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How to Light Green Screens for Simple Special Effects

In this tutorial we show you how to light a green screen, look for common errors and fix them along the way. This will make it easier to pull a key when editing.

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Video Transcript

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In order to pull off this type of an effect for a green screen, you need to make sure that you light the screen correctly. The first thing we’re gonna take a look at is the distance between yourself and the actual screen. After that, we’re gonna look at the type of material you’re wearing and how that reflects the lighting process. Following that, we’re gonna look at lighting the screen independently, as well as lighting the subject independently. And, after that, we’re gonna check for errors and make sure we fix them. I’m Tom Skowronski and this is how to light a green screen.

Now, where you place your subject in accordance with the screen is extremely important when it comes to lighting. One of the reasons is because if you get too close to the screen, you’ll develop a shadow that’ll beam off from your other lights that’s coming from the subject’s body and, in this case, you can’t pull off the effect correctly. Another reason, if you’re too close to the screen that the process won’t really work out so good, is the fact that there’ll be a green halo over the subject’s hair, over their shoulders, kind of like a green outline, and those are very hard to key out. Another problem is that if you’re too close to the screen, with a green might be reflective and it’ll cast some green over the person’s face and on their hair, which will cause a lot of blending, which is not good when you’re trying to pull off this effect because then the effect not only ends up on the screen, but on the person. Now, if you have to make a choice, be further from the screen rather than closer to it. This will at least give you the amount of distance to make sure that your key can work out correctly when it comes to everything that’s going on behind you. You want to be at least four to six feet away from the screen at all times.

Step number two when it comes to lighting a green screen correctly is to make sure that the type of clothing you’re wearing isn’t light or reflective. The problem when you wear white is that, a lot of times, it tends to catch the green, which, again, just like in step one, ruins your effect because you’re going to end up keying out part of the person’s body, as well as what’s happening in the background.

Now, one of the most important processes when it comes to lighting your green screen is to make sure you light it very, very evenly. And to do that, you need to make sure that the lights you are using are of the same intensity and are of the same distance from the screen. Let’s take this light, for example. You would see that we have a lot of light on this side of the screen, but not so much on that side. Now, and we have the uneven lighting, the effect doesn’t work because we are going to sample a type of green from here that’s not the same type of green on the other side of the screen, and that’s why we need to make sure we have even lighting. So, if you look at our lighting setup now, you’ll notice that our lights are in the same exact position and distance from each other and the screen, as well as the same intensity. Let’s see what happens when I turned on this other light. As you can see when you look at the screen, now we have even lighting, which is going to make this effect a lot easier.

And now, a lot of factors come into play with the next step, and that’s lighting the subject. Are you lighting the subjects to match a certain location? Are you lighting the subject just to make them pop out from the screen? Or are you lighting the subject to make them hidden within your effect? There’s a lot of different options that you are going to have to weigh before you even begin lighting the person.

Now, when it comes to the background that we are using right now, the main thing we want to do it has to make sure that I, myself, am let independently and that I stand out from the screen. So, we’re using a backlight. We are using a key light. And we are using a fill light, just like a three point lighting scenario. This is something you guys can follow at a home, as well as making sure that you’re always matching the location when it comes to what’s behind the person. They should be the number one focus when you light somebody, especially when you light the subject independently from the screen. If they’re in a church, how am I going to light them? If they’re outdoors, how am I going to light them? Or, if I’m putting night behind them, chances are I’m not gonna wanna have them completely lit up. Well, I’m gonna wanna make sure that they look a little bit more dark and there’s a little bit more silhouette going on with the type of lighting I’m creating.

No, the last part in this process is to make sure that you’re checking errors, and by errors we mean bleed through. You want to make sure that the light that you’re having on your subject isn’t spilling over and hitting the screen, and you want to make sure that the light from your screen isn’t bouncing onto your subject. If this happens, again, you break the effect by having green either on the subject that’ll get keyed out later, or by not being able to complete a very fair in nice looking key behind the subject.

Lighting is one of the most important pieces when it comes to pulling off a green screen effect. First up, we need to make sure we like the subject with a three point studio style lighting technique and then move on to the green screen itself and create even lighting. Once we do this, we can move on to creating effects like this and working with our background.

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