How to Create a DIY Green Screen Video Effect

Green screen technology has been around since the early 1900s. But did you know that green screen technology isn’t exclusive to the color green? This visual effect is often called chroma key compositing or chroma keying. It is a post-production effect that allows video editors to replace backgrounds and insert footage or images into their scenes.

Many companies use green screen to produce informative product videos, company updates and more. It is a useful and valuable tool when you want to produce a professional looking marketing video quickly and affordably. In this post we’re breaking down how to use green software for beginners. The first thing to know is that it’s incredibly easy to produce a green screen video these days!

To help you get started, here are a few key things to remember when producing any video:

1. The first time is always the longest. Anytime you do something new it will take time. Be patient and continue to execute. You’ll get faster every time you do it, learn how to get started.

2. Make a plan and carry it out. We wrote a great post Before Starting Your First Video that explains the importance of a script and making a plan!

3. Last but not least, have fun! Green screen videos can be a blast to create. Don’t take yourself too seriously (even if it’s a serious video) and your production is sure to be more relatable to the masses.

What is Green Screen Used For?

There are many practical use cases for green screen and it all depends on what you are trying to achieve with your video production. On big Hollywood sets you will see green screens as large as a city block! It’s unlikely that you’ll have that type of budget, but if your company is ready to invest in video marketing, you will have the tools to produce some amazing marketing videos!

Some common use cases for green screen are include:

1. Marketing Videos

Filming a quick marketing video for your organization can be easy. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be green! You can purchase simple pop up green or blue screens for cheap online.These are usually the best colors to use.

2. Creating Engaging YouTube Videos

Some of the most popular YouTube vloggers use green screen to add interesting backgrounds to their videos. Replacing the background can add depth and visually interesting patterns to keep the viewer engaged.

3. Split Screen Videos

With green screen technology you can create fun side by side or split screen videos to add comedic relief to your video production. Just make sure to write your script before pressing record!

4. Replacing Backgrounds

Green screen can be used to replace backgrounds on devices, computer screens and more. This is a great visual effect to use if you are creating a marketing video for a new application or piece of software, or making a video to share out campaign results with your co-workers.

It’s not as hard as it looks

You do not have to be a director on a fancy movie set to use green screen technology. This process can actually be very cost effective and easy to set up. Over 33,000 people search for green screen help each month, and most people think that it takes complicated software to accomplish this visual effect. But you only need a few things to get started.

Step 1: Get a backdrop

First, get a piece of muslin cloth that’s a bright shade of green.

Blue screen backdrops are also available, but they can cause problems if the person on camera has blue eyes or clothes.

If you don’t want to mess around with hanging a cloth, a collapsible panel is a nice option.

Since it’s not too big (5′ x 7′), it’s perfect for when you need to travel for a shoot. We’ll discuss shadows more when we get into lighting, but for now, remember to stand as close to the backdrop as you can without casting a shadow on it. This is usually around two or three feet. Also make sure to keep your hands close to your body. Any part of your arm or hand that extends past the backdrop will look cut off in your final video.

Step 2: Pick your camera

Next, you’ll want to pick a camera that shoots HD quality video (720p or higher). Make sure your camera saves out files in a format your green screen software can import. We’ve had good success using an iPhone, but most any digital camcorder will work.

If you do choose to record on a mobile device, you can import your footage into Camtasia using our free app, TechSmith Fuse. Fuse adds your videos from your phone straight to Camtasia. You don’t have to worry about getting the files from one place to another.

When you’re just starting out, recording footage on your smartphone might seem daunting. We’ve put together some tips and advice for shooting videos on your mobile device. We cover everything you need to know about audio, shot composition, and lighting.

Step 3: Set up your lighting

The next step is optional, but recommended. One thing you should keep in mind as you shoot your green screen footage is to cut out shadows. You want a flat green background, no shadow puppets! The flatter the green, the easier it will be to remove the screen.

Don’t worry too much about getting a perfectly lit set though. The remove a color effect in Camtasia is quite forgiving of background shadows. Spend a few minutes tweaking the settings a bit and you should be good. If you’re having trouble getting the background to disappear or there’s a slight halo around the person, try to upgrade your lighting. The more even your lighting, the better the effect will be.

The easiest thing to try is a couple of hardware store clamp-on work lights with high-output CFL bulbs. You’ll also need something to clamp them on. Aim the lights so that the green screen doesn’t have dark areas and bright areas. Focus your efforts on the area directly behind the person. You’ll be able to crop out the excess space around the person later.

To throw a lot of light, you need a few bulbs in each fixture. You could build your own video lighting rig for less than $100 (see video below). Or if you’re not into DIY projects, you can shop around for a video softbox. CowboyStudio is a good place to start. Look for “continuous lighting” as opposed to flash or strobe lighting. Whether you buy or build, it’s best to use a diffusion filter for each light. That will help keep your lights from throwing shadows.

This quick video shows you how to build your own lighting kit on the cheap.

(You can also get a few tips of the trade for making your subjects look more natural.)

Step 4: Get the right software

In the Camtasia video editor you can remove your green screen with just a few clicks. Below are some tips on how to use the green screen software:

Green software can be intimidating for many people, but there are simple and effective solutions that allow you to save time and make fantastic videos quickly. We should note that there are many different types of video editing software out there. If you’re just getting started we recommend finding the easiest and most user friendly software possible.

The first thing you will need to do is select the software you want to use for your green screen video. Camtasia includes a click and drag “remove a color” feature that allows you to quickly replace the background. It is really that simple. We’ll be using Camtasia below in our examples.

Step 1 – Drag and Drop

Select the “remove a color” feature in the visual effects menu in Camtasia. Then all you need to do is drag and drop on the clip. Simple as that!

Step 2 – Select Color

Select the color you want to remove from your scene. This usually works best with green or blue in your scene. Fun fact, filmmakers have used many different colors including red, yellow and black to replace backgrounds, but often green and blue work the best.

Step 3 – Replace the image
Replace the image or background in your scene with your desired footage, background or image. In Camtasia, you can adjust the replaced image using the rotation tools in the properties panel to easily scale your image.

As you can see, green screen software can be very easy to use. With three simple steps in Camtasia you can replace a background using the “Remove A Color” feature.

For more information on getting your DIY green screen set up check out another TechSmith blog post called The Green Screen Effect- TechSmith Tips.

You can make these same videos for your company. Even if you don’t have your own copy, you can try Camtasia free for 30 days. Give it a try and let us know how it goes on Twitter or Facebook.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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