Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to create QUALITY Green Screen footage

Multipoint Lighting Setup for a HIGH QUALITY Green Screen Shoot
If you are using a green screen, I highly recommend AT LEAST a 5-point lighting set up.

I use between 6 and 8 different lights for my shots:

- Two linear sources lighting the green screen from each side UNIFORMLY,
- A minimum of  1 and up to 3 BACK lights [one directly behind the talent, placed half way between the talent and the surface of the green screen, and optionally, two "upper" lights],
- At least 1 "key" light on the subject using a single point source barndoor light, PLUS optionally, up to 3 additional "soft" lights.  SOFT lights are placed on each side with another potentially above the subject/talent as well.

I would not recommend using less than 5 lights for professional videography when using a green screen, or at least 3 when not using a green screen!  Three lights should be placed on the subject/talent (with a MINIMUM ONE BACK LIGHT), PLUS at least two more illuminating the green screen SEPARATELY and UNIFORMLY, one on each side of the green screen.  WRINKLES are KILLERS!  So, get yourself an inexpensive clothes steamer, use clamps on the green screen to pull it tight across the frame, and steam those nasty wrinkles out!  If you don't get the lighting just right, those nasty shadows or hot spots will cause pain and anguish in the editing process.

Anything less, from a lighting standpoint, will create huge problems in the editing / chromakey process - making it virtually impossible to obtain the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY finished output video that is certainly your goal.

You will need to light up the green backdrop completely and UNIFORMLY, with no "Hot Spots" - i.e. brightness in one spot, fading to darker as the distance expands from the "hotspot".  If you are using a single point light source, like a light bulb (even in a reflector) try to point the light source away from the green screen onto a white surface, that can in turn be reflected to bounce the light back "indirectly" onto the green screen.  To see the 4 ft. X 8 ft. indirect lighting reflectors I built for my own studio, you can visit

 For your project, you won't need anything this fancy, just remember your goal is UNIFORM LIGHTING on the green screen - and indirect / linear lighting will get you to the goal of NO HOT SPOTS!  A simple umbrella reflector around a single bulb light source can work, just point the umbrella away from the green screen if you can.

Linear light sources are even better than single point light sources at delivering a uniform lighting across the entire surface of the green screen.  My own design encompassed two fluorescent fixtures with daylight color tubes that I purchased from Home Depot and mounted with a custom-designed bracket onto a expanding tripod pole.  Here is a closeup of thatlinear light source, also showing the carrying case I custom-designed, and the indirect lighting reflector panels I use.

As for the person you are shooting in front of the green screen [the "Talent"] be sure to light your subject from the side and slightly above - to eliminate shadows on the talent, especially around their facial features.  Poor lighting of the subject/talent can also make parts of them disappear into the background once the "Chromakey" process is completed and the new live background video or background graphic is added.


To gain the "separation" required to make a good chromakey, you'll need to bypass the automatic features that attempt to change the camera's focus/aperture.  Be sure to also move your subject/talent away from the green screen at least 3 feet - to avoid the green reflection from the screen that will be a pain to remove in the editing process.  If you've seen the green or white "glow" around a talent's body - especially the hair - or have seen flickering around the edges of a person in a poorly made video, you'll recognize the work of someone who did not know how to properly prepare to shoot professional quality green screen footage.

Remember, The MOST IMPORTANT light is the backlight!
Placed between the green screen and the talent, this BACK light can be placed out of the camera's view,  directly behind the subject - facing forward, hidden by the talent's body from the camera in front - or to the side at 45 degrees. The primary BACKlight I use is a single bare bulb with a reflector mounted on a tripod lighting fixture, placed directly behind the talent - midway between the subject's back and the surface of the green screen.  It is thus hidden by the camera when the talent is either standing or sitting on a stool.

BACK Lighting from above, falling on the hair and shoulders will also do wonders to eliminate the "ghosting" that is the telltale sign of poor green screen video.  Here are the upper BACK lights I use:

PLEASE REMEMBER, the "Finished Video Quality" I return to you is mainly dependent on the level of quality in the video you submit to me for final editing.

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BudgetVideo4BIZ = Budget Video for Business.