How to Have Fun with a Green Screen without Leaving Your House

Experimenting with a green screen can provide loads of family fun, and doesn't take much time, experience or money.

I’m sure everyone has had some kind of experience using a green screen (formally known as chroma key). My first memory of a green screen was when we learned the weather person wasn’t really standing in front of a map when they did the weather forecast, it was just a green wall. Mind blown. Now they are everywhere; you may have been eaten by a giant T-Rex at the Museum of Nature and Science.

Our library is lucky to have two Studios with green screens in addition to a portable green screen. How a green screen works is some fancy technology detects a certain shade (bright green in this case), turns it transparent, then allows another image to show through. You can use other colors, but that bright green is the most popular and effective.

The reason I'm experimenting with this technology is because a portable green screen (aka a piece of green cloth) showed up next to my cubicle. It immediately piqued my interest. It must be a sign that I must learn more. How easy is it to learn how to use? What kind of technology do you need? Is it expensive? I played and am sharing what I learned with you.

green screen
The green screen I used (a piece of bright green fabric).

It's easy, cheap and you don't need any fancy technology. Here's what you do need.

Green screen
You can get a piece of green fabric, paint a wall or order an actual screen from Amazon. I even saw neon green foam core for a few bucks at Target. You really have a lot of options when it comes to this, and you don’t have to spend much money.

Camera 
You can use your smart phone; you don’t need any fancy cameras or equipment. I have an iPhone and it worked perfectly.

Software
I found quite a few apps in the app store, including some free ones. After reading some reviews online and in the app store, I decided to try “Green Screen” by Do Ink for $2.99. I kind of skimmed through the app tutorial, which I probably shouldn’t have because it took me a minute to figure out how to use it. Now that I’ve figured it out, creating fun pics and videos is super easy.

Images
Lastly you’ll want to find some images or videos to pose with, in front of, behind or whatever you want to do (want to get eaten by T-Rex?). You can import videos and images of your own, or find some on the web (both free and paid).

Optional
While good lighting isn't mandatory, it's helpful in making your pics and videos look their best. You can see an example in the LuLu video below, she had cast a shadow on the green screen and it's very obvious when watching the video.

Here are my first attempts at experimenting with the green screen:

girl in front of hollywood sign

Me in California with the Hollywood sign. The weather was gorgeous.

Here is my troll dancing with a skeleton, he really has the moves.

And lastly, here is lovely little LuLu getting spooked in a creepy graveyard.

I think what took the longest for me was finding the images and videos to use. This app is so simple!

Those are just the very basics of getting started and with some more practicing and learning, hopefully I can figure out how to make some really cool stuff.

You can do this at home, with your kids (or your pets). I am already trying to think of a fun backdrop that would look nice on Christmas cards. You can really be creative.

What you need:

  • Green screen
  • Smartphone
  • Green screen app
  • Images/videos
  • Your imagination

If you are interested in taking some online courses to improve your skills, our awesome online learning platform, Lynda.com, offers a bunch of green screen courses including "Green Screen Techniques for Video and Photography," which is appropriate for beginners to advanced. If you've never explored Lynda before, you should definitely check out this amazing resource the library offers to its patrons for free. All you need is your library card!

Here are some books if you'd like to brush up on your photography or movie-making skills before you get started.

Ipad and Iphone Digital Photography Tips and Tricks

The IPhone Photographer

Making Movies With your IPhone

Get Filming!

Digital Filmmaking for Kids for Dummies

Animation Lab for Kids

IPad Animation: - How To Make Stop Motion Movies On The IPad

How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

I hope you try it out and have fun. If you've experimented with green screens before, what tips do you have for us beginners?

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