Looking to shoot some chroma key effects? Here’s a roundup of some of the best tips, guides, and tutorials for you to resource on your next project.
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Chroma key effects have more or less been used in filmmaking since the 1930s. While early technologies (and even computerized blue screen effects) might not have the same effect on us now as they did on audiences at the time, the process has basically remained the same. Now, in the age of digital workflows, the chroma key process has become accessible to anyone with a digital camera, some lights, a green or blue backdrop, and an editing software like After Effects.
Here’s a breakdown of the steps you’ll need to take and some tutorials to guide you through.
Choosing Your Screen
Depending on your project, you may want to use a green or blue screen for your backdrop to key out. While there are several schools of thought for the benefits and problems with each, the choice really comes down to what your subject(s) are wearing, whether you’re shooting inside or out (and at day or night), and how much spill room you will have in your setup. Here’s a great video from ReelSEO about the decision making process.
Setting Up Your Lighting
After you’ve decided on your background, you will need to work on your lighting setup. This is easily the most important part of the chroma key process — and every guide, tutorial, and quick-tip article you find will tell you the same. If you don’t do a good job lighting your screen and subjects, there’s no amount of post-production magic to make up for it. That being said, here’s a great guide (via Savage Universal Corporation) for lighting your back screens.
Balancing Your Chroma
Once your setup is complete and lit as well as possible, you’ll need to set your key and balance your chroma. You can do this by checking color bars and/or your waveform. For those looking to continue careers as professional cinematographers and DPs, you’re going to want to master the in-camera art of this setup. Here’s a good cinematography-focused breakdown by KINETEK.
Keying in After Effects
The digital post-production process for chroma keying has become pretty simple since the advent of NLE software and Adobe After Effects. There’s several slightly different (but mostly similar) routes for you to take to key out colors in AE, but ultimately your best method will be the one you’re most comfortable with. That being said, if you’re looking for a new approach, here’s a good workflow tutorial (via VideoFort) for keying in AE.
Other Resources to Check Out
Still need a little more help? Looking for a few different routes to take? You can check out our Quick Tip breakdown on how to Quickly Key in After Effects or take a look at some of the other recommended video resources below (via Film Riot, Surfaced Studio, and KriscoartProductions)!
Have any other questions about chroma keying in After Effects? Let us know in the comments!