Useful Tips for Green Screen Backgrounds

  • Light up the scene
  • Pay attention to the backdrop
  • Set up the camera
  • Edit with good software

Edited by Stephanie Vermillion

May 18, 2020

Green Screen Tips: How to Create and Use a Green Screen

Using a green screen can take your video project from good to great by precisely swapping the green screen with a digital backdrop of your choice, be it a serene beach or the depths of outer space. So how does a green screen work? The green screen tool incorporates chroma key, a post-production technique that layers two images or video streams by turning the green color transparent.

Here’s a quick rundown: Videographers film with a smooth, monochrome green screen backdrop, then use chroma key in post to make the green color (chroma) transparent, and replace (key) it with the editor’s chosen backdrop. The right green screen software will make chroma keying – a strategy used by everyone from beginners to Hollywood directors – both effective and seamless.

This guide with top green screen tips will help you navigate how to use a green screen properly. You can also check out this guide for additional information:

How to make a green screen video

If you’re interested in the science behind the game-changing green screen technology, read this article by TechRadar:

Green screen technology

Top Green Screen Tips to Improve Your Video Background

How to Light a Green Screen

Lighting is integral to green screen footage, but it’s more than throwing some lights on the set and calling it a day. Chroma keying works because the green screen is consistent and monotone. Adding too much direct light can disrupt the results.

So what’s the best way to light a green screen? With diffused, soft lights. This kind of lighting will eliminate hot spots and shadows, guaranteeing your final product looks smooth and natural – so much so that viewers believe you truly filmed in outer space!

For lighting, try diffusion filters, and stick to one consistent type of lamp (e.g., fluorescent or tungsten). When lighting from multiple angles, consider buying the same light twice or three times instead of trying to sync all light sources. This will help further guarantee a cohesive green screen come editing time.

You’ll also want to light the green screen and your actors separately to avoid shadows. Study the background footage you’re swapping in to ensure the lighting on actors naturally mirrors the lighting you’d expect from that type of footage.

Focus on Backdrop Details

Just like you don’t want light to disrupt the green monotone, you need to make sure the screen itself is smooth, consistent, and de-wrinkled. Creases or wrinkles can alter the actual color, so it’s best to make sure you invest in smooth, industrial standard green screens for utmost precision. Clamping the green screen in place is also a handy way to keep the backdrop tight and smooth throughout the shoot.

For those wondering how to use a green screen, this is perhaps the most important tip out there: Invest in a good green screen, whether that’s purchased or DIYed with care. You can purchase a ready-made green screen online, with prices varying from around $20 up to $70 or beyond (the latter includes support stands and holders). You can also DIY your green screen with a green-painted wall or sheet. Just test out this DIY screen before going into full production mode.

A few additional things to keep in mind when using a green screen: Your actors should avoid wearing green clothing. Anything that’s green in the scene will be removed when using chroma key, so opt for different colors unless you’re trying to go for this effect (e.g., for the effect of a head bobbing through the ocean, your subject would want to wear a green turtleneck, pants, gloves, and socks. Also, you could use a blue screen instead of green, but green is the most popular choice among video producers.

Set Up Your Camera

The green-screen technique doesn’t actually involve your camera – you shoot with the green screen then key it out in post – but that doesn’t mean you should hit record and see what happens. Here are a few filming strategies to keep in mind.

Exposure: Since you have lighting already, keep your ISO low to avoid noisy and overly grainy footage. Make sure the footage is bright enough to seamlessly fit with the backdrop. That’s where a quick test run can do wonders for the final look of your film.

Settings: Use an aperture of f/4 to f/5.6 to add slight blur that smooths out your screen. Also, go for a shutter speed of about 1/80 or 1/100. This will minimize your motion blur.

Focal length: To ensure cohesiveness, match the focal length of the green screen footage and final background footage as possible. If you’re using stock footage, study the settings beforehand then set up your green-screen scene to match it.

Quality: Film with the highest quality format your camera offers. It doesn’t matter if it’s a DSLR, smartphone, mirrorless camera, or camcorder; as long as you have at least 1080p, you’re all set – although 4K footage is even better.

Production Setup

Keep your actors at least three to six feet from the green screen to avoid shadows. Also, think about the backdrop you’re swapping in. What makes sense for your subjects’ actions? Should they look one way versus another, or walk in a certain direction (e.g., toward the mountain versus away from it?)

Also, don’t forget a sturdy tripod. With any film, you want the footage to be as steady and shake-free as possible – and that’s even more important when you’re fusing one video with another. (Shaky subjects with a smooth and steady desert background will look glaringly off to the viewers.)

Edit with Good Software

Once you’ve finished filming, it’s time to transfer your footage onto your Mac or PC to start video editing. This is where top-notch editing software for chroma keying comes into play. Make sure to use software that’s compatible with your laptop, and software that is powerful enough to handle the size of your video files.

Keying in green screen software like Movavi Video Editor Plus is a straightforward and effective editing process that gives you the power to swap out that green screen for your desired video backdrop, whether that’s footage you shot on a beach in Bora Bora, stock footage of far-flung mountain peaks, or any creative scene in between.

Frequently Asked Questions

To effectively use a green screen, you need a smooth, monotone green backdrop, soft lighting without hot spots or shadows, high shutter speed and low ISO camera settings, background footage, and video-editing software with chroma key capabilities.

Check out this article to read more details:

How to make a green screen video

A green screen is a monotone green backdrop that video editors can swap out with different footage to place the actors in a specific scene. Editors chromakey in post-production to isolate and turn the green screen transparent; then, they key in a scene-setting backdrop, be it a serene sunset-hued beach or a fantastical galaxy far, far away.

For more information, read the article linked below.

How to make a green screen video

Making a green screen look natural comes down to two main elements: lighting and a smooth backdrop. Light the screen and subjects separately with soft lighting, and illuminate your actors to fit the keyed-in footage. Make sure the backdrop is one monochrome color without creases; a smooth green screen means more effective chroma keying in post-production.

To learn how to edit your green screen footage, follow the link below.

How to use chroma key software


Movavi Video Editor Plus

Your next step in video-making

  • Edit video clips, images, and audio on a timeline
  • Add transitions, filters, titles, and stickers
  • Animate objects using keyframes, use more built-in media
  • Export videos in any popular format

* The free version of Movavi Video Editor Plus has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output videos, and, if you’re saving a project as an audio file, an ability to save only half the audio length. Learn more