Are you ready to do green screen in your classroom? This short guide walks you through the basics of what you need to buy, borrow, or build in order to do just that. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, (you might not need to spend any at all), but there are definitely a few essentials that you will want to have on hand in order to get the best results. So, here’s a rundown of some of the best green screen apps, tools and technology.
The Green Screen
You have some options here. Some are better than others, but a green screen is not as expensive as you might think, and that is one of the best things about using green screens in the classroom!
Green screen fabric. You can pick this up at your local fabric store if you want. The actual shade of green doesn’t matter all that much, (some people prefer blue), but you don’t want anything too light or bright. Take a look at this selection on Amazon to get an idea for colors. If you don’t live near a fabric store, or you aren’t sure what to pick, you can get a 6×9 foot backdrop online for less than $20. Need something bigger? Try this 10×10 foot alternative. Remember, extra sheets are good to have on hand, so consider getting more than one sheet if your budget allows it. Extra sheets are great for special effects.
Green screen paint is popular in many schools. You don’t have to worry about wrinkles or setting up and breaking down a kit. You just paint some wall space and you’re ready to go. You can get professional green screen paint, but it is not cheap. Household paint will work, but you need to make sure it is a really flat, matte paint in order to minimize reflections. Regardless of which you choose, be sure to paint a wall that has even lighting, and not something that is often in partial shade.
Low cost options. You know that poster paper you use to line your display boards? That also works for green screen. Just wallpaper a wall with it and you are good to go. For small scale projects, I have seen teachers paint the inside of pizza boxes or use green tri-fold display boards as backgrounds for models and puppets.
You may not need lights, depending on where your green screen is, but even lighting is important if you want to get the best results. Your goal is to avoid multiple shades of green that are caused by shadows and uneven lighting. So, if you can’t move your green screen, consider some lights to help you accomplish that task.
Studio lights. If you have the room for them, studio lights can be a great addition. They are rated in watts for the amount of light they produce. The higher the wattage, the brighter the light. Generally speaking you will need at least two studio lights, but a third one would be good to use as a fill light. A set of three lights can be had for less than $50, but if you think you need more power you could spend a little more.
Desk Lights also work well, especially if you are doing small scale work. They are lightweight, easy to move around, and you probably already have some that you can use. Consider a goose neck lamp for extra flexibility.
Personally, as far as lights go, I would see if you can manage without them. They are after all an additional trip hazard, and take a little extra time to set up correctly. That said, if you decide to get an all-in-one green screen kit that comes with fabric, a stand and lights, then you have nothing to lose by experimenting.
The All-in-One Green Screen Kit
If you are buying a green screen sheet, a stand, and maybe some lights, you will often be better off buying a kit. Why? It’s often cheaper than buying all the separate components. For instance, you can get a green screen and a stand for $50 or less, while a full kit with that includes a screen, stand and lights is not much more.
Some of these kits come with muslin clamps, others do not. These are useful to help hold the green screen in place and to stretch the fabric to lessen wrinkles that may reduce the overall effect. They are very inexpensive, but can make a big difference.
As with lighting, microphones fall into the optional category. Many digital cameras have on-board microphones that are more than adequate. However, if you are filming with a mobile device, or your students suddenly go quiet in front of the camera, a microphone is a good investment.
Many schools already have microphones for a PA system or similar. If you do, the iRig Pre is worth a look. You plug an XLR microphone into the iRig Pre and then connect the other end to the headphone jack on a mobile device. The microphone will now connect directly to the iPad and give you a much better audio track. If you don’t have any of those microphones at school, you could just opt for the iRig Mic. USB microphones like the Blue Snowball will also work with an iPad so long as you use Apple’s lightning to USB adapter.
Finally, if there are a number of wired lavelier mics that are compatible with iOS devices. If you are able to hide the wire under a shirt, and frame your shots from the waist up, this can be a great option too. The IK Multimedia iRig Mic Lav is an affordable option that can be configured for either one or two microphones. The Rode SmartLav+ is also highly rated.
Tripods & Mounts
Stability will greatly enhance your final product, so if you can mount your camera or mobile device on a tripod, you should. Video in particular, looks a lot more professional when you can avoid hand holding the recording device. So, here are a few ideas.
Tripods come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and you can really pay as much as you want for one of these things. For the most part you won’t need a professional grade carbon fiber tripod for your classroom, but you will want something that is sturdy,. reliable and cost effective. There are literally dozens to choose from, but there’s one for every budget. Things to look for include the maximum height, load weight, and a quick release mounting plate. If you already have a tripod, use that!
Tripod Mounts. Most digital cameras have tripod sockets built-in so you can mount them directly to the tripod. However, mobile devices like an iPad don’t have that luxury. So, you might look at something like a Makaya Movie Mount (available in different sizes depending on your iPad) or an iOgrapher to meet that need. The Padcaster series is perfect for this purpose, but it is kind of expensive. If you are looking for something more affordable, the iPow Universal iPad Tripod Mount might just fit the bill. It can be adjusted for different mobile devices and has proven to be very popular.
Green Screen Software
Once you have recorded your green screen footage, it’s time to make the magic happen! That only works with some dedicated software. The software will vary depending on what device you use, but here are some options that cover most bases.
iPad apps: When using iPads for recording and editing green screen movies, my go-to app is always Green Screen by Doink. For me it has among the simplest interfaces and will more often than not yield the best results. If you are looking for a free option, try TouchCast Studio. It doesn’t do everything that DoInk does, mainly because green screen is just one of many video features in this app, but it will get you started. Veescope Live is another iOS green screen app.
Online: For Chromebooks, and any kind of online editing with a desktop computer, the best web-based green screen editor that I know of is WeVideo. Unfortunately, you can’t do chroma key effects in the free version, but it is available in the paid plans and works on Macs and PCs too. Speaking of which…
Mac & PC: Lots of options here, but most are paid solutions. iMovie comes free with all Macs and includes the ability to edit green screen footage. Camtasia is a popular screencasting tool that many educators love and one of its many features includes chroma key editing. Be sure to check out the education pricing for some great discounts. Screenflow is a similar tool that is only available to Mac users. Cyberlink PowerDirector is a full-featured video editor for PCs that works well with green screen footage. Adobe offers the well-respected Premiere Elements for both Mac and PC, and if you have access to the Adobe CC suite at school, you can also edit green screen with the professional grade Adobe Premiere app on Mac or PC. Apple’s Final Cut Pro X is another pro option for Mac users.