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iLife '09 New Features
Illustration by John Hersey

Using the Green Screen effect


From:

iLife '09 New Features

with Garrick Chow

Video: Using the Green Screen effect

One of the more fun new features you will find in iMovie '09 is its ability to superimpose one clip over another using a green screen effect. To accomplish this effect, one of your clips has to include a green background like you see in the clips here in my Event Browser and then iMovie can automatically remove the green parts of the scene letting you see through those parts of the footage to the footage from the clip underneath it. So to accomplish this you have to be shooting in front of a green background and it does have to be green, not blue or any other color. And the brighter and more saturated the green, the better. And even though you can buy green screen paints and backdrops there is really no need to spend a lot of money or to get all fancy.

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iLife '09 New Features
2h 17m Intermediate Apr 01, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

With the release of iLife '09, Apple has introduced intuitive new features for organizing, editing, and sharing movies, music, and photos. Instructor Garrick Chow demonstrates the wide range of enhancements to this already easy-to-use suite of programs in iLife '09 New Features. He explains iPhoto's new ability to organize and search images using face recognition and geodata, and moves on to iMovie, where he explores precision editing tools and real-time video effects. Garrick also covers GarageBand's new built-in music lessons, as well as iWeb's new ability to publish to any web hosting server. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tagging a photo with geodata
  • Using the new iPhoto editing tools to enhance images
  • Sharing photos with Flickr and Facebook
  • Stabilizing video in iMovie to get rid of the "shaky cam" effect
  • Using green screen effects with iMovie
  • Exploring GarageBand's new amps and effects to use with a real guitar
  • Accessing GarageBand's built-in music lessons
  • Publishing finished projects with iWeb via FTP
  • Integrating iWeb's new widgets into web pages
Subject:
Video
Software:
iLife
Author:
Garrick Chow

Using the Green Screen effect

One of the more fun new features you will find in iMovie '09 is its ability to superimpose one clip over another using a green screen effect. To accomplish this effect, one of your clips has to include a green background like you see in the clips here in my Event Browser and then iMovie can automatically remove the green parts of the scene letting you see through those parts of the footage to the footage from the clip underneath it. So to accomplish this you have to be shooting in front of a green background and it does have to be green, not blue or any other color. And the brighter and more saturated the green, the better. And even though you can buy green screen paints and backdrops there is really no need to spend a lot of money or to get all fancy.

To create this example you are seeing here, I just went to a local hardware store and bought a can of bright green non-glossy paint and painted a wall in my office. And in the shots in this example I'm standing under regular florescent ceiling lights to show you that iMovie can still do a great job even if the green background isn't the best or most evenly lit it could be. You just have to make sure your subject isn't wearing any green and that none of the other objects that you want to remain on screen have any green in them otherwise they will end up being see- through along with the background. Now, before you can apply the Green Screen effect you should first go to iMovie > Preferences and under the General section make sure Show Advanced Tools is checked. If it's not checked, you won't see the green screen option.

All right, so let's see how we do this. I'll first drag in the background clip that I want to use so I'm going to use this footage of these trees here, if I click it, hit Command+A to select the entire clip and drag it into my project. And now dragging the footage of myself in front of the green screen. I'm going to use this clip here, again dragging the whole clip in. I'm going to drag that on top of my footage of the trees. And when I release my mouse, from the popup menu that appears, I'm going to choose Green Screen. And that's all there really is to it. iMovie removes the green parts of the clip and all the remains now are the non-green parts, which happen to be me in this case.

Let me show you what this looks like. (Birds chirping.) Garrick in movie: Ah, the great outdoors! Now, there is no way to fade in the Green Screen effect so you should probably line up the beginning of the green screen clip to the beginning of the clip underneath it. Otherwise it will look like your green screen subject suddenly pops into the shot. But if that's the effect you are going for all the better. But if not, drag the green screen clip to the beginning of the background clip. So, I'm just going to drag this to the left until it lines up. So that way it looks like I'm in the shot from the very beginning.

Now, there are in actuality many other things to put into consideration to make you Green Screen effect look more realistic, including properly lighting your subjects so it looks more like the two scenes are actually one scene lit by the same light source. And making sure your camera angles match so it doesn't look like you are looking down on your background scene while looking up at your subject. But as far as the parts of the process that iMovie takes care of that's almost all there is to it. Now, I say almost because there are a couple of other things you can do to fine-tune your Green Screen effect. For example, if your green screen background isn't quite being completely subtracted by iMovie, maybe you are seeing some shadows bleeding through or something like that, you can help iMovie learn exactly what it needs to delete as long as the last frame of your green screen shot is of just the green background itself.

So, if you look at the clip in the Event Browser, after I walk off at the end here, we have only the green background. So if iMovie is having trouble with my shade of green, I can open the green screen clip's pop-up menu, choose Clip Adjustments and then under Background, I can check Subtract last frame. When I do so iMovie is going to look at the very last frame of my green screen clip; in this case it's just that empty green screen and that helps iMovie better determine exactly what it's supposed to remove from the clip. But again this only works if the last frame of your clip is of just the background.

Now, iMovie also allows you to manually crop out unwanted portions of your green screen clip. In this third clip in my Event Browser, I'm standing in front of the wall again, but one of my studio lights is also in the shot. Let's see what this looks like applied with the Green Screen effect. So, I'm going to get rid of the one I originally dragged in here just by hitting Delete and I'll select this clip in its entirety, drag it in here, choose Green Screen. Now, let's just play this. (Birds chirping.) All right, so it works the way it's supposed to and now I see myself and the light in the shot, but I really don't want that light in the shot. So I'm going to select that Green Screen clip and choose Cropped in the preview pane, let's move the playhead over here so I can actually see myself. So now I see a frame here in the preview pane and I can drag the corners of this frame around the areas that I want to keep in the shot. Anything outside those areas are going to be removed from the shot. So you can see I have already partially deleted part of that light. By dragging this other corner in, you can see it's pretty much gone.

But you need to be careful that you don't crop the area so tightly that it crops our parts of the subject that might move outside that area. So we saw at the end of this clip that I actually walk off the shot, so if I crop it like this you will see what happens, when I play it back here. (Birds chirping.) So, I should go back and select the green screen clip again and just drag its corners all the way to the right edge of the screen, so I can still walk off the screen without looking like I'm walking into other dimension. I'll click Done.

(Birds chirping.) There we go. So that's the new Green Screen effect. Now, I should also point out that iMovie also now comes with a variety of backgrounds which you will find by clicking the Maps and Backgrounds button. So we'll see all the backgrounds if I scroll down, and these are great if you are creating a video report or a blog and you just don't have anything interesting to stand in front of. So just film yourself in front of a green background and then drag your clip on top of one of these backgrounds. Some of these backgrounds are animated while others are static, but they all work in the same way. Just drag a background into your Project. I'll grab the Curtain background. You can increase this duration to your required length by choosing Clip Adjustments and let's make this 10 seconds. And then you can add your green screen footage and just drag a couple seconds here.

And there it is. Garrick: Ah, the great outdoors! And if you change your mind about the background you can easily drag in any other background over the current one to swap them out. So if I want to grab Blobs, just drag it on top of the Curtain background, now we have that. We have one called Underwater, kind of cool. And you also have your solid color backgrounds or pattern backgrounds and they don't move, but they add a little bit of texture behind your subject. Although I kind of think that putting a green background behind a green screen shot is a little redundant.

Let's just play around with this and give it a shot. There is really no end to the fun stuff you can do with the Green Screen effect in iMovie.

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