How to Use a Green Screen and Edit Footage with Adobe Premiere

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Avengers film series, and so many other major movies have a lot in common. One of those things is that they were created with the help of green screens. The green screen cinematic technique has helped filmmakers create mind-boggling visual effects (VFX) that are highly realistic. Everything from dragons breathing fire to wizards casting spells are all possible thanks to the magic of chroma key compositing.

With the right equipment, you can start shooting a green screen video even if you’re on a budget. But even with the best equipment, you will fall short of creating believable footage if you lack the proper post-production software tools. Learn more about how to edit green screen photos and video through our guide below.

Setting up Your Green Screen

If you want to get the best results from your green screen set-up, you’ll need some essential equipment. These include:

Backdrops

You have the option to use paper, fabric, or paint to get that unique shade of green as your backdrop. Paper is the most affordable option, but it’s less durable than using a cloth or paint. 

Westcott 9 x 10ft Green Screen Cotton Background ($74.9)

Professional and amateur video creators need a green screen that they can easily adjust to meet the demands of their current project. The Westcott Photo Basics Green Screen Cotton Background is made from wrinkle-resistant fabric and contains a pole pocket and grommets along its four sides. It’s also lightweight and easy-to-use, making it ideal for various film projects. 

Photek 10×24′ Background Green Screen ($156.6)

Video content creators who spend most of their time shooting in the studio will benefit from the Photek Background Green Screen. It is specifically designed for studio and location work, and its large size can accommodate projects with a lot of on-screen action.

Rosco Chroma Key Paint, 1 Quart, Green ($28.88)

Once you’ve upgraded to a studio space or have access to a wall you can repaint, roll the green onto your walls with Rosco Chroma green screen paint. Unlike fabric that can wrinkle and perforate over time, paint offers a more affordable, long-term solution. 

Lighting

Lighting your green screen backdrop properly has the power to give you better results come editing time. The trick is to make sure that every area of the backdrop the appears in the frame is evenly lit and exposed correctly. 

Westcott Green Screen Photo Lighting Kit ($299.9)

Perfect for budding photographers, the Westcott Green Screen Photo Lighting Kit includes a wrinkle-resistant green screen fabric, as well as two compact uLites with stands, photoflood bulbs, and softboxes. It also comes with Photokey chroma key software that instantly removes green screen backgrounds from your photos. 

FloLight BladeLight 36″ Green Screen LED Light ($799)

The FloLight BladeLight is one of the most flexible lighting systems available because it functions as a fluorescent panel, Cyc light, Standard Fresnel, and SoftPanel all rolled into one. Production teams trust this lighting system because it outperforms standard LED lights and offers impressive color rendition and output. 

Cameras

Shooting green screen footage ideally requires using a 4K camera for the best results. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the video resolution, the better the output. And if you’re shooting in HD, choose a progressive frame over an interlaced one.

Sony Alpha a7S II Mirrorless Digital Camera ()

The a7S II is the perfect choice for green screens because it boasts ultra-high sensitivity, wide dynamic range, internal 4K movie recording, and superior shooting capabilities. It uses XAVC-S 8-bit 4:2:0 at 100Mbps in 4K and 50mbps in Full HD, making it ideal for shooting green screen videos. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 ()

Looking for a budget-friendly option for green screen tech? The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7’s controls are easy-to-use and it shoots well in low light. It also fires off extensive bursts of image quality at eight frames per second burst. Moreover, it is compatible with most mirror list lenses so you can easily switch between different lenses.

Best Green Screen Editing Software

After recording your green screen footage, you’ll need dedicated software to make the magic happen during post-production. Chroma key green screen effects, rotoscoping, and other advanced compositing techniques can help take your videos to the next level. 

Adobe Premiere Pro

Adobe Premiere Pro is one of the gold standards of modern video editing software. Along with myriad tools for color correction, transitions, audio, and more, it has built-in features to simplify editing your green screen footage. It will largely automate the removal of the green screen itself, and you can also easily fine-tune the matte and, for example, reduce how much color spills onto the subject.

Premiere also makes it easy to use different colors, other than green, for even more creative possibilities. When you’re done, you can export in just about any resolution or codec you want.

FXhome Ltd PhotoKey 7 Pro Green Screen Software ()

The PhotoKey 7 Pro software makes green screen editing simple. It analyzes photos and switches out the green screen for a new backdrop. Designed for photographers, it improves image quality; speeds up your workflow; and includes templates with filters, layers, and text to let your imagination run wild. 

Westcott Green Screen Photo Software ()

With the Westcott Green Screen Photo Software, you can automatically extract green screen backgrounds and import any of the 200 digital backgrounds included with a simple click. Apart from the available backdrops, you can also import any JPEG file, and the user-friendly interface provides access to the latest videos, updates, and news.

How to Edit Your Green Screen Video

There are two types of chroma keying: color key and ultra key effects. 

Color key works by removing pixels that are the same hex code as your color of choice. It works best with graphics with digitally rendered colors that you can remove. Ultra key editing, on the other hand, is the ideal choice for footage with backgrounds of different tones and shades. Using this tool yields impressive results, even for dimly lit backgrounds.

How to Use Chroma Key in Adobe Premiere? 

The Adobe Premiere Pro platform allows editing through its Ultra Key tools, which is preferred by most videographers for their green screen footage. The Chroma key effects feature is available in the CS5 and other later versions. Edit your footage using the Ultra key through these steps below:

  1. Drag and drop the footage to your timeline and place the green screen footage on top of it. 
  2. Search for Ultra Key in the effects panel and drag it to your clip. 
  3. Go to the Effects Control panel, select the color picker, and click on the green backdrop. You’ll notice the change it makes on your photo. 
  4. Change the output from Composite to Alpha Channel. The tool will show you the remaining background you’ll need to remove. 
  5. Use the Matte Generation tools to adjust the settings until you have removed the background completely. The best way to go about it is through trial and error until your subject and background look the way you want it to.
  6. Lastly, make your foreground look like a seamless part of the background by adding effects such as blurring or color grading. Then, render your timeline so you can see it play back at full speed. 

Hone your chrome key editing skills even further by filming and editing on green screens more often. And make it a point to shoot more and more footage — it’s the best way to test how far your editing tools can go. 

How to Edit a Green Screen Photos 

While different photo editing programs have slightly different ways to edit green screen photos, they’re all similar to how Photoshop does it. The idea is to select the background and erase it.

  • In Photoshop’s Select menu, choose Color Range.
  • Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard to choose all the different shades of your background, in case there are shadows.
  • You can hold down Alt and click on a shade to “add” it back into the part of the image that remains.
  • You can also Undo to deselect, or slide the Fuzziness slider to add or subtract colors adjacent to the ones you’ve selected.
  • In the Select menu, choose Inverse.
  • If you’re happy with your selection, you can now use the Eraser tool to remove the background.
  • Otherwise, in the Select menu, choose Select and Mask to modify the selection.

How to Edit a Green Screen in iMovie on Your iPhone, iPad 

Editing out a green screen in iMovie is easy.

  • Add the clip you want in the background.
  • Scroll the playhead (the white line) over the background clip.
  • Press the “+” button and find your green screen clip.
  • Select More (“…”) then “Green/Blue screen.” This will add the clip to the timeline.
  • Select Auto in the viewer, which will remove the green or blue background automatically.
  • Alternately, you can tap the color to remove that specific color instead.

You can now trim or extend the background clip to match the length of your green screen clip.