The Reason That Green Screens are Actually Green

You might not realize it, but many of the scenes from your favorite television series and films are shot in front of a backdrop of a green scene. When you see these scenes on the television or at the movie theater, they are often amazing scenes with fantastic visual effects and stunning scenery. This begs the question of what is a green screen and why are they used?

In the sitcom ‘Master of None’, which is aired on Netflix’, there is a scene where Dev, Aziz Ansari’s B-Movie actor, is standing in front of a huge green scene. The director of the sci-film tells him that most of the work will be done in post-production and that the actor might as well not even be there. He then refers to them using a process called CGI to complete most of the film.

This scene from the sitcom is something that actors from all genres of movies, both low-budget and blockbusters, can probably relate to as it is an experience they have probably had themselves while shooting for a film. It is a fairly standard part of modern film production to use a technique called chroma key to create fantastic scenery and visual effects. The actors will spend most of their time filming in front of a green backdrop with the rest of the effects added digitally post-production.

Idris Elba has spoken of his experiences of working in front of green screens. He said that actors sometimes forget the plot. He specifically mentioned his time filming for ‘Thor’ when he would forget who he was supposed to be reacting to and in what situation or setting.

While the fact that digital effects are added in later is now well-known, you may still be wondering why the color green has been specifically chosen as the color of the backdrops for shooting. The truth is that the color used doesn’t have to be used it has simply become standard procedure to use this color. In fact, any single color could work as there is no particular hue that is best for the digital process. The only reason why green is usually chosen is that it does not match any hair colors or natural skin tones.

Chroma key is a process that involves isolating one single color or brightness value in an electronic image. They then make this single color or brightness transparent during post-production. Once they have done this, they can replace the color with other footage or another image by placing it beneath the blanked out color.

The only problem with choosing green arises when you have a character with predominantly green makeup, body art or costume and when a vital prop is green. In these circumstances, the filmmakers will often opt for blue instead. Like green, this tends not to match with natural skin tones and hair colors. This was what the filmmakers of the 2002 film ‘Spider-Man’ had to do when filming scenes of the Green Goblin. They then had to use additional techniques and filmmaking tricks to get Super-Man and Green Goblin in the same shot.

Surprisingly, chroma key is not a new and innovative filmmaking technique. In fact, it has actually been used in filmmaking since the 1940s. It is believed that it was used for the first time when making ‘The Thief of Baghdad’.

In modern television and film, it is not just a technique that is used in the big movies that have spectacular special effects. It is used on things as simple as the television news weather forecast. Producers of the weather forecast use this technology to put the meteorologist in front of the graphics that outline the forecast. If you have ever heard comments on what the weather presenters wear, then remember their outfits have been specially chosen with using this technology in mind.

Although this technology is widely used in both film and television, it is not something that is noticeable to the viewer, so it is something that most people think about. After reading this, you will probably start guessing where chroma key has been used next time you are watching a film or television series. The chances are, you won’t be able to tell.


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