On today’s podcast, we’re going to learn the best tips and tricks on creating awesome green screen.
Green screen, also called chroma keying, is a special effect in video production where you digitally remove the background behind a subject, item, or set and replace it with another background. That’s right – it’s exactly what they do on the news!
When I was a young kid my favourite film was Superman. I can remember seeing a behind-the-scenes documentary on TV about the making of the film, and seeing Christopher Reeve in his Superman outfit in front of a green screen pretending to fly. They even had a fan on in front, of him blowing his hair to enhance the effect. It was a magician revealing a magic trick, and I was absolutely blown away. Because of this, green screen has always captured my imagination in video production and film, and I think a lot of people are equally fascinated by it.
If you browse YouTube, you’ll find millions of examples of people creating their own green screen video, some of which are more effective than others.
To find the best advice for creating great green screen, I’m speaking to corporate video production pro and green screen expert Mark Copeman.
Mark runs a UK video production company called 8.45 TV, that houses a dedicated green screen studio in Berkshire. On top of this, they also have a mobile green screen setup, and often travel to their corporate clients in London. After spending hundreds of hours practicing and refining his green screen technique, Mark and his team create amazing, flawless green screen productions. They create professional branded TV-style shows for their clients, and the content they create looks just as good, if not better, than what you see on TV.
I’ll ask Mark if he can share as much as possible about green screen, and distill his best information down into some practical steps that Web Video Marketing Show listeners can implement to improve the look of their green screen videos from today.
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Hey, this is Ryan and you’re listening to the web video marketing show. Today we’re going to learn the inside tips and tricks on how to do awesome green-screen green-screen, which is also called chroma key is a special effect in video production where you basically remove the background and replace it with another background like on the news. It’s also used for compositing a number of images or layers of video together. When I was a young kid, my favourite film was Superman and I remember seeing a documentary on TV about the making of the film. I remember seeing Christopher Reeve in a Superman outfit in front of a screen pretending to fly. I think they had a fan on in front of him blowing his hair to enhance the effect and it was like revealing a magic trick and I was quite blown away. So greenscreen has always had this magical place for me in video production and film and I think a lot of people are equally fascinated by it.
Speaker 1: (00:49)
If you have a look around on YouTube, there’s millions of examples of people making their own green screen videos and you know, some of them are more effective than others. Well today I’m going to be speaking to video production professional and green-screen experts. Mark Copeman. Mark is based in the U K and he runs a video production company called eight 45 TV. His company has a dedicated green screen studio in Berkshire in the UK but also has a mobile green screen setup and they often travelled to their corporate clients in London. And after spending hundreds of hours practising and refining his technique, Mark and his team create amazing looking greenscreen. They create professional branded TV style shows for their clients and the stuff they make looks just as good, if not better than a lot of what you might see on TV. So I’m going to be asking Mark if he can share as much as possible about what he knows about greenscreen and distil it down into something, um, into some practical steps that you can implement to improve the look of your green screen videos right from today. So hi Mark. And thanks for coming on the show. It’s good to be here. We’ll go straight into it. So Mark, the most obvious first question is why green? Why the colour green?
Speaker 2: (02:00)
Well that’s a good one and I’m glad I can. Um, I can actually answer that one. And it’s because it doesn’t have to be green. It could be blue. That’s the other sort of common colour which is used, but it’s simply because it’s, those two colours do not appear as pigment in human skin. Um, so there’s, there’s no danger or when you actually, and as I’m sure we’ll come onto when you actually use the software key out the, the, the background, there’s no danger of picking up bits of colour, which is that same colour as your background in your subjects skin. If they’re wearing green clothes, if they’re wearing blue clothes, which is very similar to that background, that will cause a problem. But you know, typically you can get away with it. And um, but that, that’s the real reason for the green.
Speaker 1: (02:43)
It’s a very practical, simple thing. So you produce a lot of green screen video. What do you particularly like about it and what your clients like about it?
Speaker 2: (02:52)
I think the key is really what clients like about it more than anything. If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to be get sort of up in just producing cool stuff for the sake of it. And it’s fine if it’s a hobby, but if it’s a business, then you’ve got to consider the why and uh, you know, what, why a client might buy something like that, which is much more intricate and difficult to produce versus a simpler production. But I think clients love it. Well, I know clients love it. Um, and specifically the, the virtual studio stuff that we produce because they want stuff to look highly professional and polished. They want their, their brand to be associated with, with, you know, videos, stuff, which they’re proud of. And, um, you know, doing the sorts of things that, that we do, they can be proud of it and it can be proud of it because it looks like stuff that people watch on TV in their lounge rooms on a, uh, on a Saturday night and they can relate to it.
Speaker 2: (03:50)
So I think that’s, that’s one of the reasons why people are sort of latched onto this, not screen necessary, but this, this virtual studio idea. The second thing I’d say is when you’re not just using a, uh, a photorealistic backdrop, it’s also good just for, for neatness of, of when you’re producing videos, if you, if you film somebody on a green screen background and just make it a white behind them, just nice and simple, especially when you’re walking into an office which perhaps isn’t the best. Again, a client sees an end result as being highly polished, highly professional.
Speaker 1: (04:24)
Okay. So definitely it can make videos look professional when done well. And it sounds like you’re also saying there needs to be some strategy behind it. There’s no point in doing it just for the sake of it because it creates a lot more work and a lot more complexity and sometimes simpler is better. So there needs to be, it needs to be a reason. Apart from it just being professional, what are the best types of videos that really, you know, use greenscreen to their maximum advantage? You, you’ve mentioned a virtual studio type set up and we’ll talk more about that. What are the other types of scenarios or situations where greenscreen can really lift the production?
Speaker 2: (05:00)
Well, we did a lot of interviews. We talked to a lot of clients of our customers. So if we’re doing testimonials, for example, in some cases people have got fabulous grand offices with, with wonderful sort of natural backdrops, which are, you know, 20 floors up in the city of London for example. And you know, you might choose to just go with the natural surroundings in that case. But you know, people involved in this industry, you just know that kind of eight or nine times out of 10, you know, you’re shoved in a broom cupboard essentially. And you know, there’s barely enough room for some lights. Uh, and, and so that’s where I think you get, you get flexibility. I think that’s perhaps the key, you know, it means you can, if you shoot on green screen, it means that there is many more options in post production. I suppose if you’re just shooting with the natural environment surrounding your subject, you’re stuck with that. There’s very little else you can do with it.
Speaker 1: (05:54)
Yup. That makes a lot of sense. One of the scenarios where my company’s chosen green-screen quite a few times where clients have said, we want to film six or eight interviews, but we don’t necessarily have the budget for you to travel all over the city on a number of days to go and film those interviews. So if we can gather everyone together in one place at the one time we can fill those into is in half a day or a day. So just from a practical budget point of view, it’s worked out really well.
Speaker 2: (06:22)
Yeah. And you get the consistency as well. Then if you’re at the, perhaps that’s the other thing to mention, linked to what you just said. And if you’re filming a series of things, um, you know, people like consistency and they like to see stuff looking the same and branded, uh, people that have, you know, companies are very, very protective of their brands. Uh, and again, I think if you, if you’re always filming, using, uh, a similar backdrop, it means you can produce a suite of stuff which is consistent, which is definitely a good thing from a brand perspective.
Speaker 1: (06:50)
Okay, cool. So I’d like to talk a bit about classic sort of green-screen mistakes that you see out there. I don’t mean to so much from a technical point of view at this stage, but more from a content and style point of view. So, and that I can think of is, might be watching a video on YouTube with someone speaking to camera, but there’ll be some crazy colourful animation in the background, which is really quite distracting. And in that situation, I’d really rather just see the person with neutral background. So there’s probably one that I can think of. Are there others that you see regularly where you just see that green screen effect actually ending up undermining the video?
Speaker 2: (07:26)
A lot of the stuff I see, uh, I mean I try and actively search out highly polished professional looking stuff so that we can learn from it. You know, you’re absolutely right. It’s a, it’s about making things fit for purpose I suppose. Uh, I’m used to the corporate environment. Um, I’m used to people who are very protective of their brand. There’s that word again and so there’s, there’s just no way we would end up producing stuff like that. In terms of, of poor usage, I’m not sure really, I guess it’s, you know, people are involved in video production. This, this, if I can perhaps answer the question like this, that there are, there are two types of people involved in video production. I have two types of person working for me. One of them is what I would call a more sort of traditional editor.
Speaker 2: (08:09)
And the other type of discipline is where you actually are a designer deep down. And so post-production takes on a, you know, has a real sort of design feel. Now I, you know, I’ve seen over the years have experiences of people who are, who are editors, who you know, who just, you just don’t have that natural ability in post production to, to create something which looks beautiful. The content will be fine and it will work out great and it’s all been cut down and tells a great story. But then on the flip side, the opposite also happens. You know, you get a great creative person who may look at something, may look a little crazy, which looks fantastic, but the story is not quite rare and they just don’t know how to edit the content. So I, I’m, I’m sort of answering the question in a round about way and I think it depends on the, the sorts of people that, that you have either working for you or you are and, and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Speaker 1: (09:03)
Well, I think you’re making a really good point there because working with chroma key isn’t just about filming someone, removing the background and plunking them in front of a different background is that it’s far more, or it can be far more complex and subtle. And that’s where those design elements come in. And that’s where this idea of compositing comes in, where you’re seeing a number of layers together and stylistically sort of creating new look or style or almost world because it’s kind of infinite possibilities rather than just taking someone from filling them in an office and putting them in a different environment. Absolutely. Yeah. Cool. Well that’s, that’s good that you’ve insulated yourself from watching bad examples and that’s probably a good tip is seek out great work and see what you can, what you can learn from it. Now I’d like us to go through step by step to help people right from the start talk about what they’re going to need from choosing a camera to the right space to fill them in the right equipment, how to set up lights, how to film an Inn, and then how to edit. So let’s start off by talking about cameras and not all cameras are created equal, some are better at filming greenscreen than others. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Speaker 2: (10:15)
Yeah. Um, and if, uh, if I’m honest, I’ll caveat this by saying, you know, I am not a camera expert. However, when I started in this particular vein about four years ago, you know, I bought a couple of Canon cameras, uh, very simple, sort of 600 pounds or thereabouts, which are probably the equivalent is probably worth, I don’t know, maybe two, 300 pounds today. So we’re talking about green screen in a moment, but those two cameras were, were, were kind of decent at home video cameras, let’s call them that. They certainly weren’t professional. And I, I managed to produce, you know, on my own, literally feeling my way around things. Um, some okay looking stuff, some stuff which would get, get us up and running as a, as a business, as a concept. And, you know, it was all right. It wasn’t perfect, but it got me through the key thing about those cameras.
Speaker 2: (11:10)
Um, you know, I did my research on them. Um, was having a, an external mic socket, which is absolutely key. Uh, there’s only a Jack three and a half mil jacks. Okay. It wasn’t like an XLR or anything like that, but, uh, having that external microphone is so, so important when you’re actually, you know, recording subjects. So that’s, that’s where I started. And you can start like that. But what’s happened over the last three or four years as more people have become involved in the business? You know, I now, the reason I’m not at camera expert is cause I work with people who are, and, and so we now have cameras which are worth more like 4,000 pounds. And obviously the quality of those cameras is exceptional. You’re, you’re capturing much more detail, which means that when it comes to keying further the track, everything is easier because there is effectively more information stored in that video timeline. So I don’t if that’s, if that’s helpful, Ryan, but that, that would be my starting point on cameras that you know, you, you can start low end, uh, but expect to get the best results high end. But you know what you can make do with low end as you get started.
Speaker 1: (12:12)
Definitely that, that, that’s a good start for sure. That you’ve got to start somewhere and work your way up. And with a lot of the temporary cameras, even some of the, you know, quite cheap ones like the entry level DSLR cameras shoot really awesome looking video. And what people don’t often always realise is that that video is highly compressed. And so it might look really cool, but once you start to key out a green screen, you can start to see some of the faults. And that’s where some of the more traditional video cameras that have less compression, you can actually get a better key from. I don’t know if you’ve, if you found that Mark.
Speaker 2: (12:48)
Yeah, I, I’d agree with that one. I mean, and also bearing mine on any camera that you, you, you own or going to buy their uh, you know, a whole bunch of different settings on it and it, and it’s all about testing and practise. And really I’ve learned this, I mean I’ve been persuaded on this one if I’m honest and my colleague who I suspect will listen to this will be smiling right now. You know, the, the higher resolution high data rate you recording, you know, clearly the better result you’re going to get. And whilst on the, on the flip side to that, you know, you start to produce files which are just obscene in file size, you just know you’re going to get a great result when it comes to King. Now I would argue till I’m blue in the face, you’re producing, you know, just decent quality web video, which doesn’t involve keying. You can still use low end cameras and get a great result. It’s about how you use them, how you tell the story. But when it comes to, to, to chroma King, I have to say the better quality camera at the better result you’re going to get.
Speaker 1: (13:42)
Let’s talk about choosing a space to film green-screen. So, um, would you say there’s a minimum possible size for a room for it to work properly or what would the ideal size room be or the ideal room to film green-screen
Speaker 2: (13:55)
yeah, I would that there are certainly some requirements here and we’ve, um, you know, we’ve, we’ve been burned on a couple occasions despite asking for the right sort of space. The first thing is, it depends on what you’re trying to film. Um, if you’re filming somebody top to toe, you’re gonna need a big space. If you’re filming somebody, you know, head and shoulders or you know, waist upwards, you know, you’re gonna need a smaller space. It also depends on the cameras you using as well, because some cameras can, you can get a much wider angle on which means you need to be, you don’t have to be so far away from your subject. So first things first, figure out what it is you’re shooting and figure out, you know, what the distance your camera needs to be away from your subject. Um, so that’s the first thing.
Speaker 2: (14:36)
And so we’ve got, we’ve got starting to get some sort of depth. In an ideal world, your subject would be maybe a metre or so, maybe even two away from the actual green screen background. That’s where you’ll get the best results. You’ll throw less shadow. And so you need to sort of add that onto the depth that you need from a width of room perspective. You know, you obviously need room for lights on the side, both behind and in front of the subject. And if you’re filming all day, frankly it just needs some space to breathe. You know, there’s nothing worse than, than doing something really quite tricky and complicated with perhaps multiple people you know, and you’re filming in a tiny room. So, so there’s rule of thumb. Our studio space, uh, we have a about a four metre width and the actual green screen stage itself is about three metres deep. And the filming area also four metres of course, but we’ve got about five metres depth. So yeah, about five ish by eight metres for filming top to toe. I would reckon
Speaker 1: (15:33)
when we take our mobile green-screen setup to clients and we talk about what room we’re going to film in, I just asked him for the largest room that they have available, which is usually a board room. And yeah, you’re, you’re right about just being cramped in a small space over a long period of time, particularly with these lights that are on. And even if they’re led or flouro lights, they do still heat up the room and over time you know that that room gets warmer and warmer and people get sleepy or distracted. So it is good to have plenty of space. And the other thing I think people don’t realise is that what you mentioned about having some distance between the subject and the screen because you’re putting light on that screen and there’s light and colour bouncing off onto your subject. So you end up with a lot of green reflected light on their shoulders and the back of their head, which sort of takes extra work in, in the editing to remove. And in thirdly, I find the more distance you have between the subject and the screen, it just puts the screen out of focus slightly, which just seems to make it a little bit easier to key.
Speaker 2: (16:35)
Yeah, yeah. I, I’d agree with that. And you know, if in doubt, always do a Reckie before you get there or get someone to send you a picture of the room because you know, you turn up with 10 up before and then you know, they’ve got the right size room and there’s a boardroom table in it, which is, you know, takes up 80% of the space. So, uh, you know, you can never prepare too much, especially when something is really urgent and really important. Just do the planning in advance.
Speaker 1: (17:00)
Definitely. So now let’s, let’s talk a bit more about equipment. And you know, like me, you, you work in the corporate world and we have the most professional setup possible. There’s also people listening to this podcast who are trying to do this type of setup in a more budget sort of way and you can still get really good results. So I’m hoping you can talk about two different types of setups. One being on an entry level budget sort of set up and then we’ll talk about your more like best of the best dream come true type of setup. So let’s talk a bit about types of equipment people can get to get themselves started with green-screen.
Speaker 2: (17:37)
I started on eBay, Ryan, um, and I bought four soft box lights with fluorescent sort of curly fluorescent bulbs in a couple of which we still, we still use today and uh, they’re good as gold and they two times two lights cost me around about 120 pounds. From memory. I bought a green sort of Lynn any sheets and a stand which cost me about another 60 quid. And I use that pretty successfully to be honest with you for for a couple of years. The, the weak link was the, the, the perhaps the, the, the camera’s originally. So, but you know, you can absolutely get started on the budget. The stuff was, you know, was shipped in, uh, in a couple of days. And as I say, it’s still used today and I, I would encourage people to, you know, if eBay is around in the country, you’re listening to, which it probably is, just take a look and, um, the, the, the, the softbox lights are good.
Speaker 2: (18:30)
So let me just be clear here. You need a couple of soft box lights, which are basically lights with a sort of a white cover over the front of the bulb to sort of spread and disperse the light. We need a couple of those, either side of your subject lighting the screen behind them. Do you need plenty of light on the green screen itself and then you need same again on the, uh, on the subject. So yeah, that is a absolutely perfect budget way to start and it will get you going and get you practising .
Speaker 1: (18:57)
Excellent. And so in terms of the screen itself, for that scenario, what would you recommend? Like a sheet paper, green paint on a wall or sort of flip out green-screen where do you think it would be a good place to start?
Speaker 2: (19:09)
Well, as I say, I’ve, I bought a couple of stands and I across bar thing and the learning sheet and the key is to make sure it’s completely, you know, stretched and tight. The better you get it when you’re filming easier, the postproduction always will be, well we have a permanent studio screen set up here when people come visit us or we were doing stuff on it ourselves. That’s pretty cool. Having that fixed thing in place. The pop up screens I, I’ve never used, but I suspect the fantastic, you know, you’ve got to figure out what people are going to be coming to you or you’re going to be going to them and, and typically you’ve got to assume it’s gonna be a bit of both if you’re going to do this for a living. But yeah, you can absolutely start with that linen sheet, but just make sure it’s nice and tight and it’s well lit.
Speaker 1: (19:51)
Okay, cool. There’s a great place to start. So once you get a little bit further down the track to the point where you’ve got your own awesome green screen studio setup like you do, can you paint us a bit of a picture of what your studio is like and what [inaudible]
Speaker 2: (20:04)
equipment you have? Sure. So over the last couple of years, um, you know, as I say, as more people have become involved in the business, we’ve, we’ve sort of picked up pieces of equipment I suppose. And uh, a colleague of mine, we, we use a couple of different, we still use those softbox lights actually to, to light the, uh, the green screen itself. We’re planning on sort of, uh, mounting lights, um, up high in the roof into the roof space and, and lysing it sort of permanently from, from behind. So it just makes life a bit easier. But there are two other types of lights which as you, as you get high level now these, these do get quite expensive. Um, but uh, Kino Flo lights are kind of the top of the range in terms of lighting subjects from the front. They’re pretty possible, the right kind of light and the right sort of colour temperature as as it’s known as sort of a fluorescent light and they can be controlled and turned down or turned up depending on what’s going on.
Speaker 2: (20:56)
Uh, but also we use the Kino lights as well. Fantastic. That is brilliant. I think we’ve had the set for about nearly 10 years and they’ll, you know, they’ll just last forever. Absolutely. But then also to get some sort of a little effects, data lights are also very good. There are all sorts of spots which you can blow out a little bit or you can focus with the barn doors on the front. Good for, you know, some kind of key light from behind, you know, shining a light on the subject sort of top of the head. So you get a little bit of effect on the hair, which again makes it slightly easier to keep it, it just looks good. And when we go out and about, and if we, if we travel overseas, even though they’re pretty good to take with us and you can light the green screen with them too.
Speaker 2: (21:33)
Yeah, that’s kind of higher end I suppose since I’m, again, over the last couple of years we’ve also got hold of a, a great portable green screen, which is, there’s more of a robust cloth. It’s a slightly different, more sort of luminous green I suppose, but the cloth is much, much thicker. It stretches easier. So you get that very salt background. Again, making easy as a key. So it’s just a, it’s a step up from, from the basic linen sheet. But to be honest with you, if that linen sheet is lit properly, it’s fine. It’s absolutely fine. Okay, cool. So I think it’s really interesting listeners to note that that kit that you bought when you started, you’re still actually using those lights in conjunction with the other equipment that you have. You have invested in the Kino Flo lights, which are quite high end, but there are lower cost flouro tube lights, which do a similar thing.
Speaker 2: (22:23)
They’re not quite as nice, but the, they’re pretty close though. They might not last quite as long, but you can buy those types of lights on eBay for a reasonable sort of price. So it’s interesting that it’s not a, it’s not a major step up, which is, it’s actually more of a refinement. I think the I, the idea is that really what it comes down to is learning the technique of lighting and how to light the screen. So let’s, let’s talk about about that. And I mean obviously the idea is to light that green screen in a diffused and even way as possible. So can you describe to listeners how they can like the screen so it’s really evenly lit. Yeah, I mean you just sitting there on my head though, they were the words I were going to, I was going to use. The secret of that is I guess to use your eyes and look down the camera lens as well.
Speaker 2: (23:10)
Don’t necessarily trust what you’re looking at, but look at it, look at what the camera sees. But you know, at a single stand, either side of your subject, you know, kind of in line with it and bearing in mind, hopefully they’re a metre or so in front of that screen, a softbox type effects, you know, and sort of pointing slightly towards the middle so that the light spreads along. The ideal scenario, which is hopefully what we will get to, is to have those lights mounted up high being over that. That’s a tall order. Then the light is coming down and it’s even, but you know, realistically, most people will always like from the side, and as I say, trust, trust what you see down a camera lens, not necessarily your eyes and make sure that you know, those, those little, um, uh, any shadows or any, any elements or even the actual green screen itself. Look, look around your subjects. You know, it doesn’t matter what’s going on half a metre away from them particularly, but it’s what is immediately around your subject. Because that is the bit where you’re going to have to start keying out and you know you, you spend an extra five minutes worrying about it when you’re shooting. You could save five hours in post production. It really is that simple. And I know from from experience that is the case.
Speaker 1: (24:12)
Absolutely. I’ll tell you one technique that I use to get even lighting on a green screen, and I use the zebra function on a camera. Now not all cameras have this, but all professional video cameras, evidence, basically a function that shows you what part of your shot is overexposed. And what I do is deliberately turn up the exposure so that I start to see these zebra lines that this function does to show you what’s what’s overexposed. I might use the gain just to artificially push it up. So I start seeing zebra lines and I can start to notice where the those lines, if they’re sort of focused in one particular point, I’ll realise there’s too much light focusing on that point and I’ll spread the light around a little bit more. And I find that that zebra is just a really good guide to help get even lighting on a screen.
Speaker 2: (24:59)
That’s exactly what my colleague does. Uh, I’m glad you described it to me, Ryan. Uh, I now know what he’s doing. He also uses a light metre and I think he’s got two different metres. One is for for light, one is for exposure or colour temperature. I can’t remember exactly what, but you know, again that’s fairly high end but you know, if, if you, if you’re able to, to to have that sort of kit around then you know, make sure you use it, cause it, it works
Speaker 1: (25:24)
definitely. But I liked the point that you make about just look through the camera, not just your own eyes and you know, really tune into it and, and practise doing that. And, and before long you will start to be able to tell, particularly with your own green screen where there’s more light in one section rather than another. So that, that’s really probably the, the most important part is getting that, that green screen evenly lit. So we’ve talked about lighting the subject and the screen separately. We’ve talked about having space between the subject and the screen. If you think back to when you first started doing green-screen, were there some challenges that you had or maybe some, I guess, errors that you realise you made that were hard to let you can share with people who are getting into it now so we can help them avoid those types of mistakes?
Speaker 2: (26:12)
Yeah, there there’s, there’s probably a couple of things and perhaps not even just when we started, but even, you know, over the last couple of years when you started to film multiple people now, for example, me interviewing two customers on a single set, you need quite an expensive screen behind you and, and really around the side of you as well. And it can be very, very tricky at times to make sure, you know when you’re in the middle of a fantastic bit, a client’s waving their arms around and you know the tops of their fingers or bits of their hand disappear out the the background and you need your, you know, the, the person who’s shooting that to be so vigilant and, and just have the confidence to say when I stop, because they can easily repeat that. Whereas in postproduction you get into something called rotoscoping, which is an absolute nightmare and you know, it could take you a day two to sort out a minutes worth of footage which you really don’t want to do because it’s done in seconds if you do it right.
Speaker 2: (27:07)
So be very, very careful to make sure the whole of your subject is surrounded by screen, whether it be on the side or behind them. The second thing is it is very easy if you’re using a kind of a light cloth behind as in weight as opposed to colour. You, I mentioned it before, you’ve got to make sure that thing is stretched out well. You’ve got to make sure that it’s, you know, it’s duct tapes to the stands and pulled tight behind you because you know, sod’s law says, you know, there’s going to be a little crease or a crinkle, which, which show, which throws shadow. That’s the problem on a, you know, on a bit just behind someone’s head and suddenly their hair goes slightly green. So take time on those details is what I would say.
Speaker 1: (27:44)
Okay, excellent. So any other tips or tricks that you think is worth sharing about how to set up this green-screen environment and how to light it?
Speaker 2: (27:53)
I think we’ve probably probably covered most stuff. I think it’s, it’s practise, right? I think that is the only my, you know, that’s, that’s the only other thing to say, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s the 10,000 hours that’s so often talks about, you know, Malcolm Gladwell and so on, and you know, it, you have to do this in order to get it right. You can’t just learn about it. You can’t just listen to me banging on here. You’ve got to get stuck in and do it because it’s very different in real life. You know? So perhaps the other final thing to say on this then is it’s about preparation. It’s about planning. And if you’ve got, you know, as we’ve had before, you know, half a dozen customers lined up to come in to be interviewed, interviewed during a day, a day shoe. You know, you’ve got to, you’ve got to be prepared.
Speaker 2: (28:41)
You’ve got to be set up an hour before they’re coming and make sure that everything is absolutely bang on. It’s all tested, you’ve taken a bit of footage, you put it in the laptop, you’ve checked it all out and you know it’s working. All right. We’ve not mentioned sound because sound isn’t specific to greenscreen, but check the Mike’s check. Everything is working so that when that customer walks in the room, you know you’re relaxed because then they become relaxed. But that’s a whole nother subject about how to, how to interview and put someone at the race.
Speaker 1: (29:09)
Absolutely. But it’s good that you mentioned sound because sometimes people can get so fixated on the visuals and on the green screen that they can actually end up neglecting that side of things. So don’t forget all of the other filmmaking aspects while you’re focusing on that green screen and of course hell the people that you’re going to be filming not to wear green or some shades of green.
Speaker 2: (29:30)
Very good point. That comes into the planning side for sure.
Speaker 1: (29:33)
I remember we once filmed a present dancer who was wearing where it was all like turquoise. It really didn’t look like green but it ended up actually keying out that colour. And in the editing we had to create a mask to cover all the parts of that, of that colour, which was very time consuming. So like you said earlier, are get it right when you’re filming and you can literally click a button in in the end to get a nice, perfect key. Or if you don’t lie to correctly, you can spend hours trying to get it right and you never will get it quite right. Cool. So we’ve, we’ve now shot our footage and it looks great. So the next stage is editing. Do you recommend people use motion graphic software such as after effects to key out the green screen or would something like just standard video editing software be okay?
Speaker 2: (30:22)
Well again it’s, it’s a, it’s a sliding scale. So, you know, when we started, I use something, I mean I, I hate to say I know there’ll be a gasp of horror, but I, I’m still a PC kind of a guy and I don’t mean politically correct either. So stuff like I movie I’ve never had much experience off, but on PC I used four years ago now a piece of software called pinnacle studio, which is still going and it’s pretty good. Great for, for home movies, you just can’t beat it. It’s around the 50 60 pounds Mark, I would guess. Something like that. So very affordable and you know, dude, okay, but, but crime or King is, is all about maths. It’s all about algorithms. It’s incredibly clever. And the higher end you go again, the better result you’re going to get. Pinnacle, you know, it would be an okay sort of a key, but the problem might, all of the thing I’ve found over the years is an okay kind of key isn’t good enough in a professional world.
Speaker 2: (31:17)
It’s got to be perfect or it’s not good enough that there is just literally no in between. Um, uh, because yeah, what you’re trying to do is you, you don’t want to be distracting people by going why is he got green head? Um, and you see it on the news, even in the BBC when they’re doing, uh, live interviews in it and they’re there, they’re King on the fly and the backgrounds behind them or you know, you see the weather guys and they haven’t got it quite right. Someone’s tweaked a setting and you can see a bit of green around the place and it’s, it just distracts you. So to come back to your question, the best possible piece of software you could use for this is certainly after effects, but you know, it’s, it’s not cheap. Um, but if you’re going to be doing this for a living, it’s an essential tool of the trade. Adobe premier, which is the, the editing software does a reasonable job. Uh, but if you want complete control over your King, then after effects is the way. Yeah,
Speaker 1: (32:06)
we use after effects and get really good key through that. We used to use final cut pro for editing for, for many years. And while it was a great piece of editing software, the King component was just really weak and it was just really tough to get a decent key. But what I found was that there’s plugins that you can buy for editing software. So I think for final cut pro we were using something called DV map blast, which was doing, um, an awesome job of keying it out. So depending on the editing software that you can use, uh, that you are using, even if it’s not that greater King, they may well be a plugin that you can buy. They can do a much better job.
Speaker 2: (32:44)
Yeah, sure. I’m sure. I’m sure you’re right. And an after effects as well as is incredibly extensible. You know, there’s so many different, uh, amazing plugins you can, you can get including a slight side. But we, we picked up one, um, uh, the end of last year, which is just incredible, which morphs, I don’t know if you’ve come across this at all. So again, we use it when we were editing for, um, you know, on green screen, uh, particularly green screen if you’ve got a nice white background that you’re putting in. Um, and if you’ve got an edit with lots of edits in, uh, it can get a bit distracting if you’re kind of, you know, flushing through them. Uh, but this piece of software actually affects you, takes the end point of the last edit and the beginning point of the next edit and morphs them together seamlessly. It is literally incredible. You can’t believe it when you see it. Um, so yeah, keep your eyes and ears out and there’s lots of amazing things out there
Speaker 1: (33:29)
that’s pretty cool. And I’m just going back to you mentioning PCs. That’s okay. I mean, you’re sort of a rebel [inaudible]
Speaker 2: (33:38)
I’ve always embarrassed, I’m always embarrassed. It’s particularly talking to Australians about PCs cause you guys are just mad crazy. But, uh, uh, maybe I’m calling you or not now, maybe, I don’t know.
Speaker 1: (33:49)
I think the, um, it’s swung the other way now. So I think you have to share that shame about, um, being a PC guy. I know a lot of, um, listening to this show actually use a ScreenFlow and I movie for editing and I know that they’ve got chroma key, um, ability as well, which I haven’t actually used either of them for keying, so not sure how they works. I’d love to hear from anyone who is using that editing software, what sort of like the, you know, they’re having with doing chroma key in ScreenFlow or I’m movie. So let’s talk about, you mentioned earlier virtual studio, so I’d love to talk more about that because what you commonly see, um, with greenscreen as a head and shoulder style interview, but you’re, you’re talking about creating a virtual set. So a number of people in one place, almost like in a TV studio, like a newsroom or something like that. Can you describe that sort of setting to us?
Speaker 2: (34:40)
Yeah, of course. And, and, um, Hey, maybe, you know, put an embed to one of our, our pieces underneath this because it kind of needs to be visual really. Um, but, um, yeah, I mean it like in a nutshell what we, what we, what we strive for, um, uh, is to create, um, uh, you know, pro TV programmes, business television as we call it, um, which, you know, look as good as the stuff on telly. Um, so that people, because people are used to the stuff and telly, they are therefore, you know, kind of automatically engaged with what they’re seeing, you know, as part of a, um, I don’t know, an internal comms piece for a logical pro or some piece of thought leadership, you know, going external as well. Um, there are now, um, you know, dozens of sites where you can go buy and download all kinds of virtual set backgrounds and I’ve yet to find anything which is any good.
Speaker 2: (35:33)
And we’ve looked long and hard. And so, um, we’ve invested in building our own essentially. Um, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a tricky thing. Um, it’s, it’s about 3d building, using programmes like three D studio max, which is, it’s pretty specialist. Um, and you know, it, my brief was really simple. This has gotta look real and if it doesn’t real, we’re not, we’re not using it because so much of the stuff you see are kind of like the fake TV. Um, so editing room type backgrounds and I don’t know if they just look hackneyed and rubbish as far as I’m concerned. I’m quite opinionated and it’s like, why use that when you could just use a nice white background, which would work better. So, so what we do, and we developed this, you know, really developed this over the last three or four years and we’ll continue to do so.
Speaker 2: (36:15)
Um, we’ve created, um, a kind of a model, uh, with three different areas to it and we only use one of the areas at any one time. So we’ve got a kind of an interview area, presentation area and a Skype video presentation area. Um, boy with all that. Um, but, um, uh, and then we say we, then we use and we then brand them up. Um, for, for individual customers, we, we have kind of, um, virtual windows on the back of those sets, which we can then display anything we like behind them. So, you know, we, we were out in London a couple of weeks ago shooting a, a wonderful scene from up high, you know, over London. So you’ve got cars moving and trains going around and planes going over. So you’ve got this sort of engaging, moving background going on behind you. But the thing which changed everything for us is when we introduced real chairs as opposed to green stalls that we would then key out and try and put chairs behind people.
Speaker 2: (37:09)
So there’s a bit more effort, um, in, so when we’re taking his stuff around the place, but when you actually bring in real chairs with real people, sat on surrounded by this virtual set with a virtual table and virtual screens and all that sort of business, um, the effect is, is pretty cool, but we will never rest on our laurels. You’ve got to keep it moving. That sounds really cool. So it’s like you’re creating a TV show for your clients, like a chat show or a new style show. Right? It’s exactly that. Exactly that. Yeah. And who’s the audience for these types of videos? There are two to, one insists. Um, I sort of touched on it a a moment ago, but there’s, there’s an internal communications audience. So you’re looking to, um, uh, release, you know, information which might come out normally via email once a month or once every couple of weeks.
Speaker 2: (37:58)
You’re looking to turn that pretty dull, normally ignore an email into something which is maybe three, four, or five minutes long. We are interviewing execs, uh, from that particular business or customers or, you know, explaining the latest initiatives that’s going on, uh, and making that available for people to watch on their way into the office. Not move their driving, but you know, the on the train or whatever, uh, or in the office. Um, uh, or if I actually were talking to a business in the States a couple of days ago who, who would actually potentially broadcast this because their, their employees don’t all have PCs because of the nature of their business, but they have a broadcast network, which is absolutely fascinating. So that’s one internal use. And then external. We’ve done quite a lot of work for people where, you know, releasing programmes effectively for their, for their end customers.
Speaker 2: (38:43)
You know, this is, this is what we’re doing as a business. Uh, or this is a particular case study around a project that we’ve done, um, all kinds of ways of doing it. And the final, final piece of that jigsaw, which kind of fits into both of those is where we, we take this type of thing, the Skype interview that we’re doing now, but we’re doing it using video and we then superimpose that, uh, the, the video stream of the subject. I’m interviewing onto the studio. I’m sat on that green screen talking to that individual. So it looks like you’re kind of doing like the news piece out to the field where the reports are coming in live. And I think, I think the effects is just fantastic and it means that end subject, it doesn’t have to travel, which is just key.
Speaker 1: (39:21)
That’s very cool. So we’re, if you listen to his head over to web video marketing.com I’m going to put a link in the show notes to some of the videos that Mark’s talking about. And um, I think, you know, we’re really getting to the core of it here with green-screen where you’re basically taking subject matter, which if done incorrectly or without any imagination could be really boring and people could sort of just gloss over like a memo or an email that goes around updating people about what’s happening in the business, but your through, you know, greenscreen and creativity, you’re bringing it alive and you’re turning it into something that people actually really want to watch and might actually enjoy.
Speaker 2: (40:02)
Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. I mean, if you, if you put green-screen aside just for a second, um, cause you know that that’s kind of like the end out or you know, the end result, we think it looks pretty cool. Um, but actually it’s about the content first and foremost. Ryan, you know, and that’s the, for any video production, it’s about the story you’re looking to tell. It’s about how you engage people, how you entertain people stuff because it’s corporate. It doesn’t have to be dull and you can still smile and even have a slight joke from time to time cause it people watching it are human beings. Um, so it’s about engaging, it’s about entertaining. And the third thing is it’s about being short. And that’s where eight 45 TV came about. You know, the idea of, you know, learning something or, uh, consuming something before you start your day and let’s, let’s keep it to that five, 10 minute piece so you can be ready to start work at nine o’clock. That was the, the original plan behind it. But, um, uh, and it’s still there. So, so yeah, it’s, it’s about those three things engaging, entertaining and short. Um, green-screen second, uh, looking cool. Third if you see what I mean. But actually they’re looking cool. Bit does fit into that and engaging and entertaining piece as well.
Speaker 1: (41:11)
A really important thing there. The green screen is not the end, it’s the means to the end. It’s just, it’s just the vehicle. It’s not to draw people’s attention to it. And Oh look, that looks really cool because it’s green screen. It’s a way of bringing alive a, a format like a TV show and green screen was just the vehicle to actually do that to interesting content.
Speaker 2: (41:34)
Perfectly put. And the final analogy I would give on that is it’s like a good referee and a, you know, football, rugby match, whatever. You know, if you don’t notice them and they’re doing a great job and it’s exactly the same here, you don’t want people to know it’s screen. Um, and any hint that they do, they’re distracted by it. So that, that’s, that’s where we’ve always come from.
Speaker 1: (41:53)
And the other thing that you mentioned is to keep it short as well. And that’s probably a good place to call out our interview. Um, pretty much to a close because we’ve, you know, we’ve covered some, some awesome stuff there for people who want to check out more of your videos and learn more about you. Mark, where’s a good place for them to go, eight four, five tv.com head over to eight 45 tv.com and check out some of these awesome videos that Mark’s been talking about. Well thank you Mark so much for taking us through that and explaining greenscreen and how it works and particularly how your, how you’re using it and sort of the interesting creative ways that you’re bringing content alive. So really appreciate you coming on the web video marketing show today. It’s been a pleasure Ryan. Nice to talk to you.
Speaker 1: (42:40)
Thanks Mark. See you later. All right, some great information from Mark there. And what I’m going to do in the next couple of minutes is just to a quick recap of all the greenscreen tips and techniques from this week’s podcast. So the screener you use doesn’t have to be green, it could be blue and green. And blue are mainly used because the colours of green and blue are the furthest from skin colour and make it easier to key out. When it comes to camera selection. The better the camera, the more information it records and this means more information to use during the Qing process, which will lead to a better video. Having said that, the lower end cameras will still do a decent job spaces required to set up a green screen shoots and it’s recommended you have a minimum of four metres by eight metres space to shoot in depending on what your needs are.
Speaker 1: (43:26)
When setting up the green screen shot, make sure to light both your subject and the backdrop separately. Places subject at least a couple of metres in front of the backdrop screen and use at least two lights on either side of both the backdrop and the subject. Try to get an even diffused light on the background. This means you’ll need to get the screen as flat and unwrinkled as possible to get you started. You can use a cheapest softbox light, which you can get on eBay and that’ll work absolutely fine. If you want to upgrade your lights, something like a Kino Flo is recommended, they give a really flattering look and they’re very portable. So for your screen you, you could use just a green sheet if you’re really on a tight budget. And if this is the case, make sure to get your lighting as good as possible to make up for any quality issues.
Speaker 1: (44:11)
With a sheet there are purpose-built portable and studio green screen sheets that you can get, which are usually thicker stretchier and a more robust green. And this equals a better finish to key out in post production. So it’s well worth spending that little bit of extra money to get a better result when choosing software, you do get what you pay for it. Cheaper programmes such as pinnacle, which will do the job, but probably not to a professional standard. Professional grade programmes for high quality keying includes software like Adobe after effects. However, professional video editing programmes such as premia and final cut pro do have plugins available to enhance their basic keying functions. Some tips which came from the podcast are to spend the time to make sure you’re seen as lit properly. Spending that five or 10 extra minutes, making sure your green screen is lit.
Speaker 1: (44:57)
Flats without any wrinkles or shadows could save you hours and post-production. If you have a video camera and it’s got the zebra function, this can be really helpful and you can use this function to make sure that you don’t have any uneven lighting on your backdrop. And this is going to lead to a better picture to key in post production. So the main thing is basically just a key practising your technique. It doesn’t matter how expensive you camera is or what equipment you have. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it won’t come out nicely. So keep practising and keep getting better. Alright guys, that’s the end of the show. Head over to web video marketing.com and check out the show notes. If you want to see links to some of Mark’s work and his and his website. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks time. Look forward to speaking to then.
Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2001, and specializes in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-proﬁt sector to connect with their audience by using video.