Proper Green Screen Tips and Techniques
Get the green screen tips and techniques you need to properly shoot a composited sequence for your next project.
Working with a green screen presents a series of unique challenges, both in production and in post. Sometimes we jump right into green screening without really taking the steps to capture a proper sequence. The end result: Your audience knows that they’re seeing something shot on a green screen instead of a well-composited scene.
Traditional artists take time and planning to produce a work of art. Directors take the time and effort to develop a scene before shooting it. Green screen capturing requires that same attention to detail. So to help you out, we’ll share a few important green screen tips and techniques.
Pre-Visualize Your Scene
When it comes to shooting on a green screen, planning ahead is vital. Concept art and storyboards are a great way to visualize the scene before the cameras even start rolling. You can check out our article on the Art of Pre-Production: Concept Art for a better understanding of the importance of planning ahead using concept art.
Know What’s Real and Not Real
When shooting on a green screen, it is also vitally important to have a good grasp on what is real and what isn’t. As many may know, not everything in the environment needs to be created by a computer. Sometimes you need real props working in concert with your character and the CGI. In many cases these assets need to interact with one another in the space, and this is why it is incredibly important to know what needs to be real and not real.
To give you a better idea on this process, here is a short featurette from MovieClip.com that features the supervising visual effects team from Industrial Light and Magic and how they were able to achieve the final fight sequence from The Avengers.
The Importance of Lighting
Whether you’re going for a natural look, or for low or high key, the environment and the characters need to be lit in order to convey the scene clearly to the audience. This process is just as important when lighting for your green screen. Not only do you need to light your character in order to match the lighting of the environment they will populate, but you need to light the physical green screen itself. By doing this you make the time you spend chroma keying out your subject much easier.
Mark with Snapfactory has a great in-depth tutorial on properly lighting your green screen:
Framing and Camera Movement
It is very important to NOT have flat imagery in your green screen work. Flat imagery is obtained by placing the camera directly in front of the subject with the subject standing still in the scene. The only real instance where the use of this framing works is during an interview process. You can avoid flat imagery with several solutions, but the two most important are framing and movement.
By framing properly you can have the character enter and exit the frame. You can give the character something to do in the sequence and decrease the dreaded flat imagery. You can also add camera movement in the scene along with the movement of your character. By adding these two together you create an environment that the audience feels the character can physically explore and exist in.
Brandon Clark has posted a short test video that shows him utilizing a moving camera with a character and tracking points within the green screen space.
Processing your Green Screen Sequence
With your green screen sequence now shot, you need to key out your characters and props from the green screen itself. The best way to go about this process is to either use Adobe Premiere, After Effects or Nuke 9 along with a set of plug-ins. By using any of these pieces of software, along with the plug-ins and the previously discussed techniques, you can get your scene keyed out and ready for post-processing in no time.
Here is a list of software and tutorials to get you started and on your way.
- Adobe Premiere CC: See Our Article on Chroma Keying in Premiere
- Adobe After Effects CC: See Our Article on Keying in After Effects
- Nuke 9: Loads of keying tutorials over at NukeStation
We hope these techniques aid you when setting up for your next green screen sequence. If you have success using these techniques, or have questions and or comments regarding green screen capturing, let us know in the comments below.