The Many Uses of Green Screen Virtual Backlot Demo Video

December 30, 2009

The Many Uses of Green Screen

It seems like this video has been floating around for a while, so it's not anything too new, but it just hit digg tonight, and that's where I first saw it. The video is called "What You See Isn't Always What You Get" but it's actually a demo reel for Stargate Studios, a visual effects company that specializes in virtual backlots (which is what this kind of green screen removal is). A lot of the footage from this looks like it comes from TV shows like "Ugly Betty", "Grey's Anatomy", & "Heroes", but the same green screen techniques are used in movies as well. If you didn't think green screen was used that often, just watch this and you'll be amazed.

Video was removed by the owner. Sorry guys!

One of the commenters on digg brings up a good question. "I have to wonder, though, is it really cheaper to green screen all this stuff? Or is it not about money and more about control over a shot?" I'd like to hear an answer to that both from a director and a studio exec, as I think they'd each have something different to say. It's fascinating watching this because it's a reminder that, despite what you think watching the finished footage, most of everything we're seeing on screen is created digitally. It also shows how good some actors are if they can pull off looking cold while standing inside a heated sound stage surrounded by green screen.

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What a revelation. I knew green screen was used in shows and films, but till this day I had no idea how often it was used! Thanks for posting this up! As an aspiring filmmaker, you can never have to much knowledge!

Icefilm on Dec 30, 2009



will on Dec 30, 2009


Zodiac's use of virtual sets is fascinating as well - I love where things are going, can't wait for the days when this is super simple to do! It'll make filmmaking so much more freeing (and more like the old studio system, but that's besides the point...) <-- Zodiac vfx breakdowns

Kas on Dec 30, 2009


What a waste of money.

Fuelbot on Dec 30, 2009


#4 not when your considering some of your favorite tv shows and films use it and you don't even notice.

jeffrey on Dec 30, 2009


Not that surprised because those shots look so fake when you watch it on tv anyways in my opinion.

asdfasdf on Dec 30, 2009


Much more beautiful on Vimeo 🙂

Felix on Dec 30, 2009


Wow! I knew green screen was used more than I could tell but wow, this makes it look like practically EVERY SHOT is green screened now a days. Can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing though

Kyle on Dec 30, 2009


well...I regret watching this, took all the magic away. anybody know the theme used?

Xerxex on Dec 30, 2009


so this is the technology that has replaced the Extra's? damn.

Xerxex on Dec 30, 2009


I think it has to do with money for sure. It's much more cheaper to do the all on stage and there is far more control over the shot too. no people on the street to bother you, you don't have to block the street off. etc you get my picture. So I'm pretty sure it saves them ton of money. but i didn't know that there is that much green-screen wow

Davor on Dec 30, 2009


this is funny because last week i had to pull some keys off underwater greenscreen with terrible lighting conditions. (the more gradient and non-linear a green screen is lit, the longer it takes to remove it). For a few seconds of footage, beyond the people who actually were on set to act, direct and shoot it, you're looking at a few weeks of post and around 3 to 5 departments that have specific things to work on to bring the final shot(s) (after which it gets reviewed by the director and revisions are done).

buggy166 on Dec 30, 2009


# 9 It's the theme song for the series "Cold Case" called "Nara", by the group "E.S. Posthumus".

Six! on Dec 30, 2009


Thanks Six!.

Xerxex on Dec 30, 2009


Great video, thanks for posting Alex. Really amazing what can they do in Hollywood.

Internapse on Dec 30, 2009


Some of the scenes are a wee bit noticeable, but some look flawless, it's good if you couldn't afford some things like a ship on fire. It was strange to see them just working from photographs too. It would be cool if super low budget films could be made this way, but i imagine the equipment might be expensive and also the knowledge of making it look seamless would be expensive time-wise too. I find it really interesting, it would be good to maybe see a few more things like this on the site, it's a great insight into the process of film making. I also see what Xerxex says about the magic going too from the full size sets and giant crowds, but on the other hand I like the work arounds that some film makers will do to get certain shots. If all films were made this way it would be boring, but it does have it's advantages.

crapola on Dec 30, 2009


Wow... now i feel cheated.

dex on Dec 30, 2009


NOTHING IS REALLL!!! all this does is make me understand why so many actors suck.

DoomCanoe on Dec 30, 2009


They fooled me. Truly amazing what we can do nowadays with technology. It's even a little bit scary.

Brandon on Dec 31, 2009


Saw this a few weeks back - it is a testament to the work these artists have done! Thats car explosion must have been a nightmare to comp.

dom on Dec 31, 2009


About 70% of them looked really good. The lighting effects have come a long way. I do agree that some of the magic is gone on these.

L on Dec 31, 2009


Great video and really suprising.

Tir na nog on Dec 31, 2009


As a visual effects artist, i can tell you that yes, most of the time it is cheaper to shoot green screens instead of shooting on set. One compositor can comp a shot like that in a few days, while shooting on set you're paying hundreds of people to stand around most of the time. Then if something doesn't get shot correctly, you end up having to either shoot it again or get the visual effects team involved anyway. Then when you factor in union fees for overtime, the costs get astronomical. Most of what my company does is clean up and set replacements much like this video depicts and its always because its cheaper for us to do it.

ryan leonard on Dec 31, 2009


#23 has it. It's much cheaper, much easier to work with. Instead of setting up a shot with all the background effects and extras and blocking off the street and timing cars and the hundreds of little minutiae that a director has to be aware of, and then having to shoot it over and over and over and over until you nail the performance without anything in the background ruining the shot... well, you can see why a lot of people would rather just shoot it on green screen. It's a lot cheaper to do multiple takes and then use the one you want with a background plate. However, it's a stylistic decision. I don't know about anyone else, but I can spot digital fakery from a mile away (even more so now with HD making everything clearer). There are still directors out there that would rather use real physical effects and actual locations when they film, and you can tell the difference. If you want to make a movie for TV or for a really small budget, green screen is the way to go. If you want to make something that looks amazing, you spend the extra money and shoot it for real.

Pete the Geek on Dec 31, 2009


it all about the Director having the shoot he wants and the Exect paying less more and more greenscreen will be use in the future it will save on money and on location shoots. This is not a bad video. 🙂

Cineprog on Dec 31, 2009


Agree with #24 about being able to spot digital fakery. I can easily spot it usually. But it's not a big deal for me, just more hollywood trickery which is to be expected.

Dr. Strange on Dec 31, 2009


seriously wat was the point of some of those shots. how easy would it have been just to take a camera onto the a street and have a quick shoot and call it a day, instead of paying animators xxxxx amount of money to green screen that...

roderick on Jan 2, 2010


My question is how many of these shots are just pickup shots or are necessary to fill in missing footage, after on-location has already wrapped. I'd guess that many of these shots are part of re-shoots.

J-Love on Jan 3, 2010


Hey people, Just saw this, and can't help feeling ripped off for everyone who buy's series'. Personaly I don't, and try not to watch telly as often as possible, but honestly this made me feel like it is the death of film and cinema, where is the value for money. All that is left is the actors playing their parts, I am sure that the film companies have more than enough money from sales to pay for their wages. Unbelievable..

Lizards on Jan 3, 2010


Less then a week after this post, and the vid is already taken down. >.< What i can't help but wonder (regarding the picture in this post) is how they take the blue lighting reflected in the windows on the left. Is probably easy i suppose but is interesting nonetheless.

Lighting Toronto on Jan 5, 2010

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