Hollywood Movie Effect w/ iPad

Green Screen Effect

Learn to use one of Hollywood's most used effect to create videos with your students. Create story telling videos, news broadcast, short films, or classroom biographies.

What is Green Screen?

Chroma Key or Green Screen as it is often referred to, is a special effects / post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on color hues. 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 video game industries. A color range in the top layer is made transparent, revealing another image behind. The chroma keying technique is commonly used in video production and post-production. This technique is also referred to as color keying, color-separation overlay (CSO), or by various terms for specific color-related variants such as green screen, and blue screen – chroma keying can be done with backgrounds of any color that are uniform and distinct, but green and blue backgrounds are more commonly used because they differ most distinctly in hue from most human skin colors. No part of the subject being filmed or photographed may duplicate a color used in the background.

What do I need to get started?

Don't worry, you won't high-salaried actors (Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith, or Sandra Bullock) or $150,000,000.  With your iPad, green butcher paper, and VeeScope Live, you can create cool videos like the one below (please excuse my neiness!:

Still interested? Good! Here are some things you will need to gather to prepare for your video recording.

  • iPad (fully charged)
  • Butcher paper (green preferred but blue will do)
  • VeeScope Live (free)
  • Props (more on that later)
  • Talent (your students)
  • Script or teleprompter (cue cards)
  • Lighting (well lit room)
  • Storyboard

5 Top Tips

The following tips are considered crucial to effective use of green screen.  While we most likely are not creating Academy Awards films in the classroom (you never know), it is always good practice proper techniques.  Do you have to adhere to these tips as written in stone, by all means no. Use them as tips.

Camera Angles

So you have an actor and a green screen and a iPad. For some reason, one’s natural instinct is to set up the shot with the actor facing directly towards the camera and the green screen directly behind. This gives a very flat extremely fake look. Every part of the filmmaking process matters, both on green screen and off green screen. In a shoot that is on location, an artist would storyboard or block out the camera positions and get the best angles to tell the story. That is also true with green screen shoots. Take the time to storyboard your shot, as if a green screen was not even there. Choose the best angle during your storyboard. Try to stay away from the talent directly facing the camera unless that is the best way to tell the story. If it’s not, let’s leave that for the TV weatherperson.


Another way to point out that a segment was shot on green screen is inconsistent lighting. The point of shooting on a green screen is to create an environment, and one way we do that in film is through lighting. True, the green screen should be lit flat and properly exposed, but the talent is a part of the environment you’re creating, and that environment has its own light source.

Props and Sets

There is no rule that states the entire CG environment must be artificial. Only green screen what you have to green screen. Use as many practical elements as you can. Give you actor things to play with and interact with. The more real objects you have in front of you, the less you have to fake and make look real later.


If you haven’t been able to tell by now, we are trying to avoid the standing flat, facing the camera green screen shot. To do that, we must give our actor something to do. Again, this is only if it helps the story. There may be times where the actor shouldn’t move, but a lot of times, the actor should move but feel restricted because they are standing in front of a green screen and was not given blocking directions.

A little blocking goes a long way. Have the character enter the shot, look around, leave the shot. Have the character move with a purpose, pick something up, put something down. Give the character something to do. Make sure that character is familiar with the environment even if it doesn’t exist yet. Because you know what? It will!

Plan, Plan, Plan

When shooting green screen, you want to be super prepared. Know how to key properly. Know your camera angles. Storyboard them so that everyone on the team knows what you’re going for. Let the cinematographer know where the light source is coming from in each shot. Plan these scenarios. If everything is planned, you can shoot all the angles with the light source at position A consecutively. Then you can shoot all of position B and so on. But if you don’t plan, you may find yourself going back and forth for no reason.

Plan what the background is going to be before you even shoot. If possible, render these backgrounds out, or even a rough draft will help. Show this to the actors so they know where they are. Plan where their eyelines are going to be. Plan everything. And keep thorough notes on each shot. You can never be too prepared when shooting on a green screen.

Shooting green screen is supposed to be an advantage. When done correctly, you can create really powerful images. Just know it is used to help advance the story, just like any other tool in filmmaking. With these 5 steps, choosing the right camera angles, appropriate lighting, using props and sets, using motivated blocking, and careful planning; you can dramatically advance the story you are telling with the use of a green screen. Go for it!

Project Ideas

The potential teacher-directed and student-directed uses for green screen movie projects are ENDLESS. Place your students anywhere and anytime in world history! Have your students insert themselves into their own artwork! Again, your imagination knows no bounds.  Check these ideas out:

  • Documentaries
  • Fiction Stories
  • Historical court cases
  • Character trait “interviews”
  • Video blogging
  • Text-based evidence responses
  • Scientific Method/Experiments
  • Math thinking explanations
  • Math student-created story problems
  • Math survey and data collection


Additional Accessories

If your venture into student created movie projects takes off, you may want to look at investing in some equipment to help improve the quality of student work.  Understanding that there may be budget constraints, look at finding possible funding from organizations like  CHISD Education Foundation, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Donors Choose.

Here are some extra equipment you may find helpful, if you are fortunate to get some funding: