9 tips: How to use a green screen background for videos

Removing background color

If you’re looking to enhance your videos and need a creative background to tell your story, a green screen is a great option. You can shoot your green screen video anywhere without ever having to move! Today, you don’t need to be a video professional to use a green screen. Anyone can purchase a green screen or chroma key technology and create their own desired backgrounds easily. 

It is important to understand how green screens work though in order to use them effectively. A green screen is relatively simple to use, but by becoming familiar with the fundamentals, you can expertly set up, light, and shoot your videos correctly and effectively. We’ve provided a list of 9 green screen tips you can follow to help make your video stand out and look professional.

What are green screen backgrounds?

A green screen, also known as a chroma key, is material used as a backdrop in your video that you can easily replace with a new graphic, photo, or video during the editing process. 

The technique is used to remove the background from the subject standing in front of a green screen. The green background is replaced by images or video streams. It can give the creative illusion of having a background you can interact with or allow you to add new background visuals to your video. 

When to use a green screen

Green Screen BackgroundEveryone from big-budgeted Hollywood productions to YouTubers and vloggers utilizes the power of a green screen. Many film and video productions use a green screen or chroma key technique as part of special effects. Green screens are also used in news broadcasts, specifically for weather reports, but can be used to enhance any type of video.  

Green screen backgrounds can take your video project to the next level if you know how to use one. Using a green screen can transport you to a new world, or provide you with a consistent, professional background. Whether you are showing a city in another country or you want to get rid of the ‘messy’ scene behind you, turning to a green screen background can provide you with many options. You can use green screen technology in many situations.  Here are a few creative examples:

  1. Educators can point out lesson plans.  For example, teachers can use a solar system background to point out planets.  By standing in front of an image of the solar system, a teacher can illustrate where the planets are and explain it to students.
  2. Students can get creative with student projects.  By creating their own newscasts, students can learn about current news and help educate themselves about culture, politics, and society.
  3. Business professionals can create impressive marketing videos.  With green screen technology, businesses are able to build their brands by including their logos or important branding elements in a clean and professional way.  

How to use a green screen background

Tip #1: Choosing the best color green screen

There are many green screen products you can purchase in the marketplace. There are even other colors you may use for background removal besides green, including red or blue. You can remove your background with any of these options. However, some colors may cause problems in editing. 

Using red is difficult because of how close it matches the skin tone. Blue may not work because of how prominent the color is in clothes, specifically jeans, which can make keying tedious. The color, green, is furthest away from human skin tones and not very prominent in clothing, which is why it’s usually preferred. The sensors of video cameras are sensitive to green, so it is often the ‘cleanest’ key removal of your background.

The best tip is to evaluate what you are wearing and the props you are using in front of the screen. It’s best to stay away from using anything with either a shade of green or blue color, depending on what screen you choose to use. Those will be removed along with the background since it’s based on color.   

Tip #2: Selecting the best green screen material

Once you’ve settled on the color of your background, it is now time to choose the type of material to use for your green screen video. You can use a wide range of material for green screen backgrounds such as poster boards, a painted wall, sheets and fabrics, and more, just as long as the color is flat and completely uniform. The most common type of green screen backdrop is made from muslin, which is a plain cotton weave. You can find these sheets at various craft stores or online.

We recommend using a proper green screen background kit. A quick search on Amazon shows results for over a thousand kits, screens, and backdrops. Find one that fits within your budget, and purchasing a kit with lights is a huge plus for lighting your subjects and background.

Tip #3: Set up a uniform green screen

The key to a great ‘key’ is uniformity and smoothness in your backdrop. When setting up your green screen video, you want to ensure your background is wrinkle and debris-free. Any wrinkles can cause artifacts to appear in your final edit creating a distracting effect.

If your green screen kit came with a stand and clips, stretch the fabric so that it’s as flat as possible or you will see wrinkles. Use a steamer to remove any wrinkles that may cause problems in editing or run your hand across the screen to flatten the fabric as much as possible. Slight wrinkling will not cause that much of an issue but deep wrinkles that overlap and create shadows can. If you don’t have a stand you can utilize a flat wall. Just set up the screen against it and you are set to go.  

Tip #4: Use uniform lighting

Once you have your green screen, you can begin to build your lighting. Having good lighting can make your green screen look nice and smooth. Lighting is extremely important to provide evenness and consistency in your background. Any area of your screen should be lit evenly and exposed correctly. If your lighting is bright on one side but not on the other, the removal of your background may not be clean.

If your camera has a zebra function, you can determine if your lighting setup is flat and uniform. Zebra is a function found on most cameras to indicate exposure levels. It is perfect for finding if you have too much light in your composition but it can be used to check for ‘bright spots’ on your screen. 

You want to get as many lights as possible to properly expose your background and your subject. We recommend using 2 or 3 back lights to light your screen. Having back lights will help separate the subject from the screen.  Also, you should have a separate light aimed at the subject. All of these lighting techniques will help with making a high-quality green screen.  

You can also turn to a high-definition web camera to shoot your green screen. The lighting can be adjusted and the camera can easily be moved to get a recording of your green screen.    

Tip #5: Avoid shadows

Now that your green screen is lit properly, it is time for your subject to take center stage. Even when the background is lit evenly, the subject standing in front will also need to be taken into consideration. You have to light your subject properly to execute the green screen effect. Light your subject independently from your green screen background with different lights to create a separation between the two. 

Shadows can be a big challenge when you green screen. Many people starting out with using a green screen make the mistake of standing too close to the screen, which creates shadows and causes issues in the edit. Make sure that the subject is several feet away from the screen. If you want a full-body shot of your subject, have them step on a board or a small sheet to prevent creating shadows around their feet.

You can adjust your back lights and light your subject from the front if needed. Take a step back and check to see if there are obvious shadows on the screen.  If you are on your own, test the background before recording your whole video. You can also get a better idea of shadows by having the subject move or try moving your hand to see if the light picks it up and creates shadows.  You can quickly eliminate shadows by moving your lights or your subject.

One tip is to use soft lights with your green screen. Again, uniformity comes into play with lighting. You need to have an even distribution of light to effectively do this effect correctly. The more soft lights, the better! Using any hard lights will result in more noticeable shadows and unevenness of your background. There are debates about which light temperature is best to use when lighting a green screen background. Some tout warm and others tout the benefits of a cooler temperature. Frankly, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are consistent.

Tip #6: Avoid Reflections 

Another issue with standing too close to the green screen is ‘spillage’ on the subject. With lights bouncing off the green screen, the green color may start to reflect on the subject’s skin or clothes creating a green halo, which can result in artifacts. Place your subject far enough away from the green screen to prevent shadows and reflections but close enough to get the shot you desire. 

Though you want to use a lot of light for your chroma key background, you don’t want to over-expose the image. Over-exposure brightens the image to such an extent that it causes reflections or gives the image a whitewash effect. To get the perfect look, you may want to slightly underexpose your green screen background – while keeping it lit uniformly – creating a perfect separation between the subject and background.

Tip #7: Selecting a quality background

Screencast-O-Matic has an extensive stock library filled with thousands of high-quality images and videos you can use for green screen backgrounds. Add green screen animals, planets, beaches, or motion background videos into your project. Our stock library provides endless creative options you can use on any green screen video!  

Before you record, try picking out background images or video to replace your green screen with. You’ll want to take note of what is behind you and where to place your subject. If you are trying to illustrate a city setting, for example, situate your subject so that he/she is not blocking anything important that you would like to showcase.

Tip #8: Interact with your background

You shouldn’t feel that you have to stand still throughout your green screen video. One way to effectively use a green screen background is by interacting with it. Once the lighting is set, you should be able to work with the background and create fun situations.  For instance, you can use ocean waves to illustrate that you are surfing. This can all be done with a green screen without ever having to be at the ocean. 

Another fun thing to do is to introduce props into your recording as long as they are not the color of your screen. Have fun with props to help illustrate your story. Interacting with your green screen background in a fun way can help enhance your video.

Tip #9: Choose the right video editing software

Choosing the right software to record your green screen video is essential to create effects to your videos. You can key out the green backdrop easily with the right green screen software. Screencast-O-Matic is a one-stop solution for all your video creation needs. We have the green screen effect you are looking for and you can even remove your webcam background without a green screen using our virtual background tool, although using a green screen can provide a cleaner background removal. 

There are two ways to use remove your background with Screencast-O-Matic:

  • Pre-production: You can easily remove your background in the pre-production of your video project by using our screen recorder. It allows you to remove your background during the recording of your webcam video. 
  • Post-production: For those who want to remove the background in the post-production phase of the project, you can do that with our video editing software. This allows you to remove during the editing process and replace it with the background of your choice. 

In both cases, you can choose to adjust the edging of the removal to make more precise edits around your subject. It’s a seamless process. You can use the screen recorder or video editor to remove color. Use the video editing software to then add your background and make final edits.  Add text, arrows, highlights and more with just a few easy clicks to enhance your video even more.

Get started with green screens

Green screen stock imagesGreen screen backgrounds have become commonplace in video productions both large and small, and are easy to use for anyone to elevate their projects to the next level. Shooting a green screen is supposed to be fun and easy! You don’t have to be professional video editors to get it done. Our 9 green screen tips will help you create engaging backgrounds to illustrate your ideas in minutes.  

Get started using Screencast-O-Matic’s green screen feature with a Deluxe plan. With the use of Screencast-O-Matic, you can elevate your presentations into quality videos with ease. What makes Screencast-O-Matic stand out from all the rest is that you can remove the background during the recording of your video as well as in the editing process. 

Screencast-O-Matic is a widely used service by educators, business professionals, gamers and bloggers. Not only does it have an easy-to-use screen recorder but it has a ton of features that can help you take your video to the next level. Again, choosing the right software to create these situations is important.  Having an easy tool that does it all can make your green screen video come to life.

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