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Chroma Key: A Brief Guide to Achieving Movie Magic

/ WeVideo

As a movie fanatic, you might’ve heard the term “chroma key” thrown around before. And if you haven’t, chances are you’ve at least seen the chroma key effect in action. When it comes to modern video production, the effect is a powerful tool for creating realistic, blockbuster-level looks.  

Check out this brief guide to learn more about the chroma key effect, as well as understand how to use the effect yourself in our online video editor. (It's easy!)

What is chroma key?

Chroma key (also known as green screen) is a popular visual effect used in many different creative industries. A lot of films, television shows, and commercials use the chroma key effect to trick audiences into believing that the background of a subject is real. 

It may seem complex, but the chroma key effect can be accomplished quite easily. With the help of a solid colored background andbeginner-friendly video editor, this effect can open the door to many different creative opportunities. 

Why use the chroma key effect? 

The main purpose of the chroma key effect is to eliminate a specific color from a video and replace it with an external background. As a result, filmmakers are able to create visually breathtaking scenes that, in reality, were filmed in front of a green screen. 

Before filming a scene, filmmakers set up a backdrop that consists entirely of one color. Typically, backdrops are green or blue; however, any color can be used. 

Once the scene is filmed, filmmakers use their desired video editing software to key out the color of their backdrop. This causes the subject to appear in a blank space. 

Then, filmmakers use video layering to place a new background under their subject, resulting in an illusion that makes their subject appear in a new location.

This effect is very helpful because it allows filmmakers to use the background of a location, without actually having to be in that location. At the end of the day, your favorite sci-fi movie wasn’t filmed in space, it was filmed in front of a green screen!

How to use chroma key in 5 simple steps

Creating a scene with the chroma key effect can be accomplished in just a few steps. If executed correctly, this effect can take your video editing skills to all new levels.

Follow the steps below to create your very first green screen video:

  1. Record in front of a solid colored and well-lit background.
  2. Open WeVideo and click Create new > Video. Then import your media.
  3. Place your desired background in the Video 1 section of your Timeline, and your chroma key footage in Video 2. 
  4. Double-click on your chroma key footage to access the Color-keying tab. Use the Eyedropper tool to remove your solid colored background.
  5. Customize however you want, then export and share. Boom, you’re done!

Step 1: Record your video

Begin by finding a solid colored background. It doesn't have to be green, however, it should be a different color than your subject. The goal is to make sure the people or objects in front of the camera do not match the color of the background (as matching colors will be keyed out as well). 

If your background is green and the person in front of the camera is wearing a green t-shirt, their t-shirt will blend into the background. A couple great ways of ensuring a solid background include using a bed sheet or using colored paper.

Another important part of creating a convincing chroma key scene is to use proper lighting. You want to make sure that all shadows are eliminated so that the background is completely single-colored. 

Step 2: Open WeVideo & import your media

Once you have recorded your scene, you can begin to work in post-production. Open the WeVideo online video editor and select Create new > Video

Click the blue Browse to select button in order to choose where to import your media from. Or, import from various social sites.

Step 3: Add the footage to your Timeline

Once you have imported your media, place the green screen footage in the Video 2 section on your Timeline, and your desired background in Video 2.

Step 4: Use the chroma key effect

Double-click on the green screen clip and choose the Color-keying tab. 

Use the Eyedropper tool to remove the background color. Then, adjust by using the Color Balance, Color Sensitivity, and Defringe sliders to make sure the background is completely removed. Once you reach your desired mask, click Save changes.

Step 5: Customize, export & share

Applying the chroma key effect to your project is just the start to making a Hollywood-esque video. Add text, music or even some popular transitions to take your video above and beyond. 

Once you have reached your desired edit, click Finish to export your video. 

There are countless ways to customize your video, so start working on your project today!