Shooting with a green screen can open up a world of possibilities. Let’s learn how to properly use this versatile video production tool.

In today’s digital world, there are all types of reasons for needing to complete a sequence with a green screen. How effective that shot becomes rests solely on how well you can process that green screen. With that in mind, let’s look at how to properly use a green screen.

Before you Begin: Plan

In order to properly use a green screen, you need to know exactly how you’ll use it in the finished cut. In order to do this, you need to pre-visualize and plan your shot. By developing a solid concept before you roll the camera, you can ensure that you’ll get exactly what you need and want.

Now that we’ve planned everything out, let’s look at how to actually use a green screen. Here’s a great video from Green Screen Systems.

A Quick Rundown of What We’ve Learned

1. Eliminate Wrinkles by Using Clamps

Wrinkles on a green screen are your worst nightmare, so use clamps whenever you go to set up your screen. By using clamps like these pony spring clamps, you can stretch out the screen and eliminate those wrinkles.

2. Carefully Fold Your Screen for Storage

There are many different ways to fold a large cloth green screen. But no matter which way you choose to fold your screen, just sure to keep one thing absolutely clear in your mind: “As I fold, there can’t be wrinkles.” If you fold your screen and there are wrinkles, then you’ll see those very clearly the next time you use it. Trust me… if you don’t fold it right, you may find yourself with an iron in your hand trying to get out the wrinkles.

3. Make Sure Your Subject Sits Away From the Screen

You don’t want the green of the screen spilling over onto your character or subject. The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to pull the subject away from the screen. Having your subject set away from the screen by at least four to six feet should eliminate all green spill, aka the green “halo” effect.

4. Light the Screen and Subject Separately

Now that you’ve pulled your subject or character away from the screen, you’ll want to light them. The important things to remember here is that you need to light your subject separate from the green screen. What this means is that your green screen needs a nice even light shining across it so you can easily key it out in post. Once this is done you can then light your subject as needed for the scene.

5. Camera Setup for Green Screen

The key to using green screen is to make sure you’re reducing motion blur and capturing as much detail as possible. With this said, you’ll want to up your ISO and then close your aperture down. By doing this you can reduce motion blur which gives you a really detailed show. Also, you’ll want to be sure to match the focal length on the green screen to what you putting behind it.

6. The Last Few Things to Keep in Mind

When lighting your green screen, never light the screen from the back. Also be sure to remove any and all reflective material when using the green screen. If your subject has glasses or earrings, ask them to take the items off — the reflection can easily cause havoc when in post.

The History of Green Screen Compositing

Compositing has been around since the dawn of cinema. The legendary filmmaker and illusionist Georges Méliès used compositing many times during his film career. What he was able to accomplish at the time with the equipment provided to him was amazing. But how did we get from Méliès’s matte double-exposure technique to the insanity we see today? Filmmaker IQ has a video that shows us this very thing.


Want to read more about effective production processes? Then check out these articles from RocketStock:

Do you use a green screen on a daily basis? Do you have it down to a science? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!