques. It always comes down to your story, and how hard you’re willing to work to tell it.
2. The Films of David Fincher
David Fincher‘s unique use of VFX pushes the boundaries in every film. Image via Twentieth Century Fox.
There are a ton of factors that go into making a movie. Between the screenplay, acting, cinematography, and visual effects, when they all work together, the audience is transported to another world for two hours. That’s why the best visual effects are the ones you never notice – that ones that don’t take you out of the experience.
David Fincher’s films have always pushed the boundaries of VFX, but they’re so subtle they rarely get noticed. Whether it’s the opening title sequence of Fight Club, or the backwards de-aging of Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, his films are wholly unique and inventive. The moment I really started to appreciate his approach to green screen was when I saw this reel from Gone Girl. Just take a look.
So small, so boring, so insignificant, right? It’s just a green screen in the background, after all. But really think about the foresight this requires. It’s a perfect example of a director with vision, executing that vision down to the color of a sign that’s out-of-focus in the background. (Oh, and it’s also cut off halfway, so you can’t even see the sign.) If you want another insane VFX breakdown of a Fincher project, check out this Mindhunter breakdown. It takes the green screen for what it’s really meant for — not replacement, but creation. Fincher’s approach is also also extremely doable. If you’ve ever wondered where to start with green screens — from what to buy and how to pick out the right material — check out our recent breakdown on green screen kits or DIY green screens.
3. Body Suits
This technique has only improved movies. Here’s why. Number one, it gives the animators and VFX artists a real, human reference point to work with. Number two, it gives the actors a real human to act with and react to. Actually standing, touching, and speaking to an all-CGI character is so much harder to execute when there’s nothing actually there. Think about actors with raptor heads interacting with Christ Pratt on the set of Jurassic World. Or, Robert Downey, Jr. standing next to Mark Ruffalo wearing a big Hulk head as a hat in the Avengers films. It’s a genius way to help the VFX artists and actors work together to tell a better, more believable story.
And, if I’m being honest, looking at behind-the-scenes photos of crews wearing full, green body suits — acting their hearts out — is my new favorite pastime.
4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Filming a movie almost entirely in front of a green screen was a wild, new approach to storytelling. Image via Walt Disney Studios.
When I started making this list, my plan was to include Space Jam. Space Jam was one of my favorite movies growing up, and it’s still a classic in cinema history. I knew that its innovative approach to including a live-action character in a cartoon world was definitely one of the most insane ideas and executions of all time. However, I’m going to have to give the insane-green-screen statuette to Robert Zemeckis‘ beloved classic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Most sequences were shot heavily in front of a blue screen using methods both weird and wonderful. For the most part, lead actor Bob Hoskins had to act entirely on his own on a bare blue screen set, pretending he’s surrounded by cartoons in a cartoon world. This was definitely an out-of-the-box approach to telling a story, and clearly, it inspired future films like Space Jam and Spy Kids.
If you find yourself working on a similar project, with the actor working entirely in front of a blue or green screen, the keying process will be hugely important. After Effects is the most popular program to effectively pull off a convincing green/blue screen effect. If you need to key out a person with some kind of animated or composited background, here’s how to get the best results with our keying in After Effects tutorial.
Green Screen Ideas & Strategies Inc
5. Pan’s Labyrinth
The master of creature-practical effects, Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth did so much right. Between the story, cinematography, score, and visual effects, the film is an air-tight look at what can be done when an auteur is given complete creative freedom. The single greatest decision in the making of the movie (remember, this is just my opinion) was casting his trusted costume-wearing actor Doug Jones as the fawn character. Jones wore complete prosthetics with the exception of his legs, which were keyed out. The character is a sinister figure, immediately kicking the film into overdrive once he shows up.
What this did was allow there to be a practical character, while still allowing there to be an impractical visual to it. The legs bend backwards and he appears taller, so it could be argued that in any other film with any other director, they would’ve made the creature entirely CGI — but they didn’t — and the movie is now one of the most beloved of all time. The power of smart visual effects! Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road is another great example of this technique. Her arm with the green screen sleeve is minor, but adds so much to her character, with the mechanical arm/hand that she uses throughout.
6. Sin City / Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The origin of translating comic books to the silver screen was a groundbreaking endeavor. Image via Dimension Films.
This might sound like a weird choice, but Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the first production to really figure out how to translate comic books to the silver screen. Released one year before Sin City, the film is an original story inspired by comic books. The director, Kerry Conran, spent four years filming a test trailer for the movie entirely in his garage with blue screens. A perfect example of whats possible when you take the time to perfect green screen production.
Obviously, not every comic book translation needs to have the distinct visual style of either of these films, but they were certainly groundbreaking for the time. Sin City was shot entirely in a studio with green screen. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino knew how animated the aesthetic needed to feel. The almost cartoonish background added to the fantastical nature of the story, and the studio setting allowed for creative lighting – vaudevillian at times, and intense film noir at others. I’ve grouped the two together because of the close proximity in release and shoot dates. No matter your opinion on the movies, this was definitely an eye-opening experience for productions and filmmakers everywhere, pushing the boundaries of the visual medium.
7. Star Wars
The use of miniatures for the X-Wing sequences was nothing less than revolutionary. Image via Lucasfilm Ltd.
With Star Wars, this isn’t so much the fact that they used a blue screen for the X-Wing sequences, but more so how they lit these scenes and used hand-crafted miniatures in a believable way. There’s nothing about this movie that wasn’t groundbreaking. The production even prompted the creation of the Dykstraflex, a computer-controlled camera system used for filming the miniatures in front of blue screens. This was a glorious combination of technical innovation applied to existing technology. These methods were also used in the other films of the original trilogy. Whether it was adding a snowy Hoth background, or the moon of Endor, these lived-in backdrops created a seamless blend of fantasy and reality that anchored the wonderful films we know and love.
You might be wondering why i was shot on blue screen instead of green. We asked ourselves the same question. Turns out, green screen didn’t get popular until digital post production became the standard. You can learn more in our examination of blue screen vs green screen.
Good Green Screen Ideas
I hope the message of this article is to simply get creative. It’s important to look at where we’ve come, but never be satisfied with where we’re at. Keep thinking of new ways to tell stories and push the boundaries with never-before-seen techniques.
Cover image via Warner Bros.
Green Screen Ideas For Students
Here are a few of our past articles that will help you learn how to master the art of the green screen: