How to Shoot Your Own Chroma Key in Your DSLR Film

By John Carucci

When you use your DSLR to experiment with chroma key, expect it to be just that, an experiment in film. Even under professional conditions, it often requires some tweaking to get it right. The following steps should set you on the right path to green screen heaven. (Okay, blue too.)

1Plan your shot. Consider what the subject is doing and how she interacts with the background.

At this point, you should also have your background movie or image. If not, get shooting because you can’t compose and light the scene without knowing the background image.

2Set up the background screen (it could be paper, canvas, or even a green blanket) and evenly illuminate it.

The idea here is to pretend that you’re depicting the background as is, as opposed to attempting to creatively illuminate it with a graduated falloff. (That’s when the background lighting goes from dark to light, or vice versa.) Notice the even illumination.

3Use subject lighting and camera angle in a way that’s consistent with the background.

Be sure the intensity and direction of the light compliments the background so the key looks realistic. For example, if you choose a twilight background, make sure the subject’s lighting is soft and warm.

Consider your camera angle. For example, if the chroma background depicts a downward angle on a snowy mountaintop, be sure the subject is at a complimentary camera angle.

4Ingest your footage into the computer.

Each editing program handles chroma key a little differently, so check instructions before merging your footage. Premiere Elements is fairly simple to use.

5After creating a new project, drag the foreground footage, your chroma key subject, into Track 2 of the timeline.

Both are side-by-side.

6Drag the background image below the subject layer on the timeline.

Make sure that this content is slightly longer in duration to provide flexibility with positioning the subject.

7Go to Edit→Effects→Green (or Blue) Screen.

Voila! You have simple chroma key movie sequence.