If you’re using a green screen (more generally called “chroma key”), sometimes you need to find stock footage for your broadcast. This article will help with that process.
A green screen effect is achieved by pointing your video cameras at chroma key background. This is composed of a sheet of green (more rarely blue or another color) cloth. Then, using some sort of post- or live production software, you can remove the green screen background in one or two clicks.
This allows you to then insert your own green screen stock footage. In fact, either a video or photo can be used to replace the background. This article will focus on video footage for green screen effects and where to find it.
About Stock Video Footage
One of the best ways to get footage for use with your green screen is to use “stock” footage. Stock footage simply refers to video recordings that are sold by stock companies to anyone who want to use the footage. Therefore, the same piece of stock footage may be used over and over again.
You may think this would lead to viewers recognizing the same video clip, but this isn’t a serious concern. There are millions and millions of stock video clips on the market, and this sort of accident is extremely unlikely.
Stock footage provides a range of benefits. For broadcasters, you can gain access to professional video quality footage for affordable prices. For photographers, you can gain an extra revenue stream from your unused footage.
Stock footage entered widespread use in the 1980s, and is ubiquitous today. The use of green screen stock footage is extremely common. It’s a great way to get your green screen content onto a professional backdrop quickly and easily.
How To Get Stock Video Footage
There are several ways to obtain video footage to use with your green screen.
- You can shoot it yourself, although that’s not always practical. (Try doing that with a science fiction video set on another planet or a ghost filled graveyard, for example.)
- Or you can use stock video footage.
Stock video footage is usually sold based on a per-clip or subscription-based fee. When you buy access to a stock footage provider, you gain rights to use those video clips. Since we’ve already covered copyright issues in other articles, we won’t say a lot about them here. Use of stock video as chroma key background is very unlikely to constitute fair use under the law, so you should probably not count on that.
Unless the video you intend to use is clearly in the public domain, you should assume it’s under copyright protection and obtain permission from the copyright holder to use it as you intend. You can find more detailed information in the post linked above. There is also a wide range of very old footage, and footage released by the U.S. government, which is in the public domain and is free to use.
How to Integrate Different Types of Green Screen Footage
Let’s now take a look at what kind of green screen stock footage you may want to use and where you can look for it. We’ll also cover special considerations that may apply with chroma key work (in technical terms more than legal ones).
Outdoor Geographic Settings
One important consideration when using any stock footage is lighting. Obviously, outdoor video is shot either in daylight or under night-photography conditions, and you’ll want to match those conditions in your video footage of your foreground subjects.
Take a careful look at the time of day, the angle of the light, and the aperture and ISO settings of the stock video. Match those as carefully as you can in your green-screen shooting, to make your final broadcast look as realistic as possible.
The above image is a great example of this, as the woman is well lighted with great light and shadow tones. However, it does not match the foggy, poorly lit forest she is being placed in.
Indoor Stock Footage
You may want to place your subjects in either a general or specific indoor setting. This could be a bank, a theater, a newsroom, an auditorium, a laboratory, a doctor’s office, a parliament, the White House Oval Office, a prison cell.
For general indoor scenes that don’t have to look like a specific place your viewers will recognize, you can actually find some pretty good templates on many video broadcast software encoding programs, such as Wirecast and VidBlaster. This has the advantage that it’s extremely easy to use and designed with chroma key in mind. You can also incorporate other video into the template as part of the background.
For specific scenes or if you want a look that isn’t matched by anything in the templates, you can find just about any indoor scene in stock video footage. The usual rules about lighting and photographic settings apply. Choose your background scenes before you shoot your foreground video, and let the conditions of the one determine those of the other.
Fantasy, Futuristic, and Surreal Settings
Want to place your subjects in the midst of the Battle of Helm’s Deep? Or on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise or an Imperial Star Destroyer? It’s certainly doable, although of course with commercial movies and television shows you’ll need to be particularly careful about copyright issues and using that footage may be expensive.
For more general fantasy, science fiction, or surrealistic footage, you can find a good selection at many of the stock video sources listed and linked above. The same is true of Western or other periodic settings.
Historical and Celebrity Footage
It’s easy to find historical footage of famous people and celebrities from the early twentieth century on. (Earlier than that runs into the absence of film technology). Computer graphics can colorize old black and white film, too.
One technical challenge with this sort of scene is the placement and sizing of your subject relative to other figures in the background image. You need to pay attention not just to the lighting and camera settings, but also to the distance from subject to camera and the zoom settings. All this needs to match those of the background scene.
Where to Find Stock Footage
Regardless of what kind of footage you’re looking for, you can find a good selection on the same sites we’ve linked before, including:
- Science Photo Library
- And many more sources
The great thing about chroma key is that it lends itself to the unfettered imagination. You can place your subject in the most gorgeous, unlikely, or perfect settings. The choice of green screen background footage is key to making that happen, and it drives the whole chroma key enterprise from start to finish.
In order to make the most of your green screen footage, we highly recommend using a dedicated, professional online video platform. You can start today by broadcasting live footage. Using a green screen and a platform like Dacast, you can use your live production software to add a chroma key effect. Then, thanks to Dacast, you can go live and stream the resulting video anywhere with a custom-branded video player.
If you’re ready to give the DaCast platform a try, you came to the right place. Just click the button below to sign up for our 30-day free trial (no credit card required). We’ll have you up and streaming live in a matter of minutes!
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By Max Wilbert