For decades now, green screen has been a big part of making movie magic. With a few basic film making tools and good technique, just about any filmmaker can transport their talent from a bland green wall to just about any scene they can imagine. But before we can even get to the step of dropping in a cool background in post-production, we have to first set up and light our green screen right, or we won’t be able to finish pulling off the illusion. So let’s start with the basics we need in our green screen kit.
Green Screen Material
The most important thing of course is the actual green screen itself. You can get a professional chroma key green screen from just about any film equipment vendor.
The professional chroma key screens will likely be a little more durable and designed with grommets or other features that make them more practical and easier to set up. However, you can get a green screen effect from just about any material as long as it’s the right colour green.
If you comb through your local fabric store you’re likely to find some obnoxious bright green fabric, possibly even in the bargain bin.
That will serve fine as a homemade green screen.
Alternatively, you can get some green chroma key paint, and just paint a wall to serve as a green screen.
And, if suddenly pressed with the need to shoot green screen on the fly, with a little imagination and creativity, you can even make a functional green screen out of a bunch of sheets of carefully taped fluorescent green poster board or paper.
But for now, we’re going to just deal with green screen cloths, since the lighting technique is the same for all of these different types of screens.
And cloth green screens are the most common method for independent film makers.
The next most important elements in our setup are the lights. You’re going to want at least three lights. Two lights to put on either side of the green screen background, and at least one light for your subject.
To be clear, three lights is the bare minimum.
I recommend four or more lights for best results, as you can then also add a hair light or fill light to your setup.
Now you can use just about any type of light to light a green screen, but you want to make sure that whatever source you use is soft and big.
The bigger and softer the light, the better to create smooth, even lighting that covers the whole green screen.
Because they fit the bill of big and soft, fluorescent units like Kino Flos are a popular favourite for professionals lighting green screens.
These fluorescent units cast a lot of bright soft light across a broad area, so that makes them perfect for green screens. So, I’d definitely use them if you’ve got them.
Another good choice for green screen lighting is any light with a soft box.
Low reefer lights or any other hard light source outfitted with a Chimera or other soft box will do the job just fine.
Similarly, LED units like light panels, one by ones, or just inexpensive photo flood scoop lights with ample diffusion will also work.
Apart from making sure your light source is soft and broad, you also want to use lights of the same type and colour temperature on both sides of your green screen.
Now if the lights you use to light your subject are a different type or colour temperature, that’s not that big a deal as long as the lights on your green screen match each other.
Green Screen Mount
So green screen and lights are our main ingredients but we also need to mount our green screen. For that we’ll need a professional backdrop stand designed to hold cloth backdrops.
Or we’ll need two C-stands with an interlocking cross bar.
The last thing we’ll also need are some gaffer tape and spring clamps to help secure and hold our green screen tight.
Now that we got all our lights and materials together, we’re ready to light this bad boy up.
- Artis, Anthony (2015). Green Screen Lights and Materials. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Shooting-Video-tutorials/Green-screen-lights-materials/129017/184075-4.html