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How to use a Green screen-Course content

Video - The Ultimate Communication

You don’t have to be a Hollywood director to use a Green Screen,

but why would you bother?

Sure, Hollywood studios create all kinds of incredible special effects -

think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. 

You could do the same if you want objects flying behind you as well as cool text effects sliding across the background or have your products flashing up while you are talking in front of them.

In this tutorial, you will see how to do all of that or just have the ability to show you products in different world-famous locations, without having to travel there.

All you need to make a professional-quality green screen video is a cell phone camera or webcam, some green fabric, even just basic video editing software, like iMovie or HitFilm, plus what you are about to learn here.


These are the topics that I will cover.


  • What is a Green Screen?

  • Why use a Green Screen?

  • Make your own green screen.

  • How to use the Camera.

  • Set up your lighting.

  • Edit the result



First of all, what is a Green Screen?


A green screen allows you to replace the green background in the clip that you have filmed with any digital background of your choice. 


You replace the green in your post-production software with whatever background you want.


It becomes a different layer in the editing software so you can put anything you like in front of the background layer as well as behind your image. 


This means that an object could appear to be floating behind you but in front of the chosen background. That object could be words in a title or a Star Wars spaceship. 


Why use a Green Screen?


A Green Screen will really help you to connect with your viewers and give your video a professional appeal for minimal cost.


If your video is just a short advertisement, you can have it look as if you are in front of the background and still have text animated behind you.


If you are making training videos you can superimpose yourself over the contents of the lesson. You could even have your lesson showing with you walking into the scene and onto the page.


This is a long way from talking through a PowerPoint presentation, much more impressive than just doing picture-in-picture with your webcam.


If nothing else, a Green Screen will allow you to obscure that drab office wall behind your desk.


Make your own Green Screen


You need some bright preferably emerald green - you need at least enough to cover your face and shoulders.


You can cut out the other parts with a mask in Post Production. As a quick explanation, a Mask in Post-production cuts out a portion of a clip so that the clip in the track below shows through. 


You will see that in a minute when I add the Green Screen to the editing software.


The cloth or paper preferably needs to be as crease or wrinkle-free as possible. 


The fewer creases you have the better the Post Production result or “Key” as it is known.


Don’t get too stressed with this as most editing software is pretty good at getting a good key. Just keep in mind the better the original the better result.

If you need to remove creases, I suggest you buy a portable steamer () rather than try to iron the fabric.

If you don’t want to mess with making a green screen there are great products from Amazon that will have the material for you on poles and they will allow you to stand in front of it so that there is less to cut out with a mask.

Finally on the use a green screen topic, Keep a distance between you and the screen when filming. It recommended to be 6 feet / 2 meters. But be practical if you are in tight space, it will still work but as with the other recommendations it will be harder for the software to work.


How to Use the Camera


First of all a webcam.

Also, see the tutorial on filming with a Cell Phone camera.


You need at least an HD (1080p - 1920x 1080) Webcam.


Anything less than that will be a little fuzzy. 4k would be great but that will most likely require a purchase. See the tutorial on “Using a webcam”


You need to position the laptop or screen on your desktop so that you are in the center of the green screen - as much of you as possible within the area of the green material.


Make sure that green shows at the edges of your body that you want to show in the completed video.


Most importantly, make sure that wherever the green IS showing, that it is well lit and not too creased. I’ll talk more about lighting in the next topic.

The Cell Phone Camera


Now let’s concentrate on a phone camera, but these items also apply to DSLRs as well.

Also, see the tutorial on filming with a Cell Phone camera.


Most important is the tripod with a phone adapter, or a stable fixture that will hold the camera steady.


You have more flexibility with a separate camera, but as with the webcam, make sure that you are in the center of the green screen, as much as possible within the area of the green material.


Make sure that green shows at the edges of your body that you want to show in the completed video.


Also, position the height of the camera so that you are looking more down into it - not too much though. 


That will show less up your nose and also give you more of a sense of superiority and authority to your audience. The results from The teleprompter will look more natural.


A separate camera also gives more flexibility over a webcam in the distance you can position it away from you. Allowing you to stand in front of the subject matter that will be in the background, appearing to move in front of the objects that you will finally show behind you in post-production.


Focus on your eyes with a DSLR, or point the phone camera directly at your face.


Set up your lighting


Lights are not imperative -  but will help you get a better “Key”.


What is most important, though, is that the green screen needs to be evenly lit.


As important is that your face is also well lit - not too dark not too bright.


This could make it hard to get even light on both your face and the green screen when it's coming from a window in a brightly lit room.


This is where lights may be necessary.


If you do need to use lights, there are some conventions


2 x lights on the green screen itself to get even lighting, no dark spots. 


What you are aiming for is a bright green color of an even shade.


If there are different tones of green the Post Production software will have to work harder.


Most low-cost video editing software, like iMovie, will not allow adjustments - it’s the “You get what you get” - “one fits all” approach.


Light yourself separately but avoid putting your shadow on the green screen.


Perfect would be 2 x lights on you from separate side angles, so the shadows are not on the Green Screen.


1 x light from the side will cause shadows on your face. Maybe use the natural light from a window on the other side.


This brings up another thing, If you are using a mix of natural light you need to have your artificial lighting set at a daylight temp - the standard is known as Kelvin (K). 


Use these settings

Inside: 4000K (morning/evening) to 5000K midday (sunlit days) Keep to 4000K for cloudy days inside


Outside: Use 6500K for direct sunlight with blue sky 


If you are purchasing lights make sure they can be adjusted for temperature. They should be able to be set for Kelvin, but may just have settings for inside or outside/daylight.


Finally on the topic of lighting, Do some tests if you find halos around your head in the Post Production, caused by the reflection of the green spilling onto your face or outer edges of your body. 


You could look at softbox lights that give an overall coverage rather than a hard direct light. 


Reflecting your lights off the ceiling could be a solution.


The green spill can be modified in Post Production with the better Video editing applications like Final Cut Pro, Premiere, or DaVinci Resolve.



Post Production Editing.


In my training modules, I will show the actual editing techniques when I know the software being used by individual students 


The overall principles are the same, first, add the Green screen clip into the main track in the timeline.


Before you add the background under the main clip, it will be better to remove the green from the main clip with the tools available in the editing program.


Different software will have different names for removing the green screen, from “Chroma Keying”, or “Color difference”, “Keying”, to plainly just “Green screen”  


After you have selected the keying tool, you will see black behind your image, where the green was.


Look for an even black at the edges and no black showing through your body or face.


If you are not sure add a white solid clip below the green screen clip in the timeline, it may help to see where the white is opaque in parts of your image.


Professional software will have a choice of views of the green screen clip - 


Composite: How the image will look when exported 


Matte: Black is where the background will show through clearly and white is your image - there should be no opaque white showing - your objective is to have sharp edges between the black and the white.  Just Black and white nothing else.


Original: This is the original clip with no adjustments.


If you do see white showing through look for “Fill holes” controls of the software.


If you are seeing green spilling onto your face or body, look for “Spill” controls.


Finally, once you have a clean key, you can add extra objects that you would like behind your image and in front of the background.


These in-between objects need to have a transparent background - known as an “Alpha” channel.


You will see these transparent backgrounds in the images before you download them. 


They tend to show a "checker box" effect where the background is transparent. These image will most likely have a .png suffix.


Images from Stock photo and video sites will likely show a  Green background that you can remove as I showed before.


You may want to animate these and I can show how different software does that in my one on one tutorials online.


It's needless to say that this has been a very detailed tutorial, so there are no rules that you can’t go back and review things again.


Contact me if you need assistance.


The Final Thought:


Think about whether the images you are creating will attract your target audience. If the visuals are too busy you will confuse the message, so it goes without saying that if you want to play with green screening, best to use those videos elsewhere.


You need to make sure your video’s message is directing your audience to your website.


Think of your website as your shop, whether it has eCommerce or not, Just as you would want your physical shop to look attractive and inviting, do the same for your web page.


I’m here to help so if you need assistance on a specific topic, I offer FREE support, via email, for urgent issues that you are confronted with.

Otherwise, let me know in the comments below about topics you struggle with, I would be happy to produce a YouTube video to help you solve those issues.