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Insider tips on shooting green screen

Justin Hunt, our long suffering director of photography for our HitFilm footage has years of experience of green screen to share with you here.
So when we’re shooting green screen there are lots of different challenges which we have to look at. We can have bad focusing, we can have green spill on a subject, we can have a gradient in the background. Getting a nice even key of light on the background is really important. Sometimes when we’re lighting an actor in the scene as well, we’re introducing loads of different lights to get the right kind of exposure on the actor as well as on the green screen and that can cause us some difficulties, especially with casting shadows on the green screen. So that’s one thing we have to be really careful about. We’re lighting the two different elements separately.
So we’re making sure that we’ve got a flat even key and our subject is lit for whatever scene they’re going to be comped into. And obviously by introducing a variety of different lights and a variety of different lighting techniques, we have to be careful to make sure that we don’t cast shadows on that green screen. And also, while you’re on set, to do test keys as well. If you’ve got a laptop or an iMac or anything like that, let’s just bring the footage in and do a quick key of it and I think that’s really important because you’re there, you’re in the moment. You can always tweak the lighting to get the perfect key.
So, the reason we’re using green is because it’s the opposite colour to the skin tones and the reds in the skin. However, if your subject is green, for example, like Kermit the Frog, then maybe we’d use a blue screen. Whatever background colour you’re using is an opposing colour to your subject may be.
Justin Hunt, the director of photography for our Guerrilla Diary sections, has been shooting green screens for years. In this video he shares some of his tips with us.

To Justin, it’s essential that the back screen is lit separately from the foreground. Sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Preparation for shooting a green screen is always important, it’s really not worth rushing because you’ll pay for it later with more time in front of your computer screen, tweaking at pixels, and cursing whoever shot your footage!

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Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

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