Case Study 1: Green Screen for Program Video

We received an inquiry from a client needing to obtain our services for a kickstart a healthy lifestyle  video.  

And this is what happened next... 


Although we don't always get the opportunity to scout a location before the actual shoot (though we always try to arrange a scouting trip), the client graciously provided us the time to check out the area in this case. Hat tip to Shana! This was extremely helpful because those few minutes gave us the ability to determine several key factors about the setup for the background before the day of the video shoot. 

Key Factors:

  • How much room is available for our background stand -- vertically and horizontally.
  • What do we need for lighting equipment and are there enough electrical outlets. Also, how many extension cords would be needed and how long would they need to be?
  • What color background does the client want?

This client had ample space available at the location for her video shoot. Yes -- we have worked in tight spaces before and adapted to the situation but this time we didn't need to. Out of our three backgrounds -- a 5' x 7' X-Drop, 7' x 10' background stand, or 12' x 10' background stand -- we chose the 7' x 10' stand. Even though this was a single person video shoot, we still chose the 7' x 10' because it allows for multiple camera angles without worrying about capturing unwanted elements off to the sides and behind the backdrop. The high ceilings of the location allowed for full extension of the background stand and hence gave the client the option to either sit or stand for the shoot. The client chose to stand and so no need for the chair. Check that one off the list!  

Next, we determined that we had plenty of room for two background lights and a hair light. And of course -- it is important to check to make sure electrical outlets are available and take note if any extension cords are required. Check another off the list!

Our conversation led into a discussion about background colors. We mentioned a white background but found out that our client would be wearing a white t-shirt. This is why it is important to discuss background color with a client. In the case of the color background, the client chose the green screen option. We'd be doing a lot of chroma key work for this shoot. Check that off the list!

The green screen is a great tool to use when you want to replace the background with a different color or graphic. For instance, the green screen gives us the ability to be creative and add a festive background, winter background, or a city scene in the background -- the sky's the limit! For our client's video, we replaced the green screen background with a soft emerald green color. We thought it appropriate since the color green is often associated with healthy living, and green is a key color for the client's logo. In addition, we incorporated sprays of soft white angled lines to frame the speaker. The softness of the lines (versus bold lines) keeps them from being a distraction while framing the speaker and drawing the audience's attention quickly to that all important point of focus.

Preparation is often times a struggle for many professionals in our field. It takes time and you usually don't get paid extra for doing it. But if you have the opportunity to scout out the area of the shoot beforehand -- it can make the difference between a great video and a GREAT video. And if the client doesn't have the ability to show you that area -- ask questions. Can you give me an idea on the room size? Are there any windows? How tall are the ceilings? Are there available electrical outlets? At least this will give you some idea and you can gear up accordingly. And for those spur-of-the-moment video shoots -- pack everything you possibly will need. It is better to pack too much gear, then feel your heart sink as you realize something you need is still back at the office. Which brings me to another tip. Make a checklist and go through it each time before heading out the door to a video shoot. Did I mention -- preparation is important. Check! 

The Day of the Shoot

The client would be the talent on this shoot, and she would be using speaker's notes that she had incorporated into a PowerPoint on her laptop. This was a critical detail, as it suggested we would need a camera focused from behind on her laptop screen so we would have a reference for incorporating graphics into the final video package during post production. In total, this meant a three-camera setup.

For camera A, we set up a Canon XF300. This camera's high-quality color capture capability makes it ideal for chroma-key work, and it proved to be a winning solution for this shoot. Camera B was a Canon EOS 5D mkIII, while camera C, focused on the laptop, was a Canon EOS 7D. Main audio was captured with a Rode NTG3 on a boom stand out of camera view above the talent, and fed to the XF300. Sync audio was captured on the 5D with a Rode Video Mic Pro, while camera 3 captured sync audio with its internal mic.

For lighting, we relied on fluorescent heads from Linco. The key light was a Linco Flora with an octabox. Opposite the key light, we set up a hair and rim light using a Linco Flora X head with a standard softbox but without diffusion. The green screen was lit with two additional Linco Flora X heads. These heads have several advantages. First, they use much less energy than hot lights, which is a nice luxury to have when shooting on location. Second, they produce very little heat and keep the talent cool even on longer shoots like this one. While these lights are not perfect for every situation, they provide a great solution for most shooting situations.

Post Production

After the shoot, back in the editing software we imported the footage from all the cameras into Final Cut Pro X. This software, which came under fire a few years ago for being to simple and "crippled" in comparison to the previous version of Final Cut Pro, has matured very nicely, and now offers a very fast, stable, and powerful means of editing video. It works particularly well for syncing multiple camera angles, and it performed flawlessly in this case. After editing, the final result was a 35-minute video presentation in full HD that the client can use with her customers to provide introductory guidance to the healthy living course she teaches.

Technology Used On This Project

  • Canon XF300
  • Canon EOS 5D mkIII
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon EF 24-105mm F4L lens
  • Canon EF-s 15-85mm F3.5-5.6 lens
  • Rode Video Mic Pro
  • Rode NTG3
  • Linco Flora heads
  • 3x Soft boxes
  • Green screen backdrop
  • Final Cut Pro X
  • Motion 5
  • Keynote