Green Screen Made Easy by Jeremy Hanke and Michele Yamaxaki Terpstra (book review).

October 21, 2016 | By | Reply More

This is an updated edition of ‘Green Screen Made Easy’ by Jeremy Hanke and Michele Yamaxaki Terpstra. As they say in the introduction, a lot of things have changed since the first edition in 2009. This book is designed for the American professional and amateur film-maker alike, pointing you in the right direction for either expensive or make-do equipment so you can put in the backgrounds for a film production in creating green or blue (that depends on how much green the actors have) screens when filming. When you consider the cost of location filming, then any expense becomes a lot cheaper by this alternative. For those who live in other countries, I suspect knowing what you are looking for, the trade papers should point you in the right direction for buying supplies. If you are going to make your own, you are told what colour you need and how to avoid wrinkles. An important step next to ensuring that its green all the way down. Some ready-mades aren’t and one even has a black edge which will leave you wondering why. I do wonder if the manufacturers think people will work into them. Seeing the Inverse Square Law being applied to lights was certainly an eye opener. Is there nowhere that this law isn’t employed?


Something that has always puzzled me is why the green doesn’t reflect on the actors or props but a lot of that is down to light placement and how they are filtered. The authors clue you in on all of that and I’ve now learnt its name is ‘spill’ and even pay attention to camera angles compared to what will eventually be your background. It does make me wonder how long it will be before 3D backgrounds are made so they can be rotated to the needs of the director.

Michele Yamaxaki Terpstra’s expertise is in editing green screen effects together and here you get a master class in equipment and how to use it. Objectively, if you are planning a film, I would also add get some practice in first so you know what you’re doing. I do have to wonder how long it will be before the low budget user can integrate a digital background to the live action as they record it. Terpstra points out a lot of the complications in light positions let alone natural light. I did wonder why she didn’t mention that as night approaches, blues deepen, although if you have green screen that might be less of a worry.

One thing that didn’t come up is the grade of computer used for editing. From a graphic software perspective, the more RAM/memory the better and certainly have a decent graphics card carrying its own RAM. You might also need a bigger screen to see the fine detail and check the possible feathering on the live filming leaking into the green screen. Although anti-aliasing is mentioned in Jeremy Hanke’s part at the front of the book, I do wonder if the next generation of software will treat this as a matter of course.

Even if you aren’t planning to start a film career but like to know how green screen effects are made then you will find this book not only an excellent primer but enough to make you want to be an expert on the technique. Unless you look at the extras on a DVD or Blu-ray, you can be hard pushed to spot where actual and digital begins even for regular films.

In the conclusion, the writers point out that some directors are now turning back to physical filming after listening to viewers who are getting fed up with CGI. Considering how much it’s used in general genre films these days, I suspect that comment is aimed more at our genre where people expect its use. Used sparingly, green screen can add to a film so don’t go over the top.

I doubt if this book will spoil your enjoyment of watching current films. If anything, it will show just how much hard work is done behind the scenes to make something look perfect. Clue the three lights for my close-up.

GF Willmetts

October 2016

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 165 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: $24.95 (US), £19.26 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-250-4)

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Category: Culture, Science

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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