• Intro for beginners: below 
    Green Screen: How to chroma key 

    A great skill to have as a video editor (and general video creator) is to know how to use green screen footage. Shooting with a green screen allows you to insert video of an object or person on top of another layer of video – basically inserting the person into a new scene.

    Before we learn how to edit green screen footage, let’s look a little deeper into what green screen footage is, and why we use it.

    The definition of chroma keying (another work for the use of green screen – or really any colored backdrop that will later be removed) reads as follows: Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a special effects / post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or videostreams together based on color hues (chroma range). The technique has been used heavily in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture and videogame industries.

    You’ve probably been watching chroma keyed video for a long time. Most Hollywood films have some sort of video compositing. You think Hogwarts actually exists? I wish! Most of those backdrops and sets were completely digital. A common use of green screen is during weather forecasts.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 4.24.23 PM

    How does green screen work? You position your subject in front of a green backdrop. In post production, you use effects to remove the green parts of your video frame. Your video editing software basically reads all of the data in your frame, and whatever pixels land in the chroma keyed color (could be green or really any color you want) are deleted.

    Why use green? The semi-neon-green that is used in green screens is a color that is not common in nature. So you won’t worry about people showing up in a neon green shirt to work (see green screen fail below). Green is also a color that cameras are very sensitive to. Green is also easier to illuminate than other colors – so less light is needed to create a solid green backdrop with no shadows.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 4.24.30 PM


    Watch and learn: Green Screen Editing Tutorial

     How do you edit green screen footage?

    Adobe Premiere Pro has a solid set of tools to edit green screen footage with. You will find them in theEffects tab, under Video Effects, and Keying. There is a basic Color Key and the Ultra Key. Both work in a similar way, but the Ultra Key is what I prefer to use.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 8.47.26 AM

    Use composite, aggressive & eyedropper to select and delete Green screen.

    Ultra key location  

    Steps to using the Ultra Key
    1. Add green screen footage to your sequence.
    2. Drop the Ultra Key effect onto your clip
    3. Go to the effects control tab
    4. Use the eyedropper to select the green color on your video frame (click somewhere near your subject). You may have to try this a few times to get the best key.
    5. Use the Setting option to choose how aggressive the effect works.
    6. Play with the numbers under Matte Generation until all the ‘noise’ is gone. Usually your green screen backdrop isn’t perfect. So shadows and highlights won’t be ‘keyed out’ until you make adjustments with the Matte Generation.
    7. Use the Matte Cleanup options to affect the edges of your objects. Choke will shrink the edges, while Soften will make the edges more fuzzy.
    8. Use Spill Suppression to adjust the edge colors of your subject. Sometimes when shooting in front a green screen, a green reflection will make your subject appear slightly tinted green. Spill Suppression can fix this problem.

    Step 2-3 – add the Ultra Key effect to your clip

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 8.47.57 AM

    Step 4 – Use the eyedropper to select the green

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 8.48.04 AM


    Step 5 – Choose a setting – try aggressive!

    Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 8.49.58 AM

    If you’re having issues with not being able to get rid of all of the green in your background, try selecting a different ‘Key Color’ with the eyedropper. First try selecting a darker part of the green. Then if that doesn’t work, try a lighter part. I usually find that selecting the darker part of the green first works best.

    Cropping can be your friend. Sometimes you don’t need to eliminate all of the background because you can just crop it out using the Crop effect. This way, you only have to focus on chroma keying the area right around your subject. The rest of the frame can just be cropped out. Just make sure that your subject or any part of your subject never gets cropped out of frame. This is easiest if your subject isn’t moving around.

    If none of this works, you might have to re-shoot. It is really difficult to shoot green screen video. They goal is to have a flat background with no shadows (i.e. the background has to be the same brightness).

    By now, I hope you have a great idea of how to use green screen footage, and how to edit it in Adobe Premiere Pro.


    If additional editing and cleanup is necessary:

    Green-screen key, also called a chroma-key, is the process of removing a background color from the image so that you can place an actor in front of another background.

    NOTE: The reason this process is necessary is that no camera shoots an image with depth. Because we can’t tell our software to: “remove everything that is more than ten feet away from the talent,” we use chroma-key instead.

    Premiere Pro provides several different ways to create this key. In this tutorial, I’ll show you the preferred method: the Ultra key. The big benefits to Ultra Key is that it is fast, flexible and looks great.


    The best thing you can do to improve the quality of your keys is to improve how you light and shoot them. Here are seven basic production rules:

    • The green background should be as smooth as possible. Paint is always better than fabric; avoid wrinkles and folds.
    • The green background should be lit smoothly, both from side to side and top to bottom. I try to have the green background display between 40-50% level on the waveform monitor.
    • Light your background for smoothness. Light your actors for drama.
    • There is NO relationship between how the background is lit and how your actors are lit. (This example will illustrate that.) Always use separate sets of lights for background and talent.
    • Actors should be at least 10 feet in front of the green screen. This avoids light from the background “spilling” around their body or shoulders.
    • In general, don’t cast shadows on the green screen. Be very careful shooting feet.
    • Don’t worry about having the green background fill the frame. It only needs to completely surround the edges of your actors. Garbage mattes are used to get rid of the junk.

    NOTE: The chroma-key effect uses the color of the source clip and ignores any color correction you add to the image. This is why some of the foreground shots in this article are a bit green, I haven’t done final color correction to them.


    This is Lisa. We want to remove the green background and replace it with something more interesting. Note how dramatically she is lit, while the background is very even and flat. This is intentional.

    In the Timeline, put the background clip on V1 and the foreground (green-screen) clip on V2.( In this example, I’m not using audio, but the process is the same whether you have audio or not.) Select theV2 (green-screen) clip.

    In the Effects panel, double-click Video Effects > Keying > Ultra Key to apply it to the selected clip. (You can also drag the effect on top of the V2 clip.) This applies the keying effect to the selected clip, or clips.

    In the Effect Controls tab, click the twirl-down arrow next to Ultra key.

    Click the eyedropper next to Key Color. This allows you to sample the background color of the image (i.e. the green background) so that the Ultra key knows what color to remove. (The default color selection is a dark gray.)

    Then, click near the face of the subject; but not so close that you run the risk of getting either skin or hair as part of the color sample.

    KEY TRICK: Press the Command key when you click the eyedropper, which allows the eyedropper to select a 5×5 pixel square, rather than the default 1 pixel under the eyedropper. This makes for more accurate samples. Notice, when you press the Command key, the eyedropper gets “fatter.”

    There are two schools of thought about where to select the background color. One side says to select something in the mid-range of the background, not too dark or light. My point of view is to select the color nearest the face. If the face keys well, people won’t even notice other problems. If the face doesn’t key well, nothing else in the key will matter. Every key is a bit different and you are welcome to form your own opinion.

    Instantly, we have a pretty darn good looking key. But, before moving on, let’s check the matte to be sure it really IS OK.

    Change the Output menu from Composite (the final result) to Alpha Channel. This displays the key in shades of gray. Your goal is to get the foreground solid white (opaque), while the background is solid black (transparent). Any shades of gray indicates translucency which, in general, you want to avoid.

    This image was shot and lit pretty well, notice there is a clear delineation between foreground (white) and background (black.)

    Switch the Output to Composite and you could stop here. But, let’s make two other tweaks.

    Click the Motion icon, to enable dragging the image in the Program Monitor, and drag the image off-center to frame it better against the background.

    Then, add a Video Effects > Blur > Gaussian Blur to the background and adjust the blur to make it look like the shot has depth of field.

    Now, we are done.


    However, not all keys are that easy to pull. Let’s try something more difficult.

    Here’s a key with an uneven background, wrinkles in the fabric, and “garbage” in the frame. In other words, a typical production shot.

    I’m a big fan of having a process to follow when creating effects. This is especially true of green-screen work. So, here’s mine. To begin, follow the steps above, select the color and then switch to Alpha Channel mode.

    Hmmm… notice all the white “dust” in the background? The green background is more gray that black. Worse, even the garbage is white. Not good. Here’s how to fix it. We are going to take this in three steps:

    1. Adjust the foreground so it is solid white
    2. Adjust the background closest to the talent to be solid black
    3. Apply a garbage matte to get rid of those areas that we don’t want, the “garbage”

    In the Effect Control panel, twirl down Matte Generation, then adjust Transparency until the foreground you want to keep is solid white. This slider controls the foreground separation. The best way to adjust this is to slide it until you find the point where the foreground becomes transparent, then move the slider a little bit until the foreground is back to solid white.

    Check carefully for subtle shadows, which will allow the background to bleed through.

    Next, twirl down Pedestal and do the same thing, except now you are adjusting the background to be solid black. Switch the Output back to Composite and take a look at the finished results.

    Your goal, even with bad keys, is to get the background immediately behind the talent to be solid black, even if other areas of the frame are not. We’ll get rid of them next.

    These two controls should allow you to nail the key, though, in this case, the poor lighting is making our life difficult.


    If you need to adjust the edges to remove excessive spill, or halos, twirl down Matte Cleanup.

    Here, start by GENTLY adjusting Choke. This crops in the edges of the image and a little goes a long way.

    Then, add a bit of blur to the edges with Soften. Again, small amounts are always the best option.

    To remove green around the edges, twirl down Spill Suppression and tweak Desaturate. Remember, the easiest way to avoid excessive spill is to separate your actors from the background.

    NOTE: There are also color correction settings with this filter, but we have far more control over color using the Lumetri Color Panel; which is what I would normally use.


    Garbage mattes are used to get rid of stuff in the frame that you can’t key out.

    Make sure the green screen clip is still selected, then twirl down Opacity in Effect Controls.

    Select one of the three masking tools; I tend to use the Pen tool.

    Then, click to draw a border around the objects you want to keep. To add a curve, click-hold-and-drag. Click the starting point to close the circle.

    To adjust a curve, click one of the square control points with the Pen tool.

    When the circle is closed, you’ll instantly see the finished key. And, yup, I moved the foreground image to the right and added a Gaussian Blur to the background. Before I totally finished, I’d do a bit of color correction to his face.

    Effects tab (bottom) > Transform > Crop > then go to Effects Controls tab above ( left, top, right & bottom) for detailed percentages.
    Crop Tool location