Greenscreen Compositing for Indie Filmmakers

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Compositing images has been around since the dawn of cinema. In the following videos we’ll take a look at how independent filmmakers can use greenscreen techniques to quickly and cheaply upgrade the production value of their film. There are many things you can do with greenscreen without a budget.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at some larger budget films and the before and after with greenscreen.

How does greenscreen work and why is it green? If you have ever watched older films, they actually used to use a blue screen. However, with time and technology they discovered a specific green tone worked better because it contained none of the same pigments as skin tone. It also registered better with  digital post.

For a quick history of greenscreen, we go to FilmmakerIQ’s wonderful video that traces the roots of compositing in film.

There are many ways that you can use greenscreen in your film regardless of genre. With tools like Adobe After Effects, it is not only extremely cheap, but easy to enhance your film with compositing. But let me leave you with one warning. As someone who has composited images for over 20 years, you really want to make sure you work with a pro. Compositing takes time and practice to get right. Although there are some things you can fake, like color tone and contrast, you will need to make sure that the lighting of your character and the perspective of the camera match. For example, if the sun is directly overhead in your background, you want to light your actor with a strong overhead light. Or at least enough to make it believable. One of the key issues I see with compositing is that the actors are lit with a perfect 45 degree softbox, which doesn’t look very realistic. When possible, just do your greenscreen in the same environment.

If you’re interested in greenscreen, there are some simple things you can do right away. First, get a greenscreen. They are relatively cheap on Amazon. Or just buy some green fabric from a local store. I’ve even see people use green bed sheets. Although it’s not perfect, if you can make a clear separation between your subject and the greenscreen you will be ahead of the game.

I personally recommend this kit from Fancierstudio, but there are tons of options on Amazon.

Next, you will need a compositing program. I highly recommend After Effect CC. It is available for a monthly rate of only $19 and really is the best tool around. There are, of course, higher end tools like Nuke. But at this level AE is really all you need. Also check out Andrew Kramer’s site Video Copilot. It hosts tons of visual effects tutorials that will get you on your way.

Here’s some greenscreen tips.

The following video has some good tips. The only thing I don’t totally agree with is that there is only 1 way to light your talent. As we mentioned before, it’s important to light your talent exactly like the environment. So, if possible, try to shoot in the same conditions or spend a lot of time matching footage.

Now take a break and enjoy some of the very worst greenscreen in modern film history.


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