How to Use Green Screens

 In Best Practices

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Green screens help video creators change the environment they depict in videos to get the creative and engaging element they want. This allows them to create realistic environments and backgrounds without shooting in specific locations.

The biggest question is how to put a background on a green screen to create unique visual elements that meet the creative requirements of the environment they are trying to portray.

In this article, we break down everything you need to know about green screens and provide clear, easy-to-implement steps to help you effectively use green screens in your videos using different video editors.

What Is a Green Screen?

A professional camera in front of a green screen set up.

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A green screen is simply a solid green backdrop that you install to shoot your videos and edit the video background component in post-shooting at will.

Essentially, it’s used as part of a technique that consists of filming a person or adding visual effects in front of a solid green color backdrop. You can then remove this green backdrop in the post-production editing and layer a background scene of your choice.

This technique is also known as chroma keying, chroma key compositing, or color keying.

Benefits of Using a Green Screen In Your Video

A meteorologist in front of a green screen.

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Here are the main benefits of using a green screen in your videos.

Background versatility

Using a green screen allows you to place yourself—or your subject—in any location that will enable you to achieve your desired video environment or background.

Also, during online video calls, attendees can use a green screen to portray a more professional place during the call. Online streamers can use green screens to ensure a relaxed or more user-friendly background environment to make their videos more engaging as users stream and more. There are an infinite number of background elements you can achieve using green screens.

Branding consistency

Using green screens also allows you to guarantee a unique look and feel to every creative you put out. Green screens offer a unique opportunity to create videos that speak the true philosophy of your company and ensure consistency across the board.

The video background can be personalized to include textures, colors, and other branding elements as you see fit to make it unique.

Flexibility and time-saving advantages

In most cases, people shoot videos in different locations—taking days to shoot, developing scenery in different offices, constantly applying makeup to the subject of the video, continually adjusting for the change in the sunlight, unfolding with tons of video production tools, and more.

Using green screens allows you to shoot multiple video shoots in one session. You can set up and tear down an entire video in a few hours, saving you a lot of time.

Different Green Screen Options

A green screen set up with a camera and lighting set up.

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Green screen backdrops come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, so you need to choose the right one for your video. Here are the best options you can choose from.

Seamless Paper Backdrops

Green seamless paper backdrops are easy to set up and give you a wrinkle-free background to shoot your videos. You can always cut off messy portions and pull out fresh layers to keep your shootings clean. It’s no surprise that it’s a popular choice among video creators, especially when using props or filming a messy video.

Cotton Muslins

What users love the most about this type of green screen is that it is reusable. Oh, your backdrop got dirty? Simply clean it up, and you’re ready to roll. In this sense, they’re viewed as long-term green screen solutions. They can be an excellent choice for online streamers and video calls.

Double-Sided Collapsible Backdrop

These types of backgrounds come in green and blue. The choice of color is, in most cases, subjective. Some video designers feel that blue is more forgiving in terms of color correction and that it has less color spill than green screens.

Either way, this type of backdrop is an excellent answer to ease of installation and portability concerns. It’s a good choice if you want to shoot a video where you want to focus only on the subject’s upper body, but if you’re going to shoot a large-scale video, you’ll need something bigger.

Pull Up Backdrop

It’s a good choice for mid- to full-body shots, depending on the height of your subject. It comes in a retractable case that keeps it from wrinkling and makes it easy to set up and store after use. The case is also easy to carry and serves as a hard protective shell for the whole.

Cyc Wall

The cyc wall green screens are bigger, better, and used by the big video production companies. As you can imagine, it allows you to shoot full-size videos. So it is the ideal choice if you want to shoot full-body scenes. On the other hand, you can’t move around with a cyc wall green screen. You’ll need to set it up in a studio or in a place with ample space to accommodate it and allow you to shoot quality footage.

Getting Started With A Green Screen

A camera operator setting up for a shoot with a camera and a green screen.

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Ready to get started using green screens in your videos? Here are the things you need to get started and ensure a seamless experience as you do it.

Camera & Lighting

Of course, you’ll need a quality camera to capture all the quality video you want to produce.  

But the most important element is lighting. Perfect lighting is the key to your green screen shoot. That’s because it allows you to keep the video smooth and create a realistic effect.

The lighting on your subject should match the lighting in the environment. If you take shots with lighting reflecting indoor settings and place them in an outdoor environment background, your video will look unprofessional. Ideally, you should spread the light evenly over the background while lighting your subject separately to minimize shadows and uneven highlights.

Preparing Your Subject

In case you were wondering why the green color (or blue), it’s because you need to avoid a color that matches the skin tone of the subject, and green is ideal for this.

The first thing you need to do as you prepare the subject is to ensure that you strip them of all the reflective green items. That’s because anything that’s green or reflects the screen’s color will be removed together with the background. Think about the subject wearing green pants or having a green drawing on his shirt.

Furthermore, put some distance between the subject and the screen to prevent your subject from casting shadows on the screen.

Choosing & Adding Background

Assuming you were able to pin in on a green screen option that best matches your need and budget capacity. Now, you need to create a suitable background for the chromatic inlay. Make sure your fabric or backdrop paper is brightly colored to facilitate keying out in the post-shoot.

Also, make sure the background fills the entire frame of your camera and does not cast shadows. Now, you’re ready to shoot your video.

Pick The Right Software/Application

The best video editing software for adding green screens should allow you to import your green screen clips into a tool and lay your preferred background visuals. Below we discuss how you can do it using different tools and what using a green screen looks like on platforms like Zoom, YouTube, and TikTok.

How to Use A Green Screen in Your Video

Two people being filmed on an iPhone in front of a green screen.

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iMovie (Mac)

To use the green screen on iMovie, you need two clips. You need a base layer, which technically is the background environment you desire to use for your video, and the green screen footage you shot. Simply put, what you do is to put your green screen footage on top of your base layer. Here is how.

Open iMovie

Locate iMovie on your Mac and open the app.

Upload your videos

Find your green screen video and base layer and upload them into the iMovie video editor. As you upload the two videos, drag and drop them respectively—green screen video on top of the base layer. Like below.

iMovie upload screen utilizing green screen.

Select the green screen effect

Point to the top of the playback screen and click on the logo that shows two overlapping elements.

iMovie overlay menus utilizing green screen.

You need to set the video overlay style to Green/Blue Screen.

iMovie overlay menus utilizing green screen. 

After this, you can watch the magic happen.

iMovie showing how to use custom background overlays on a green screen.

Save your video

You can now save your video. All that’s left is for you to click on the Share button at the top left corner inside the iMovie editor and export your video.

PC (Windows)

Windows currently does not have a video editor that supports the green screen feature. However, there are other third-party editors that you can download to get that green screen function.

Here are a few to check out:

Zoom

The green screen on Zoom is different from the green screen as you know it. To make it short, the software allows you to activate the background of your video image while you make your call which acts as a virtual background. You can do it without any green backdrop setup.

But it tampers with the visual quality, and you can see color cues appearing in your video call. So, you should use a green backdrop to ensure a seamless experience. Here is how to activate it.

Log into web zoom

To set up your virtual background with the green screen, log in to zoom in a browser window.

Screengrab of zoom's green screen capability.

Check the Virtual Meeting Toggle

Go to Settings > Meeting > In Meeting (Advanced) > and scroll down just down on the page to locate the virtual background button. Double-check that it is checked.

Showcasing how to select a virtual background in Zoom.

 Restart your Zoom App

Whether opened or not, go ahead and restart your zoom app.

Preview your virtual background

You will not wait for a call before trying your virtual background. Zoom lets you preview-test your background before the call, and that’s what you need to do. Click on the setting icon to open the setting window.

Step 1 for changing virtual background in Zoom.

Next, click on the virtual background.

Step 2 for changing virtual background in Zoom.

As mentioned earlier, you can use the app without the green backdrop. But the quality will be poor as Zoom is not a fully-fledged video editing solution. So, it is always best to use a green backdrop.

Step 3 for changing virtual background in Zoom.

When you do have a green screen, check the button below and let the app know you have one.

Selectable green screen option check box in Zoom.

See your virtual background work.

As you check the button, Zoom will detect the green source. You can then apply any specific virtual background you like.

After choosing your preferred virtual background effect, you can enter your call with the settings enabled.

TikTok

TikTok’s green screen is meant to be fun. It does not require any green backdrop per se. But if you prefer, you can install one to make your video more perfect.

Open the TikTok app and create a new video.

Click the plus (+) icon at the bottom of the screen to create a new video.

Adding a new video to TikTok.

Click on Effects

At the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see a button that says Effects. Click on that.

Utilizing a green screen effect in TikTok.

Select your preferred green screen effect

Go to the Trending tab and move it to the right side to select the green screen tab.

Navigating to the selection screen for green screen effects in TikTok.

There you can see all the green screen TikTok has to offer.

Selection screen for green screen effects in TikTok.

Green Screen FAQ

A vector of a set of a talk show in front of a green screen.

1290907408, sabelskaya

Why are green screens green?

First, you should know that the chroma key can work with any color, as long as it does not reflect the subject’s color. This is exactly why green is preferred in this area. Green easily stands out from the subject’s tone and allows for a harmonious final video.

What is the difference between a green screen and a blue screen?

Besides the apparent color difference, a green background is brighter than a blue background. This makes the green screen a much more desirable choice for daytime scenes, especially when you want your shots to be bright and well-lit. The blue screen is helpful in settings where you don’t need as much light.

How does a green screen work?

Basically, you overlay two videos. One with the video background you desire and the other with a solid color background, ideally green or blue. Then you use software that fades out the solid color and places your video in the background you want. The video editing tool does this using chroma keying technology.

And just like that, you’re on the road to leveling up your content through the use of green screens.

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