How to Set Up a Greenscreen on a Budget (2022): Stands, Materials, Lighting

Type of material. Most greenscreens are made with some type of fabric, but that’s not your only option. Foam or spandex options will be more wrinkle-resistant than some fabrics. With a bit of work, you can also paint rigid backdrops like cardboard or wood. You may also want a thick material to prevent light bleeding through from the back if you plan to shoot on location or anyplace where the screen won’t be against a wall.

Non-reflective material. It’s critically important to light your screen evenly, but that can be hard if your greenscreen is too reflective. This can be especially noticeable on glossy material like a painted wall, but any bright spots on your screen will be a problem later. Make your lighting job easier by getting materials that have a more matte surface.

You can build your own screen out of materials from craft or hardware stores. You can also find relatively inexpensive kits that come with everything you need, including stands, a fabric backdrop, and clamps. I’ve used this one from Emart ($80) for quite a while, and it’s done the job perfectly well. 

Have Some Stands Handy

It’s almost impossible to have too many stands. Whether you need them to hang a fabric screen or to set up lights, they’re always useful. There are also quite a few kinds of stands you can keep around. Picking the right ones will depend on how heavy the gear you’re using is, how much space you have, and your budget. 

Some of the most common (and cheapest) are photography tripod stands. These have 1/4-inch screw tips that you can use to mount lights, clamps, or hold up backdrops. For your camera, however, you’re better off paying a little more for a more sturdy tripod like this one ($76). It’s still lightweight and can be knocked over, so don’t put anything too expensive and heavy on it.

For larger screens, backdrop stands like this one ($46) can be more helpful. (This bundle we linked earlier includes a backdrop stand and the greenscreen.) These are very similar to the photography stands but come in pairs, have longer screw tips, and have a telescoping crossbar you can hang fabric screens from. These still aren’t super stable, but as long as you’re not throwing your subject against the screen, they should work well.

A more heavy-duty option is C-stands. These are expensive ($165) (and I haven’t tried this one yet). If you’re trying to stick to a budget, you might only want one for your heaviest equipment. These have three independent legs that can each rotate up to 120 degrees, which helps stabilize the stand. It’s also sturdy enough to support a telescoping arm on its own. These can be really helpful for supporting heavy lights you need to light your greenscreen without being visible in the camera.

Light Your Greenscreen Properly

There are countless ways to light both your subject and your screen, and there are few wrong answers when choosing the gear you’re going to use. No matter what kind of lights you use, your goals are going to be the same: light your screen evenly, avoid casting any shadows, and light it separately from the lighting on your subject as much as possible.

This can be a challenge, but more often than not, you’ll at least need a couple of large, bright light sources. Smaller lights, especially when positioned close to the screen, will create hot spots where the parts of the screen near the light are much brighter than the parts further away. To solve this, you have two options: Get some big lights or diffuse smaller ones.

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