What is a Green Screen?
A green screen is a blank green background that can be used to change the background image and/or create special effects by adding in images to replace the green background. Blue and green are the most commonly used colors because humans are not blue or green, so there is no issue with removing green/blue from the video.
Before Green Screen
Back in 1898, double exposure was used to introduce elements into a scene that were not originally present in the initial exposure. Basically, instead of using a green background, they used a black background. This technique was used in the 1903 film, The Great Train Robbery, by Edwin S. Porter. Black drapes were placed on windows and then replaced using a matte. You can watch the full short film below:
Blue Screens and Disney Yellow
The blue screen came onto the filmmaking scene in the late 1930s. The first movie it was incorporated into was the 1940s film, The Thief of Baghdad. It was used at this time to create transitions from stills from one scene to the next. This technique was a bit slow, as it combined two reels only one frame at a time. Blue screen is still something that is used in film today.
During the 60s and 70s Disney owned the rights to the only prism and camera that could work with removing yellow from backgrounds. They charged a huge fee to be able to use this technology. They basically used sodium vapor lights to create a yellow screen, with a specific wavelength that easily removed the background. This was used in Disney’s The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins.
The Green Screen is Born
By the 1970’s we were seeing newscasters using green screens on live T.V. to show us a map of the weather. But the green screen became known as what it is today after the 1980s film The Empire Strikes Back. Richard Edlund created a quad-optical printer that made it much easier and faster to remove the backgrounds from shots. This even led to Edlund receiving an Academy Award in 1980.
Green became more popular than blue due to the camera being able to pick up on neon on green better than blue or any other color. It was also better to use since blue eyes or jeans could be accidentally canceled out while using a blue screen rather than a green one.
The green screen is still used today, probably more than ever. It is still used on news stations, in Hollywood films, in commercials, and even by everyday people who are making videos for fun. We are constantly using our green screen for clients. Below are even some examples of how green and blue screens are being used in films you’ve seen that you may not have noticed.