7 Tips for Teachers: green screen in the classroom
From Hollywood to YouTube, green screen has become a staple of video making. It allows actors to travel wherever they need; a newsroom, the Houses of Parliament, or a desert island, it’s clear that green screen technology opens a whole new dimension to storytellers.
Many teachers ask us about how to use green screen in the classroom, so we’ve put together a few tips to get you on your feet:
Tip 1: Think carefully about why you want to use green screen
Using a green screen can be a lot of fun, but before taking the plunge, think about how much use you will get out of your equipment. Is this a one-off lesson, or are you building it into the curriculum across different year groups? This will help you with tip number 2…
Tip 2: Decide on your entry point
The basic idea of using ‘chroma key’ means that you need a solid colour (usually green or blue) which computer software can easily remove from a video. To this end, you’ll need a solid area of colour which is fairly evenly lit.
- £ — Use backing paper (use the biggest pieces possible so there are fewer joins)
- ££ — Paint a wall green (make sure it’s a smooth wall, and matte paint is preferable e.g. £12 to cover 13m sq)
- £££ — Buy a kit (e.g £30 green screen and stands, £70 including lights)
Tip 3: Set up carefully
Whichever option you decide on, when you set up your area for green screening there are a few key elements which you should check.
- Decide where to set up your green screen. Ideally somewhere with nice, bright, even lighting.
- If you have purchased a kit, set up the green screen and make sure it is pulled tight to decrease any creases and shadows. Use extra pegs if needed.
- Set up any lights. Having even lighting is really helpful as it avoids ‘hot’ bright spots or shadows which make the ‘chroma key’ less successful — move lights further away from the screen to help with this. Also use any natural light and light sources in the room to help.
Tip 4: Download the apps you need
You may want to try some different apps, but we use ‘Green Screen by Do Ink’. There are plenty of guides on using this app online, so we won’t go over it here.
Have a play with the app beforehand to get a little confidence before using it with the children— and don’t forget to download some pictures of places you might need your actors to visit. For plenty of free to use images, check out pixabay.com.
Tip 5: Shoot with care
It is important to keep the camera still, otherwise the subject moves on the screen while the background will stay still, which ruins the effect.
Stand children a good distance away from the green-screen (we sometimes use a piece of masking tape on the floor which we call an ‘acting line’. This shows the children where to stand). Having them stood further forward helps to avoid shadows and dark patches, but also means the camera focuses on the children, not on potential creases in the green-screen.
Tip 6: Edit
The editing process can be as simple or as complex as you like! For some, simply putting the finished clips into one timeline might be as much as is needed, others may wish to create their own feature film!
We recommend using iMovie on the iPad to arrange your clips and pull them together into a finished video. It’s very intuitive, so have a go. Again, there are plenty of guides to editing using iMovie available online.
Tip 7: Use the output
We love using video as a tool for learning in the classroom. One of the biggest reasons for this is the ease with which it provides a clear output, and therefore a purpose for a project. Once the video is complete, then share it! Show other classes, show parents, or share online and show the world!
At LitFilmFest, we make it our aim to give children’s work a purpose and a platform; to be featured on cinema screens, or on the YouTube channels of partners such as BBC Good Food, the Houses of Parliament or YouTube Kids. Take a look at our free projects on litfilmfest.com to get involved.