Green screens, while incredibly commonplace in big-budget productions and Hollywood blockbusters, often get a very bad reputation in the hands of independent filmmakers. While there are a lot of examples of bad use cases, most proper use cases are never noticed at all, let alone given the praise they deserve.
This is why the team at Syrp Lab has released a six-and-a-half-minute video to explain why green screens aren’t bad, but instead that many are just bad at using them. Sytp Lab says that the key thing to remember is that creating a great green screen shot doesn’t require a doctorate in visual effects to do properly, instead, it just takes a few important principles.
Framing and Composition
Planning the composition and framing of an intended shot is the first important step. Since the human eye is so complex, it can be very hard to trick it with sub-par special effects. That is why it is super important when shooting on a green screen to place the background elements properly since framing and perspective have to match, otherwise human eyes and brains just know something is off.
Lighting the Subject
While it may be less noticeable than an out-of-sync background or perspective, unmatched lighting can feel very unnatural and just a bit weird, making it clear that the subject wasn’t filmed in the same location as the background plate. Ensuring the lighting in the studio matches the light temperature and directions of the backplate are critical to ensure a natural-looking capture is created. Changing the direction of a single light and making the entire project just look wrong.
It may be a bit of a pain, but ensuring you set things up properly will save filmmakers a ton of time when compared to trying to fix it in post after the fact.
Lighting and Placing The Green Screen
It may not seem like it, but the color and surface of the screen itself is actually extremely important to a production. First, users need to be sure that the color of the screen, usually either green or blue, isn’t the dominant color in the subject or their accessories. The important thing is to keep the screen as smooth and imperfection free as possible to ensure it is evenly lit (and exposed correctly).
Filmmakers should also be mindful of any light spill that can be caused by light bouncing off objects on the set. Keeping subjects as far away from the green screen as possible while using a lot of flags to minimize any spill will help prevent any green tint from leaking into the talent.
Once things have been properly set up, the last thing to be aware of is the compression settings that take place in the camera and during recording. Most cameras will do a fair bit of compression to make the footage “play-back-able” and to save space on the card. While in most cases this is a good thing, but when shooting on chroma key, it can actually cause more problems than it solves.
Conceptualizing the Shot
Finally, the last super-important thing to keep in mind when shooting on greenscreen is to properly plan your shot. As the Syrp team says, “We liken this to the French culinary concept, ‘Mise en Place’. By knowing the recipe or process, deciding on the variables, and having your ingredients together before you start, you’re going to end up with a much better final shot.”
Image credits: Syrp Lab