1. MAKE A BACKDROP
First you’re going to need a screen, which can consist of colored fabric or a painted wall. Lime green is
most commonly used, because it is so freaking ugly
that the exact-same color is unlikely to appear on
anyone or anything else in the shot, and thus it can
be earmarked for replacement. (This means your
subject can’t wear a lime green tie.)
You can buy special greenscreen fabric and paint,
but they’re expensive. I’ve used very cheap green
fabric from the local fabric store with decent results.
I’ve even used a lime green blanket I found at a thrift
store for $4. Look for something sheer that resists
wrinkles, which will show up and make it harder to
pull your key; iron the wrinkles out if you need to.
If you have a wall you can paint, so much the
better, since there will be no wrinkles. Go to any
paint store and pick out the worst lime green color
you can find. Be sure it has a flat finish, not glossy.
The exact shade is unimportant, since our software
will find it for us when the time comes to replace
it with our desired background image.
2. LIGHTING AND PLACEMENT
The biggest problems with greenscreen shots stem
from poor lighting and placement of your subject.
You want to illuminate your greenscreen with a flat,
even light, so that it has no shadows or highlights.
Don’t use spotlights for this.
The placement of your subject in relation to the
greenscreen is also crucial. The subject needs to be
as far from the green as possible, to avoid picking
up reflected green light. This is tricky because the
reflected green is hard to see. Of course the farther
away you put your subject, the bigger your greenscreen must be. If you’re doing this for the first time,
frame your subject from the waist up. Don’t try a
wide shot of the whole person.
The cheapest lighting source is the sun. If you can
shoot outdoors, that’s great, provided you find a
place that gets even lighting with no shadows on the
background. A gray, overcast day is actually best for
shooting since it produces an even, flat light.
If you shoot indoors, you’ll need 2 sets of lights,
one for the greenscreen and one for the subject.
Don’t try to use the same set of lights for both.
To illuminate the greenscreen you can use cheap
fluorescent tubes. They give a smooth, even light.
Fig. A: Fluorescent fixture and tubes ($12), scoop light
($10), camera (duh), duct tape, fake beard (optional),
green blanket (about $4). Fig. B: Here’s a greenscreen
that’s been thumbtacked to the wall. Be sure to stretch
it tight to avoid wrinkles. Fig. C: This is why you need
duct tape, unless you want to spend 200 bucks for light
stands. FACING PAGE: The author in front of the “fire.”