A Beginner’s Guide To Green Screen

green screen

Do you have an interest in film/video making? Do you ever wonder how Sci-fi movies are filmed? Are you often thrilled by the fantastic backdrops used by your favorite gamer during their online streams? If so, then you are going to love this blog for sure!

The answer to all the above questions is one, the famous Green Screen. People who are into filmography, photography, or video making would be pretty familiar with this term as it is integral to their post-production job. But for those who don’t, technically, a green screen refers to a single-colored backdrop, usually green in color. It is extensively used for shooting films, taking photographs, making videos, recording newsroom sessions, etc. It is one of the essentials every influencer, pro-gamer, and vlogger uses to get the best out of their content. Green Screens form a part of the Chroma Keying process. This process allows people to superimpose their subject against any image or video, or add special effects using a virtual background. Baffled with the technical jargon? Fret not; read on to know more!  

Evolution of Green Screen

Nowadays, using green screens is quite normal but it wasn’t always the case. The first reference of such a backdrop being used dates back to 1898 when a black cloth was used by George Albert Smith to make objects disappear. Another well-known example of the early use of such screens in films and videography is observed in the legendary 1903 movie “The Great Train Robbery”. Here, the crew painted the windows of the train in black so that the passing scenery could be added later through visual effects (VFX).  Apart from these, many examples showcase subtler use of green screens that proved to be game-changers. It significantly helped evolve the field of visual effects, giving movies a third dimension.    

But Why Necessarily Green? 

As stated above, it wasn’t the case a few decades ago. Back in those days, black screens were widely used to shoot films, make videos, and even in photography. However, with digital evolution, there came an era of blue screens, followed by those yellow in color. In recent years, green-colored backdrops have been adopted to enhance video quality and ensure efficient use of visual effects.  

Of all the colors, green was chosen because of the fact that it’s easily distinguishable from the subjects’ skin and clothes. Besides, it was also selected as it has the highest luminosity in the entire color spectrum, making it the most readable and detectable color. Since the purpose of such screens is to provide a replaceable background, the color green can easily be digitally filtered for the superimposition of images, videos, or effects during post-production. 

Any Disadvantages?

Replacing blue screens with green ones added a lot of advantages in the post-production process. However, one disadvantage of using a green screen that still remains is light spilling. Since green is the color with the highest luminosity, it registers quite brightly. But, this same quality makes it reflect more light off its surface leading to greenish light being cast on the subjects within the shot. Many a time, this leads to difficulties in capturing a clean chroma key, especially if there’s improper lighting. 

Chroma Keying

The term keying refers to the removal of the green screen during post-production. This is generally done using video editing software. Once the keying is done, only the subject remains with a blank background, against which any image, special effects, or video can be superimposed. When this superimposition is done based on color hues, it is categorically called Chroma Keying.  

The ultimate goal of the entire process is to get the cleanest key possible so that the superimposition isn’t hindered by any digital artifact left behind. 

Making the right choice

In addition to knowing about the process, it is also essential to know the type of green screen required for the task at hand. Let’s delve deeper into the available options.  

I. Seamless Green Paper Backdrops

One of the most popularly used and readily available green screens is the seamless paper backdrop. It is widely used by videographers and photographers as it is budget-friendly, easier to set up, and hassle-free. Also, such paper backdrops are preferred when videos are shot with many highlighting elements within them. In such a case, one can easily dispose of the existing one and use another fresh paper from the roll. 

Seamless Green Screens are generally available in rolls of half-size paper that is an ideal option for people on-the-go. Examples of some of the most commonly used paper screens include the Spectrum Chroma Key Green Non-Reflective Half Paper Roll Backdrop (1.36 x 10M) and the Spectrum Non-Reflective Video Paper Roll Backdrop (2.7 x 10M) – Chroma Key Green. 

II. Green Cotton Muslins

If you are looking for green screens that could be reused over time, then the green cotton muslins are an ideal fit for you. These muslins are reusable and prove to be an excellent long-term solution for all VFX needs. They’re great for online streamers who need to block or change their background. However, they are not suitable for shooting messy videos as they can get stained. Besides, even though they are storage-friendly, they tend to crease when kept folded. Hence, continuous maintenance is required. This makes them less popular than the seamless green paper ones.

III. Green/Blue Double-Sided Collapsible Backdrop

Whether to use a green or a blue screen has long been debated. However, with the Green/Blue Double-Sided Collapsible Backdrop, this debate can be easily resolved.  

It is a collapsible pop-up double-sided backdrop that is great for a quick setup and can be easily adjusted as per the shot requirements. Screens like the Large Chroma Key Green / Blue Double-Sided Pop Up Backdrop (1.5 x 2.1M) are suitable for streamers, pro-gamers, and influencers. However, it is not preferable for shooting full-sized videos since it does not provide enough surface area, 

Blue screens are also widely used in place of the green ones. They are believed to reduce the light spilling significantly. This makes the keying process convenient, ensuring minimal digital artifacts are left behind. However, owing to its lower luminosity, since more lighting is needed in the case of blue screens its usage is restricted only to the darker scenes or environments. 

Choosing The Perfect Lighting Source

Once the keying process and the right green screen have been chosen, it is also essential to know about the proper lighting setup required. 

green screen lighting

I. Ring Lights

Ring Light is one of the most widely used lighting sources. It is preferred by almost everyone, from social media influencers to YouTubers, streamers, and vloggers, due to its affordability, multiple light tones, and ease of mobility. Not only does it help while filming in poorly lit areas, but also, the ring shape of the bulb provides softer and even lighting on faces, making the shot look more real.  

II. Soft Boxes

Another popular option, preferred by photographers and videographers, is a Soft Box. Generally rectangular in shape, a soft box controls the body and direction of light, reducing the occurrence of light spill. They produce a natural-looking glow, making the shot appear more appealing. The ease of mobility also makes it a handy equipment in case of varying shot-based light placement.

Things To Keep In Mind

I. Lighting

Lighting is the most crucial factor to be considered when working with green screens. Where complex and cold lighting can make a scene look lifeless, warmer and soft lighting can help bring out the vibrance in the subject beautifully.

II. Subject Placement

Apart from lighting, another essential factor to be considered is the distance at which the subject is placed from the light source. Even the direction of light is of great importance, as they both go hand in hand in determining the shadows, blacks, and whites in photography or videos. 

III. Exposition

In addition to the above, exposure is also an essential factor. Darker backgrounds will result in noisy shots, while more lighting will render inferior image quality. Hence, as a thumb rule, the background should be lit twice as bright as the center subject. 

IV. Clothes

Costume colors also play a crucial role in chroma keying. Since the entire process revolves around background color isolation, the clothes worn by the subject, or the color of the object being used should not be in complete harmony with the background. It will lead to digital artifacts that will make the shot look unreal.

Green Screen – A Blessing In Disguise

Greens screens have been used for quite some time now, but until recently, were restricted to professional filmmakers only. However, with the digital evolution and cheaper substitutes being introduced in the market, it is now used by a much larger community of creators. This has helped them make better videos and boosted their creativity.

Earlier, creators experimented with different backgrounds while shooting videos, which led to light spills, distinct shadows, improper light toning, etc. But now, with the availability of both digital and physical green screens, these issues no longer stand in their way.

Many short video apps like Rizzle also run educational training sessions for their creator communities to help them learn the use of green screens and introduce them to the art of chroma keying. Whether you want to shoot videos in space or underwater, the amazing in-built green screen feature offered by Rizzle makes it possible in a single tap. 

So, now with the knowledge of the green screens, go out loud to create engaging content with interesting backdrops on short video platforms like Rizzle and notch up your virality!

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1 Comment

  1. Rashmikant J Dave

    Very useful information you shared. Please guide me on how to create a channel/account on Rizzle?

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