Lighting: Green Scheme

*How to bring Hollywood home*

Greenscreen, or "chroma-key," is one of the oldest tricks in TV. To fake a background, they just shoot a subject in front of a green backdrop, then digitally swap out the green for anything from a weather map to a city skyline.

The technique is popular in still photography, too, for popping Hawaiian sunsets or football stadiums behind portrait subjects.

And now that more of our cameras-both DSLRs and compacts-shoot high-quality video, there's more interest than ever in greenscreen. Lighting titan F.J. Westcott has made unlocking your inner Spielberg almost push-button simple with its Photo Basics uLite Video Lighting Kit ($249, street), designed to be used with Adobe Premiere Elements 7 ($89, street).

The process of extracting a subject from one video clip (or still) and superimposing it on another may sound complicated, but this kit makes it easy enough for grade-schoolers. You get all the hardware and software you need, including a DVD of foolproof instructions that cover how to…

Shoot your background footage.
While you can use the dozen or so still and video clips that Westcott provides, you will ultimately find them confining and want to make your own-it's actually half the fun.

Set up your studio.
In a basement or garage, hang the kit's elastic greenscreen, getting it perfectly taut, or else shadows cast by any wrinkles or folds will prevent a clean composite.

Light the screen.
Position the lights so that your subject casts no shadow on the background. This usually means placing the subject-no green clothing, please!-at least 4 feet in front of the background, and cross-lighting from the sides.

Capture the foreground footage. Place your subject left, right, or centrally so that he or she will fall correctly into the background clip.

Combine your clips in Elements. Export the greenscreen footage from the camcorder to a computer, and open it and the background clip in a new Premier Elements project. Drag the background file to Video Track 1, and the foreground (greenscreened) clip to Track 2. Elements should automatically recognize the greenscreen and ask if you want to merge the files. Click Yes, and that's all there is to it.

For inspiration, search YouTube for greenscreen tutorials, and amateur featurettes. For more on the uLite Video kit, visit www.photobasics.net.

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