The Beginners Guide to Green Screens

The Beginners Guide to Green Screens

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What is Green Screen Photography

Green Screen Photography utilises a backdrop of a plain green screen to allow for the post-shoot addition of any background desired. It is a way of isolating the subject and replacing the green by adding a background later through the use of digital manipulation of images. This is called chroma-key photography. The technique has been used extensively for many years in the production of special effects shots in movies.

What is needed

As will be obvious, the whole process of chroma-key photography is in the digital domain. This means digital photography with a digital camera and dedicated computer software to process the photo.

Camera. You will undoubtedly already have one if you are reading this. The better the camera, the better the results and the higher levels of flexibility it will offer.

Computer. If you have a digital camera it follows you will have a computer. Most chroma-key software will run on most modern computers. It is always wise to check the software for compatibility with your current computer and operating system.

Software. Some software products will only run on a specific operating system. Others will run on several. Choose software that is compatible with the computer on which you will run it. Make sure that it offers the types of features and flexibility you need. Some programs are far more complicated to use than others, so find the most user-friendly for your level of experience. It is also wise to set a budget and shop around for the best deals. Some software for green screening comes with additional photographic capabilities that may not be needed. Find the best deal on the right software for your needs.

The screen. There are a number of different types available. Screens can be bought made of paper, vinyl, muslin, nylon, polyester, and foam-backed or not. A permanent screen can be a wall painted with appropriate paint. As with everything else, the degree of quality, durability and size of the screen will dictate the price. Some screens come with a stand, others need professional quality background stands. Pay for what you think will meet your needs, both immediate and in the foreseeable future.

Lighting. The screen needs to be well lit for best effects. This means at least two lights.

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How to do it

1. Set up the screen so that it is stable and your model or a breeze won’t make it move. Make sure there are no creases. Use water on fabric and stretch it out.

2. Set up the lighting. This is one of the most crucial stages. Light the screen separately, from the sides at 45 degree angles. Eliminate shadows and hot spots, giving a uniform background. Light the subject. This needs to be done in consideration of the image you will use for the digital background, with shadows and lighting matched appropriately, falling in the same direction.

3. Position your model so that no shadows are created on the screen. This is achieved by distance between model and screen which will stop light reflected from the screen falling on the model. Make sure the entire model is against the screen, as any part that isn’t will have a different background that will be hard to process.

4. Keep it separate! Keeping the model and the screen separate is vital. There should be no light pollution from one to the other.

5. Shoot the photo.

6. Upload the photo to your computer.

7. Use your dedicated chroma-key software to create your image. The program should guide you through.

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