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April 26, 2011 / GreenMan

5 Point Lighting Set Up for Greenscreen

Let there be light!

If you are using any sort of greenscreen or backdrop in your shot, a 5 point light set up is ideal. You need to have enough light to light up the backdrop completely, as well as your subjects, especially when using a greenscreen. If you don’t have enough light on the backdrop, those nasty shadows or hot spots will cause you much pain and anguish in the editing process, because they will NOT want to key out. And if you don’t light your subject well enough, you will notice them start to disappear into the background once you start keying, because there is not enough definition between the subject and the greenscreen. So that said, how do you accomplish the perfect lighting situation?

There are a few ways you can accomplish it. The most basic way is to keep the key, fill, and backlight in relatively the same position as you would have them in a 3 point lighting set up. With the key being the brightest light, position it at about a 45 degree angle from the camera, facing the subject. The fill should be on the opposite side, at a lower intensity, and still at that 45 degree angle from the camera. The backlight can be positioned behind and slightly to one side of the subject, so it frames the subject and is out of the camera’s view. The other two lights you can use to light the backdrop. Place one on either side, but let the beams cross each other so that the light seems to just flood the background.

Now, what do you do with the other two lights when you’re not using a greenscreen or any other backdrop in the background? Do you still need the extra lights? Well, the answer is both yes and no. Use you best judgement. If you have one subject and have them lit perfectly with 3 lights, then don’t mess with it. However, the more people you have in the shot, the more lights you’re going to need. The wider the shot, the more lights you’re going to need. If you want to do any sort of mood lighting, or emphasize certain props or aspects in the shot, the more lights you are going to need. For example, maybe you are in a studio, but need to create sunlight coming through a window. Use one of your lights with a barndoor, and throw a cucoloris on there with a blue gel and voila! Looks like sunlight coming through a window. The point is, the more light you have to play with, the more interesting your shot is going to be.

Moral of the story, if you are working with a greenscreen, you will want to have a 5 point light set up in order to get the most “key-friendly” footage. The last thing you want is to wind up in the editing room and notice that your actor is disappearing into the background, the foreground looks grainy or under-exposed, and you have a giant shadow that just won’t key out. Make it easy on yourself and start off on the right foot at the very beginning with a proper lighting set up. And, as I always say, test footage is your best friend.

Now go get your light on! (all 5 of them)



Leave a Comment
  1. Patricia @Green Screen Backdrop / Sep 5 2011 9:03 PM

    Lighting techniques really is one essential tool when setting up your green screen backdrop. One should observe proper lighting for excellent effect.

  2. victor rick 'rickimiragefilms' / Apr 9 2012 6:25 AM

    I am happy to read your blog, its really interesting, though I shot a music video and my green screen was poor. I had 2lights on the green screen and 4 lights on the subject,though my subject was less than 6ft away from the green screen, I had no backlight also. Can you tell me how intense my lights should be? And how best can I shoot on a white background?


    • GreenMan / Apr 9 2012 10:35 AM

      By “intense”, do you mean, how bright your lights need to be? They only need to be bright enough to have clear definition between your subject and the green screen. With four lights on your subject (which should be enough), most likely your only problem was that the subject wasn’t far enough away, or perhaps the lighting on the screen itself wasn’t even. As far as a white background, sometimes shooting against a green screen and then keying it out and replacing it with a white background will give you the best results. With white backgrounds, you need to be careful to not blow out your subject or your shot. It’s hard to get the correct intensity when working with white. You are very limited as far as lighting, movement, and even wardrobe choices. I recommend shooting against a greenscreen, then replacing the background with white. Then you can get the exact white you’re going for, without it affecting your subject’s look.



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