People use green screen effects too much, if you want to do a scene where you cut off an actor’s head I say do it. It’s only a little homicide, which one of us don’t need a 30 year vacation, all expenses paid by the government? If you feel you don’t need the vacation then you might be wondering what lights should I buy for my green screen set up. There are many questions:
Should I use hard light or soft lights?
Tungsten or fluorescent lights? Where do I place the lights? How many do I need? Will you come to my house and put together my lights? Last question first, I would never take away your chance to show off to your significant other how you get frustrated setting up lights. Should I use hard light or soft lights? Both but for two different reasons and uses. Your screen needs to be evenly lit, the more of your screen you have evenly lit when your actor is jumping around the better off your post production will be. Soft lights are the easiest lights to achieve this and I have tried both numerous times. Soft lights are the way to go to achieve the best lighting results on your screen.
Your hard lights have a very important use when doing green screen. You use these to backlight your subjects to give them a glow around their figure. When shooting green screen your subjects will blur into the background without the proper key light behind them.
Depending on your subject you have to decide how you light them and with what. Usually people want even lighting on their subjects so that would be a soft light.
Tungsten or fluorescent lights?
As independent filmmakers our budget is always a major concern, pay the rent or buy new equipment? Well, our significant others remind us to pay the rent first and we should thank them for that or we would be living in a box with amazing camera equipment. Let’s first look at what the two different lights do.
Fluorescent lights pull greens and intensifies their presence. This might sound good when you are working with a green screen but it isn’t. Think of your actor, if you bring out green hues in their clothes or skin then when you key out the green you will key more of them out. This is even worse for the key light on them, defeats the purpose of the key light.
Tungsten lights do not pull green or blue hues. They even use less bulbs so when your cat knocks over your light and breaks all your bulbs you don’t have to replace as many. You can also keep a few handy to not slow down your shoot if that happens since you don’t have to buy as much.
Only down point about tungsten lights is the light itself is more money, the y both work for green or blue screens but a tungsten will always give you better results when you light your screen properly.
Where do I place the lights?
I am going to give you an example of a 10′ tall and 12′ wide screen with one subject in the center.
You want a minimum of two, 1000 watt lights just for the green screen. One on each side of the screen, place the lights center for the screen to give you the best chance to evenly light your screen. Remember these are soft lights for the screen.
The next light you want is the key light, no soft box attached to give you a harder light and glow around the back of your subject. Ideally you want to place this light above the green screen and point it directly to the back of your subject. If need be you can place this light to either side of the green screen and achieve the same results.
If you have more soft lights use them, do two for the top half and two for the bottom half but remember to have enough lights to light your subject.
How many do I need?
This depends on your screen size and how much of your screen is going to be shown in the shot. I do not recommend less then three lights, one key light and two soft lights. In unfortunate circumstances I have used one soft light for the green screen but I can in closer for the shot.
There is no point shooting something you can’t use, so sometimes you have to change your desired shot and get what you can. Don’t shoot something you can’t use just because you wanted to shoot it that way. Shoot what your equipment lets you.
There is only one way to get good at shooting on a green screen, practice. Shoot on it as often as you can because it is something everyone uses, I have not shot a sketch, short or film in six years without at least one green screen shot.