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Mind-Blowing Green Screen TV and Film Effects – And How To Do Them Yourself

Written by mike on January 18th, 2010

“You’ve gotta see it to believe it” means less and less as we take each step into a digitally manipulatable future that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

Need to film a visit to Vegas? NYC? Moscow? Green screen it! As evidenced by the above demo reel, we’re now at a point where the television and movie images that look and feel so very real are as fake as science fiction. Even as someone who works in the entertainment industry, I’m blown away, and maybe even saddened a little by these illusions be revealed to me – I truly thought Hiro from Heroes was IN Times Square. But it is a testament to the acting abilities and the special effects capabilities that we have available today.

So how can you, the aspiring filmmaker, do something similar? It’s become easier and more accessible then ever before. Using a technique called chroma keying, a preset color area is replaced (using basic video software) with a separate image feed. Usually the color to be replaced is green or blue, because those are the colors furthest from the human skin tone.

The main components you’ll need:

-A large green surface to film in front of. You can either use chroma key green paint. Just remember to get something big enough that you can fit the whole scene onto it, including the ground area if that is to be replaced as well. You can see in some of the video examples that they occasionally paint the entire room green, floor to ceiling.
- Smooth even lighting: Avoiding casting shadows onto the green screen is pretty important to getting a good result when doing the video replacement.
- The necessary hardware to capture and process the footage. A camera and computer with software as simple as iMovie is capable of doing this. Even iChat has a rudimentary function that can process this pretty well too.

Film the action in front of/around the green screened area. Film corresponding footage to be chroma keyed into place. Then use your editing software to merge the images into one awesome, hilarious output.

Here’s an example that my acquaintance John Irwin did for my friends’ band, Meanest Man Contest‘s new music video, simulating a wild driving sequence. Sitting in a car with greened-out windows, the band and friends sway from side to side as the camera films them. High-speed, swerving driving footage replaces the windows and BAM, instant action. 

Watch the finished video here.

Of course, working on projects the scale of network shows and feature films require materials and hardware that are a few steps past what most people have available to them. But each innovation in technology makes these things one step closer than before. Its up to you to get up and find it, learn it, and make it happen.


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  • http://twitter.com/onskedrom/status/7953239960 Luke

    RT @msenese: An absolutely mind-blowing video that shows how much green screening happens on TV. I'm amazed http://bit.ly/4J9HjB

  • http://twitter.com/technewsninja/status/7954903005 Tech News Ninja

    WOW – Your fave TV shows (24, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty) are green screened a lot more than you'd think http://su.pr/1ybtvt

  • http://twitter.com/dennisjosefsson/status/7962889147 DennisJosefsson

    "Mind-Blowing Green Screen TV and Film Effects" http://bit.ly/8g3BKM

  • http://twitter.com/the_gman/status/7970533212 Gerald Weber

    RT @technewsninja Your fave TV shows (24, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty) are green-screened more than you'd think http://su.pr/1ybtvt

  • http://twitter.com/rajanshu/status/7970549025 Rajeev Ranjan

    RT @technewsninja Your fave TV shows (24, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty) are green-screened more than you'd think http://su.pr/1ybtvt

  • http://twitter.com/janicebee/status/7972027686 janice belyea

    RT @the_gman @technewsninja Your fave TV shows (24, Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty) are green-screened more than you'd think http://su.pr/1ybtvt

  • http://www.sonydigitalcamera.us/category/camera-reviews Wilbur Pelletier

    Very Impressive post i would not believes that lots of informative thing there to read. I really appreciate your site and i also bookmarked it for love to come back for new updated posts. Thanks Again for Great Work

  • http://twitter.com/heathanderson/status/8031912133 Heath Anderson

    Mind-Blowing Green Screen TV and Film Effects http://bit.ly/88DaSw

  • http://twitter.com/kicauan/status/9726884471 eBot

    Wow: TV shows like Greys Anatomy and Ugly Betty are heavily green-screened (Vid) – http://su.pr/1f6g7L

  • http://dillmansolutions.com Mitchell

    Right on man…

    Cool site! Gotta get up off y’ass and build something…Just frickin do it man! I like it.

    Check out this one dude.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=7Qfumo760ZA

    Catch up with ya later.

    http://mitchelldillman.com

  • http://twitter.com/commander_keith/status/14095666069 NOS

    RT @msenese: Mind-Blowing Green Screen TV and Film Effects – And How To Do Them Yourself http://bit.ly/88DaSw

  • http://twitter.com/mrsamlee1/status/97975335374688256 sam lee

    Fiction becoming Reality. Great video showing how reality is created for film. http://bit.ly/5xE9tl #greenscreen #aftereffects #Studiosteam

  • http://twitter.com/elearningideas/status/97975333436932096 Sam lee

    Fiction becoming Reality. Great video showing how reality is created for film. http://bit.ly/5xE9tl #greenscreen #aftereffects #Studiosteam

  • http://twitter.com/i2cblog/status/98414708817793024 Ideas to Creations

    INSPIRATION: Green Screens!!! http://j.mp/8g3BKM

  • http://twitter.com/davdalx/status/98414717248352256 David Alex Wanganju

    INSPIRATION: Green Screens!!! http://j.mp/8g3BKM

  • David Alex

    INSPIRATION: Green Screens!!! http://j.mp/8g3BKM

  • http://twitter.com/jimbo2go/status/169825824730660866 James Iliff

    Make incredible green screen backdrops of a very subtle nature: http://t.co/9S0Nxd0D – Who needs the real Time Square? I have After Effects!

  • http://twitter.com/georgewilkes/status/276247972935770112 George R. Wilkes

    @emmacaulfield Emma, green-screen sites I’ve put into my favorites: http://t.co/HHFeKLkt; http://t.co/xN9SXKOS; and http://t.co/sgZgNy5U.

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