Green Screen: How to chroma key in Adobe Premiere Pro

A great skill to have as a video editor (and general video creator) is to know how to use green screen footage. Shooting with a green screen allows you to insert video of an object or person on top of another layer of video – basically inserting the person into a new scene.

Before we learn how to edit green screen footage, let’s look a little deeper into what green screen footage is, and why we use it.

The definition of chroma keying (another work for the use of green screen – or really any colored backdrop that will later be removed) reads as follows: Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a special effects / post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or videostreams together based on color hues (chroma range). The technique has been used heavily in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture and videogame industries.

You’ve probably been watching chroma keyed video for a long time. Most Hollywood films have some sort of video compositing. You think Hogwarts actually exists? I wish! Most of those backdrops and sets were completely digital. A common use of green screen is during weather forecasts.

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How does green screen work? You position your subject in front of a green backdrop. In post production, you use effects to remove the green parts of your video frame. Your video editing software basically reads all of the data in your frame, and whatever pixels land in the chroma keyed color (could be green or really any color you want) are deleted.

Why use green? The semi-neon-green that is used in green screens is a color that is not common in nature. So you won’t worry about people showing up in a neon green shirt to work (see green screen fail below). Green is also a color that cameras are very sensitive to. Green is also easier to illuminate than other colors – so less light is needed to create a solid green backdrop with no shadows.

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Watch and learn: Green Screen Editing Tutorial

 How do you edit green screen footage?

Adobe Premiere Pro has a solid set of tools to edit green screen footage with. You will find them in the Effects tab, under Video Effects, and Keying. There is a basic Color Key and the Ultra Key. Both work in a similar way, but the Ultra Key is what I prefer to use.

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Steps to using the Ultra Key

  1. Add green screen footage to your sequence.
  2. Drop the Ultra Key effect onto your clip
  3. Go to the effects control tab
  4. Use the eyedropper to select the green color on your video frame (click somewhere near your subject). You may have to try this a few times to get the best key.
  5. Use the Setting option to choose how aggressive the effect works.
  6. Play with the numbers under Matte Generation until all the ‘noise’ is gone. Usually your green screen backdrop isn’t perfect. So shadows and highlights won’t be ‘keyed out’ until you make adjustments with the Matte Generation.
  7. Use the Matte Cleanup options to affect the edges of your objects. Choke will shrink the edges, while Soften will make the edges more fuzzy.
  8. Use Spill Suppression to adjust the edge colors of your subject. Sometimes when shooting in front a green screen, a green reflection will make your subject appear slightly tinted green. Spill Suppression can fix this problem.

Step 2-3 – add the Ultra Key effect to your clip

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Step 4 – Use the eyedropper to select the green

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Step 5 – Choose a setting – try aggressive!

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If you’re having issues with not being able to get rid of all of the green in your background, try selecting a different ‘Key Color’ with the eyedropper. First try selecting a darker part of the green. Then if that doesn’t work, try a lighter part. I usually find that selecting the darker part of the green first works best.

Cropping can be your friend. Sometimes you don’t need to eliminate all of the background because you can just crop it out using the Crop effect. This way, you only have to focus on chroma keying the area right around your subject. The rest of the frame can just be cropped out. Just make sure that your subject or any part of your subject never gets cropped out of frame. This is easiest if your subject isn’t moving around.

If none of this works, you might have to re-shoot. It is really difficult to shoot green screen video. They goal is to have a flat background with no shadows (i.e. the background has to be the same brightness).

By now, I hope you have a great idea of how to use green screen footage, and how to edit it in Adobe Premiere Pro. If you have any questions, leave a comment below. To learn more about editing green screen video, I have a complete course that will teach you  how to do so in Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro 7, and Final Cut Pro X.

Thanks for checking out VideoSchoolOnline.com, I really appreciate it. If you have any comments or thoughts about editing green screen in Adobe Premiere Pro, let us know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Phil

2017-05-18T13:07:31+00:00
  • Viktor KIrovc

    thx big

    • Phil Ebiner

      no problem Viktor!

  • Daniel Cepeda González

    Great stuff! Cheers 🙂

  • penguintruth

    THANK YOU. I looked all over for advice and this was the only useful article.

  • Thank you very much Phil! I’m trying to have my background (a website) fit a green screen (screen of a laptop) as it moves around a page. Do you have a tutorial on that by chance?
    Thanks!

    • Hey Peter, I’m trying to understand what is going on. Maybe you can post a screenshot of the issue so I can see it? You have a laptop with a green screen background (to be able to put whatever you want on the laptop screen). And then you are trying to put your website ‘on the laptop screen’ but when you move around on the website, it is moving? What is moving, the website?

  • Great tutorial! Especially as I am a beginner! Once I have the green screen keyed as you show here….How do I make the ENTIRE background white (like the Apple commercials)?

    • If you’re editing in Premiere Pro, you would need to create a new white background. To do this, click the new item button at the bottom of your program window (it looks like a post it note). Then choose color matte. Choose white. Then put that layer behind your video.

      Now I will say, Apple doesn’t use green screen. They have an actual white background when they shoot. And there lighting is amazing – so I get a lot of people wanting to copy that look, but it’s not very easy.

      • Thanks and good call Phil! So what if I instead just want to use a HD pic of a football or soccer field so it looks like I am standing on the field while speaking? Would this work?

        • Yes, that could definitely work. It just takes getting the right image at the right angle, and positioning it at the right size.

  • Virtual Studio Set

    Great post guys.
    Here are a couple of my tips:
    1. Light the background color as evenly as possible. I found the brighter green works best.
    2. Use the best possible camera you have. The results with my Canon T3i are quite good.
    3.
    Add a little contrast to your video. I get a little more “pop” from my
    chromakey video by adding some contrast to it. It’s almost as good as
    the filter I use in FCPX.
    4. Crop the edges of your video if you’re
    not extending your hands or arms. And if you do extend your hands, keep
    your fingers closed to minimize any green bleed over.
    You can also check http://greenscreenlab.com

  • #nop ultra key is not best like Keylight but still if you want use ultra in pro so you have a strong lightning setup or use keylight mostly filmmakers use keylight. keylight is available for Nuke and AfterFX
    don’t thiks about others …

  • Medad Sun

    Waw really interesting, thanks

  • Medad Sun

    How can I export my work from after effects