Tip #501: Lighting for Green-Screen

… for Visual Effects

Tip #501: Lighting for Green-Screen

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Light the background for evenness. Light the foreground for drama.

Here, Lisa is lit for drama, while the background is lit evenly.

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One of the challenges that new cinematographers face in lighting green-screen shots is that there is almost no correlation between the lighting of the background versus the foreground. In fact, they should be lit separately. Here’s why.

Lisa, in this screen shot, is an excellent example.

The background is a highly-saturated green because the key needs color, not just brightness, to work. As well, the background is very evenly lit and, if you looked at it on the Waveform Monitor, it would be right at 50% grayscale. (This is because 50% gray is the optimum value for maximizing color saturation.)

But, Lisa, herself, is very dark. This is because it is a very dramatic scene and it needs to be dark. It could, in fact, be a silhouette. There is NO correlation between how you light the foreground from the background.

One other important point to keep in mind: To minimize spill from the green background hitting the shoulders and hair of the foreground talent, try to keep talent ten feet or more in front of the green background. (In this screen shot, Lisa was 12 feet in front of the background.)

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2 replies
  1. Philip Cutting
    Philip Cutting says:

    You might also add that the green screen must be EVENLY lit, but not BRIGHTLY lit. This will also ensure green light doesn’t bounce into the talent.

    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:


      Agreed. I’ve found lighting it to display as 50% gray on the waveform monitor is a good level.



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