How to use Green Screen backgrounds to boost your content creation game

We have all been fans of the Harry Potter movies and their great visual effects just made us binge on them even more. But here’s a fact you probably didn't know - most of these visual scenes, environments and locations weren't real - they were generated by computer graphics. But it looked so real!

It looked real because the movies used the Green Screen or Chroma Key technique while filming. In this technique, the scene is shot with a green or blue background. The VFX team later replaces that background with their computer-generated graphics. And that's how an impossibly stunning visual is created.

That's cool, but what can you, an average person, do with it?

Today content creation is the fastest way to get yourself heard and seen. While that's the case, why wouldn't you want to use Hollywood-worthy video making techniques, especially if they are very easy to do and can come by quite affordably?


What’s a Green Screen?

Chroma Keying is a visual effects and post production technique where two images or video streams are layered together. The green area is where the second image or video gets inserted. It is used in many film & TV productions to customize the backgrounds behind the subject, actor or presenter. Sometimes, it is used to customize a foreground character or prop. That's how news weather presenters operate - they present in front of a green background where the map is later inserted. Some movies even insert completely CGI characters, like the dragons in Game of Thrones, and they use similar techniques to make it look realistic.

So to make a professional video like this, all you need is a camera - your Smartphone Camera will work - a green sheet or wall as the background and the right video editing software. It really helps if you are familiar with some good editing software. We recommend Filmora Wondershare - it has great features and is priced very well, especially for content creators, youtubers and independent film makers.

Why use a Green Screen?

The use of Green Screens is no longer exclusive to professional film production. Independent film makers, social media content creators and gaming streamers are now using it too. For a lot of independent creators, using methods like green screens sets them apart and makes their content more compelling. These are the advantages they see:


  1. Customizability: You can literally shoot an entire movie in a single studio. By using green screens for backgrounds and props, you can digitally enhance them and insert almost any CGI backgrounds, assets and props. Unlike traditional shoots, green screens allow you to change the background digitally, post production. Nothing is set in stone and everything can be upgraded, enhanced and modified.

  2. Time and resource saver: Let’s say you are a photographer and you are clicking pictures of a kid. Having a playground in the background is cool, but wouldn't it be awesome to have Disneyland in the background instead? How do you do this without travelling all the way to Disneyland? Green screens. By using a green screen you don’t have to travel to the location to shoot the scene. The location comes to you. You can save on travelling, shoot schedules and so many other logistical variables. If you're good at editing and have a library of stock clips and shots, you can add all the details in post. 

  3. Endless possibilities: The idea of Green Screens has been used creatively to achieve numerous other effects that would have been expensive or impractical to implement otherwise. Consider the Invisible Man movie - it was shot with an actor wearing a green suit. The actor was removed in editing using the same technique to make him invisible. The famous social media video of an actor stepping out of a real TV - again shot with layered Green Screens. Film makers are constantly experimenting and coming up with innovative uses of Green Screen editing to achieve insane effects, and the possibilities are infinite.



So why Green?

That is the first thing that comes to mind - why must the screen be green?

Technically, you can go with any color. The editing software finds all the parts of the shot containing your chosen colour and uses it as a mask to overlay the secondary video. So, if you wear a green T-shirt while filming with a Green Screen, the secondary video will get overlaid on your T-shirt as well as the background, making you 'invisible' in the edited shot. After trial and error with this technique, film makers realised that a bright neon green was least probable to match any piece of clothing or costume that an actor wore, making it the go-to choice for this technique. Often, colours like bright blue are also used in case the actor's costume or props have to be green.

The only thing you need to keep in mind here is that the background shouldn't match anything else in the shot. While customizing and editing, make sure you use a strongly distinct background colour with the subject and let the subject be highlighted.

What happens when your clothes match the Green Screen

Where can you use a Green Screen?

Now that you know how it works, how can you incorporate Green Screen technology in your daily life? Here are some ideas: 

  1. Make awesome marketing videos: Gone are the days when it took weeks and large budgets to product high quality videos for marketing. With a smartphone, green screen and some good lighting, you can shoot stunning clips of your product and compile it into a professional marketing video.

  2. Create engaging Social Media content: Social Media works best for you when your posts are unique and engaging. Using Green Screen effects can help you with both of these. Using green screen backgrounds can enhance your content and put you or your product on a background and theme of your choice.

  3. Creating informative YouTube videos: If you are or aspire to be a Youtuber, adding a simple Green Screen background can enhance the professionalism of your videos and add credibility to them. Especially for videos with talking heads, shooting on a green screen and then inserting images or videos to complement your script can really help your audience connect with your content.

  4. Be a professional Streamer: Streamers usually create content with a feed of themselves layered over the content that they are sharing. This is especially true for gaming streamers on platforms like Twitch. By using a Green Screen, the content in your stream gets more screen space and makes the stream look very clean.

  5. Make an online course videos: If you are or plan to be an online educator, the green screen approach can make your videos very professional. With the help of a Green Screen you can insert clips, images and sketches to complement the course content and add more value.


Getting started with a Green Screen background

Sounds interesting? Great, let's get you started with a Green Screen background for your content creation. We won't get into advanced uses of Green Screens yet, but once you get the hang of the basics, you'll be a pro in no time. Follow these steps to use a green screen:

  1. Get a green background: You need something that covers the entire background in green. You can either buy a Green Screen with a stand or get yourself a large cloth of a vibrant shade of green. Remember to avoid using clothing and props that match the colour of the green screen. If you want to go for a studio-style green screen, you can get different sizes and options based on your use case.

  2. Have good lighting: Lighting is of essence, but remember to avoid casting shadows on the green screen background to minimise editing complications. The lighting should be strong but diffused, so shadows are reduced and don't become a challenge in post. 

  3. Choose a video editing software: There are several powerful video editing software out there. You can pick the one that you are most familiar with or can get hold of easily. Some software come with a free trial, so if you are just experimenting, you can get started with those. We recommend Wondershare Filmora. In case you aren't comfortable with editing it yourself, get a video editor to help. You can find one online on Fiverr - open the link and search for "video editing".

  4. Pick your camera: To make high quality videos you need a camera that shoots in HD quality. Make sure that your camera saves out the file in a format your video editing software can import.

  5. Plan and execute the shot: Remember to keep the actor or prop a little away from the Green Screen to avoid shadows. Make sure that the lighting angles in the shoot match the lighting that your background will have. Have an idea of what your post production shot is going to look like before actually executing the shot. A few trials in, you will get the hang of it.

What can you do with Green Screen backgrounds?

We can see examples of Green Screen movies all the time. If you've watched the Avengers movies, most of what you are seeing is green screen magic. The wide scope for innovations with Chroma keying has broadened the horizons for what can be done in post-production. You may have seen images or scenes that use Green Screens and not even realised it.

Let’s look at some examples: 

  1. Gone Girl: We should really appreciate the foresight of the director, working on imagining and therefore creating the scene with all its perfection. Here, green screens were used to enhance the backgrounds and make the locations look more like the story demanded. This is a very subtle but powerful use of Green Screens. Check it out here.

  1. Avengers Movies: This was a green screen overload. From major action scenes to simple things like computer screens and the JARVIS interface that Tony uses, all made use of this method. A lot of the characters, especially Hulk had to be CGI as well, and green body props were used for other actors to interact with them. The result was one of the biggest blockbusters ever. Check it out here.

  2. Your news weather reporter: Behind the scenes, weather reporters are simply pointing at a blank Green screen. The map is overlaid there with simple CGI software. The weather reporter has a monitor that shows what they're pointing at and it helps them point at the right thing at the right time. That approach is much cheaper to implement than having a huge screen behind the weather reporter.

The Green Screen has always been a very powerful video and movie production tool. Green Screens probably seemed very difficult to use and understand before, but this article hopefully changes that for you. Not only is it easy to use, it is also a great opportunity for content creators and film makers to create amazing content. Initially getting used to it may take some time. But you keep using it, you will be a content creator with a serious edge over the competition.

What effect do you plan to execute with chroma keying? Let us know in a comment.

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