How to green screen without a green screen

Written by melissa mccormick
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How to green screen without a green screen
Solid lighting is key to creating the green screen effect. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Chroma key and colour key are used to describe the effect of removing a background and replacing it with another background, while still keeping a subject, such as a person, in a photo or video frame. This is referred to as the green screen effect because people are often photographed or filmed in front of a green background because green serves as a solid contrast to skin, making it easiest to key out. However, while challenging, the effect of replacing backgrounds can be accomplished without using a green screen.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Solid background
  • Still or video camera
  • Computer
  • Photography or video editing software with colour key or chroma key capabilities
  • Studio light kit or outdoor area

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  1. 1

    Place a person or other subject two to three feet in front of a solid background. A background in a kelly green colour is ideal for the most professional results. However, you can use any solid colour. A royal blue colour background is also a solid choice. Wrinkle-fee muslin sheets and painted walls work well as backgrounds.

  2. 2

    Evenly light the background and the subject using a professional studio lighting kit. If you do not have access to professional lights, move outside in a sunny area that is evenly lighted.

  3. 3

    Film or photograph the subject in front of the background. It's important to keep the frame of your photo or video within the solid background.

  4. 4

    Import your video or photograph into a project within your photography or video editing software. The program should have an effect option titled chroma key, colour key or both. Select either effect.

  5. 5

    Choose a new video or photo background and import it into your project to place as a layer behind the original video or photo. Click on the solid background of the original video or photograph with the chroma key or colour key tool. Do not select the subject. While instructions may vary from program to program, most software uses a similar process.

  6. 6

    Adjust the keying slowly as you watch the solid background disappear and the new background appear around the subject. You may need to use several additional effects offered in your software such as feathering to smooth out any edges around the subject and clean up any flickering from the original background.

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