Going green: your key to the video location of your dreams

We’ve spent a lot of time impressing upon you how much work a video can be. Time to lighten up and show you the fun side.

Enter our friend, the green screen. You don’t have to do any research to figure this one out. It’s not a highly technical concept like transcoding or audio sweetening.This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a screen. And it’s green. At Hencar, we have an in-house studio complete with green screen (other color backdrops are available as needed.) Check it out below.

Your options for creative backgrounds are limitless with a green screen

Your options for creative backgrounds are limitless with a green screen

Now what, you may ask, is so special about this, other than the fact that it’s a particularly hideous shade of green that looks like the aftermath of an explosion at a Manic Panic factory? This, friends, is your key to seeing the world without moving an inch. Or more precisely, being seen across the world without moving an inch.

Thanks to the magic of technology, you can use a green screen to appear to be sitting, standing, or doing any other activity in just about any location in the world you desire. You can tap dance in Taiwan, cha-cha in Calcutta, and do the electric slide in Edinburgh all within the space of an hour, as long as you have one of these. And a little skill at dancing.

The concept is very simple. Editing software like Adobe Premier (our preferred software) can isolate certain colors and make them disappear without making any other color disappear. Then it can superimpose what’s left (i.e. the person in front of the screen) over any background you desire. This can be a still background or a moving one depending on your needs.

Let’s say you need to interview several experts in a special area of academics, like astronomy, for a video you’re doing on spontaneous generation of a transitory third ring in the Van Allen Belts. (Yes, that’s actually a real thing.) All of your experts happen to be in Las Vegas for a convention of the American Astronomical Society. But, you would really like them to appear to be in locations that are a little more scholarly and credible than the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Bellagio or the Elvis wedding chapel (where two of your experts have decided to tie the knot or, as they put it, become a binary system).

This is where your green screen comes in. Did we mention it’s portable, so even if your video production company is based in Nashville, you can bring it with you? Yet another reason to love this emerald beauty. The production company sets up the green screen in a convenient conference room and places your interviewees, one by one, in front of the screen. The camera shoots them so that one appears to be facing slightly left, another slightly right, and maybe one out of the five almost dead-on straight (believe it or not, this is not exactly a great shot so it should be used sparingly).

Now if this was an ordinary backdrop it would be pretty monotonous to have everyone in front of it. Actually it would be pretty horrific because (did we mention this already?) the screen is an awful shade of green. Well, it bears mentioning again. But that’s when the magic happens, and the good news is you don’t have to track down Penn and Teller in between shows at the Luxor to get it working. When your production company gets the v video back to its studio, the editor simply makes a few keystrokes and voila! The green disappears. Now your creativity can come into full play.

You’ve chosen various pictures of academic and scientific looking backdrops to place behind the interviewees. Michio Kaku is now speaking from outside of the Radcliffe Science Library at Oxford. Sara Seager is inside the Gemini Observatory (the one in La Serena, Chile, rather than the one in Hilo, Hawaii. Come on, the pictures cost the same, go big!) You briefly have Neil deGrasse Tyson riding on the New York subway, but then you (wisely) decide not to reanimate that hornets’  next surrounding the unfortunate Tweet someone posted as a joke when they saw him using his laptop there. So you move him to a nice setting that looks like someone’s personal study. complete with a cheerfully crackling fireplace and an antique telescope in the corner. The video now has new layers of polish.

You can basically use this effect any time you need to put someone in a specific setting without spending the money to actually get them there.

There are a few things to remember when using a green screen. The most important is, the people in front of it can’t be wearing anything in a shade that’s even remotely close to the screen color. Otherwise, that part of their body will simply disappear in the shot. This has been used to the amusement of the audience (and no small amount of trauma to young children who don’t understand what they’re seeing) on news shows across the country, when the local meteorologist decides to wear a green shirt so his torso disappears live on air. Even small amounts of green, such as in the pattern of a scarf or tie, can prove problematic. Alert anyone you plan on putting in front of a green screen ahead of time so they can dress appropriately.

Your production company should also be aware of potential lighting problems. The screen must be lit as uniformly as possible, and the person or people in front of it should not be casting any shadows. This is because when the editor tries to remove the green screen, dark or uneven areas may not disappear, which means any background you place behind the people will appear to have dark splotches over them. Or, worse yet, in attempting to adjust the effect to account for the lighting, the editor may cause parts of the people who are on camera to disappear.

Our experts at Hencar are well trained in using green screens properly. As we mentioned, we have our own green screen in house, ready for your scenic styling needs. Contact us to see what we can do for your next project.