How To Use Photography and Green Screens to Make Eye Popping Effects – From The Avengers to Your DIY Videos

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Ever wonder how the Avengers can fight all those epic battles in the heart of New York City without completely trashing the city?  In the video above, the crew from ILM (That’s George Lucas’ Special FX Super Company, Industrial Light and Magic) peel back the curtain to give us some insight as to how they were able to pull off some of the dazzling effects from last summer’s eye candy blockbuster.

ILM Tells Us…

Although roughly a third of “The Avengers” is set in New York City precious little was actually filmed there. ILM crew members photographed 7-miles of city streets from a variety of heights and at different times of day totaling 250,000 images. The crew then digitally recreated roughly 20 square blocks of mid-town Manhattan using a variety of techniques. Live action shoots were held primarily on sound stages in New Mexico and in the streets of Cleveland. (via endgadget)

It’s Easier Than Ever…

Chroma keythe technique whereby you shoot the subjects of your film / video against a solid color background (commonly known today as a “green screen” because the typical color of that background is, you guessed it – green), and then “keying out” (deleting) that color so that you can replace the background with any images that you want.  It wasn’t so long ago that you would’ve needed super expensive software and super powerful computers and hardware to be able to use these techniques, but chromakeying these days has become easier and more affordable than ever.  In fact, many low cost or even free software applications, like iMovie, Screenflow and Camtasia Studio, have green screen effects built right in, and you can create cool chromakey effects with a click or two of your mouse.  And formerly ultra expensive professional editing software like Final Cut Pro X, which now sells for only $299 (version 7 costs more than a thousand bucks!).

Check out the video tutorial below from FilmRiot to see how you can use chroma key to pout a helicopter (or a spaceship, jet, flying monster, etc.) into YOUR films…

While the guys did use some more sophisticated software (Adobe After Effects) to create the rotating blade effect on the helicopter, you can still easily see how chroma key can be used to insert objects into your videos, and to tap into big budget Hollywood effects for your small budget productions.

You can also go to cool websites like to grab all kinds of free or low cost effects and objects – like explosions, gun muzzle flashes, blood spatter, fireballs, dust and debris, smoke and even pre-keyed henchmen with guns – and insert them into your productions.

Here’s some cool Chroma Key Gear to Check Out…

Chroma KeyFotodiox 2-Sided (Green/Blue) Collapsible 5’x7′ Chroma Key Screen w Stand

  • Pro-Grade Material, Heavy Duty Construction
  • Collapsible for Portability
  • Provides Flexible Solution for Location Job



GreenScreenCowboyStudio Triple Lighting Kit with 10 feet x 12 feet Black, White and Green Muslin Backdrops and Background Support System with Case

  • Three (3) Compact fluorescent daylight balanced photo light bulbs, 45 Watt/5000K, Approximate Incandescent Equivalent: 225 Watt, total output is 675 Watt
  • Two (2) White 32″ Umbrellas, Three (3) AC Adapters
  • Three (3) 10′ x 12′ Black, White, Chromakey Green Muslin backdrops
  • One (1) Support System, includes support stand, three (3) Cross bar set
  • Two (2) Top quality Light Stands, One (1) Mini Light Stand, One (1) Carrying case for the support system


GreenSuitChroma Key Body Suits

  • Perfect for the “Invisible Man” effect
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Comes in multiple colors as well
  • Washable


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