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Fix it with Green Screen

Posted by Rocky Wyler on April 14, 2014

Every DP gets the same feeling when they hear, “client wants green screen”. It starts with the thought of “how small of a room are they going to jam us into this time to do this”?


Rule #1 For good green screen, you need some space and a proper filming location. It is ideal to have the subject 4 to 6 feet from the green screen and you need width for the lights. The actual green screen also needs to be quite a bit bigger than the subject you are shooting. We had a shoot with a pro basketball player that called for a head to toe shot in front of green screen. He is over 7 feet tall and the producer had us in a studio with an 8 foot green screen, with him in front of the screen 4 to 6 feet, the green screen came up way short. We love a painted studio with syc, but many budgets don’t allow for this, so make sure you’ve got plenty of green screen.


That brings up Rule #2, lighting has to be flat on the background, no bright spots and no shadows. Our guys like to use Diva lights for the green screen and a back highlight or rim light on subject for separation.


Rule #3 The talent cannot wear anything that is green, seems like a no brainer but many a time our guys run into talent who wears a dress, jewelry, nail polish or shirt that has some green. We had a client who had green eyes that also keyed, not so good for that job but it made for a great special effect in a few movies we did with green contact lenses! Another little problem area is hair and more specifically frizzy hair. Editors love bald guys when it comes to green screen, frizzy hair styles can cause edge problems and have led to many a makeup artist smoothing down some fancy hair styles!


Rule #4 Green screen is not a great default option for the producer who is unprepared. Several times we have shot for producers who are unsure as to what they want to key, but they feel that green screen will “save them”. This has led to more than one time our post production guys keying in a basic back drop, not a great use of your potential highly customizable post-production resource!


Rule #5 The professional HD camera world has made the whole green screen experience a lot easier but there are still some cameras that our guys like better for green screen. We like the, Sony F55, Sony F800, Sony PMW 300 (50MB) and the Canon C-300. If you go straight to a recorder like the Sound Devices PIX 240 and record in AppleProRes 422 HQ our editors love it! Since a chroma key works on the separation of colors you want to have the most control over the chroma as your job will afford. Cameras that record in a higher quality color space ALWAYS look better than cameras that don’t. For example 444 will key better that 422, and 422 color space will key better than 420. Personally I wouldn’t recommend using anything lower than 50MBps compression with minimum of a 422 color space.

I am sure that any other 50MB camera will also do the trick, but we stick to what we know works. Don’t suggest trying a camera that you have never used, confirm it works for green screen with someone you trust with your reputation and trust me on the cameras I have suggested…they will get you great results.

Following these guidelines will insure that getting great results from your green screen shoot is easy as the producer thinks it is!

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