Features and Columns · Movies

You Can Always Tell When Green Screen is Bad

If you’re looking for a technical breakdown of why some green screens are better than others, this is the video for you.
Summit Entertainment
By  · Published on July 7th, 2020

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There is something endearing about terrible green screen. Like an extra staring into the camera or an in-frame boom mic, bad green screen is an imperfection that reminds us that films are made by humans. And humans invariably make mistakes.

Like all visual effects, good green screen is unnoticed green screen. It’s tricky to spot in films like The Wolf of Wall StreetShutter Island, The Revenant, and even some that don’t top bill Leonardo DiCaprio. But others aren’t so lucky. And when green screen effects are bad, you know they’re bad. But what is it, exactly, that makes “bad green screen,” and why is it so obvious?

The following video from professional explainer-of-complex-things Tom Scott efficiently lays out what makes green screen “bad” and why we’re able to instinctually spot it. The video explains essentials like match lighting, color balance, shutter speed match, and what a chroma key is. If you’re looking for a technical breakdown of why some green screen effects are better than others, this is the video for you.

You can watch Why You Can Spot Bad Green Screen” here:

Who made this?

Tom Scott is a London-based YouTuber who — broadly — makes videos on how stuff works. His info-taining videos unpack scientific phenomena and smooth out everyday enigmatic wrinkles, from how neurosurgeons navigate inside the brain during surgery to what garlic bread tastes like after it’s been sent to space. You can follow Scott on Twitter here. And you can get lost (and learn something) on his YouTube channel here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).