You may not have realized it, but most of the movies you’ve enjoyed watching have used green screen technology. But what is a green screen?
A green screen allows for digital effects to be added after filming. So – you’re watching a sci-fi, and the lead character is facing off against a space monster: the scene would have been filmed with the actor in front of a bright green screen that’s placed in the background of a shot. The many-tentacled thing is then added in post-production by the special digital effects department.
The size of the green screen can vary depending on the special effects that need to be added or the portion of the background that needs to be replaced. Green screen technology is part of a process called chroma keying: this involves the layering of two images together.
The use of this type of tech in movies has come on in leaps and bounds over the years, meaning that even the most spectacular of plot lines or out-there imagined locations can now be realized for our viewing pleasure! Here’s a run-down of the movies that have made the very best use of this wizardry.
Avatar – 2009
This movie may have caused a huge stir at the time for its use of 3D effects (remember those exciting glasses that got handed out at the theaters?), but it’s also now widely regarded as being one of the best films to have been shot entirely against a green screen.
Used alongside motion capture technology, green screen allowed for the realization of Pandora in a way that awed fans and critics alike, and the movie still stands, more than a decade later, as a high point in this regard.
If you’re making a film or a promotional video and need some shots, including special effects, but haven’t quite got a budget on a par with that of Avatar, then choosing some royalty-free videos that feature the content you need is a great option.
Life of Pi – 2012
This beautiful film tells the story of a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger after the ship he was on has sunk. It may be pretty obvious that incorporating the tiger required green screen technology, but what most people don’t realize is that all of the ocean scenes were actually filmed against a green screen, despite the stunningly realistic visuals.
The filmmakers decided that shooting at sea would be too unpredictable, so they opted for a pool and a green screen instead.
Titanic – 1997
James Cameron strikes again with his green screen wizardry in this hugely successful smash hit movie that had a significant proportion of the world’s population weeping into their popcorn in the 1990s.
Many of the most iconic scenes in the film were shot against a green screen, including the first kiss shared by Rose and Jack, as well as the famous ‘I’m flying!’ scene.
The Great Gatsby – 2013
It’s not a big-budget sci-fi or a sprawling space opera, so you might be wondering why virtually the whole of The Great Gatsby was filmed against a green screen….
Well, the film is set in the 1920s, and the director decided that the best way to bring this period to life with maximum realism was through the use of special effects. This allowed for shots of intricate interiors and authentic skylines as they would have appeared at the time.
Gravity – 2013
Obviously, 2013 was the year of the green screen! The movie Gravity had been languishing in the pre-production stages for some time, waiting for the technology to catch up with its visual concept. Another movie shot entirely against a green screen; the film remains one of the most aesthetically spectacular of all time: it won seven Oscars, including an award for Best Special Effects.
Sin City- 2005
For films requiring a strong and unique aesthetic, green screen tech can be key to providing this; one such movie is 2005’s Sin City, which had its stars work against green screens rather than shooting the action in physical locations.
The method paid off: Sin City was a huge commercial and critical success, and although many movies have tried to emulate it since, none have achieved it yet.
Alice in Wonderland – 2010
Tim Burton’s visual spectacular was shot entirely against green screen: this was the only way it was possible to bring Wonderland to life as realistically, vibrantly, and fabulously as the director envisioned.
The rich environment of the movie, the out-of-this-world creatures, and the tiny details would have been impossible to achieve without a green screen; the film was a box office smash, grossing more than a billion dollars worldwide.
The Wolf of Wall Street – 2013
The final flick to make it onto the list is another movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, making it the star’s third appearance here!
The film, inspired by true events, is set in the 1990s, and green screen tech was used to bring some scenes to life in a manner authentic in relation to the time in which it was set. For example, scenes set in a port had the actors working against a green screen.