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I am looking to put together an affordable portable studio to use with elementary school students. Doesn't have to be fancy just affordable. Budget around $200.

I have seen some green screen kits with lights, stands and screen for around $130 - $200 or less. Could I get a decent screen kit for this cost? Space in the classroom is limited but would 6x9 be too small?

Would we need software? If so, are there any free or inexpensive programs that work with Apple Mac? Would Photo Booth be sufficient? We do have a video camera.

Examples of how we might use it is to have background photos or pictures behind students while they do a weather forecast report. Can we take our own photos and videos and use them also in the background?

Thank you in advance for trying to address this questions.

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2 Answers 2

Summary: Green screen work is not trivial, the quality largely depends on technique and good lighting, and at least enough space for doing the work you suggested. It does require software although iMovie bundled in most MACs has a chroma key effect (the software that allows you to composite your subject with whatever background you want including maps, other videos, pictures etc).

Things you will need to purchase:

A pro screen.

Enough lights (with stands and diffusers) with the correct color temperature to fill the screen evenly as well as light the subject appropriately.

For your situation I think you might get there on $200, assuming you have iMovie on your MAC, spend under $100 on a screen, and another $100 on enough lights do do the job.

Details:

Here is a good tutorial on how to shoot with a green screen: http://www.youtube.com/user/tubetape?v=q3PZO_lCBkw

Here are some tutorials showing you how to composite your green screen with iMovie:

Things to remember:

1) The green screen has to cover the entire area of the frame you are shooting. That is you can't have the green screen half way in the shot or showing any edges.

2) The green screen has to be flat, no wrinkles, no reflections, no hot spots, and no shadows.

3) The green screen has to be lit evenly and bright enough to register light in the frame.

4) The green screen should be at least 5 feet behind the subject and appear diffused not in focus. (The subject should be in tight focus, and the background green screen out of focus to optimize how it blends in the chroma keyer in your editing software).

5) Your subject can not wear anything green and should not have anything reflective on them, e.g. jewelery, watches, glasses.

As you can see from the tutorials a 6 x 9 room may be too small. Alternately if you purchase a portable screen, you can clear the classroom, move your lights in, set up the screen and you are good to go. Tearing down the set should take even less time. Better to have plenty of space to do this right then jam this into a space that doesn't allow for the minimum screen to subject distance.

Alternately, if you shoot outside with indirect sunlight or on a cloudy day, you won't have to buy lights.

Suggestion 1: Take it in two steps. Get a screen first, shoot outside when the light is flat and diffused to get the hang of it, then spend the money for lights and go for the studio thing.

Suggestion 2: Should you use the portable set it up as you go method, once you achieve optimum results document the studio set up, where the lights are placed and aimed, where the subject is, and so on so you can repeat this next time.

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props to the detailed answer! –  OrangeBox Apr 26 '12 at 6:53
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@filzilla: once again, awesome advice.

I would add Suggestion 3: With the space you're describing, you may be limited to tighter shots; I'm thinking head and shoulders with a graphic above a shoulder, or perhaps a virtual studio image in the background. What I have in my kit for similar setups is a collapsible greenscreen: http://www.adorama.com/BD401S.html?gclid=CJv45Kf1z68CFSWFQAodyk3uEA and It's bluescreen on one side if you want to experiment with the differences between the two colors. That, in and of itself is an interesting exercise in lighting techniques.

Suggestion 4 would be greenscreen paint on a wall of your "studio". Grented, if your school is cinderblock and the walls aren't near smooth, that may not be an option.

When it comes to lighting, I've found that halogen work lights are an excellent way to light the screen. They're bright, you can use matte black foil to create barndoors and eliminate spill, and you can throw diffusion over them to even out the harshness a bit. When thinking about placement, imagine that you're creating a vertical copy stand. I usually place my subject a few feet in front of the screen (a luxury you MAY not have in your space), out of the spill from the background lights, and model the light to the subject as approp

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good ones ! Thanks for the augmentation, note, green screens work better with digital sensors while blue screens work better with real film. Can you get halogen's with suitable color temperature/white balance or will she need to use the custom white balance feature on her camera (assuming she has this) ? –  filzilla Apr 25 '12 at 18:00
    
Good point about white. I've had good luck with Philips globes being "close enough" (within 100-150K) of each other. Personally, I always keep lots of pre-cut 1/8 CTB & CTO lying about so I can tweak as needed. However, with four or six of 'em on a 5x6, they blend quite nicely. –  dwwilson66 Apr 25 '12 at 18:10
    
@filzilla Also a good point about blue...especially on Sony cameras. I've had good luck with blue on my Canon XL1, but that was EONS ago. :) –  dwwilson66 Apr 25 '12 at 18:11
    
Thanks dwwwilson66, that's good to know. –  filzilla Apr 25 '12 at 19:38
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