How to Use a Green Screen: The Complete Guide

Green screen effects have been used for decades by Hollywood studios to make Superman fly or put characters into entirely new worlds, generated from cutting edge computer graphics technology. Now, that once seemingly magical effect is available to the masses, thanks to modern technology.

Just as you now have more power in the phone in your pocket than the space shuttle does in all its computers, you also have the possibility for a complete movie studio right on your desktop computer. But all that power means nothing if you don't know how to use it. In this guide, we'll take you step by step through the process of using a green screen to change your background or to place yourself in a whole new, fictional world.

What is a Green Screen?

A green screen is exactly what it sounds like. However, the term green screen is generally used to refer to what filmmakers and other video production teams do with the green screen. The art of chroma keying is removing a solid colored background and leaving behind transparent pixels. With only the foreground elements in it, this video layer can be placed over the top of any background the filmmaker chooses. When done correctly, it looks as though the actor is standing in front of the new background instead.

Green screens are also famously used by the meteorologist on your local news broadcast so that they can stand in front of the map and point out useful weather information to you. Streamers use green screen for a similar reason: the pixels made transparent by the chroma key effect allow viewers to see more of the screen. With a green screen, streamers can be on screen but conceal as little action as possible.

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How to Use a Green Screen

There are only a few steps to setting up and using a green screen with modern tools. They are presented below:

Acquire and set up the green screen — There are several ways to get a working green screen now. You can purchase a sheet of fabric and hang that behind you. You can buy chroma green paint and permanently paint the background wall in that color for more permanent solutions. All of these tools are available from your favorite video/photography stores. Alternatively, you can simply buy a bunch of green poster board and set that up.

Light the screen — The computer will remove the green screen by looping through every pixel in the video and removing any specific color of green. Uneven lighting will make the range of greens from your green screen higher due to the increased sections of light and shadow. This means increasing the tolerance of the software and possibly keying out things you don't want. Because of this, try and get the lighting on the screen as even and distinct from the foreground lighting as possible. 

Key it out — After shooting your video with the actor in front of the screen, you are ready to use your video editing software to remove it. Video software and chroma key plugins vary quite a bit, but the process is always the same. Open the chroma key feature and select one of the green pixels from the video frame. If they aren't all removed, you can play with the threshold setting until they are.

Replace the background — Again, video software varies. But this is another step that is fairly similar across all software. There should be a timeline in your video editor that has multiple video tracks. Place your keyed video above the background video or still image in this timeline, and your actor will now appear to be in front of the new background.

Conclusion

With modern video editing software, such as VideoStudio, you are ready to let your creative juices flow. When you purchase good software, like VideoStudio, you'll also get a range of other features that will let you channel your inner filmmaker or simply create more professional-looking videos.

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