How To Use Green Screen (In 4 Easy Steps)

Video Transcription

In this video, you will learn how to use green screen for your video content – and how to avoid the most common mistakes!

Green screen effects are awesome. One minute you could be… on a beach…

On the moon…

Or being chased by a dinosaur.. Yelp!

Yet mistakes with green screens are common. But, have no fear, by following our easy 4-step guide you will be able to build, light, shoot and edit your green screen content like a pro in no time.

Hi, I’m Jess. Before we begin, make sure you subscribe to our channel and hit the notification bell so that you get notified when we upload new videos to help you with your video marketing.

So let’s get started with our green screen tutorial, starting with:

Step 1: Building your Green Screen

When it comes to building your green screen, it depends of course on what you are looking to get from it. Perhaps you want a clean, sophisticated background for your piece-to-cameras, or maybe you are looking to get creative and make use of special effects.

There are essentially two popular options when it comes to building a green screen. The first is chroma key paint.

It can be purchased online and is a good option for a static shot that doesn’t have any angles other than a medium shot. But using chroma key paint is a somewhat permanent solution because you’ll have to paint a wall—which is why it’s not our preferred option.

Instead, I recommend opting for a green sheet made of fabric or card. What’s great about this option is that your green screen is now portable and you can have a bigger shooting area without sacrificing a large amount of space permanently.

If you’re on the move a lot, you can find some great green screens that are perfect for piece-to-cameras, like portable pull-up screens or collapsible backgrounds.

You may have heard of blue screen, and that could still be an option for you. It’s worth noting that the goal of having a screen for chroma keying effects is to create the most significant contrast between the performer and the screen.

The reason why green is most commonly used is that video cameras are most sensitive to the colour green. Out of all three primary colours—blue, green and red—green has the highest luminance, therefore delivering the least amount of distortion to your camera and the starkest contrast to most subjects.

However, in some cases, like where your scene requires foliage or green plants, or when your subject has light blonde or even white hair, a blue screen might be a better pick for you.

Whichever option you choose to go with, you’ll want to make sure that you have a big enough area for the action required to take place—and, in the case that you’re shooting an action-filled scene, I recommend going with a much larger green screen sheet!

If you opt to go with a sheet, make sure there are no wrinkles as they can be a nightmare during the editing process.

Also, if at any point the floor is going to appear in your shoot, you’ll need to have your green screen fold down to cover it.

So once you’ve got your screen, you’ll now need to know how to light it. So onto…

Step 2: Light Your Green Screen

Proper lighting is critical when it comes to using a green screen because it creates even colouring and eliminates shadows, making it a lot easier during the editing process.

When it comes to lighting your green screen, the major takeaway is to avoid “green spill”. This is when the colour of your screen taints everything around it with just a hint of green, which usually results in green looking performers.

The number one way to avoid this is to make sure you light both the screen and performer correctly, which we’ll now show you how. 

When lighting the backdrop, your goal is to not only illuminate the screen but also reduce shadows and wrinkles.

To light the backdrop, use two lights that are positioned from different angles, each a couple of feet from the screen. If you choose to go with a pull-up screen, collapsible backdrop or simply to paint the wall, getting rid of wrinkles won’t be a major issue, but you’ll still want to illuminate the backdrop as much as you can.

Once your backdrop is lit, it’s time to light your subject. I recommend using three separate lights—a key light, fill light and backlight. Your key light is the most prominent one creating the most light on your subject.

Your fill light is softer and placed at the opposite angle of the key light. Its purpose is to fill the shadows caused by the key light. And finally, the blacklight helps to illuminate the edges of the performer. This is the most important light when it comes to using a green screen as it helps to define a clear line between the subject and the backdrop.

Using the proper lighting will help eliminate any editing headaches, so I highly recommend investing in your lighting set up. When you’re purchasing your green screen, there are a number of quality packages that include lighting kits at a reasonable price.

If you want a more in-depth lighting tutorial, check out our video on the 3 essential lighting set ups that is available on our channel.

You’ve nailed your lighting, now it’s time for the fun to begin!

Step 3: Shooting on a green screen

Before we delve in, I know a lot of you will want to know the best camera settings for green screen, so I’m going to offer my advice based on what we use.

You’ll want to set your shutter speed a tad bit higher than you normally would—around 80 or even 100—to avoid the blurry motion that you get at a lower speed. This will help rid you of dealing with it later on in post-production, and you can always add it back in later.

A good aperture for green screen is something around 5.6, because it’s shallow enough for the background to be out of focus helping to decrease any creases or hot spots if they accidentally end up in the shot. Lastly, when possible, try to avoid high ISO as you want to get the cleanest image possible without a lot of noise.

Now that you’re set up, here’s my best advice for shooting on a green screen.

First and foremost, and probably the most often-given advice: make sure your subjects aren’t wearing any green.

You’ll also want to eliminate any reflective jewellery or glossy makeup otherwise you might attract green spill. Lastly, consider the soft edges of hair and clothing and try to reduce them as much as possible—for example, I have my hair tied back as sometimes it can get a little too wispy.

When working with a green screen, it’s essential that you know what action will take place and choreograph it perfectly so your performers are interacting with elements as they are happening.

Likewise, you’ll want to consider camera angle—at any point does the subject move out of the screen? And continuously make sure that your lighting is consistent while filming.

My last piece of advice is to try to review as you shoot. This is where you set up an external monitor that is “live chroma keying” so that your crew and cast can see how it looks. If you’re going to pursue this, I recommend checking out Open Broadcaster Software.

And Last but not least…

Step 4: Edit your green screen footage

Now that your footage has been shot and you’re happy with your scenes, it’s time to move into post-production.

My key advice when it comes to editing green screen footage is going to seem like a cop-out, but it’s one of the best pieces of advice out there: watch online tutorials on how to chroma key for your specific software!

When it comes to editing green screen footage, each software has its own nuances, and sometimes when you’re looking for a quick fix for an issue, it’s really important that you’re getting help from someone using your specific software.

That said, load your footage into your editing program. Upload your background footage into the bottom layer. Select the “chroma key effect”, which will be called something different in each software—in Premiere Pro this it’s the “Ultra Key Effect” but in Final Cut you’ll be adding the “foreground clip.” Then, make minor tweaks to eliminate all of the green edges of your performer before applying any other audio and video edits. And when you’re satisfied with your project, render and export the final product.

There you have it, you now know how to build, light, shoot and edit with a green screen. I hope you’ve found it useful. If so—make sure you subscribe to our channel so you’re updated every time we post one of these videos to help with your video marketing.

If you need any further help with your video production, you can always get in touch with us here at Spiel, by visiting Thanks for Watching!