- Finding one that already exists, and film on location.
- Build a set.
- Film the background separately, and project it onto a screen behind the actors while filming, typically via rear projection.
- Double-exposing the film, which results in a slightly transparent foreground but is cheap.
- The old analog Matte Shot, done with precise blocking of the camera frame.
- Chroma Key.
open/close all folders
- The first film to use the chroma key process was The Thief of Baghdad back in 1940. It was invented by Larry Butler, who won an Oscar for it.
- The 1933 version of H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man used the black velvet effect in close-ups where Griffin removed his bandages.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) had almost no real sets or props, relying on Chroma Key in every shot.
- As did the film adaptation of Sin City, in order to re-create all those stylistic comic-book-style backgrounds and lighting motiffs.
- MirrorMask does the same, in a very very trippy way.
- As did Labyrinth, in the "Chilly Down" sequence.
- The Movie adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 was filmed almost entirely in Chroma Key. The Movie of Alan Moore's Watchmen (by the same director) uses a combination of chroma key and traditional sets.
- The live-action movie of Speed Racer was filmed almost entirely on green screen to give it an anime-style effect.
- The Star Wars prequels helped pioneer the idea of minimal set design through Chroma Key.
- The fact that only blue screen was available for A New Hope caused Luke's squadron to be changed from Blue to Red to avoid problems with blue markings.
- Also in Return of the Jedi, the only reason Luke's new lightsaber is green is because the battle that takes place on Tatooine happens to have a bright blue sky. In some early trailers, Luke's saber is blue, but they chose to change it to green so it would show up against the sky properly.
- In the original editions of the original trilogy, you'll notice that whenever R2-D2 is in space, his panels are painted black instead of blue to accommodate the chroma key effect. This was digitally fixed years later for the special edition versions.
- The fact that only blue screen was available for A New Hope caused Luke's squadron to be changed from Blue to Red to avoid problems with blue markings.
- In filming the first Superman movie, the costume had to be teal in blue screen effects, and then color corrected after the shots were composited.
- In Superman III, there is a short instant where you can see him flying through a canyon sporting the teal outfit.
- The opening scenes of Groundhog Day demonstrate this - the woman is wearing a blue blouse when she steps in front of the chroma key camera, and all that can be seen are her head and hands in front of the satellite picture.
- Quite possibly the best use of chroma key occurs throughout Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Two remarkable examples are the moments where Darby plays "The Fox Chase" on a fiddle to an audience of dancing leprechauns and, most notably, the Banshee sequence.
- Puma Man has some very unconvincing green screen work, but that's part of its charm.
- Bad chroma key is deliberately invoked in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, when the mayor appears in front of a freeze frame of the Baby Brent Sardines commercial to promote his unveiling.
- Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) used this extensively. The sets seem to consist of nothing but green walls in the proper shape, along with platforms. Only things the human characters touched actually existed on the set, and most seemed to be green and were textured via CG (The Tea Table seemed to be an exception, due to the hatter walking on and knocking stuff off). The staff comments in the "Making Of" stated it was an "Odd Mix" of Full CGI (too many to list), motion capture characters with the actor's head pasted on, normal actors human (mainly Alice), and edited normal actors (the Red Queen and her giant head).
- The body-suit version was memorably used in Star Trek: First Contact to erase half of the actress playing the Borg Queen during her entrance-in-two-parts.
- At the Walt Disney Studios, Ub Iwerks developed the sodium vapor process, in which the actors were filmed against a white backdrop lit with powerful sodium lights. A special prism in the camera separated the image and exposed it simultaneously on two different film stocks: regular color film, which did not pick up the sodium light, and black and white film sensitive to sodium light, which created the matte. The process was used for most Disney productions, including Song of the South, Mary Poppins and The Black Hole, and was also used for The Birds and a number of Ray Harryhausen's films. Although it provided better results than blue screen, and saved time by creating the matte simultaneously with the foreground footage, the process proved too expensive and was discontinued by the 1980s.
- Used a bit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as you can see here.
- In the Harry Potter films, the invisibility cloak is, of course, created with a chroma key green cloak. Chroma key is obviously also used for scenes with Flying Broomsticks and so forth. As as far as sets go, the Potter filmmakers tend to prefer building real sets and usually just use chroma key to fill in scenery out a window, for example. However, there have been at least two all-CGI sets in the series, the Hall of Prophecy from Order of the Phoenix (because they couldn't do the scene where all the shelves crash down for real) and the Chamber of Secrets in Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (the original Chamber set from The Chamber of Secrets was real, but wasn't saved after filming).
- As mentioned above, Ray Harryhausen used the sodium vapor process on a number of his films. For instance, it's used to achieve some of the scale effects in The Three Worlds of Gulliver. More subtly, in Jason and the Argonauts, in the scene where Jason is talking to Medea at the stern of the Argo, you have to look closely to realize that they were filmed in the studio with location footage of the rest of the ship matted in behind them.
- In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, blue screen was obviously used for the Flying Car scenes. Obvious because you can see blue matte lines around the actors in several shots.
- The Amazing Bulk is filmed entirely in Chroma Key.
- In Stuck on You, a 'blueberry' suit is used to keep Bob out of Walt's scenes on Honey and the Beaze
- In Wayne's World, when the Show Within a Show moves into a studio, they gain the ability to use Chroma Key, which Wayne demonstrates for the audience by "travelling" to New York City, Hawaii, Texas, and... Delaware. "Hi... I'm in Delaware."
- Repo Chick was filmed almost entirely on a green screen. The actors were then composited onto model railways and toy cars instead of more realistic backgrounds.
Live Action TV
- A.N.T. Farm uses this when Olive paints Chyna's bedroom wall green during a slumber party, Chyna uses Stock Footage from a movie for her background while video chatting with Lexi, to prove that her slumber party is cooler than Lexi's. Everyone in the background is at least 10 years older than Chyna and are dressed like they're in a nightclub. It works even when Olive puts on a hoodie the same color as the green wall, which blanks out everything except her head until Chyna covers it up. Lexi doesn't catch on until a ninja drops in and attacks the people in the nightclub.
- Drew Carey's Green Screen was an improv comedy show that expanded on the green screen antics used on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
- E!'s The Soup (and its predecessor Talk Soup) is videotaped entirely in front of a green screen. This led to a particularly memorable incident when a guest wore a pair of Italian flag briefs, which made it appear as if a portion of his pelvis was missing.
- This is also used by a number of networks instead of sets for each of their programs, to save money; instead they just leave one camera rolling and change the background. Game Network and Friendly TV spring immediately to mind.
- During one Academy Award ceremony, Ben Stiller came out on a full-body green suit to present the Best Visual Effects award, claiming that it made him invisible.
- In an earlier ceremony, Steve Martin presented the same award wearing a blue mask and his trademark fake arrow through the head. That time the effect was done properly, and the audience saw a headless Martin with an arrow floating over him.
- This is the method behind Shadow-Rama of MST3K fame, by merit of how cheap the effect is to do.
- Used in just about every 'field report' on The Daily Show to relocate correspondents to Baghdad, London or outer space.
- Jon hung a lantern on this in the Crossover with The Colbert Report, Indecision 2008. After Obama won, a Correspondent who was supposed to be in the Middle East appeared in the Studio. His answer was along the lines of "Who cares; Obama won!"
- The "field report" green screens have been lampshaded a lot ("You see, I'm in Jolly Old England, as you can tell by Big Ben behind me — [looks over shoulder] sorry, the Houses of Parliament..."/"You know what I love about Sacramento? Their beautiful, stationary sky"), but the best instance is probably the inevitable aversion, where Jason Jones proved he really was in Denmark by... walking over and shoving some guy who was passing by.
- In another a correspondent who had actually gone to the location had an argument with another, who interrupted their broadcast using Chroma Key to claim to be there as well.
- The Colbert Report uses it for Formidable Opponent, in which Colbert debates himself; to create the other Colbert, in addition to mirroring the shot, the Chroma Key changes the background he's standing in front of, and the color of his tie.
- Colbert also makes liberal use of the chroma key in his Green Screen Challenges. The first one involved him fighting whatever the contestants edited in with a lightsaber, the second one was an attempt to make John McCain interesting.
- Spoofed in an early episode Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Andy Richter was invited to a news set as guest weatherman. Taking off his jacket, he becomes an Oracular Head as his blue shirt disappears into the chroma keyed backdrop.
- Continues to be subverted in more recent episodes, with guest commentators doing "remotes." When they inevitably anger him, Conan walks over and clobbers them with a chair, revealing the ruse as he "leaves" the studio and appears in the "remote" location, all within the same splitscreen.
- As mentioned above, old-school Doctor Who used this all the time, and the new series is pretty fond of green-screen too. Since the revival in 2005, it has been lavishly budgeted. Back in the seventies and eighties though? ...Not so much. You'd really have to stretch your suspension of disbelief there.
Eric Idle: That's clever, how did they do that?John Cleese: Colour Separation, you cottonhead.
- In an interview, Pertwee-era producer Barry Letts said that while the rest of the world calls it Chroma Key, "The BBC always insists upon calling it 'Colour Separation Overlay'". (This was probably a result of the BBC's general aversion to the use of trade marks and brand names.) Even today, Doctor Who fans tend to refer to the technique as "CSO" as something of a Shibboleth.
- Occasionally led to some staggering Special Effects Failure. "Robot" used a yellow screen for the giant robot, which was an unwise choice as the robot is silver and reflective, so parts of it actually disappear. "Underworld" used CSO instead of sets, resulting in things like K-9 going through a wall. "The Power of Kroll" was intended to use CSO to remove the sky to insert the miniature footage, but British weather made this impossible, so the screen was just chopped in half at the middle so bits of people's heads are missing when the Kroll appears.
- Doctor Who even developed some innovative techniques for using the technology, such as a particular way of mounting cameras that allowed synchronous camera movement between miniature footage and actor footage during live CSO (first used for the spaceship shots in "Meglos").
- Sanctuary is shot almost entirely in Chroma Key. The actors and interactive props are filmed against a green screen and CGI generated backgrounds are added.
- Seen from time to time on the Show Within a Show segments of iCarly. Relatively light on the Stylistic Suck, considering they're supposed to have been done live by an amateur on a
- Lost has used green screens on occasion. In particular, most of the helicopter scenes in season 4 were done this way.
- Green screens are, of course, commonly used in TV weather forecasts. Woe be to the weatherman who wears a green tie and finds Toronto on his chest, though it can be done for a joke too.
- The early Disney Channel shows Welcome to Pooh Corner and Dumbo's Circus were made this way.
- As mentioned above, it's a commonly used feature in Jim Henson productions.
- The whole concept of Knightmare. The contestants wear a ridiculous helmet with instructions from their friends, because they would otherwise only be able to see a blue or green backdrop with a few physical props and people.
- Used extensively and to great effect (sometimes) in Filmation's The Ghost Busters for the Ghost Dematerializer visual effects.
- The British version of MTV2 has a flagship show called Gonzo, consisting entirely of host Zane Lowe sat on a brown couch in front of a blue screen. The show is "as live" and therefore no corrections are made when items like guests' clothing match the background and disappear.
- The PBS astronomy show Jack Horkheimer Star Gazer is done entirely like this.
- The Irish political debate show "Tonight with Vincent Browne" uses a ridiculously obvious blue screen. It shines on to the faces of guests or, in the case of the host, gives him a very strange blue afro.
- While a lot of the scenes actually were filmed on location, in some of the cosmic calendar and Library of Alexandria scenes in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, you can see this effect around Carl Sagan. It's combined with motion control to make it look as if he's walking through model sets. Apart from a few full-size props the entire Library of Alexandria is actually a model, and the effect is highly convincing.
- When Earl's list item of the week involved a television news anchor, he and Randy went down to the studio. Randy wandered into the green corner, wondering why it was there, when he noticed himself on the monitor, standing in front of a weather map. When he unzipped his jacket to reveal a green shirt, he freaked out, seeing himself as just a floating head and hands. He later figures it out enough to do a Pac-Man impression.
- Super Sentai suffers this in some of the early series, particularly Dengeki Sentai Changeman at the end and sporadically throughout Choushinsei Flashman. By the time Hikari Sentai Maskman aired, the production staff no longer used it.
- More recent Sentai series abuse this for finisher attacks to give off that anime effect. Most of the explosions and sparks are overlayed through Chroma Key nowadays as well.
- The Price Is Right uses Chroma Key for mainly the Clock Game and a few other parts of the show.
- Shining Time Station used this for Mister Conductor, keying him in at a smaller scale to give the effect of a miniature man. It worked quite well, too.
- Wheel of Fortune used to use it: an overhead shot of the Wheel, spinning automatically, would have hosts Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford (and of course, successors Pat Sajak and Vanna White) chroma-keyed into its green center at the end of the show. Although this shot was long retired, the center of the Wheel is still green.
- Some criticism of the third and fourth seasons of Chuck focused on less-than-convincing green screen sequences which became more prevalent due to the show's reduced effects budget.
- On Cougartown, Travis's college roommates have a green screen set up to make funny videos (and attract the chicks, somehow). It gets used by Bobby and Andy, and later Jules and Grayson.
- On Comedy Centralís Viva Variety, Mr. Laupin sings an ode to blue screen.
- The music video "Shine On Me" by Chris Dane Owens abuses the hell out of it.
- Or, as the page puts it, abuses it "like a free bag of heroin."
- Yes's video for "Leave It", while groundbreaking for its time, has some notable Chroma Key issues with the white shirts on the white background. (Most notably at 2:58 in the video)
- Used in "Friday", as Rebecca Black herself Lampshaded in her appearance on "Funny or Die". ("I'm talking about riding in a car with a 13-year-old driver, whether on the road or on a windless green screen cityscape.")
- The video made to promote Strawbs' album Grave New World makes extensive use of Chroma Key, with no pretense at making the compositions look realistic. For instance, one scene shows a dancer performing in front of aerial Stock Footage of clouds, while another has the band hovering over Piccadilly Circus.
- Tori Amos's videos tend to use a lot of Chroma Key effects, to the point where she once quipped "I seem to live my life on green screen."
- The Correspondents' music video for "Fear and Delight" combines green-screen with multiple camera angles to make it look like the singer duplicates himself.
- The video for Italian band Verdena's "Un Po' Esageri" inverts this trope by having the members wear Chroma Key suits and showing normal footage of the band in their silhouettes.
- The video for Snow Patrol's song Called Out In The Dark has this exploited. A disgruntled band member wears a green shirt at one point, and, to mess up the video clip being filmed, replaces an actress who is to jump in front of the camera. Hilarity ensues, until the producer sees. Then, reality ensues.
- Both Earthquake: The Big One and Disaster! at Universal Studios Florida had entire segments dedicated to showing how blue screen effects are utilized in movies, with guest participants being used for the demonstration.
- The exit of Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom has a green screen wall on one side, and when in front of the green screens, guests can see themselves on TV monitors looking as if they're in space.
- The FMV for Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger was filmed exclusively on greenscreen, predating Star Wars by a good half a decade (and stealing Mark Hamill from them while they were at it). WC4 made the shift to actual sets.
- The Just Dance series and its various spinoffs uses chroma-keyed footage of human dancers against themed rendered backgrounds that are usually animated to sync with the song and/or the dancers' movements. In the occasion where a dancer's outfit or costume must be green, such as a costume of Slimer from Ghostbusters, it is designed for the filming with a different color (usually blue) in place of the green and then recolored for the actual video.
- Homestar Runner makes fun of this in the Strong Bad E-Mail redesign, where Strong Bad imagines what his room would look like if he replaced the walls with a green screen. It backfired when he imagined frolicking through the bread aisle of a grocery store, as due to his eyes also being green, they vanished ("Oh, bread aisle! Warm me with your enriched, bleached bosom! And please, give me back my sight"). It then freaked him out when he saw the green-clad Coach Z walk in, appearing as nothing more than a floating head.
- Technically, all of this is impossible, but keep in mind, this is also a series where computer viruses can bend "reality" by, presumably, spreading to the creators' machines and messing up the Flash file, not to mention Homestar states he's Behind the Black in almost every Strong Bad Email.
- How the no-budget spoof series The Jerry Seinfeld Program manages to take place in the apartment from the show.
- Angry Joe uses it as his background.
- The Spoony One will bring it out every once in a while for their skits in reviews.
- Smosh uses lots of this, but usually not very well.
- In Endless Saturdays, Kara attempts to construct a green screen, which Robert plans on using to pretend to be at the premiere of the (then-unnamed) sequel to the Dark Knight.
- LoadingReadyRun has one of those; used most prominently in "Live on Location", in which a newscaster discovers that due to budget cutbacks one of his reporters has been using greenscreen to fake his reports from Denmark, the Caribbean, space... At the end he's relieved to hear from a real reporter:
Karen Walnut: I am really actually here in dinosaur times, which as we talked about last week is black and white because of the effects of time travel.
- Jeremy Jahns uses this to provide color-coded backgrounds for his videos.
- The facecams used on The Bowlingotter Show have greenscreens so the backgrounds can be removed.
- Parodied on King of the Hill, Luanne is hired as weather girl not because of her acting, but because her conservative blue dress with a white top melds perfectly with the background.
- This technique is used with real kids against a backdrop of clouds in the "When You Pretend" song on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Possibly with other segments featuring real kids as well.
- On Dinosaur Train, this is sometimes seen in the Dr. Scott the Paleontologist segments.
- News folk use this technique when presenting the weather, often using a special pointing device which the computer can track to appear to interact with the weatherboard by drawing lines and arrows. One particular segment has a host who enjoys taking further advantage of the technique: he wears a blue suit skeleton costume on Halloween.
- When Harry Caray worked at WGN covering the Chicago Cubs, during the postgame show he and the play-by-play commentator would sit in front of a blue screen showing the crowd at Wrigley Field. Caray, whose Catch Phrase was "Holy Cow!", had a little plastic cow which had some blue dots on it, making it "holey" so you could see "through" it to the shot behind them.
- Here's a tip. At a couple of tourist spots like the John Hancock Center in Chicago, they may have a green screen backdrop that you stand in front of so that a souvenir photo can be taken of you. Wear a shirt matching the color of the chroma screen. When you look at your souvenir photo on the 94th floor sometime later, prepare to laugh out loud seeing that the Chicago skyline imposed in the background also has been imposed onto your shirt.
- This is played with in MythBusters when Adam was so drunk he hung a green screen to inspire him while he ran on a treadmill, then realized only the audience could see the effects. All he could see was green screen.