Filming with a green screen can give a professional look to your productions at a reasonably low cost. However, having fuzzy or flickering edges around your film subjects can quickly bring down the overall quality of your projects. Thankfully, there are many simple solutions to this issue, depending on your setup.
Your green screen flickering could be a result of incorrect lighting or improper chroma-keying. Those wearing reflective accessories can also cause screen flickering. To fix a flickering green screen, use the correct lighting, ensure proper chroma-keying, and film at a distance with a steady camera.
To learn more about how to keep your green screen from flickering or presenting other similar issues with visual quality, keep reading. We’ll also cover how to keep your green screen working properly for years to come.
What Causes Green Screens To Flicker?
When using a green screen for filming, subtlety is key. Nothing disrupts the immersion of your shot like a flickering green screen.
Screen flickering, flashing, or tearing ruins your visuals and makes your subjects look blurry, or worse like they don’t even belong in the setting you’ve painstakingly created with the help of green screen technology.
Many factors can interfere with the quality of your filming and cause the screen to flicker or flash in some spots, fuzzy edges to appear around your subjects, or even the dreaded “color spill” where your subjects end up with dreadful green highlights.
The main causes of green screen flickering include:
- Poor lighting.
- Filming with an unsteady or shaky camera.
- Filming too close to subjects.
- Using a torn or otherwise damaged green screen.
- Subjects wearing green or reflective clothing or accessories.
- Issues with chroma-keying when combining the recorded footage with a new background image or video.
Thankfully, most of the solutions for a flickering green screen are simple and primarily involve slightly modifying how you’re filming a shot or making adjustments within your chroma-keying software.
To better understand how to implement some of the possible solutions to a flickering green screen, it helps first to know how the groundbreaking technology behind it works.
How Do Green Screens Work?
Green screens are used in various settings for filming complex and visually stunning scenes from the comfort of a studio.
If you’ve ever watched a science fiction or fantasy movie that seems to take place in an otherworldly realm, the clever use of a green screen is probably responsible for the impressively realistic shots.
Essentially, the technology works by digitally layering two images together, allowing you to put your subjects in your foreground in front of any background image you want. After shooting your desired footage in front of a green screen, you can separate your foreground footage and layer it on top of a different background.
A process known as chroma-keying is responsible for isolating the screen’s green color, removing it, and making it transparent so the new background is visible instead.
The main reason why the neon green color is so commonly used is that it is usually radically different enough from anything worn or used by subjects in the foreground. However, if one of your actors wore a similarly neon green shirt, it would appear transparent in the resulting footage.
In rare cases where this occurs, blue screens are used instead.
The chroma keying technology involved in effectively using a green screen used to be very costly and used mainly by studios with absurdly large budgets. Fortunately, digital filmmaking is becoming much more accessible and common, meaning even independent filmmakers can now film their subjects in any setting they desire.
Possible Solutions for a Flickering Green Screen
While green screen technology is quite advanced, it still has some limitations. Many factors can interfere with the quality of your product, such as lighting, the depth of your recording, or even faulty chroma keying software.
Fortunately, most of these issues have simple solutions.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective solutions to the most common causes of green screen flickering, flashing, fraying, and tearing. From fuzzy edges to spots where your background doesn’t look quite as seamless as it should, these quick fixes can solve it all.
Avoid Having Subjects Wear Green or Anything Reflective
When filming in front of a green screen, it is crucial not to allow your subjects to wear clothing or accessories of the same color. Subjects wearing clothing that matches the green screen a little too closely is a common cause of visual issues like general screen flickering and fuzzy edges.
Essentially, this issue is caused when the chroma keying software turns the green screen transparent so a new background can be inserted. In addition to turning the screen transparent, it will also do the same to any subjects wearing a similar color or any green objects onscreen.
Film From a Reasonable Distance
Another issue that often causes subjects to appear blurry or poorly defined due to screen flickering is filming with no depth. If your camera is too close to the green screen, your subjects can end up creating unpleasant-looking shadows on the wall that interferes with the lighting in your shot.
Consistent, adequate lighting is essential to ensuring a smooth and seamless final product when filming in front of a green screen. Any inconsistencies or differences in lighting can cause flickering or other visual issues.
Use a “Coved” Green Screen When Possible
An excellent way to make your shots look even more immersive and high-quality is to use a green screen large enough to cover the wall in the background and the floor of the shot.
This can easily be achieved by using a large, thin green screen that bends easily.
As a result, the transition from the background to the floor will appear much smoother and prevent potential flickering or tearing, particularly near the ground of your shot.
No Shaky Camera
A major cause of screen flickering is filming with an unsteady hand or shooting at a low frame rate. If you have a lot of rapid movement in your shot, motion blur can cause your screen to flicker and generally make the entire shot look amateurish and even nauseating to watch.
Always film your subjects as clearly as possible with as little movement from your camera.
Using high-quality chroma keying software is important to not only preventing screen flickering but ensuring professional-looking results in all of your filming endeavors that involve the use of a green screen.
Thankfully, there are many inexpensive and even free types of chroma keying software that are compatible with all major operating systems, such as VSDC for Windows, iMovie for Mac users, and HitFilm Express that works with both.
Preventing Color Spill
Another unpleasant visual issue that contributes to the screen flickering is a phenomenon known as color spill. It is referred to as such because it results in fuzzy edges and a green tint around subjects on screen.
The main cause of the color spill is having too much light focused on the screen.
If you notice flickering, uneven edges around your subjects, or a sickly green hue to your subjects’ skin, try adjusting your lighting and lowering the overall brightness in the shot.
Avoid Uneven Lighting
When lighting is unevenly cast upon your subjects, it can cause your green screen to flicker or give your subjects fuzzy-looking edges. It is best to light your background and subjects separately for best results.
Never Use a Damaged Green Screen
If your green screen is physically warped, torn, or otherwise damaged, it can present issues when chroma-keying, resulting in flickering and other visual problems. Always check your green screen for any damage, and make sure it isn’t bent or tilted at an angle.
Green screen technology is extremely useful and effective for various filmmaking purposes, but it can be finicky if you aren’t filming or using your chroma keying software correctly. Screen flickering, tearing, and fuzzy edges around your subjects can make a shot look awkward and unnatural.
Thankfully, with the proper lighting, software, and setup, you can solve screen flickering and other common visual issues with no hassle or costly fixes.
- InFocus Film School: Filming With Green Screen: Everything You Need To Know
- MotionCue: 7 Green Screen Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- New York Green Screen: 5 Common Green Screen Mistakes
- Next Thought Studios: Top Green Screen Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- SignVideo: Chroma Keying and Jagged Edges
- Studiobinder: What is Chroma Key Technology — The VFX Process Explained
- Videomaker: Fixing Rough and Discolored Edges For Green Screen