Green screen or Chroma Key technology has been around for years with many people seeing it as something exclusive to big budget Hollywood productions. While it is certainly the case that these productions are top of the class in green screen technology; increasingly companies are using it to create professional, eye catching and entertaining videos. Vloggers, videographers and marketing companies are all using this powerful tool and this article will explain just how easy, effective and affordable it is to use.
Green screen or chromakey allows us to drop a subject, be it an actor, talking head or product into whatever foreground or background you would like to use. This setting can be a still image or video from your shop floor, a digitally generated environment or a creative commons video or any other visual you could think of. Green or blues screens are used because we are not green or blue! These colours do not match any naturally occurring skin tones or hair colours, which means that the subject can be isolated from the solid background and a new background dropped in to replace it.
The most common use for a green screen for marketing purposes is to put a subject in an attractive, appropriate and controllable environment. To do this a green screen is set up behind the subject and is lit completely independently. This is an important point and one that is often overlooked, videographers and photographers will tell you that lighting is one of the most important parts of a good shoot and this goes doubly so for green screen photography. The subject needs to be lit suitably and should be positioned such that they do not cast a shadow on the screen.
Using two diffused light sources positioned behind the subject helps you get an even light on your (hopefully unwrinkled) background and cuts down on the possibility of shadows from the subject playing havoc with colour keying in post-production. I can hear you saying now that “I am not a professional photographer! I don’t have diffused studio lighting! Where am I going to get a green screen anyway?!” You can buy a green screen kit on Amazon for around $100 which contains everything you will need to make sure your footage has a nice, flat, crisp background which will make the next part of the process a dream. If you don’t want to spend the $100, any material of a similar shade to the commercially available screens will do as long as you light it evenly and independently from your subject.
Now for the fun part; taking your subject and dropping it into your ideal background. To do this you will need to use any of a number of excellent software packages available such as After Effects, Premier Pro, Final Cut Pro or DaVinci Resolve to mention just a few. Some of these require some investment of time and money to use effectively but all achieve more or less the same result. Using the in-built features of these programs, it is possible to “key out” the green colour and place your subject in that beautiful background you want.
There may be practical reasons; it might be impractical to shoot a marketing video on your shop floor as you may not want to interrupt workflow or maybe it is just too noisy. In this case you could shoot some background shots of your shop and superimpose that well recorded, uninterrupted green screen footage of yourself explaining just why your processes are better than your competitors.
Or perhaps you have creative reasons for this shoot; you might want to show your product or spokesperson in an exotic or even CGI background. For the former you can use creative commons video from any of a number of fantastic stock footage websites. The latter requires a little more work but the chroma keying procedure is the same.
And then crucially, there are financial reasons. In connection to the previous two points there are substantial cost savings to be made through green screen. Not having to travel with a crew to external sets or locations and not disrupting your staff are both clear examples.
TLDR: Green screening technology is an effective, affordable and fun way to make your next marketing video. It can allow you to add visual impact creatively to your scene for a very limited budget. Make a plan, give it a try and get creative!
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