Green Screen Materials

Several types of screen materials, from cloth to special paint and assorted papers, are available. If you need portability, a cloth screen on a stand might meet your needs. This < will give you the flexibility to position the background anywhere that's convenient, and u many pro lighting equipment and supply houses will rent them to you by the day. With a little research online at regional supplier sites, or on eBay, you'll be able to find backdrop starter kits complete with stands and lights. Backgrounds made from foam-backed material will lay flat, are easier to light evenly, and are not as translucent as green screens made of muslin cloth. Whichever screen material you choose, be very careful when handling and storing your backdrops so that you do not crease them or tear them.

When you are using a cloth backdrop, make sure there isn't any strong lighting from the back side, which would change the overall hue of the cloth surface and could show shadows and objects through the cloth itself. It's also best to use some kind of clamps on the sides of the hanging cloth to stretch it out flat across the surface, providing a tight, wrinkle-free background. I've also found that using a simple hand steamer will remove most wrinkles or creases from a quality muslin backdrop, if needed.

For more professional (and somewhat permanent) studios, you can create complete sets with pro cycs (cycloramas) that blend the floor into to the background wall for smooth, seamless results. These are then painted with a special formula paint (about $60 a gallon from Rosco) for either DigiComp or Ultimatte color specs. Some resourceful producers utilize painted skateboard ramps on location when portability is an issue.

For talking-head shots and shots of small objects, double-sided blue/green "pop-up" backdrops can be used on location for ultimate portability (Figure 8.1).

Figure 8.1

Many materials for blue/green screen backgrounds are available from pro suppliers for rent or purchase.

Figure 8.1

Many materials for blue/green screen backgrounds are available from pro suppliers for rent or purchase.

If you're on a budget (who isn't these days?) and can't afford a $60 gallon of paint, you can substitute a poor man's version of a blue/green screen. Using PMS colors that very closely match the DigiComp colors (Figure 8.2), your local home supply or paint center can mix it for about a third of the cost. Keep in mind that house paint won't have the same pigment-to-base ratio, and you will most likely need several coats to cover your wall or background materials. Also be sure to get a completely flat paint, as you won't want any gloss or hot spots to show up on the background surface.

Figure 8.2

Standard PMS colors that come very close to the DigiComp colors can be mixed.

Figure 8.2

Standard PMS colors that come very close to the DigiComp colors can be mixed.

If you're really desperate and just don't have the time or resources to obtain the best materials for the job, a few other materials may just work in a pinch—but expect to spend a great deal more time getting the lighting even and tweaking during the compositing process! For example, a solid dark-blue bed sheet might work if you have plenty of contrast in your foreground subject. Although it might be harder to find, a lime green bed sheet or tablecloth (cloth, not vinyl) could be substituted. Papers are usually the last resort; solid-color papers are usually too pale and dull, and they wash out horribly under most lighting conditions. If you're fortunate enough to find large pieces (or rolls) of matte-finish coated paper that come close to the PMS colors previously described, then they might work. Just make sure to handle/store the paper carefully because any creases or footprints will show up in your composite and create more work for you!

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