With the way technology has advanced to bring high-quality cameras to your cellphone, you wouldn’t be surprised to realize that what was once cutting-edge technology, the use of a green screen, is something you can now have fun with at home or even use to spice up your videos.
Many of us might have recently seen – during this period of online learning, remote work and increased digital communications – that some of the best streaming and webcam software such as XSplit or video communication software such as Microsoft Teams offer virtual backgrounds, utilizing simple but effective AI technology.
However, a green screen is not all fun and games.
Whether you’re using one in a professional capacity or for a DIY or indie production, the green screen’s history goes as far back as the 19th century where chroma key and matte techniques were used to achieve more than the physical limitations (or budgetary restrictions) allowed.
Why Use A Green Screen?
The simple reason for the usage of a green screen lies in two factors: green is the least likely color to be worn by a person on-screen or be present anywhere on the body (as compared to natural reds and blues, and so on) and can easily be manipulated and the sharpness of the color allows for more accurate separation of the foreground and the object, the primary purpose of a green screen.
The foreground is then digitally manipulated to be removed all at once and replaced with any other image or visual while the objects stay unaltered, giving the impression of anything from high-level battles and sci-fi landscapes to weather maps, plain and professional backdrops and, more importantly, to place separate objects together, such as actors on different sets or the same actor reacting to themselves in a dual role with split-screen.
How To Use A Green Screen
Green screens can be used, as we stated above, to either add an otherworldly element to your videos or to do the exact opposite and add a grounding and professional presence with a consistent and mature backdrop, even utilizing graphics and texts if you need.
How to use a green screen is not so much of a science as it is an art that not only gets better with experience but also with keeping an eye on certain pointers:
- The type of green screen used is important. Having a uniform color running throughout your chroma key background is… well, key. It’s for this reason that we recommend a proper muslin green screen instead of simply, say, painting a wall.
- A proper kit with lights will help in achieving consistency not only with the green screen but with your subject/object as well. Cameras with zebra functions can help you out with this.
- Deep wrinkles in the green screen will cause shadows and cause problems in the feathering and refining phase. Use a steamer and a stand and clips to set up your screen so that it’s fully stretched.
- Make sure your subject is placed neither too close to the green screen to create shadows nor in a place where the green reflects off of it in a way that causes spillage.
- If the software you’re using doesn’t allow for green screen editing and removal, look around for a software that works best for your specific needs – but in most software, you can find one as some variation of a “key effect”. Some software names that we recommend include Lightworks, Blender, or Filmora, ranging from free to professional to flexible.
With knowing how to capture footage and images that are ready to be green-screened, let’s look at how green screen is used on different software – namely, OBS, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and iMovie.
How To Use Green Screen In OBS
A popular option for those opting for a green screen as they live stream, chroma-keying in OBS is extremely simple.
- Under Sources, add your main camera as your video source.
- Right-click on the camera or video source and click on Filter.
- In the Effects Filters section, click the plus (+) sign and select Chroma Key, and enter a name for the layer when prompted.
The settings that will show up will be automatically generated and will require some fine-tuning to get working for what you need to achieve.
How To Use A Green Screen On iMovie
OBS isn’t unique in how simple the green screen option is. The maximum complication that can arise in knowing how to use a green screen on iMovie is knowing the two different types of ways that it’s done on a computer versus a phone/tablet.
On both options, whether it’s the iMac or an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, add the image or visual you want as the new background to your timeline. Add the clip for the green screen above the background clip in iMovie’s timeline (for phones and tablets, scroll the timeline to move the playhead’s vertical white line over the background clip, then from the Add Media button, go to the category that houses the green-screen clip, and tapping the More button, tap Green/Blue Screen).
On phones and tablets, you can tap “Auto” and then the color you want to remove, and then trim and move the background video clip. On a Mac, trim and move your “background” clip first, then select Video Overlay Settings (from the button present above the viewer, and then select Green/Blue Screen).
How To Use Green Screen In Premiere And Photoshop
Chroma keying in Adobe Premiere is surprisingly intuitive, with the Ultra Key tool present under the Effects panel in Pro. From there, The Eyedropper tool helps you choose the key color, and as soon as you select the area you wish to remove, voila, it’s gone. Fine-tuning presents itself in the form of sliders for Matte Generation and Cleanup, Spill Suppression, and Color Correction.
Knowing how to use a green screen in Premiere helps you learn how to use a green screen for Photoshop, where the basic principle is the same, but some more steps are involved – you don’t essentially remove the background so much as you isolate the subject.
It would be good to crop your image in Photoshop to only keep the object to make sure artifacts aren’t copied over by accident.
From the Select menu in Photoshop, select Color Range. Holding down your keyboard’s Shift key, move your cursor around and click on the green areas you wish to remove. Holding down the Shift key allows you to hold the Alt key, alternatively, to deselect areas as you go.
Click OK, go back to Select, and click on Inverse. Go back to Select a second time and select Refine Edge. Fine-tuning presents itself in the form of various sliders for Radius, Smooth, Feather, et cetera. Going back to select to choose Inverse again, delete the background.
Your subject is now ready to be placed on another background, image, or video, or to import another background into this image. Enjoy!