Brad Lowery, Senior Production Designer talks about the importance of proper lighting in green screen productions. He explains how this decades-old video technique is being used everywhere again. From your family Zooms to virtual events, and even full movies being filmed in greened-out studios.
These days this decades-old video technique is being used everywhere again. From your family Zooms to virtual events, and even full movies being filmed in greened-out studios.
A basic green screen might cost $25 for a chair-mounted screen from Amazon to change your Zoom call background and keep your kids and pets from being crazy on camera while you’re in a meeting.
We recently used this very effect to virtually bring in speakers into our studio for a tech conference. We provided them images of our live studio decked out with florals and scenery, so that when the meeting cut from one speaker in-house to one coming in from Zoom the backgrounds appeared nearly identical giving the impression that everyone was actually in the same space.
Speaking of which, I’m standing here in studio two right now, but there’s a catch, I’m not standing in the studio you’re seeing. Alan, give me our actual background, please. Looks a lot greener in here, doesn’t it?
We’ve been showing you some video prerecorded in studio 2 and composited that into this video of me to give you a good example of how difficult it is to tell if a shot is live or green screened. Now, while that transition was easy, setting up an ideal environment for green screening is not so simple. The green screen itself needs to be very evenly lit. Any shadows on the screen from people or objects in the environment can cause the chroma keying to fail as darker areas on the screen can register as a different green to the video processor, leaving bits of the screen in the video.
Setting up lighting for just a Zoom green screen is pretty simple, a large ring light surrounding your camera can give you a very even look for under $40. But lighting for a studio green screen is much more involved For the most basic studio green screen shots we’ll need a number of lights to be able to create an even wash over a subject and the space. A multi-source lighting system with sidelight, backlight, and front light, so that the subject can be illuminated from all angles. Here’s a look using standard event lighting with just two low front, and two top fixtures.
Note, the strong shadows that are produced on the green screen, this look might be fine in-person in front of some black drape. But we won’t be able to chroma key under these situations. And on a taut background, like the green screen, it’s not a great look.
Let’s make this work with our green screen. First, we’ll swap the two front lights with some multi-source strip lights. This really cuts down on the shadow look, doesn’t it?
Time for an additional top and side lighting. Now, there’s still a little bit of shadow here, so we’ll bring up for our piece de resistance some bounce lighting, let’s take a quick look at these bounce fixtures with a seven foot Mylar umbrella we’re using some bright LED wash fixtures to bounce light off the perfective umbrella back to the stage creating a dramatically more even, shadowless look on my face.
Now, the more light you throw on a green screen the more green light it throws back on the subject. So, you may have to tune out some green from your sources, like I’ve done already, to avoid bouncing too much green light on them from the screen. Just remember, the main key to a perfect green screen is lighting from as many angles, sources, and as shadowless on the screen as possible.
Thanks for your time, and we hope to see you in-person for hybrid events soon.