A green screen kit is handy for many video projects, but you may not own one because it seems costly to purchase or a pain to setup. I thought the same thing when starting out, but after the expense of renting time at a local studio and renting kits on the road in major cities, it seemed cost-effective to purchase what was needed.
So, I decided to put together my own “portable” and cost-effective kit. I put the word “portable” in parenthesis because you will be filling your Pelican case with a good amount of weight, but this kit will begin to save money on its second use. This is a professional kit, not a DIY build-at-home kit.
The key to any successful green screen production is good lighting. You will need 5 lights at minimum: two lights blasting the green screen and your key, fill, and back light. This keeps the kit reasonable and works for most situations.
I have found the Dracast LED1000 Kala panels to be perfect. They are dimmable, low profile, low weight, work on power supply or V-mount battery and are available in daylight or bi-color. I purchased the LED1000 bi-color models because I like to have options.
The bi-color panel provides variable color temperature from 3200-5600K, but the tradeoff is half the LEDs are off if you have the color temperature dial at either extreme. However, I keep the dial in the middle for the lights aimed at the green screen for full intensity because bright even lighting is the most important thing. Also, these lights are typically placed where they won’t spill onto the subject.
For the subject, my key, fill, and back light provide both color temperature options depending on what the shoot requires. These lights also have a soft diffusion panel that can be removed if you need even more intensity.
Light stands and case
One of the most low-profile light stands on the market is the Dracast DLS-805 spring-cushioned light stand. Weighing only three pounds, they fold down to 28.5 inches but can be extended to 6 feet.
With some creativity and pick-and-pluck foam, you can actually fit all five lights, power adapters, white balance cards and light stands into the wheeled Pelican 1690 Protector Transport Case with interior dimensions of 30-by-25-by-15.4 inches.
It’s a tight fit for sure, but I haven’t had any issues in two years of shipping. If you’re lucky, you can fit a small roll of gaff tape in as well.
If you are doing a full-body green screen shoot and need a lot of green run on the floor, the Photek GS12 is awesome. It goes over piping easily with a 4-inch pole pocket and has grommets on the sides to get the slack out. It is relatively wrinkle-free if you don’t leave it folded for long periods.
However, if you can get by with less width and no screen on the floor, get a small collapsible one with wire sides. You could lean it against a wall and avoid needing a background support system altogether. Just remember to ensure your subject’s hands stay within the screen. If you have a few people in a scene, larger screens from Photek are available.
Since I’ve switched to keeping my tripod in a flat rectangular hard case instead of the tubular hard cases, I’m able to fit the background support system for the green screen and the lighting extension cords in the same case. I’ll fold the cloth green screen into my suitcase if I’m flying. Or, you may decide to pack the green screen and support system into a separate case.
Rounded cost for the items listed above:
- Pelican 1690 case: $358
- Photek GS12 green screen: $87
- Impact support system for screen: $105
- Dracast DLS-805 stands (5): $147
- Dracast LED1000B lights (5): $2245
At under $3000, I have a portable green screen kit that has worked out in every occasion and will be as good as anything you rent. You may even find sale pricing for the lights on B&H Photo (and you may already have some lights, so you may not even need to purchase five). This kit will pay for itself on the second use and these lights can support other productions to defray cost.
Seeing is believing
Here is this setup in use on the road. We were doing a parody of a Drake music video.
The left image shows the green screen shoot.
The middle image shows our import into After Effect after keying with Keylight and bringing in a Photoshop-created background to match the music video.
The right image shows the final output. We kept the background changing color to match the music video. We also added light wrap and placed a color overlay (on soft light blending mode) over the video layer to have the background light reflect subtly on the subject.