Green screens have become an indispensable tool for video content creation. Whether you’re a professional videographer or just getting started with YouTube, shooting against a green screen opens up an entire world of possibilities. Want to place your talent against exotic backdrops or magical environments? No problem – with the right green screen setup, you can digitally insert any scene imaginable during editing.
But in order to take advantage of these powerful chroma key compositing techniques, you have to start with the right green screen background. Not all green screens are created equal. Subtle factors like the color, material, size and portability can make a huge difference in the keying results. Choose poorly, and you may end up with ragged edges, transparent holes or unsightly reflections.
This guide will help you identify the top factors to consider when selecting a green screen background. We’ll also highlight some of the best green screen options available today for every type of budget and production. With the perfect background, proper lighting techniques and the right post-production workflow, you’ll be ready to create stunning, professional-level videos!
What to Look for in a Green Screen Backdrop
When shopping for green screen backgrounds, there are a few key variables to evaluate before making a purchase. Considering these factors will ensure you end up with a background that meets your particular needs and delivers great results.
Arguably the most important factor is the color of the green screen backing itself. The optimal green screen color is one that is highly saturated. The more saturated the green, the easier it will be for video editing software to isolate and remove the background cleanly. Avoid green screens that are too light and desaturated. these will be much harder to effectively key and often leave traces of green spill on your subject. On the other hand, darker green hues can sometimes absorb too much light and may not photograph well depending on your setup.
The best green screen colors fall somewhere in the middle between light and dark greens. Look for backgrounds labeled as having a “chroma green” color. These bright, highly saturated greens without too much lightness or darkness provide the best keying results.
Wrinkles and Creases
You’ll also want a backdrop that is free of wrinkles and creases. Any imperfections and inconsistencies in the green screen material can cause issues when keying. Wrinkles cast shadows and vary the green hue in ways that will leave traces of the background in your final videos no matter how much time you spend fine-tuning your chroma key effect.
Seek out smooth, taut green screen backgrounds without wrinkles or folds in the fabric. For collapsible backdrops and pop-up screens, take care to fully extend them and work out any creases before shooting.
One rookie mistake is purchasing a green screen backdrop that is too small for your intended use. Be sure to choose a background that fully fills the frame and gives you flexibility in positioning your subjects and varying shot compositions. A good rule of thumb is to allow for a background that can accommodate subjects at least 6-8 feet in front of your camera position. Larger productions may call for even bigger screens 12 feet or longer along each side.
Also consider the aspect ratio of your camera and ensure the screen is sized appropriately. An undersized background will limit your framing options and could lead to shooting off the screen.
Green screen backdrops come in a variety of materials, each with their own pros and cons. Here are some of the most common options:
- Cloth: Lightweight cotton or muslin fabrics are affordable and make for excellent portable backgrounds. They’re also easy to roll up for transport and storage. Just be sure to avoid wrinkles.
- Collapsible Screens: These pop-up style backgrounds use collapsible steel frames with green screen fabric stretched over them. Easy to set up though prone to creases.
- Paint: For permanent green screen studios, painting the walls chroma green is a budget-friendly option, though less versatile for on-location shoots. Be sure to use a flat, non-reflective paint.
- Paper Rolls: Seamless rolls of background paper provide smooth, wrinkle-free backdrops and are easy to transport. But they can be delicate and prone to tearing over time.
- Vinyl: Tough, matte finished vinyl green screens can be tightly stretched on frames for a smooth appearance. High quality but usually the most expensive option.
Consider which material best suits your budget, portability needs and production style when deciding on a backdrop.
Do you plan to use your green screen solely in a dedicated studio, or will you need to transport it on location for shoots? Collapsible, pop-up backgrounds and cloth screens are ideal if you need something highly portable that can be broken down and carried from site to site. For permanent installations, painted walls or rigid hard screens may make more sense.
Also look at factors like the weight and dimensions when collapsed or stored. Having a compact, lightweight screen that fits in a small case will be much easier to take on the go than a bulky, heavy backdrop.
Green screen backgrounds range hugely in terms of price from less than $50 for basic collapsible models and fabric screens up to $500+ for higher-end motorized or extra large options. Set a realistic budget and look for backgrounds that offer maximum value for money based on your needs. As a rule of thumb, avoid the cheapest screens as they often suffer in quality and longevity. But you also don’t necessarily need the most expensive model for professional results.
The Top 5 Green Screen Backgrounds
Now that you know what to look for in a green screen, let’s look at some of the best all-around options currently available on the market. For each of the top 5 backgrounds highlighted here, we’ll discuss the key specs, ideal usage scenarios and an overview of their respective pros and cons.
1. Emart Collapsible Green Screen
The Emart collapsible green screen is a versatile and affordable option perfect for beginners. Offering great portability and ease of setup, it’s one of the best collapsible backdrops available.
- 7 x 10ft dimensions
- Collapsible steel frame with nylon chroma key fabric
- Carrying bag included
- Weights only 15 lbs
Ideal Uses: This collapsible screen is perfect for anyone needing a highly portable background for location shooting or for setting up in different studios on demand. The lightweight design makes it ideal for solo content creators and videography students on a budget.
- Lightweight, folds down into compact carrying case
- Quick 5 minute setup
- Vibrant chroma key green color
- Even, wrinkle-free appearance
- Great value for money
- Thinner nylon material prone to wear over time
- Only comes in one size
This collapsible green screen delivers outstanding portability and chroma key performance considering the affordable price point. For anyone new to working with green screens, it’s a fantastic entry-level option.
2. Fancierstudio Floor Standing Background Support System
This adjustable steel stand with a fabric backdrop offers a premium studio-grade green screen solution. Ideal for permanent mounting or frequent assembly/breakdown.
- Heavy duty steel support stand (max 10 x 24ft)
- Smooth cotton twill chromakey fabric
- Adjustable crossbars and height up to 10ft
Ideal Use: The heavy duty floor stand and large backdrop make this background perfect for permanent green screen studios. The height adjustability also makes it great for shooting subjects like groups or vehicles.
- Durable steel stand built to last
- Huge sizing versatility
- Wrinkle-free cotton twill material
- Up to 10ft adjustable height
- Can mount lights directly onto stand
- Bulky for transporting
- Higher price point
For professional studios or permanent home setups, this rugged adjustable stand paired with high-quality fabric is a superb green screen solution.
3. Neewer Foldable Chromakey Background
This foldable green screen from Neewer offers great portability along with velcro stands for an all-in-one setup. Ideal for travel or convenient storage.
- 6 x 9ft background with carrying bag
- Includes retractable aluminum alloy stands
- Velcro strip attaches screen to stands
- Weighs only 8 lbs
Ideal Use: This compact, foldable background is perfect for content creators and videographers needing maximum portability for shooting on location.
- Ultra lightweight screen and stands
- Folds into small carry bag
- Quick velcro setup and tear down
- Vibrant chromakey color and material
- Affordable price point
- Thin material may be prone to tearing
- Not as durable as rigid stands
For run-and-gun style shooting and extreme portability, this all-in-one foldable green screen kit is a great option to consider.
4. Elgato Collapsible Chroma Key Panel
The Elgato Collapsible Green Screen features an aluminum hard panel design perfect for wrinkle-free keying results. Easy to assemble and ideal for on-location shoots.
- Durable aluminum collapsible frame
- Premium fabric stretched over panels
- Convenient carrying case included
- 7 x 7ft expanded size
Ideal Use: The rigid frame and premium fabric on this screen make it ideal for professional mobile productions where crisp, flawless keying is needed on site.
- Professional grade build quality
- Aluminum frame prevents any wrinkles/creases
- Fast assembly and breakdown
- Comparatively lightweight
- Carrying case for portability
- Higher price point than fabric screens
- Limited to one size option
For flawless keying results on the go, the Elgato Collapsible Chroma Key Panel is a top-tier portable green screen choice.
5. Fotodiox 10x24ft Motorized Background Support System
This heavy duty motorized background stand can automatically raise, lower and cycle huge green screen backdrops ideal for professional studios.
- Motorized operation to raise/lower/cycle
- Supports up to 10 x 24ft backgrounds
- Free-standing 16 ft wide truss frame
- Comes with background Adds and braces
Ideal Use: This motorized system allows effortlessly cycling through huge green screen backdrops perfect for permanent studios and large-scale productions.
- Motorized operation for quick background changes
- Supports massive backdrops up to 24ft wide
- Heavy duty professional construction
- Smooth and even backdrop material
- Remote control operation
- Extremely heavy and permanent installation
- Very expensive
For professional studios needing limitless green screen sizes for big productions, this motorized system provides incredible capability and convenience.
Tips for Proper Green Screen Lighting and Setup
After selecting the right backdrop, properly setting up and lighting your green screen is critical for getting clean keys free of spill and artifacts. Keep these tips in mind:
- Lighting: Bright, diffused lighting on your green screen from two sides (key + fill) ensures an evenly lit backdrop free of hot spots, shadows or seams.
- Distance: Position subject at least 6 feet in front of screen to avoid contamination from green light bouncing onto them.
- ** Exposure:** When white balancing your camera, adjust exposure so the green screen RGB values are as close to 0 Red, 255 Green, 0 Blue as possible.
- Framing: Allow at least a couple feet of overlap between subject and background for best results when keying.
- Iron: For cloth backdrops, be sure to properly iron out any wrinkles or folds prior to shooting.
- Entry/Exits: When possible, have talent enter and exit the frame from the sides rather than walking directly off the green screen area.
- Supports: Use sturdy light stands, stabilizers and clamps so backdrop remains taut and fixed in place.
Following these guidelines when setting up and lighting your chosen green screen will help you avoid common issues and get professional results.
Post-Production and Keying Essentials
Of course, even with the perfect green screen backdrop and setup, you still need to properly key and composite the footage in post-production to combine your talent with the intended background plates convincingly.
Here are some key tips for working with your footage in chroma key editing software:
- Adjust white balance and exposure on your clips to maximize separation between the green screen and subject.
- Create a garbage matte to isolate your subject and prevent spill from contaminating their edges.
- Fine-tune settings like smoothening, clip levels and tolerance to eliminate any traces of green or harsh edges.
- Check for spill remaining on your subject and use techniques like color correction to remove it.
- For professional results, utilize multi-point keying by pulling additional keys focused on specific areas as needed.
- Carefully review the composite and touch up any remaining artifacts, fringing or uneven edges.
Take advantage of built-in chroma keying filters and tools in editing programs like Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve to key your green screen footage like a pro.
Frequently Asked Questions
What green color works best for chroma key backgrounds?
The best green is often called “chroma green” – a highly saturated mid-range green that keys cleanly. Avoid greens too light/desaturated or too dark.
How can I prevent shadows on my green screen?
Use bright, diffused key + fill lights positioned evenly on both sides of the green screen to eliminate shadows.
What materials are ideal for green screen backdrops?
Taut, smoothly stretched fabrics like muslin, cotton and canvas work great. Collapsible screens or seamless paper rolls also produce wrinkle-free results.
How much space do I need for a green screen studio setup?
Allow at least 6 feet between your subject and the screen. Larger productions may need 10 feet or more of space.
Any tips for improving my green screen keying results?
Proper lighting is crucial – use bright, diffused lights positioned at 45 degree angles on both sides of the backdrop. Also be sure your subject stands at least 6 feet from the screen.
The key to flawless chroma key compositing is starting with the right green screen background. Consider crucial factors like color, wrinkles, size and portability when selecting the perfect backdrop for your productions and budget. Properly light and set up your green screen using the tips provided, and you’ll be ready to shoot high-quality videos that can be transported to any virtual environment imaginable.
With this guide’s advice for choosing a stellar green screen and mastering both shooting and post-production keying essentials, you’ll gain the skills to take your videos to the next level. Just imagine the cinematic videos you’ll create as directors of your own digital film worlds!