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Lighting a green screen correctly can help with the editing process of your footage in post production, the most common question when green screening “how many lights to light a green screen?” well the answer to that is fairly straight forward.
Depending on the location of your film shoot natural lighting can vary, the position of the sun for instance! if you are filming outdoors then you may have lots of natural light and if the sun is behind the screen not casting shadows, it is possible to get a good green screen shoot without any lighting at all!
Having said that in most cases lighting is needed to to achieve two main goals.
- Remove any shadows on the green screen from your subject.
- Light up your subject so that you can achieve a good Chroma Key in post production.
Lighting a Green Screen
Firstly to light up a green screen it is necessary to remember some key points before beginning the process.
- Only focus on the screen your subject is lit separately later.
- What size screen are you lighting.
- Are you filming indoors or outdoors.
- How much of the subject are you going to film.
- Can natural light be used to help.
Point one is important when green screening, a common mistake made by beginners is to focus all there lighting onto the subject they are filming, this causes problems when trying to get good chroma key results for editing later, concentrating on the subject before the green screen usually results in unwanted shadows that are difficult to key out.
The second point is to determine what size screen you are trying to light, a large green screen film shoot will require more lighting to get an even light across the screen, not enough lighting will create hot spots that could cause problems in post production.
Lighting a large screen can be costly as much more powerful lighting is required especially for an indoor shoot, but it is important to know how many lights to light up a green screen will be required.
The main aim is to get an even balanced light across the screen eliminating and hot spots.
That leads me into point three filming indoors or outdoors, natural light can be an excellent resource when green screening on large screens, with the sun located behind the screen on a bright day the natural light will give an even light on the green screen and not cast shadows onto the screen.
Filming outdoors is often done using a simple pop up screen but larger screens can also be used but the stand would need to be secured so that it doesn’t move in a breeze, sand bags and guide ropes would secure the backdrop stand on location, I would avoid green screening outdoors on a windy or rainy day.
When filming indoors it is necessary to use lighting to try and replicate natural light.
The process of lighting the green screen is to achieve a natural light look across the screen with no hot spots or shadows.
Lighting a smaller screen can easily be achieved with two soft box lights, but as the screen gets larger more lighting will be required, this can be done with two lights but would need powerful lighting units throwing out more light evenly.
Point four is determining how much of the subject you are going to film, this can include movement of the subject.
Maybe your shoot is of a presenter doing a speech to camera where there will be little movement, your footage maybe simply from there waist up.
This would help you determine the screen size required and allow you to use less lighting.
It would be pointless to set up a 20 foot green screen to just use 5 foot of it for filming!
So determining what footage you require, this will help you judge how many lights to light up a green screen are needed when setting up your video shoot.
Point five is often overlooked when setting up a film shoot, even when filming indoors natural light can help you reduce the need for powered lighting units.
If you have a large window that throws plenty of light into a room you could easily light up a green screen without using powered lighting. The light from a window needs to be diffused so that it makes the light spread evenly a clear blind or a white backdrop is perfect for this.
So the question how many lights to light a green screen? become apparent when you consider the size of your backdrop screen, but also considering what natural light you can use to help the lighting process.
Lighting The Subject
Once you have established how many lights to light a green screen evenly it is then time to concentrate on the subject lighting.
Firstly you should determine what background footage you are likely to use in post production.
It would not be necessary to throw too much light onto the subject if your background footage was dark for example.
Try to determine if your background footage has a light source, If your background footage is of a sunny beach and the sun is shining from the right try to match the highlights of your subject to correspond with the footage.
Your subject should be far enough away from the green screen that they do not cast shadows onto the screen usually about 3 feet away from the screen.
If you have lighting on the green screen make sure your subject is not situated behind these lights, locate the subject in line or slightly forward of your green screen lighting.
A single light on your subject can be used to create highlights on one side, for best results use two lights on each side of the subject simply move the lights nearer or further away to create highlight effects.
Always check your view finder on your camera to see what results you are achieving and adjust the lighting to get the best results for your video or photo shoot.
Conclusion How many lights to light a green screen?
Natural light is your friend and it is easily possible to create a green screen video with no lighting at all especially if filming outdoors on a nice day.
When using powered lighting always concentrate on lighting the green screen evenly first before concentrating on the subject lighting.
Without natural lighting a minimum of 2 lights would be required to light a green screen.
Indoor green screening would require 4 lights minimum for best results 2 lighting the green screen and 2 lighting the subject.
Always check your camera’s view finder to see the results of any lighting changes as you go.
I hope you found this beginners guide “How many lights to light a green screen” useful I would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.
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