A great thing to know in any of the fields of motion graphics, film, or visual effects is how to use a green screen. How to set one up, how to film on it, and how to key it out in post. This video is from a green screen shoot I did with Real Salt Lake, where we had a pretty good setup. But I’ll also go through some budget and DIY setups as well.
When I did my first green screen setup years ago I was a poor student in college and didn’t have anything in the way of a budget. I had to get pretty creative in what I used for my setup. Here’s what I used:
- Green Screen Frame – $10 portable clothes rack from walmart
- Green Screen Fabric – $1 plastic table cloth from the dollar store
- Tripod – barstool with books stacked on top
- Camera – Digital point and shoot that had a video setting
- Audio – built-in camera audio synced with computer microphone audio in post
- Lighting: living room window light as key, desk lamp as fill, and overhead flourescent light as rim
- Keying Software – Adobe Premiere 30-day trial
This setup is obviously very makeshift, but it worked! I was still able to key out the screen in Adobe Premiere…it didn’t look totally professional, but it didn’t look horrible either.
If you want to go a step up, lose the crappy frame and table cloth for something a bit better. A DIY PVC frame is cheap and works great. And for the screen you can just go to the fabric section in walmart and get some green fabric. Then use some plastic clamps to hold it onto the PVC frame. As for lighting, you can go get some work lights from walmart and then diffuse them with a white bedsheet or wax paper or something like that.
So that’s a step up from the first makeshift green screen, but still not that great. For me the PVC was a pain to set up and transport, and it doesn’t look very professional. And the fabric that I got from walmart wasn’t wide enough, so I had a seam in the middle of my screen. Not ideal.
So now let me get into more of an ideal setup using the Real Salt Lake shoot as an example. If you don’t know, Real Salt Lake is a major league soccer team in Utah. It was pre-season and we were getting green screen footage of the players at training camp in Arizona for a game-opener video. We had a decent budget for the shoot, and we already had some of the video equipment we needed…and what we didn’t own or couldn’t transport to Arizona we just ended up filling in with rental equipment. Here’s what we used:
- Frame – 2x backdrop frame
- Fabric – 2x green muslin
- Camera – JVC GY-HM700U
- Tripod – Manfrotto 546B with 501 Head
- Audio – Wireless Lavalier Mic
- Lighting: (Rental) 2x Kino Flos, Arri 4 light kit, extra Arri 1k with softbox
- Keying Software – Keylight in After Effects
So obviously this is better than any of my previously listed setups, but it’s more expensive too. But if you were to substitute the lights, camera, and tripod listed above with cheaper versions, then you’re not looking at quite as much money. For example, you switch out the JVC camera with a DSLR like the Canon T3i or 7D, switch the tripod with a cheaper one like the ePhoto Heavy Duty Tripod, and change the lights with some cheap tungsten or flourescent lights and you’re looking at a setup that’s somewhat achievable for someone on a tight budget.
Here’s a finished version of the video from the shoot:
So there you go. Hopefully this puts some ideas out there for any type of green screen budget. Now get filming!
*UPDATE* Our RSL Fortress Video (above) recently won two Pixie Awards, one for motion graphics and the other for visual effects. Congratulations everyone else who worked on the video.