How do I create a Virtual Background with a Green Screen?

Virtual Background Tips

What you need to know about Green Screens

Recently, I started looking into what’s called a Virtual Background. Since I had worked in television stations for more than 15 years, I thought that this would be a useful tool for my biweekly podcast on Mobile Marketing and Social Media.
The technology has been around for a long time, and is called Chroma keying or chroma key composting. It is a layering effect that happens when two images or video streams are served together based on color hues. You have seen this often in news, motion pictures and videogames. The color range in the foreground is made transparent, so that the separately filmed background footage or static image can be inserted into the scene. Green and blue backgrounds are used most often since they vary in hue from human skin colors.
I attended a tutorial session about using Virtual Backgrounds and then started my search.

Amazon.com has 718 choices under “green screen” so you can find a lot to browse. Here are two examples.

Image 1. This first one costs less than $30, so you basically have a cut piece of fabric, a bag and a lint roller. Will that do what you need? If you are just starting out, perhaps you will be happy with this setup. If you are looking for a more polished effect, you may be ready to step up to the next level. Remember that with more than 700 choices, you can be selective in what you decide will be best for your purposes.

Image 2. If you want more than just the basics, you can get this for less than $90. It includes a stand and the lighting kit with stands as well as a bag. I’ve been using one that is 9′ by 4′, and comes in a bag. The most difficult part of the process has been trying to get the green screen back in the bag. One tip on this is to look on YouTube for some tutorials. I had to watch one of these videos several times before I mastered the process. So, if you are having trouble getting your screen back in the bag, go to the experts on YouTube for the demonstration.

Image 3. When you have your set up, what will it look like? Here is a before/after set that you could use, or something similar. This is a single person standing in front of the green screen. The virtual background is a photo of the inside of the White House. You can see that their is a very different result after using the green screen.

(Source: Iman Crosson, Wikipedia)

Here are seven tips that I have learned in creating a virtual background.

A. The best backgrounds are bright green, not shiny.
B. Muslin is one of the recommended fabrics.
C. They should be close to you, the person in front of the camera.
D. We want to have good contrast between you and the background. The lighting is also important to consider.
E. You can use high quality royalty free images, or your own.
F. The best sized images are 1920×1080.
G. Consider using a slightly blurred background if you want your own image to “pop” more during the webcast or webinar.

Image 4. Here is an example of how I used the Virtual Background in teaching a class at National University in March, 2017. Notice the top right quadrant and how the Golden Gate Bridge is in the background. I used a green screen to make this effect. What do you think? Will this be something you adopt in the future?
green screen in classroom

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Posted by marybethmccabe

Mary Beth McCabe has decades of media experience. She has consulted with more than 3500 San Diego and National business owners on Hispanic Advertising and Media Buying, and worked as a sales executive at KUSI-TV, San Diego and WCIU-TV, Chicago. Dr. McCabe has taught Marketing and Advertising courses at four regional universities.