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Green Screen Lighting Indoors

Alan Wishnoff

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I am going to use a green screen to create video of 2 people dancing to be superimposed in a scene with 2 other people dancing. I am an amateur/rookie at this. I bought a 13x8 Westcott x-drop green screen for the project. Can anyone suggest lights by brand and model if possible for lighting the screen? Also, if I want to use lights I already have, is it better to use LED, tungsten, fluorescent? And do I need shadowboxes? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Remark: I’m just an amateur! But as nobody else is answering, assuming that you are working with a video camera:

a) These days, you can pick a color and a range in your video editor. This way, it doesn’t matter anymore whether the green screen is light, medium or dark green. For amateur purposes, it can even be red or blue or whatever. The only reason to stick to the usual light green is that it usually doesn’t occur in the actors‘ eyes, hairs, clothes, … .

To ensure that the screen is recorded in the „proper color“, use the same lighting (or at least the same temperature) for both fore- and background.


b) Ensure that the background is evenly lit. E.g. when the upper left corner is slightly darker then the rest, this can lead to problems in post. Whether you need shadow boxes for this, depends on your gear and location.


c) At least with my Panasonic camera, it’s mandatory that both fore- and background (=actors and screen) are bright. And both have to be equally bright. Otherwise the camera is recording too much noise, which can lead to the screen not getting properly removable in post.


d) Ensure that the actors don’t cast a shadow on the screen. Otherwise you’ll have to increase the range of green tones that belong to the screen to a level that is removing the eyes etc., too.


e) Ensure that the actors don’t get lit from the back (=from the lights for the screen). Otherwise they might get something like a halo around them. (Shadow boxes? Maybe!)


That’s it! Have fun!

(I cannot comment on the light - I don’t like fluorescent as it can cause flicker and usually results in some color cast in the video. LED and tungsten are both fine for me - unless you have got some very cheap household LEDs that cause a flicker in the video - especially when using slo-mo-framerates. How many basketball-slo-mo-scenes with my kids have been ruined by the gym having cheap LEDs that start to result in flicker beyond 100fps.)

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There is a VERY VERY good reason to use Green screen, and one of the correct Chroma green color.  Most codecs compress the red and blue channels so your data in those channels will be far less usable when it comes to extracting a good key, where as all codecs leave the green channel as humans have more receptors in line with green (comes from evolution and avoiding things in jungles and plants). 

Lighting is going to be a huge factor, not only the quality of lighting on the screen and keeping it as even as possible, but also lighting your subjects to be able to match them to the scene lighting they are being composited into.   To avoid major green spill you will want to keep the subjects a decent distance from the screen so unless you are sticking to medium/tight shots that screen will not be big enough for much movement while dancing.  


There are any number of lights that would work to light the screen, but in general you want to set up lights so they are soft and even using diffusion or some kind of soft modifier, and try to avoid hitting the actors or casting shadows onto the screen.  

There are literally hundreds of tutorial videos and articles about lighting green screens, I suggest starting there. 

RE: Backlight from the post above, rim lighting is actually very useful for green screen work to help counter any spill and sepparate the actor from the screen.  This of course also needs to match the scene you are trying to composite into.  

Are you shooting the plate of the first dancers not on green?  If so you will have a lot more control and info to match the lighting and framing. (lens focal distance and stops are important too so the perspective matches)

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Thank you both for  your quick responses.  If you don't mind, if you can give me a slightly more granular response about lighting it would be much appreciated. As noted above, I am an amateur, trying to work with a limited budget, so for now I am just using clamp lights to light the green screen, and I'm doing the filming with an iPhone. I already did a test, and while the green screen effect is pretty good, there are still some light artifacts of the screen that are visible. Assuming I stick with the clamp lights, can you recommend wattage, lumens, LED versus tungsten, "regular" size bulbs versus indoor floodlights? And assuming I want to spring for a relatively inexpensive lighting kit, can you recommend a brand/model. Based on reviews and articles I've been reading, I am considering Emert Photograph Softbox Lighting Kit,  Dazzne Bi-color LED video light, FancierStudio 2000 Watt Lighting Kit, Lincostore Photography Studio Video Quick Softbox Lighting Kit, and Neewer Bi-Color 660 LED Video Light kit. Do you have any opinions on any of these kits, or can you recommend another one in the roughly $150 or less category? Thanks again.

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