Our school’s green screen studio is one of the many gems found in our building, but why do we have one? Chroma Key or “green screening” is a technique by which a block of a particular color (often blue or green) in a video image can be replaced either by another color or image, enabling, for example, a weather forecaster to appear against a background of a computer-generated weather map. Check out this fun YouTube video for examples.
Our green screen studio has been used in many creative and innovative ways to bring our curriculum to life. Instead of traditional essays, students have used the green screen room to immerse themselves in a story’s setting and plot by replacing the green background with a scene from that story. Students use props, accents, and clothing to portray a character’s point of view to show their understanding of those important characters and how they affect the plot. The ability to superimpose oneself into the storyline of a book or within a different landscape learned about in science, engages and motivates students to learn.
Here are a few example of our past green screen projects created by Fletcher classes:
Exotic Spring Break Destinations (edited in DoInk’s Green Screen app)
Trouble River (edited in iMovie for Mac)
Trigraphs (edited in Touchcast for iPad)
So, how do our students make the magical green screen effect happen?
Our green screen studio has adapted to our needs over time. We used to have a mobile screen with stands that we carted all around the school. It was cumbersome and no longer practical once the idea of green screening caught on and everyone wanted the kit transported to their room. Our original screen screen lights were extremely low budget. We purchased three tripods from Target and clip-on flood lights from Home Depot. We simply clipped the flood lights to the tripods and situated them in front of a large, felt green screen purchased from a photography store.
We found that the lights weren’t holding onto the tripods well and they were really warming up the rooms we were working in. Therefore, we spent some money to upgrade the lights to the Impact Soft and Natural Light Kit from B&H. Honestly, these lights would function much better in a larger space, but since we are working in a small office, we can’t situate the lights in the best way possible. However, they are more sturdy and don’t get so hot.
Yes, so we moved out the fabric screen and in it’s place painted a wall green in a small, empty office in our tech center. We used Behr “sparking apple” paint to mimic the green screen that we had used in the past.
Finally, the most recent addition to our green screen studio is an iPad Air iOgrapher on a tripod. We use this as our “teleprompter” to offer a confidence boost and to encourage students to look at the camera instead of looking down at their notes. The app we use for the teleprompter is called PromptSmart Pro and offers a cool feature called VoiceTrack, which follows your words during your speech and automatically scrolls the text at your natural pace in real time. We have found that this functionality is hit or miss, however, and we often revert to setting an automatic scrolling speed.
Recording objects or people in front of a green screen is the first step of chroma keying. The second step is editing the video in an application. Our iPad users edit green screen recordings in DoInk Green Screen app and Touchcast Studio, while our Mac users chroma key in iMovie. You can find out more about how this is done on page 18 of my book, “iMovie for Mac in the Classroom.”
There are cheaper ways to make green screening work in your home or in your classroom. You can paint a piece of cardboard green or buy a large green sheet or piece of green fabric from the craft store. The built-in microphone of your device, such as a smartphone or tablet, will work just fine for recording audio. We hope you’ll give it a try!