Ever seen a movie and wondered how they got a different background in every scene? This is because of the Green Screen vs Blue Screen.
To understand the difference between them, first, it is important to know about the concept of Chroma Key.
Green Screen vs Blue Screen
This is a technique where two images are layered together, based on their color hues. There are colors in every chroma range, and this is where the term comes from.
This background acts as a matte for video footage, and in post-production, the directors can easily remove the color background, make it transparent, and then do compositing.
History of Screens
The history of a green screen and blue screen can trace back to the 1940s when the blue screen was first used by Larry Butler.
The movie he was shooting was “The Thief of Baghdad”, and it even won him an Academy Award for adding special effects to the movie. Since then, the green screen has become very common in movie shootings.
However, long before Larry Butler, there was Georges Melies, who developed a very meticulous technique. He combined several frames of a film in multiple exposures and blocked certain parts of the lens of a camera. You can follow up here.
This way, these frames were left blank, and Melies superimposed these frames onto the scene takes of the same sequences, which was previously filmed using a clear lens.
This way, he was able to create a very unique special effect, which was considered an illusion back then.
This approach inspired other people to try different techniques, and they used a similar process to achieve the same objective.
Every filmmaker wants to superimpose different layers, on to the same frame, so that they can add and remove things from a picture. These techniques were known as matte techniques, and they were particularly useful when a filmmaker wanted to shoot historical locations.
The filmmaker didn’t have to take the actors to the exact location. In fact, all they had to do was put the actors in front of a special backdrop.
Even in today’s world, there are many modern situations that use a different version of the matte process, but the main inspiration is the backdrop that was used in the past.
Even though technology has advanced to a great extent, filmmakers still use green and blue screens. These screens are also used in news channels, where the news anchor sits and reads the news, while the background changes at times.
In 1988, a green screen was used in a live-action movie, which also used animation; “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
This movie won many awards, because it used special effects, and marked the start of the animation and live-action movies combined together. For people, it was unusual to see a live actor interacting with a cartoon, but in the background of it all, the actor was interacting with an invisible costar.
While it took a lot of budge to make such movies in the past, nowadays, it has become easier for filmmakers with low budget, to make such movies.
This is all because of the blue and the green screen. The dinosaur movies that have gained so much popularity, have become possible because of the use of such backdrops.
Why Blue and Green Screens?
Another important question to address here is, why only blue and green colored screens are used and no other ones?
This is mainly because these screens are the furthest away from human skin tones, compared to other colors. Have you ever seen a color wheel?
If you have, then pay attention to where the blue and green colors are placed; they are placed opposite to where the skin tone colors are.
Chroma keying is not only used in movies and television shows, but it is also used in news channels. It is not easy to decide what color screen to use, and the editors have to consider a lot when making a video.
First, they have to see the costumes, and objects in a scene, to decide which color screen to use. The colors in the foreground of a video, should not be in the same color range as the green or blue screen.
If an actor is wearing a green colored costume, and there is a green screen in their background, then the green parts of their outfit will be removed in the post-production. Deciding the color range, and the color screen is very important.
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The color of costumes and the objects is important, but another thing that is important is the luminescence factor. When the green channel is chosen by an editor, it is based on how clean it is, and the positive impact that it has on sensors.
In the case of a green-colored screen, the sensors don’t deliver much noise, and because of this, most movies and television shows use green screens. Green screens work great in any kind of environment; whether it is indoors, outdoors, or a studio shooting, green screens are very popular.
When a movie’s production team uses green screens, they don’t have to use many studio lights, because green screens are bright on their own. People are able to save both money and time when they shoot using a green screen.
A green screen is a non-reflective surface, which creates a smooth look. There are three main factors for green screens.
A fact of a green screen is that it creating a bleeding effect on the subject, which is why the scenes should be lighted evenly. When scenes are lighted evenly, then this will eliminate the shadows, and the keying process will become easier.
The keying process takes place in post-production; the production team should always remember that there should be no wrinkles in the backdrop because that would be making keying out a bit difficult.
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If your subject is wearing a green colored costume, then don’t use a green screen in the background.
If they are wearing green, and the screen is green as well, then the carefully masked background will appear on their clothes.
3) Background Distance
There should be enough space between the subject that you are shooting and the background screen. If the distance is not kept in perspective, then the whole scene will suffer from a spillover.
Blue screens are darker compared to green screens, and they mostly work in low light situations. If you want to shoot at night, then you have to choose a Studio Blue Seamless Paper for that. This kind of screen is very easy to set up and is also reusable.
This can save a production team, a lot of money, especially if they have a lot of late-night shooting scenes. There are three main factors that a production team must take into account, before using a blue screen.
As there is low luminosity, the spillover is less.
2) Color Corrections
Color corrections are easier when it comes to blue screens. For example, if someone is using a green screen, and the hair of an actor is blonde, then that might turn reddish.
However, the camera samples greener and less blue, which means that when the production team is setting their key, they will have to tweak it more.
A blue screen requires more light, and if it is a large scene, then that could prove to be very costly.
It is best to make sure that artists are not wearing blue colors. This factor is similar to what is needed on a green screen.
Which is the best screen?
The production department has to look for the most suitable screen. They need to experiment with a screen in a variety of locations and consider the lighting, wardrobe, and other things.
This experiment will tell them what effects they should use; they should import the test shots in Photoshop, and then put up both screens to see what suits them better.
The production team can test the luminance factor of the screens, and see if there is sufficient separation. The production team should always keep a notebook, to see what set up and the screen is perfect for each other so that they don’t have to test the same shot over and over.
Moreover, making notes will also help them understand color combinations better.
The production team should use a double-sided backdrop, like using both the green and the blue screens. This way, it will be quicker to change the colors and choose the best one. The best backdrops are vinyl backdrops because they eliminate glare and have a matte surface.
Pros and Cons of Green Screen
When a shooting takes place inside a studio, digital cameras are used. These digital cameras are very efficient in capturing the information that is presented on a green channel.
This gives the subject of the video or picture, a very cleaner look, and there are almost zero noise artifacts.
When a production team is using a green screen, then they don’t need much light. This is great for those who don’t have much budget or are making a movie for the first time and are tight on money.
When a production team is shooting a day time scene, then using a green screen would be the ideal thing to do. This is because green screens spill and that spill can make compositing subjects look brighter. They give the scene a more natural look.
Those who are involved in post-production, they know about digital keying effects and tools and know-how to key out the green screen. If the green screen is set right, and all the rules are followed, then the post-production scenes won’t require much fine-tuning.
The amount of color spill is the biggest problem with a green screen. As a green screen is brighter compared to a blue screen, it bounces back more light. This light often has a green hue in it, and the subjects of a video or a picture will have a color spill on their clothes.
During post-production, this color spill can prove to be very difficult to remove, especially when the team is dealing with hair, reflections, or costumes.
If someone is shooting a movie during night time, then using a green screen is not ideal, because it won’t make the scene look dark. The subject of the video will appear bright, and this will look very unnatural.
The green screen reflects light, and this is something movie producers have to remember during shooting.
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Blue Screen pros and cons
The main advantage of using a blue screen is that there are fewer color spills. The color blue doesn’t have much luminance value, so it doesn’t bounce back.
For example, if it is a horror movie, where most scenes are shot during night time, then the production team should use a blue screen. This screen is also beneficial in cases when the film has small details that need to be captured.
Small details can capture if the production team uses a blue screen, and after the keying process is completed, then these details will become more visible.
Blonde hair actors are not easy to key on a green screen, which is why blue screens are often used for them. As blue screens don’t reflect much light on their subjects, they are ideal for shooting nighttime scenes.
Making a movie is still very difficult because a single prop or costume can ruin the whole screen. However, this is why so much consideration is put into stage, props, and actor costumes.
The two things to remember here are that green screens are appropriate when there is an outdoor shooting or an indoor shooting that needs a lot of light.
As for blue screens, they are more appropriate when someone wants to shoot a scene in the dark or at night time. They both have their own importance and can do wonders for a film.