Green Screen Studio

Chromakey with Final Cut Pro

I am fortunate to have a nice handy space in my house where I can have a green screen studio set up permanently. I bought a green screen cloth which was large enough for me to be able to cut in size and the other part of it I gave to my son who is a cameraman. The cloth that I have, I stretched over a frame to get any wrinkles and folds out of it and then I bought some LED lights to use for lighting the greenscreen. I find that when I do some recording in front of the green screen it’s very easy to key out the green in Final Cut Pro X. The LED lights that I have not really the best, but they do a good enough job.

My studio lighting for the subject which is usually me

I made some lights to fit into some soft boxes and I am very pleased with the way that these work. What I did is to buy a plastic board on which I could mount a number of light fittings. On one of these I added six light fittings so I can have six CFL bulbs and on the other one I added four bulbs. So the soft box that has the six lights in it I use as the key light and the other one I use as the fill light. To do some proper three-point lighting I should also have a light source to direct from behind the subject. I don’t have that at the moment, but it is something that I am considering getting. As it stands at the moment it works fairly well, but the backlight would give me a better separation from the green screen behind.

I fortunately have enough room in the studio to have my subject standing far enough away from the greenscreen. If you get too close, what can happen is that you will get some green spill from the reflected light. I have a marker on the floor that I use to know where I should stand and that also works well in relation to getting the focus set up correctly with my camera.

Getting good sound quality

One of the things that I don’t like about my studio is the fact that there are too many hard surfaces around which can distort the sound and make it a little bit prone to echoes. I have tried a few different microphones to record my audio. I started by using a Shure SM58 and used a converter to go from the XLR connector to a 3.5 mm audio into the camera. This worked fairly well, but did give me a certain amount of hiss that I needed to correct for afterwards. Not too much of a problem, although sometimes if you over correct the hiss, it will start to destroy the vocal sound that you are trying to improve.

The next microphone as I tried is a cheap Chinese shotgun microphone which in some ways worked better. Mainly it was better because it left my hands free for other use. The sound was also slightly better and less cleanup was required afterwards. Even with moving the microphone closer to me to get a better signal to noise ratio I was still getting a certain amount of room Echo with the recording. Now I have a different microphone, a lavalier microphone which is working out the best yet.

Amplifying the sound with a Zoom H2 recorder

As with the cheap Chinese shotgun microphone, I route the Giant Squid lavalier microphone through the Zoom H2 recorder. The reason that I do this is so that I get the benefits of the better audio amplifier of the Zoom H2. The audio amplifiers that you find in the DSLR cameras are really not up to the job. If I had the money available then I would consider buying a Juiced Link or a Beachtek which give better amplification and are made for the job of connecting good-quality XLR microphones to a DSLR camera.

Getting an teleprompter

I have already bought some applications to use on my iPad to turn it into a teleprompter, but what I really need is to get a piece of two-way mirror glass. With that glass I would be able to talk directly into the camera using the teleprompter. If I was to put the teleprompter iPad to one side of the camera then it doesn’t look like I am talking directly to my audience. At the moment what I tend to do is to not use any prompters and often I will need to have more than one take so that I get what I want to say correct. The specialist type of glass required can be a little bit hard to find, I haven’t given up hope yet though.

Do you have a green screen studio?

Leave in the comments section below details about how you have set up your own greenscreen studio. It will be interesting to find out how you have yours setup. As you can tell, due to money constraints I have to go the route of the frugal filmmaker and I plan to add bits and pieces to my set up as I go. The best items I have added so far have been the two soft boxes and also the microphone I bought from Giant Squid.