Green Screen – A Primer

Nowadays most of us are familiar with the idea that if someone is filmed against a flat, green (or blue) screen we can replace the green with a still image or video later on.  This technique, more accurately known as chromakey, is a relatively straightforward process, which can be used with to good effect for executives or actors.

For executives the reason we film against green screen is usually to put some sort of graphic imagery behind them.  Most simply this would be a talking head with a basic branded image, but green screen would also allow us to “fly” animated text or graphics behind as well as in front of them.

Another reason to film execs against green screen might be to put them in a setting that’s impractical to actually film in such as a noisy open plan office or a building site.

We often film executives against green screen in their premises.  Lighting for green screen has to be technically precise, so just to set-up the backdrop and the camera we need an area of around 5 metres by 5 metres.  On top of that there needs to be space for the crew and stakeholders to stand or sit – so it needs to be a large room.

Of course, a lot of green screen is shot in studios – where controlling the lighting is easier.  At the high-end it’s Tom Cruise falling out of an aeroplane, for corporate productions we often film a presenter against green screen so we can integrate them with a graphic presentation.

Another way to use green screen is as a cheap way to create a set.  You can put performers into a Newsnight style of studio with just a couple of chairs.

With drama green screen can be used to put actors into any environment.  I particularly enjoy putting actors into comic book style settings.

The backgrounds can be minimal or fancy – it’s all good fun.  Just remember that anything the actors touch – a chair or a cup of tea – has to be in the room with them.  It’s only the backgrounds that are fake.

For learning content it can be useful to make the setting abstracted so that our attention is focussed on the drama.

Making a video with actors in drawn environments is probably no cheaper than filming them in everyday real environments, but you can send them to the moon for a reasonable price.

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