Green Screen for Production: Tips and Tricks

Little Introduction


Invented in 1940, green screen (originally blue screen) quickly became one of the most popular techniques in film production and was used on almost every major film.
 

However, nowadays green screen is used almost on every type of production – music videos, corporate films, advertising, spots for social media, short films – you name it.


If you’re not sure whether you should use blue or green screen for your production – check out this POST 


Although technologies are getting better and smarter, achieving a good and clean result is not as simple as it may look and it’s definitely going to take more than just applying a Keylight (or similar) effect to your footage.


Having a skilled supervisor on set is crucial and will save you both money and headache, however, due to budget constraints it’s not always possible.


So here are some tips to help you make your green screen footage look good and save you time and money in post.  


You are on set. So let’s get this right! 


1. Lighting is crucial and essential. Good lighting can save or break your scene. So don’t be afraid to spend an extra few hours on lighting. Make sure your green screen is evenly lit with no under or over exposed areas and there are no hard and/or double shadows. The better your lighting is the less noise you will have on your plates (footage). Working with less-noisy footage will let you extract more fine details from semi-transparent areas. 


2. If you know what background will be used, you can try to match you lighting with color gels. This will make color-matching easier and save you some time in post. Also, talk to your gaffer and DP, show them any references to give them more insight on the look you want to achieve, so you could be sure that everyone is on the same page.


3. Shoot at the highest quality settings possible. If you have an option to shoot uncompressed (raw) then it’s a perfect time to use it. Working with uncompressed data will give you more flexibility in post. However, when you are working with proprietary formats like redcoderaw or braw, it’s better to transcode them to a more post-friendly exr or dpx sequence.  


4. Shoot a clean-plate (green screen with no actors and no markers), still image or video, both works. This will help your post-production team a lot. 


5. Place your tracking markers only when and where you need them. There’s no point in markers if you have no camera movement. Also, don’t put too many markers. More markers do not necessarily mean you will get a better solve for camera track, but removing those markers in post will add extra time and eat away at your budget.


6. Use markers with the same color as your screen – it will be a lot quicker and easier to remove them. For example, if you have a green screen – use green markers but with a different color tonality. Markers with a different color may increase the quality of your camera solve but will add more time for clean-up work in post, especially if actors will be intersecting markers.
Try to avoid doing very long and/or too complex shots, even if your DP will try to push for it. Doing that fancy 360 Steadicam shot won’t add much to your story, but will add a lot of extra work in post, which again will eat away at your budget. Also, block your actors in a way that they will intersect markers as little as possible.


7. Make sure your actors have a proper wardrobe and make-up. For wardrobe – avoid anything green and colors close to green tone. For make-up – make sure there’s nothing too shiny and glossy.


Conclusion


At the end of the day (almost) anything can be fixed in post, however a “fix it in post” mindset will only push you to go over your budget and miss deadlines, as well as put a lot of pressure on your post-production department. A good producer should always strike to fix any production problems before they can occur. 

© 2020 Erik Pain