Oprah and President Obama Did a Green Screen Video Interview, and You Can Too

Oprah and President ObamaAs people around the world continue to quarantine, TV and online video producers are getting creative and coming up with some innovative ways to keep filming. 

One great example is Oprah’s recent interview with former President Barack Obama. The two appeared to be sitting together face-to-face for the interview. In reality, the former president was sitting in a Washington D.C. studio while Oprah was at her home in Santa Barbara, CA. 

They were able to pull off the interview using green screen technology, also known as chroma key.  It’s something weather anchors use every day when presenting the forecast on our daily news.  If Oprah’s team never mentioned they were using a green screen, we may have believed they were together during the interview. 

Another great example is from the Drew Barrymore Show. They used the same technology during an interview segment where they showcased multiple guests. During the segment, Barrymore asked her virtual audience to guess which of the three guests were on stage with her. They replied that it was surprisingly difficult to tell.

Believe it or not, you can achieve a similar effect using Screencast-O-Matic’s Green Screen tool. While green screen filters on social media apps often produce a blurry, distorted effect, the professional-level tools available today are much more convincing. That means, you don’t need an Oprah-style production team to achieve a convincing effect. You can do it in your own home.

Achieving the Green Screen Video Effect 

Oprah used a high-cost production team to make sure every detail came off without a hitch.  From staging, lighting to editing, they were able to stitch a seamless scene together.  Most of us don’t have big budgets to spend on these types of productions but we can achieve a similar effect without any difficulty. 

With the following green screen techniques, you can make it appear as though two faraway subjects are in the same room. Here’s how to do it.

Backgrounds to Tell Your Story

Most of the work is in the planning. Before you record, you’ll need to know what you want your final video to look like.  Think about the overall tone to your interview as well as the type of background you would like to use.  

We suggest choosing a background that will deliver the overall tone and story of your video.  For instance, a home-like environment shows a personal touch to an interview.  While an office background demonstrates the business-like tone of your video.  If you’re interviewing a CEO, you would likely choose a business environment as your background.

Try using high-resolution images for your background. If you want to create the illusion of being in the same room, try to find photos showing opposite sides of the same room. You could do this by cropping one large photo, choosing corresponding photos from a set of stock photography, or even flipping the image to create a mirrored effect (as long as there’s no text in the image that would tip off your viewers). 

Coordinate Your Outfits

There’s a ton of coordinating you’ll need to do before recording your green screen video. First, you’ll need to coordinate your outfits.  This may sound silly but it’s actually very important to coordinate the type of outfits to wear for a green screen recording. 

If you’re using a green background, you’ll need to know that the color will be filtered out of your video.  You should tell your interviewee not to wear green of any shade.  This means ruling out green ties, green jewelry, or anything green.  For example, if you’re interviewee wears a green top then you’ll risk seeing their ‘floating’ head in your video and that’s not the type of story you want to tell.  

Instead, choose colors that will stand out from your green screen.  We suggest putting a list of acceptable colors together for your interviewee including tips on what to avoid.  We have a long list of green screen tips here to help you.

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting! 

We can’t stress this enough but lighting is the most important aspect of your green screen video.  It may be hard to master but once you do it right, you’re well on your way to a successful green screen video.  

Let’s start with the green screen backdrop: You’ll need to have an even distribution of light to effectively remove your background. Uniformity is the key. It’s important that your backdrop is wrinkle resistant. Any wrinkles can cause shadows and that makes it hard to remove in post-production.

Ideally, you want to set up as many lights as possible but two to three lights on either side of the backdrop will be fine. To keep your lighting even, make sure side light sources match in size and intensity. Use overhead lights for bigger productions to avoid overlap and dark spots.

Whether you’re using natural lighting (which may be tricky if you’re in different timezones) or artificial lighting, do your best to match the lighting for consistency. 

Lighting your subjects: If one subject is well-lit while the other is dark, viewers will be distracted and will know your subjects aren’t together. So you’ll need to spend some time creating the same lighting effect for both subjects.  

Place your subject far enough away from the green screen to prevent shadows and spills but close enough to get the shot you desire. 

You want to light your subject independently from your green screen background to create a separation between the two.

Remove Background Noise

You’ll need to make sure both subjects are in a quiet area away from any ambient noise or other loud distractions. Even the sound of a whirring ceiling fan in one subject’s room, but not the other’s can ruin your take. 

Remember, after filming you can also edit out any awkward pauses or brief interruptions. 

Try to Use Corresponding Furniture and Decor

It’s in the details. Oprah’s production team coordinated using the same chair and side table for President Obama’s interview.  This made it seem like they were in the same room.  They even used similar glasses to drink from. 

You don’t have to match everything completely, but your video will look more consistent if your subjects are in similar chairs, and have the same decor.  

Use Similar Recording Technology

It’s perfectly fine to record with your laptop webcams and built-in microphones. Just make sure that whatever equipment you choose, you match it for both subjects.  Otherwise you may end up with distractingly uneven sound and video quality in your videos. 

Putting It All Together

Green Screen MenuOnce you have your two videos wrapped up, you can seamlessly edit these together in Screencast-O-Matic’s Video Editor.  

You can use the Overlay Video tool to merge your two videos together, making it appear as though your subjects are having a back and forth conversation.  To remove the background, use the green screen filter in the video editor. 

There may be some additional video editing you’ll need to do to create the video you want but it can all be put together in the editor.

You can add video intros, background music, and even customize it with your own logo.  

Easy Green Screen Videos

Green screens can transform the way you visually provide content to your audience, students, coworkers, and more. Green screen videos can take your projects from a hopeful vision to production reality with less time and budget than you think.