Whenever you say “Lights! Camera! Action!” at a green screen shoot, be sure to take your time with the “lights” part. Pick the proper lights and position them well, ensuring both subject and screen are properly lit. It will save time and money during postproduction and ensure better effects. To help you get started, here’s how to light a green screen properly.
Shed Some Light on the Subject
When working with your talent, take the time to set up their lighting first before focusing on the screen behind them. Ensure their makeup, clothing, and jewelry isn’t green or too reflective. Position them about eight feet in front of the screen. Adjust your key light, fill light, and back light to keep them evenly illuminated, with soft shadows and a slight halo effect created by the back light. Ensure your talent is far enough away from the green screen to ensure green coloring doesn’t reflect and spill into the shot, especially onto their skin. It’s also a good idea to lay down a black cloth or similar nonreflective material on the floor to prevent green from leaking into the shot.
Light It Up
Next, turn the back key lights onto the green screen itself. If you’re using a fabric green screen rather than a cyclorama wall kit, flatten it out and steam away any folds or wrinkles that can cause harsh shadows—unless you want to spend extra that postproduction time editing them out. Station two background lights of the same brand and wattage at a 45-degree angle on either side of the screen to further even out the distribution of illumination. Keeping the screen evenly lit and properly exposed is vital; if the background is in uneven shades of green, it will be harder to use chroma key to edit the film together later. Don’t allow dark shadows to form on the screen or concentrate two lights into a “hotspot.” If the software doesn’t recognize the same bright green everywhere, the footage will be worthless.
Adjust Your Camera
Now that you’ve learned how to light a green screen properly, check to see if you need to adjust your camera’s settings. Professionals recommend lowering your ISO setting to reduce the random spots of color that can creep into a shot. Remember that lowering your ISO can also risk underexposure of the green screen, so check your monitor and adjust as needed. You may even need to revisit your lighting at this point, but better to handle it now before wasting an entire day of shooting. Good luck!