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  • Writer's pictureNerys Muller

The KEY to Green Screens

Updated: May 12, 2022

Tips for making your Green Screen Content POP!

Ah, keying. It's either your favorite thing to do in editing or your least favorite especially when dealing with the wondrous world of green screens.

At one point or another, you're bound to come across this type of stuff in your editing endeavors, but how you tackle it can make or break your project.

Part of my workload features a heavy amount of green screen social media shows including a wide array of horizontal and vertical-styled content. I'm often asked about how to refine keys in your editing phase, making your subjects look sharper and more separated from their background.

Are you looking for some tips and tricks to refine your keying skills? Well, I'm happy to tell you ... you've come to the right place.

My main driver‘s for editing are Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro X. To be frank, having such powerful tools at my disposal to aid in the keying process does make a difference.

You definitely don't want to be masking out your subjects frame by frame, would you?

A lot of times, editors will focus so much on adjusting the strength of their Keyer Effect, but, rather than popping a blood vessel over bad lighting, you need to work on refining the key.

In many cases, how the footage we're given looks is out of our control. We, as editors can be subject to dealing with noisy video, digital artifacting ... you name it.

Particularly, when using green screens, the worst thing an editor could be given is green screen footage that isn’t lit properly. God forbid the background light isn't even ...

Nonetheless, there are many ways to correct these mistakes in post!

In refining your key, sample your green screen color. This color sample will help you determine the exact shade of green you're trying to key out.

You’d never guess it, but not all green screens are made equally. Some have bluer tints or lean more yellowish and magenta. It’s extremely important to make sure you have your key color set as accurately possible to the footage you're using.

The next step is to play around with your Matte Tools. I often find adjusting my mid-levels higher than its initial setting, helping me eliminate any potential of background noise.

You know those pesky gray areas that are sometimes left behind from poor lighting? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Also play around with the key's Edge Distance and Spill Level to see what works best for your footage. If your Keyer Effect has the ability to invert the key on your subject, use that to see how much of your background you've really been able to remove. It’s a good checks and balances mechanism.

In your Matte Tools, you can refine your key by softening the edges on your subject. This can help rid your footage of harsh lines and subject erosion. Percentage-wise, I lean toward something small for this softening effect in the 5-10% range. This can give your keyed subject a slight rim blur that won't look too jarring to viewers.

Sometimes, based on lighting, keying out a green screen can key out some of the natural skin tones of our subject. That’s a big no-no for our final deliverable!

If you’re losing color in the natural tones of your subject in your key, adjusting the Spill Suppression will help you out. Most Keyer Effects have a Spill Contrast Adjustment Tool that allows you to modify your low and high levels in accordance with the color of your green screen.

Of course, you could color correct, but there’s a way to fix this issue right off the bat!

Perhaps you’re having a tint issue where your footage leans more green. Up that tint a little towards magenta and you’ll be perfectly fine. Saturation can also help as well, in case your subject loses the red and magenta tones in their face.

Creating a healthy mix of tint and saturation will help the green screen behind your subject disappear while keeping your subject perfectly intact color-wise!

When finishing up, I also like to go back and slight sharpen my keyed clip just to make my subject stand out more.

Think about how the human eye sees the world. Like a camera we focus on individual things in the foreground, often drawing our attention to the brightest part of the frame. while the background looks blurry.

If we’re looking at a subject keyed onto a background, in order for it to look more natural, you'll need the background to be slightly blurred and darkened. Remember, keep the subject in the foreground and have that be the brightest part of the frame.

Well, take a look at that! With all these tricks up your sleeve, you'll be keying like a pro in no time!

Check out the some other articles from our B2Blog for more tips and tricks on video editing by subscribing down below!

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