Green Screen Tips

The right green screen tips can take your effect shot from an amateur disaster to a professional masterpiece. Have you ever made a green screen shot and you are not so pleased with the results. Did you have shadows around your subject? Was there a green haze jumping in and out of the screen? Maybe your subject looked like he just got slimed by a ghost because he had green in his hair. These are some of the most common mistakes that people encounter when making a chroma key effect. Green screens are meant to create realistic backgrounds. The audience has to believe that your subject is really where you are portraying them to be. If you make any of the aforementioned errors (or others which may arise) your shot will look unprofessional and no one will believe that it is real.

In order to make realistic scenes or effects you just can't start shooting with a colored screen in the background and add a chroma key effect during editing. There are steps that you must take in order to obtain the cleanest key and make your shot look fantastic. You will learn those steps by following our green screen tips.

As you'll see the steps you need to take are simple. Due diligence and taking care to make sure you follow each piece of advice will increase your chances of creating a believable shot. With some nice shots and these chroma key tricks at your disposal you will be creating Hollywood style effects in no time.

Green Screen Techniques

•    Prepare Your Green Screen

If you have imperfections on your green screen they will show in your key. Make sure your screen is clean and free of wrinkles. If your screen is made of washable fabric you should wash, dry, and iron it before the shoot. If you are using a paper screen make sure the section you are using as the foreground is free of stains, cracks, or tears.

•    Prepare Your Subject

Never place your subject right next to the screen. Move your subject as far away from the screen as possible. Make sure your subject wears clothes that are a different color than your background. Make sure you avoid greens, browns and khaki for green screens and jeans and other blue clothes for blue screens. You don't want them to blend into the scene or disappear. Avoid wearing jewelry. If your subject has frizzy or wild hair you might want to pull their hair back, have them wear a hat, or just find a new subject.

•    Shoot Your Background First

If you are planning on creating your own background you must shoot your background first. Why? Well, if you shoot your foreground before you shoot the background you cannot do a thorough review of the background. When making the background place your subject in the spot where they will be in the finished shot to see where the light falls. Make sure you make notes of your camera angle and light sources. This green screen tip will be of great benefit to you when it is time to set up your lights and shoot the foreground. 

•    Do A Thorough Review of the Background

Many people use loops or digital backgrounds when doing chroma key effects. If the lights in the background your using doesn't match the direction of the lights you are using do you think it will look realistic? If you do you are fooling yourself. Take some time to view the background you will use for lighting and shadows. Write down where the light and shadows fall, and set up your lights to match the background lighting before you start shooting.

•    Get Your Light Right

Taking care to make sure your lights are set up right way will prevent a multitude of video snafus and save time when editing. The right setup will make your key truly believable. An incorrect set up will lead to green halos, bleeding colors, and other blending issues. In order to avoid these errors you must light the foreground and the background separately. Your green screen must be lit separately. Only light the screen around the portion where the subject will be (section that will be replaced by the background). Make sure the light in the background is at a lower level than the light in the foreground. Lastly, do not use diffusion filters when shooting your foreground subject. You can also view our lighting page for a good example of how to light your set.

•    Shoot For Easy Editing

When it's time to start recording you need to make sure that you set yourself up for success during editing. If you followed the green screen tips above you might as well go all the way and get it right. When you shoot your footage record in progressive mode rather than interlaced mode if your device allows for it. Progressive mode creates cleaner edges, allows for more flexibility when editing, and saves you time when editing. If you prefer interlacing add it after you have completed the chroma key.

Earlier we said "Only light the screen around the portion where the subject will be". You should also focus on shooting as small an area as possible. Try your best to get only the subject and a small area around the subject. If you shoot the entire screen you will create rougher edges on your footage. Set your camcorder to 4:3 aspect ratio (even if you are shooting a 16:9 production). If your subject is standing you can even turn your camcorder at a 90 degree angle to keep out unnecessary space on the sides of your shot.


So there you have it. All the information you need to create great chroma keys. These green screen tips are tried and true techniques which have been used for years. If you want the end product to look professional and realistic you have to put in the work. The road may be long but the end result will be remarkable.

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