Now, I realize the title could be a tad inaccurate, since the Premiere CS5 suite (which is the software you're likely using) is pretty expensive. But if you already have Premiere CS5, then "cheap" is still the name of the game. If you don't currently own the software, you can download a 30-day trial.
Once you've got the software in place (and a camera, of course) you'll want to get your set in order, the most important part being the green screen. Though it may seem surprising, the green screen is where you can actually shave a little bit of spending off your production costs.
There are several critical pieces you'll need for setting up a good (cheap) green screen.
1- Muslin Fabric
You can find a fantastic muslin fabric green screen on Amazon for around $40. There are a bunch of options to choose from. To make your purchase easier, determine what the fabric will be used for. Since there are multiple sheet sizes, figure out which will best fit your needs.
(For example, if your web show is one person sitting behind a desk, you can get away with a much smaller screen than say a person who is standing and needs to be fully framed in the shot.)
2- Rods and clamps
That $40 price tag is going to get you a nice screen but nothing more. The next optional purchase would be rods and/or clamps to hold the sheet up. I say optional because you can just as easily tape or take on the sheet to the wall. It's not an ideal scenario since you could damage the fabric & it will stretch, so there might be some tweaking each week you shoot. If you are on a tight budget though tape will do the job.
In order to successfully knock out that green screen later it will need to be lit up strong and evenly. That's where the second, larger purchase comes into play.
3- Soft lights
You will need some good soft lights which can range from the really cheap to the really expensive. Since we are trying to keep the quality hight and the spending low, we will be leaning on the cheaper end. Amazon once more has some terrific deals on light kits for around $160. This will get you a couple soft umbrellas, four lights and stands.
There are a lot of options out there but you want at least four lights on your green screen. When setting the lights up have 1 diffused light on each side, hitting the screen at an angle. Put the other 2 above or below in the center to fill in the darker areas.
So you have your screen and lights in place but you will still have to make sure your foreground figure is well lit and is the focal point of the production.
To make your foreground figure pop, I recommend placing him/her/it at least eight feet from the background. He/she will need to be lit up separately from the green screen with an additional two-to-three soft lights. Once again, hit the figure from both angles and if you are lucky enough to have a third light, place it above the person to remove any hard shadows left over from the other two lights.
Also, keep in mind that any green on the foreground elements will also be removed when you knock out the green screen later in Premiere. If green is needed in your production, then I suggest switching to a blue screen instead.
That's a wrap – sort of
Now that everything is in place and filming has wrapped up you are ready to import your footage into Premiere.
1- Capture your video footage and drag it onto the timeline once completed.
2- With the video selected open the "Video Effects" folder.
3- Choose "Keying / Chroma Key (Color Key on mac)". An effects area will be revealed with a bunch of options.
4- Select the eyedropper tool and click any part of the green in the workspace viewer. Any similar green will be immediately knocked out. It's likely that there are multiple values of green so not all of it will be removed, which is fine.
5- Keep re-clicking different areas with the eyedropper until you are happy with the amount of green removed instantly.
PRO TIP: To get the rest of the green values removed use the tolerance slider directly under the eyedropper. The larger the number the broader the color range. Pay attention to other similar colors in the foreground to make sure they don't start to disappear as you increase the tolerance. To further clean up the green residue, you can smooth and feature the edges to blend the foreground person/objects with the green screen. I also recommend turning "Smoothing" to the high setting.
6- There you have it. Your green screen is complete! Now just import your background image or video and insert it into the timeline below your main footage to see your brand new background.
Do you have any other tips for cutting costs on the set of a web show? Let us know how you've done it in the comments below or tweet us @iexposure. Looking for a little assistance with your own web show or the expertise of a producer? We can help. Contact us.
Photo by ZapTheDingbat, licensed by Creative Commons.
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The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information