Previously, I wrote an article discussing the benefits of a green screen video production. However, once you have determined that green screen is the way to go - how do you plan for it? Well, do not underestimate the importance of Pre-Production when shooting green screen. It's easy in the chaos of planning a shoot to overlook these basic steps when heading in to a green screen shoot. Here are a few helpful hints that we thought we'd pass along… (of course, we've never made any of these mistakes ourselves).
11 Tips For Planning A Green Screen Video Production
1. Get everyone on board with the background BEFORE shooting - This can actually be quite tricky, but it's super… no… uber-important to get your client (and yourself) squared away with what the background will look like. And get feedback from ALL decision makers involved. This should limit a constantly changing background during post-production. Don't waste time rendering, file writing, and uploading… and downloading… and re-uploading…
2. Request branding guidelines early - Find out what you can and cannot do with an organizationʼs branding designs and logo. Determine what colors you can and cannot use, etc. Get those guidelines in front of your designers (or yourself) so you can give everyone enough time to work their design magic.
3. Send Storyboards - Make sure everyone knows what the background is going to look like. People do not enjoy surprises, so create storyboards to demonstrate how the subject will appear on the background. Include a variety of samples to give everyone an idea of what a person will look like in the frame.
4. Consider perspectives when designing a background - If you're using more than one camera, make sure that the background perspective changes to match the camera angle change. If the camera angle and/or framing on the person changes, but the background doesn't, your video's going to look like a cheap local cable spot. Think about each camera's focal length. Make sure the close-up shot is more out of focus than the wide and that the angle of the background matches the camera's angle change.
5. Light to your background- The main reason you want your background finalized before shooting is so you can incorporate your lighting to match the lighting motivation of your background. You want to sell to the viewer that this person belongs in this environment and they don't look out of place. If the light spills off to the right, make sure you place the key light on your subject appropriately. The background will also determine the placement of a hair light, or a scrape… or whether or not you even need them.
6. Scout your location - Whenever possible, scout the place you plan to shoot. If you have a choice, do not shoot a green screen interview in a room with 8' ceilings… with white ceiling tiles. You need to be careful with the spill light off the ceiling. That will cause plenty of issues in post production. And be sure to find a room that has depth. You want to keep your subject away from the backdrop so you avoid the spill there too.
7. Find a good Make-up Artist - (if your budget allows) Find a make-up artist that has done green screen before. They know what to look for. Let them worry about walking up to interviewees and patting their hair down. That's the last thing you want to keep doing as youʼre trying to get an interviewee to open up to you.
8. Get a monitor with waveform display - You want to get your background as evenly lit as possible. While you can develop an eye for that after a while, it's always good to have a monitor that has a waveform display so you can see your levels (we typically like to have our green screen at a level between 55 and 65 IRE). Get it so you have flat levels - you want to see a relatively straight line running across your screen.
9. Choose your camera wisely - This is a decision in pre-production that has a direct impact on post. Not all cameras shoot the same. Not all cameras collect the same color information. It is important to know what information your camera records, and get an understanding of the output signal. The more color information your camera collects, the more room you have to play with in post. Another good idea is to turn off your cameraʼs sharpening option if it has it (the sharpening feature adds a thin black line around your subject that can be difficult to deal with in post).
10. Get comfortable with your keying software - Make sure you know your softwareʼs limitations ahead of time. That way you know how crazy you have to go trying to keep everyone's hair in order. Generally speaking, the better the software, the easier the key (but that's a big generalization).
11. Remind your interviewees NOT to wear green - Yes. A very simple step. So simple, it's easy to forget.
Well, hopefully this provides you with a nice basic understanding of things to consider when shooting green screen. There are certainly many more things to consider... but Iʼll save those for another entry. Just remember green screen can provide you with a ton of creative options… and headaches. Just keep in mind that you can avoid most of them!