Tips for Using a Green Screen

So your new green screen backdrop just arrived in the mail, and you’re ready to set it up and start shooting some awesome composites.  But as you’re getting everything unboxed and put together, you begin to realize something: you have no idea how to light this thing. 

Whether you’re a content creator filming sketches, a gamer upping  your livestream game, or a videographer expanding your skill set, we’ve got you covered when it comes to lighting green screens. An improperly lit backdrop can be a headache in the edit at best and completely impossible to key out at worst. That’s why we’ve compiled these tips to help you get started and avoid some common pitfalls. 


Tip #1: Put as much distance between the subject and backdrop as possible

In the optimal setup, you want to be able to light the green screen completely separately from the subject. This is achieved by putting distance between the filming subject and the backdrop so that your different lighting setups affect each other as minimally as possible. If you have a smaller backdrop, this extra distance may be easier to achieve with a longer lens, which visually compresses the distances between objects.

Obviously, we don’t all have the space or equipment to be able to put ten or more feet between the background and the subject. But even a little distance can go a long way in helping to produce a cleaner image, and by extension, a cleaner overall key. Just five feet can ensure that  your subject isn’t casting shadows on the green screen, which is much less pain to deal with in post production.


Tip #2: Light the subject first

It’s very important that the exposures between the green screen and the subject match. This will greatly aid in getting you a clean key when you get to the edit. By lighting the subject first, you can ensure you’re getting just the look you want. Then, you just have to light the green screen at an exposure that matches. 

If you light the green screen first, you may find it difficult to get the light to fall just the way you want on the subject while maintaining a consistent exposure. So you’ll either be trapped in a small range of suboptimal lighting setups or find yourself running back and forth between your two lighting setups, trying to adjust everything to get just the look and exposure you need. 

A green screen is a flat plane that only needs a generally consistent amount of light to fall across it. It’s a lot easier to light the complex object(s) you’re putting in front of it and then light the green screen afterwards.


Tip #3: Use soft light on the green screen

The amount of light across the green screen has to be as even as possible in order to achieve a clean key in the edit. Simply put, soft, diffused light is the best way to do that. We like to use studiopro soft boxes, but if you’re working on a DIY budget, there are some other ways you can get an even light on your backdrop.

The simplest way to get diffused light is to use brighter lights and place them farther away from the green screen. The light will become more dispersed as it travels a longer distance. If you don’t have enough space to use this strategy, try reflecting your lights off of a bounce material. This can be a bounce board, a piece of white foam core, or even a flat white wall or ceiling. As long as you’re getting a soft, even light across the green screen, you’re good to go. 

And there you have it. Your green screen is all lit and ready to film! Please comment below if you have any questions. We’ll be posting some videos on how to key out the green screen soon, so follow us on our social media to see all of our new content!

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