Working with a green screen is not as complicated and expensive as you might think, but fist of all lets talk about what you can actually achieve with one.
Whether you are shooting video or photography, there are occasions when you might want to replace the background. This can be achieved on photographs using Photoshop, but the process is long and drawn out and the results can often be less than desirable. On video footage, placing the background when not green screen has been used can take forever, and the results can sometimes be dreadful.
With a green screen however, you can achieve the desired results within a couple of minutes.
So What Do You Need?
First things first, you obviously need a green screen, and there are a few different types available depending on your budget. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you can get a piece of green cloth suitable for chroma keying for as little as £20. Bare in mind where you will be using the screen and make sure that you measure correctly. If you are working in a studio, you may have a little more space than enthusiasts who are shooting from home.
You will also need to consider how you will put up the screen. Stands are available, although this is where the pricing starts to add up.
Another fairly cheap alternative if you have the space is to get hold of some green paint which is suitable for chroma keying and get to work doing a bit of decorating. The thing to look out for here is that you spread the paint evenly to avoid any shadows on your footage.
More expensive screen are available for professionals although you shouldn’t really need one of these in order to get a clean effect.
Next up, you will need some studio lighting. If you are already a photographer, you may have these already, but if not a simple pair of powerful spot lights on stands will do the trick. You need to light the background and the subject at the same time, although this is fully achievable with two lights. Of course, if you have a higher budget, you can always fork out for some more lighting and this will add to the ease of the process.
Other than that you simply need your camera (whether it be for photos of video) and your editing software. Adobe Photoshop and Premier Pro both make the process of key out the background fairly straight forward, and if you need any help with that I here are a few useful tutorials.
Once you get used to using a green screen, the world is your oyster and you can create a whole myriad of amazing effects with it. There are advanced techniques that you can also learn which will give your special effects even more of an edge, but we will cover these at a later date.