Everybody Needs a Green Screen · 26 December 2020

(Hint: Both pictures are links.)

If you make videos, you need a green screen. Really.

I have been making video lectures for my classes for a long time. Way before the pandemic and remote learning.

My first tries at making video lessons were because I wanted to see if flipping a classroom was a good thing. Flipping a classroom is where students watch video lectures at home and do homework at school. It makes sense in theory because the students have the teacher there to help when needed. The teacher is right there when the students are doing homework. I thought that it would be great. I recorded C++ programming and physics videos in my garage studio where I set up my homemade whiteboard.

I am not sure about other people’s successes or failures with flipping classrooms, but my experiment with it returned mixed results. What I found was that since my classroom has computers in it (makes sense since I teach computer stuff), my students tended to watch the videos in class instead of at home. That made sense for my programming class. After all, I still did those lectures live and just had the videos there as supplemental material. But I thought my physics students would love the thought of watching the explanatory videos at home and doing physics problems at school where I could and would help them. Turns out that I was wrong. So I went back to giving those lectures live, and letting the students know that the videos were there as supplemental material.

That was the past.

Today, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and I had to make videos for my classes. Okay. Not completely true. I had already done most of my videos for C++ programming long ago. You remember, those crusty video lectures I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago. At any rate, I made some new videos to teach SolidWorks along with a couple C++ videos. The thing with the C++ videos I made was that I wanted to be more creative than I had been just giving lectures. Which is how I ended up making a video of me in two places.

It was a simple concept. I recorded myself writing on the whiteboard. Then, I recorded myself again in front of that board that had the writing and talked about the stuff that I had written. Simple enough. But what I wanted to do was start talking about the stuff before I was finished writing. Which I did. You can see the results on the video on my YouTube channel. It is not great. But it is not bad either. And it was fun to record and to put together.

Well, I decided that I needed to learn about green screen technology and color keys while putting that video together.

Color keys are pretty simple. You choose a color that will disappear from the video footage. I thought I would be clever with my video of me talking while I also wrote on the board. I thought I could choose white as a color key. Turns out that if you choose white as a color key, lots of stuff becomes transparent. Stuff that you do not want to be transparent. After my moderate success with putting myself on the screen with myself, I wanted to do more composite videos. So I decided I needed a green screen.

If you read my piece about not pressing the record button, you know that I got my green screen, and set it up with adequate, albeit inexpensive lighting. It was a fun process. In fact, I recorded my first setup of my green screen. I tried to make the video funny. Turns out it was too long, so I cut it down and posted it again. I got a couple views. But it did not matter. I had fun doing it.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with my green screen. It was in front of my whiteboard, which meant that I would need to take it down every time I wanted to use said whiteboard. I thought about using an old curtain rod, but then I would not be able to just pull the single green screen to one side. So I bought a ten foot iron pipe and put curtain hangers on it. I dangled that pipe from the ceiling and voilà! Green screen or whiteboard in an instant. I could change from one to the other just by pulling the green screen to one side. I was so excited.

I have not made too many videos with green screen technology, but I have had a lot of fun making the ones that I have made. And I believe there will be more in the months ahead. But who knows. All I know is that I can make composite videos any time I want. I also know that since everybody is a video creator these days, everybody needs a green screen.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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