Did you know that green screens don't always need to be green? Ironic... I know! Green is the most commonly used color for screens because it’s the easiest color for most webcams to capture, which means less work for you later on when trying to key it out. The color is typically a loud obnoxious color that people don't usually wear, otherwise you could lose an article of clothing or something else into the background as seen here. Once your screen properly lit you can key it out which means pretend as if it's not even there. Blue used to be a common color, but since blue eyes are common among people you can imagine how freaky that looked seeing no eyes on a person. This is also why most people avoid red as a “green screen” since the majority of people have red tones in their skin, hair, and lips.
You would be surprised how many people do not properly light their green screens. They will use regular house lamps, or flood lights, or the main ceiling light in their room. If you are one of these people don’t fret, it’s okay your secret is safe with me! You would want to setup a lighting technique called three point lighting and I’ll explain this in detail down below. Once you properly light everything your viewers will notice that something looks different… looks better.. but won’t be able to figure out what it is. Lighting can completely change how your stream looks and I'm going to teach you how to look amazing.
I want to start off by saying you don't need a green screen to be a "better" or a "more successful" streamer. It's just another aesthetic feature you can use, like facerig. Some people like the cozy feeling of streaming within their home, and some find it rather distracting, it all depends on your preference. Either way you decide to go the lighting will still mostly be the same. The only change will be instead of lighting the green screen you would be lighting yourself.
If you decide the green screen path is for you, then you need to take a look at your streaming area. Check and see how much real estate (space) is shown on your web cam? Is it a 5x5 foot area? Then that is how big of a screen that you will need. You do not need to purchase a 20x20 foot green screen as that’s just a waste of space and money. As soon as you know the size of the screen that you will need, you’ll need to figure out what finishing material you prefer; I would suggest anything matte and/or flat as anything shiny or with a reflection will bounce the light off of it and would defeat the purpose of trying to light it evenly. You can use green paint on a wall, a piece of muslin, a pop up screen, etc. This is the exact green screen I purchased if you want to use what I have.
Once you receive your green screen you’ll want to wash, iron, or steam it to get all the wrinkles out. I suggest a portable steamer to do all this, as it’ll make a hard job very easy. I use my iToby to take them all out. You don’t want wrinkles in your green screen because the wrinkles will produce lots of little shadows. Because of this you won’t be able to light it evenly and therefore you won’t be able to properly key it out. Please notice I said “properly key it out” because you can put up a wrinkled screen and key it out, but you’ll need to increase the “key color” and therefore you will be losing details in other areas such as your hairline, or around your body.
Lighting is the absolute most important part of everything dealing with a webcam and a green screen. Some of you might think a really nice webcam would be just as important but even the best camera out there will not fix bad lighting! A properly lit background MUST be lit so that everything is soft, even, and the same color. The perfect lighting setup for streaming is called "Three point lighting”; two back lights and one key light. It doesn’t matter what type of lights(fluorescent, tungsten, or LED) that you’re using as long as you use the same type of light for everything. This will help you avoid producing difference hues/colors across the green screen. This is why you don’t want to use a house lamp, your ceiling light, and a window as part of your lighting setup as I talked about above. A key light is your main light and will be the one that is focused on your face/upper body. You will want to make sure this light is soft and even, which can be done by bouncing the light or diffusing it. A diffuser is any sort of device/screen that spreads out or scatters the light in any sort of manner to soften it. I use my key light in front of me and I bounce it off two white foam core boards.
Now you will want to take your two back lights and set them up on both sides of where you’ll be sitting pointing at the screen at a 45-degree angle. Remember these two lights are called backlights so place them behind you. If you don’t have space put them directly to the side of you, but never in front of you as you don’t want to cast shadows on your screen. Now that we have this all setup let’s add 1 more element to make this look even better. Let’s talk about lighting umbrellas.
Just to clear this up when you are using umbrellas you want to shoot the light into the umbrella and bounce it onto your greenscreen/yourself. (the lights will be pointing away from the screen) There are gold, silver, white, and translucent umbrellas and each one has it’s own unique purpose. The gold reflective umbrella would be used if you wanted to “warm up” the area, by giving it more of a yellow hue. The silver reflective umbrella is not good option on people as it tends to increase the harshness of the light and creates distracting specular highlights inside of the shadows. The only reason you would want to use the silver lined reflected umbrella would be for bringing out specific details.
White umbrellas reflect already soft diffused light, which is purrfect for use with people because the soft light hides flaws and softens all the edges of the shadows. The translucent umbrellas are technically not really umbrellas; as you shoot the light through them! The light isn’t reflected, it’s diffused and spread out evenly over a much larger area. This is the only situation where you would point your lights directly towards the screen, and is the lighting setup that I use. I would suggest using the white reflective or the translucent umbrellas for most all streamers whether or not you are using a green screen. The main thing you need to look out for when shopping for umbrellas is what reflective surface it is; as most sellers will give you silver umbrellas and we now understand that the silver is one of the worse choices for us to have. If you want to have the exact kit that I use right now you can find it here! Plus it’s not expensive!
If you have any questions please feel free to post them in the comments.
Until next time…