When you learn how to light a green screen evenly, it gives you outstanding results when it is time to start editing your video.
The process of lighting a green screen is fairly easy when you look at it from a technical perspective. While traditional film lighting depends on balancing light to find contrast and mood, you need consistency and uniformity to light a green screen.
In this article, you will learn the concepts to follow when you want to light a green screen. These concepts are applicable both on larger and smaller green screens.
The only difference is that each setup (smaller and larger green screens) lights and distance must be adjusted to fit the screen size.
If you will be using a green screen soon, one of the crucial things you need to learn and understand is how you can effectively light it. If you want to find out how to keep reading.
What is Green Screen Lighting?
A green screen is a technique that is used in photography, television, and film productions. For instance, in video productions, a green screen allows you to replace your video’s background with a virtual or digital background.
This technique allows you to film your subjects in front of a bright green backdrop, then replace the green color with another background of your choice.
How To Light a Green Screen
While lighting a green screen, the goal is to have soft light and ensure the light is consistent and even to work with. So, make sure you use soft and big light sources.
Pointing a hard light source (light with no diffusion) at a green screen will only put you into trouble.
The light from a hard light source will produce an uneven light due to the gradient surrounding it, which is not good for productions. An example of a hard light source is tungsten light.
Green Screen Materials
Paints and fabrics are commonly used materials. If you decide to use fabrics, make sure you check if your fabrics are in good condition. Fabrics must not be wrinkled, scuffed, or torn.
Using a damaged or an imperfect fabric will only create shadows when light is directed or shown on the screen. This prevents capturing or having consistent, smooth, and even color.
If you decide to make use of paint, make sure you check out for scratched areas and repaint these areas. In case there are several scratched areas, ensure you repaint the whole surface to achieve even and consistent color.
The use of perfect green screen material is the first thing you need to consider when it comes to how to light a green screen perfectly.
Ensure consistency in the lights you choose to use. Ensure your choice of lights is consistent (the type of light you use must be the same all through).
When you make use of different lights, the color temperatures will be different.
When color temperatures are different, the color balance becomes uneven. So, make sure you make use of the same lights to light your green screen.
For an individual on a tight budget, you can get yourself a professional screen for as low $100. There are various brands or types on the market, and the prices vary amongst these brands.
That being said, anyone can design their own green screen. The process is easy, and the materials are readily available and very affordable.
A light stand must be placed on each side of your green screen and not directly in front of it. When you place a light in front of the screen, the light becomes concentrated on an area.
Also, ensure the lights are not closely placed to the side of your green screen. A few feet away is great. Make sure you keep the lights at an angle of 45 degrees.
Suppose you are making use of a large green screen, and it appears like the lights placed on each side of the screen are not sufficient to light up the screen.
In that case, you can look for more lights (about two more lights) and place them at the bottom of the green screen. Ensure these lights are facing up.
All green screens are not the same. This is why you need to focus on the setup and ensure the lights are properly placed for ease of adjustment.
Standing position for photography and videography
Make sure your subject is positioned far away from the green screen. This ensures the amount of light that reflects onto your subject from the green screen is minimized or reduced.
Your subject can keep a distance of about 10 feet or 3 meters away from the green screen for great performance, especially if you are using a smaller green screen.
Generally, a distance between 5 and 10 feet or 1.5 and 3 meters is acceptable.
In case your subject is standing or resting on any part of the screen, make sure you position material of a different color beneath them, preferably a mat. This will prevent light from bouncing up to your subject.
Step by Step Process of Light Up a Green Screen
- Correct damages and imperfections that can create shadows or uneven color on the green screen when light is shown on it. Ensure you make use of the same type of lights
- Ensure you position one light on each side of your green screen. Position additional lights at the bottom of the green screen if you use a larger screen
- Place lights where they are easily adjustable. Make sure all the areas of the green screen are well-lit to achieve consistency in color
- Make sure you position your subject far from the screen. Illuminate your subject using a key light. Your key light must be well-positioned, and it must be a few feet above your subject
- Make sure your green screen and your subject are illuminated separately. When your light your green screen and subject at the same time, it increases shadows and light spilling
- Make use of fill light and make sure you position it opposite the key light
- Make sure you position a backlight both to the side and behind the subject to achieve a halo effect and to separate the subject from the background
- Ensure your green screen is well-exposed. You can check if your green screen is exposed the right way by looking at your camera’s monitor. For accuracy, make use of a waveform monitor. Suppose you don’t have a waveform monitor. In that case, you can download any smartphone apps that check for the evenness and exposure of your lighting. Green Screener and Cine Meter are great options
- Modify your camera’s aperture (this is the hole in the camera lens that allow light to enter the camera) to achieve the right exposure
- Reduce digital noise by lowering your ISO. Digital noise is defined or known as random fragments of colors that show up in your photo or video. On the other hand, ISO is a setting on your camera that regulates your productions’ brightness. The higher the ISO, the higher the noise. When the noise is high, it becomes difficult to separate a single color for your green screen
- In case your camera’s ISO and aperture are not correcting problems associated with exposure, you can attach a diffuser over the lens of your camera to soften harsh lights.
The Do’s while lighting your green screen
- Get rid of jewelry, glasses, or other reflective material from the room
- Make use of file formats that can easily compress your file size but still retain your images and videos’ quality. RAW or ProRes are great options
- Make sure you only shoot in a file format that can be accessed on your computer
- Ensure your camera and other recording tools are in good shape before you begin to shoot
- If necessary, add more light
- Check for exposure of your lighting and the evenness.
- In case your green screen appears too dark or underexposed, expand the aperture
- If your green screen appears too bright, narrow the aperture
- Check your ISO camera setting to ensure the pictures and videos are not too dark
The Don’ts, while lighting your green screen
- Avoid placing lights directly in front of the green screen
- Your subject must not wear any reflective material
- Do not make use of too many lights to reduce the amount of reflection on the subject
- Avoid shadows. The aim is to achieve consistency in color
- Make sure your ISO is not excessively lowered. When this happens, this may underexpose your green screen
How to Light a Green Screen With Household Lights
If you are thinking of lighting your green screen with household lights (home LED lamps, LED fixtures, decorative lights, etc.), make sure these lights are enough or sufficient to cover your green screen to achieve evenness.
The process of using household lights is very difficult. It is difficult because you will have to put in a lot of effort to prevent shadows in areas where the screen is not adequately exposed.
Remember, even, and consistent lighting is very important. The only way you can achieve this is to ensure your green screen is well-exposed.
WH Questions About Green Light Settings
What is the purpose of a green screen?
A green screen allows you to use any background images you desire behind a subject, presenter, or actor. It is popularly used in photography and videography (weather report, film production, and news).
What is Chroma keying?
This is known as the process of removing a colored background from a scene and replacing it with another background of your choice after production.
What is a fill light?
This is known as a weaker light. It is used during production to eradicate or remove shadows that are produced by the key light. The fill light is always softer than the key light to easily diffuse it.
What is exposure?
This is known as the amount of light your camera is taking in or your picture’s brightness.
To ensure you do not capture colors instead of green, aim for a little exposure (little brightness) than you would for a normal video.
What is the most important thing when using a green screen?
Make sure lights are even and soft. When the lighting is even and consistent, it becomes easier to work on the material or subject.
Also, make sure the green screen is as clean and as smooth as possible to maintain a stable color range.
If the screen is painted, make sure the surface is unscratched. If you are using fabric, make sure it is not torn, and there is no appearance of wrinkles on it.
What do I need to create my green screen?
To come up with your own green screen background, you only need a few materials, provided you understand the techniques involved.
You need a green fabric, or a surface painted in green. You also need lights, a camera, and some editing software you can use for your production.
What if I can’t afford a professional green screen?
If you can’ afford a professional green screen, you can easily create one for yourself. Get a clean surface and paint it green, or get a clean and wrinkle-free fabric.
When lighting your green screen, you must remember the need to make sure the green screen is consistently and evenly lit.
Ensure all the backdrop areas that are visible in the frame are evenly and perfectly lit, and they are exposed the right way.
When your backdrop is well-exposed on the first side but underexposed on the second side, it will take a lot of time before your editor can pull a clean key (the process is always tough).
This is why you need to find a balance. Your backdrop must not be over-exposed and must not be underexposed.
When a backdrop is not truly appearing or displaying as green on your camera, any effort to pull a key will certainly be a failure.