Low-Budget Green Screen Tips and Tricks

Green screen work used to be completely outside the realm of what indie filmmakers or creators could do. Now with our powerful computers and free software you can actually start keying out backgrounds in no time at all and with little training. The trick is doing it on a budget because once you start looking into doing it perfectly the amount of stuff you might want or think you need can bloat the budget.

How’s doing green screen for $20 sound? Tom from FXhome is going to go through a few different ways to do a low-budget green screen to find out which ones work the best with some options being easily found in a nearby craft store.

The software of choice is HitFilm Express from, you guessed it, FXhome. This is a good option for beginners, though people with their own NLEs or VFX software should be able to find similar tools are available.

Green Craft Paper

Getting a bunch of craft paper or card stock from a local shop is one place to start for a budget. As long as the green is close enough and you get enough sheets you can actually create a green background that may just work. Obviously it’ll take some time to get set up and the edges that overlap can be a problem. It’s also not great for larger objects as you’ll need a ton of paper.

In HitFilm he uses the Color Difference Key and finds it isn’t a perfect result. He does a good amount of tweaking and finds the min/max values are tight. Adding a Matte Cleaner he is able to smooth out the edges a bit. Last is a Spill Removal to cut the green tint.

So, it actually does work. It’s not ideal but for super budget or last-minute effects work it’ll do the job.

Plastic Table Cloth

Next is a cheap green plastic table cloth, like the kind you might find at a children’s birthday party. It definitely beats the craft paper for setup as it is much larger and doesn’t require overlapping multiple pieces. A bit wrinkly but it seems to work okay once he added a second layer since it was a bit thin.

Again using the Color Difference Key it seems like we are getting a slightly better result than the paper. However, the material being reflective can mess up your matte creation. This will require a bit more cleanup but it does work.

It’s another surprisingly good key if you are able to keep the reflections under control.

Green Cloth

You don’t have to get actual chroma green cloth, you can buy some off-the-shelf green screen cloth. Being heavier weight means that the cloth retains its wrinkles and will need a heavier duty mounting solution—no tape here for a reliable mount.

This one works super well. There is a tight difference between the min/max values, but for careful setups, this likely won’t actually be a big deal.

Green Paint

For something a little more permanent you can go the green paint route. This one looks the best from the start. The paint is flat, doesn’t have any wrinkles, and should be a consistent color. Being a wall ideally means you can put work into lighting it well. The affordable setup Tom is using for lighting made a hot spot behind his head, but it does work out.

HitFilm handled it quite well with similar parameters. This is easily the best if you want to do something regularly.

In review, they all worked out if you want to do green screen on the cheap.

  • Craft Paper: annoying to set up and overlapping isn’t great, super cheap and easy to find.
  • Table Cloth: cheap, lightweight, quick setup, might need two for good thickness, bad reflections.
  • Green Cloth: most durable, wrinkles but can be ironed, pricier than above two options and needs better mounting.
  • Green Paint: ideal for permanent installations, best result and easiest to work with. Permanent and likely not portable.

All the options might be useful for different people. Find one that works for you and start creating and having fun.

Have you tried any budget green screen options?

[source: FXhome]

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