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A Brief History of Green Screen Removal

Movies and films have come a long way. There is no denying that since the first movie in 1895, entire worlds, universes, and imaginary things have come to life via motion pictures. Today, with visual effects and computer-generated imagery on the rise, hardly any movies do not utilize these in some way or another.

Being part of one of the best VFX studios in India, we take a journey through how the green screen came to be and how significant it is today.

The Evolution of Film Editing Techniques

We must first understand how films evolved before we can understand how green screens evolved. At first, the movie was really short—only a couple of minutes long. They were black and white and didn’t have any sound or music added to them. Technology at that time simply did not exist to accommodate all this.

By the early 1900s, film as an industry had already taken off in full swing. It didn’t take long before films began to change from simple black-and-white movies to colored movies. Films at the time were hand-painted frame-by-frame to give viewers an entirely new dimension of depth.

It was while experiencing the different ways of layering one frame over another that the concept of matte painting came into existence. Matte techniques involved superimposing different layers of frames onto one another to create a complete scene. The truth is, there were already many films with different backdrops that were handmade. Camera angle tricks were also being used in films during this time to create special effects.

Single Color Screens

Directors and filmmakers came up with the idea of using a single color as a background for isolation in the 1940s. The color was identified to be blue as it was easier to separate from the skin color of the actors. The removal of a background entirely in the post-production process laid the foundation for special effects as a whole to take off as an industry.

It should be noted that by this point in the filmmaking and editing timeline, there were far better cameras that could capture color and movement in a scene.

The blue screen at the back of movies was replaced with a green screen removal due to changes in cameras and evolving technology. Green, as a color, was easier to pick up and isolate through digital colors, making it the ideal choice in films.

Removal of Green Screen

Since the inception of single-color backdrops, there have been numerous ways discovered to remove them. It has been quite an evolution from hand painting over and coloring it to the most recent technology and software that can easily select a colored area and remove it.

There is no denying that the earlier technique of painting one frame at a time by hand to create a complete scene was a long and tedious process. Today’s software allows for on-the-fly editing, making it easier for the film industry and post-production team to create a complete set from a single frame.

Some of the best software has been created and developed since the 2010s. These computer-aided software programs, which began as prototypes, have drastically altered the film industry’s trajectory. The best VFX studios in India utilize only the latest and most advanced software for all their work.

Utilization of Green Screen in Movies

It comes as no surprise that changing the color of a backdrop to later replace it with something else became the norm for how films were made. The idea that several layers of images can be put on top of one another to create a different effect, and the concept of completely changing the backdrop of a scene were inevitable.

Single-colored screens were first used so that frame-by-frame painting was possible for the film. It was an easy way of creating backdrops by hand and making the film come to life as a whole. Following this, with the advancement of better cameras and technology, software for color removal was invented.

The first-ever use of a green screen removal for special effects in films combined live action with animation. This was in the year 1988. The movie showcased a great blend of what only seemed to be impossible before the experimentation. For filmmakers and directors, the combination of animation and live-action opened up a whole new world of possibilities. It was the bedrock that led to the evolution of VFX as we know it today.

Green Screen vs. Blue Screen

Today, single-colored screens are being used in nearly every movie. Whether for live-action, hero films, historical period dramas, or anything else, the sheer power of having an entire backdrop change for the setting of the scene is what makes this concept unique.

Behind the scenes of most movies, either a green screen or a blue screen is a scene where actors are either dressed according to the demands of the scene, or are in motion capture suits. In special effects or post-production terms, there is a scientific and very logical reason for the changing screen colors.

While both green and blue screens are the ideal choice for complete background removal, the logic of using one color at a time is quite simple. To confirm, both colors are different from the natural skin color of humans and are drastically different from most clothes which is the reason why they are used extensively.

A brief distinction between the two while filming:

  • Blue screens are used more for scenes where there is a lot of environment and nature. It is easier to paint natural colors on these screens in post-production. For example, in Life of Pi, the entirety of the movie with the boat and the main actor was shot in the foreground of a blue screen. This made it easy for the visual effects experts to remove the screen and replace it with waves and other elements of nature.
  • On the other hand, a green screen is preferred when more actors are in an artificial environment. In action movies, movies that need to reincorporate period dramas, and man-made settings, are the ideal type.

The involvement of green screen removal in films is only going to continue in the foreseeable future. This is the only solution because no other replacement for backdrops has been discovered.

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