We just finished shooting two Green Screen projects. One is for a company doing management training where the video will be inserted into their online training and the other is a series of interviews to be posted online. The first was shot in a studio, the second in a hotel conference room on location.
While doing these projects and explaining the variables of doing a green screen correctly to our clients it occurred to us that most people don’t really understand what is needed to do a green screen shoot effectively and what the right setup needs to be. There are considerations that must be taken into account before a green screen shoot is planned. I thought it might be helpful to give some guidance.
The first consideration is that there must be separation betwen your green screen and your subject. You should leave a minimum of 10 feet if you can. The reason for this is that the green will reflect onto your subject if they are too close and you will have a green tinge around the subject that will be difficult to key.
Another important aspect is to have a high backlight on your subject. This will overpower reflected green. We use a very light magenta gel on this 300 Watt light to help counteract the reflected green even more. This light also gives an appealing hair highlight. The light is mounted on a C Stand with a boom arm which allows it to be directly behind and over the subject yet out of the picture. ImageWest.tv sells an inexpensive stand with boom arm for around $100 and a really good “Blue Line” 300 Watt light for around $250.
The next hint is relative to lighting the screen. A series of high floods on a stage works great but on location that isn’t usually available. For location work we use two wide softboxes with 500 watt lamps at about 45 degrees to the screen. Lights reflected off umbrellas will also work well. Here it is important that the light be even with no shadows. You can check this with your camera by zooming into various areas of the screen, checking the auto exposure indicated F-Stop and adjusting the lights accordingly to cover the area you will be seeing in the camera. An important consideration is that wherever you shoot, you will need room width to get these lights out to the side.
We light the subject with two large 800 Watt softboxes on either side of the subject at least 10 feet away from the subject in front of the camera which is mounted on a tripod about 15 feet or more from the subject. A slight zoom works well to keep the subject in the green screen area. You want these to be more direct than 45 degrees. A pair of 800 Watt lights with bulbs and stands is about $370 at ImageWest. The lights are set on the flood setting to avoid harshness. You can use diffusion gel to soften even more if you want a softer subject look.
To summarize lighting you will need at least 2 lights for your screen, 2 lights for your subject and a backlight.
Now we have to talk about the screen itself. First thing you will need is a stand to hold the background. These are available from many sources for around $70. ImageWest.tv comes to mind but shopping through Amazon will give you many choices.
There are many screen products on the market both fabric and paper however many of these are hard to use because of wrinkles. If you have access to a clothes dryer just prior to your shoot, you can run the wrinkle cycle and get most if not all of the wrinkles out of a fabric background. Westcott sells a very nice stretch green screen. You can use clamps attached to the sides and bungie cords to stretch and mount the green screen under tension.
We prefer to use a 9 foot wide roll of “veri-green” paper because it provides a flatter surface. You unroll the paper roll past the ground, clamp the top so it won’t unroll any further and then put weights on the bottom to provide tension. The disadvantage to a paper roll is that unless you are in a studio, you will have to transport something 9 feet long.
For audio, rather than putting a wireless lavalier on our subjects that will show up in the shot and need to be transferred to different people, we use a directional mic mounted above our subject on a C-Stand with boom arm. We actually mount a real mic boom pole on the stands boom arm to give more adjustment flexibility for this purpose but if you don’t have one, it isn’t necessary. Again the ImageWest.tv $100 stand with boom will work just fine. You try to get the mic as close to your subjects mouth as possible while still remaining out of the shot.
We usually use an armless stool for subjects to sit on with tape on the floor marking where their feet should be. If it is interviews, we ask and record them stating their name, company and title to start the interview to help with editing. We also ask them to be certain to include the question in their answer because the interviewer will not be heard in the final edit. Often we hear what they are trying to say and help them with wording to make their point more concisely. We bring a 23 inch monitor to view what we are recording and see it better than on a tiny viewfinder. Our Panasonic HMC 150 cameras have an HDMI output which we plug into the HDMI input of the monitor. The monitor is invaluable for spotting things you won’t see on the camera viewfinder but could spoil a shot.
If you need us to shoot Green Screen in the Las Vegas area, give us a call on 702-897-4477 or contact us at [email protected]