In video production, knowing how to use a green screen is an essential skill for any producer. It is an irreplaceable tool and can give you a lot of creative freedom in post-production. But in my book, knowing when to use a green screen is just as important as knowing how. There are so many resources on how to shoot green screen for your project. Forums and blogs are filled with tips and tricks and best practices. In my experience, clients and producers seem to view green screen as a magic tool that makes a shoot easy, and avoid the hassle of being on location. However, if you've had some experience trying to achieve high-end results with green screen, you've no doubt been frustrated with the process.
If you find yourself needing a shot of an actor hanging off the edge of a skyscraper, then green screen is probably going to be the most economical, and safest option. Often times, however, I've been asked to shoot green screen for scenes when a park, a news set, or a nondescript background was needed. While green screen may appear to be a simpler option, often times I find that by the time I set up all the lighting properly, and spent the time in post-production to get the key and background correct, my time would have been much better spent researching and securing the right location.
Good green screen work takes a lot of forethought and post-production time, and if not done properly, can easily bring down the production value of your entire project. For interviews or a spokesperson, using a white or black background is a simple way to give you some of the options a green screen shot offers, without the time-consuming task of keying and precise lighting. Some simple editing can allow for graphics and other assets to be placed alongside your talent. I've always found white and black backgrounds to be easy to work with, while continuing to keep the production value high without a huge time investment. So the next time you're considering breaking out the green screen, consider your options carefully, and make the choice that will result in the highest production value you can achieve.