Chroma key compositing is a [visual effects](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-visual-effects-work-in-film) technique that involves using [green screen](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-use-a-green-screen) technology, including chroma key software, to manipulate an image captured with a camera. By automatically selecting a specific color in post-production, video editors can remove the background from the image. Substitute backgrounds can place actors in a new setting, and background videos might feature interactive animations.\n\nThe basis of the chroma key effect is color contrast. The technique’s key component is the selection of a specific, evenly-lit solid-color surface. Usually, this is a bright green screen background, although filmmakers use a blue screen background in some cases. This distinctive green or blue color, known as the key color, is unlikely to match any objects in the foreground, including the clothes and skin tones of the actors in a scene. \n\nVisual effects software will recognize the key color, erasing all image areas where the color occurs, and substitute a different background. This might be an image captured separately, such as a different location shot on another day, or one that is entirely computer-generated, such as the deck of a starship.\nIn filmmaking, editors use chroma keying to create cinematic illusions. Since the rise of visual effects and the advancement of computer technology, editors use chroma keying in all types of productions, from Hollywood mega-franchises to mid-level dramas. Video editing teams use chroma keying to do the following:\n\n- __To switch out backgrounds__: Chroma keyed backgrounds can range from the fantastical to the mundane. Before the widespread adoption of computers, filmmakers would create the illusion of environments that could not be practically shot with elaborate miniatures or highly detailed matte paintings. Today, if your film involves alien landscapes, you might shoot your characters in front of a green screen backdrop and swap it with a static or animated background in post-production. If you want to set a scene in a moving car, you might shoot it in front of a green screen then use chroma key technology to replace it with footage from a separate vehicle.\n- __To augment or obscure backgrounds__: You can use the chroma key technique to change certain elements of the background. If you are shooting a period film on a crowded city street, you might want to block out contemporary buildings with strategically placed green backdrops or flags. You can selectively edit your background image to suit the purposes of your film.\n- __To change foreground elements__: Modern superhero films make extensive use of green screen footage. If your main character wears a complex suit that a [costume designer](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-a-costume-designer-skills-responsibilities-and-how-to-become-a-film-costume-designer) cannot build to function practically, you can place green fabric on parts of the costume. In post-production, these colored areas can be switched out with computer generated images (CGI) to simulate the high-tech functions for that costume.\nThere are a few important guidelines for filmmakers when using chroma key compositing. The following tutorial outlines how to use the technique:\n\n1. __Choose the right color__. While green screens are traditionally the most common, in some scenarios, such as low-light situations or scenes where a similar color green might appear on a character or prop, blue is a better choice.\n2. __Set up your screen__. Hang your green screen on a frame so that it will fill the entire background of your shot. Make sure it’s as flat as possible, with no wrinkles or tears. If the green screen is collapsible or has been folded up in storage, use an iron to smooth out the creases and wrinkles. If you don’t want to deal with wrinkles, look into purchasing or renting a wrinkle-resistant matte screen.\n3. __Pay close attention to your lighting levels__. Lighting can make or break a green screen scene. To be convincing, your lighting must be consistent in both the foreground and background footage. If the sun is bright in the background footage and muted in the foreground footage, it will ruin the illusion as the background and foreground will not be cohesive.\n4. __Properly distance your camera__. Camera distance is very important: the depth of field in both foreground and background footage should match, otherwise the composite image will look strange to the human eye and will immediately distract viewers. \n5. __Use green screen effects software__. When you finish filming, and the cut is more or less locked, it is time to chroma key with special effects software, such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects. (If the new background or materials involve complex animation, this process may happen during shooting and throughout the editing process.) \n6. __Chroma key the image__. Typical video editing software comes standard with video effects like chroma key. In Adobe, this tool is known as the Ultra Key. Select the background color, then store and save it. Remove any artifacts from the image to create the cleanest key possible. Some advanced software automates this process.\n7. __Replace the image__. After you chroma key the footage, replace it with the desired background. Some programs automate the substitution process, but you can manually replace the image for precision. \nBecome a better filmmaker with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including David Lynch, Spike Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese, and more.\nChroma key compositing is an effective visual technique that utilizes green screen technology.