How did you watch the film? Did you watch a Hollywood blockbuster film or a marketing short on social networks? Green screen technology could have been used to create the effects, regardless of whether it was a Hollywood blockbuster or a short film on social media for marketing purposes. Green screen technology has a long and rich history, which is parallel to cinema’s history.
The early days of film history were marked by the adaptation of photographs to moving images. In the latter part 19th century, the first documentary films were produced. One of the earliest movies was the arrival of the Mail Train from 1895. This simple movie showed a train pulling into the station. In 1903, The Great Train Robbery made its debut, one of first films to use advanced effects.
There are many innovations that have stuck with technology over time. While technology has gone through many changes, there have been few that are still relevant today. In reality, the greenscreen has survived and been innovating. Today it is perfectly at home within the digital age.
How it all began
Technically known as “chromakey compositing”, it’s a post-production method that’s used mainly in film making, but is increasingly used for video production. Green screen technology layers both live-action and digital effects video streams. The green background disappears.
Double exposure dates back to around the late 1800s and is responsible for this technology. Double exposure was first used in early photographs, pictures and films to introduce foreign element into a scene. This technique is used by Edwin S. Porter in The Great Train Robbery(1903).
It took some effort to figure out how one exposure could make figures on a background that was different from the original. Producers used a travelling matte in the early days to remove the correct amount of background from each frame. Frank Williams in 1918 patented this technology and it was widely used in films, including The Invisible Man.
Later, the travelling matte method was modified and made blue screen tech. This was in 1930s. Larry Butler made the film Flight Down to Rio (1933). There are many similarities in blue and green screens technology. However it is easier to use digital cameras today than green screen.
The evolution and use of green screen technology
While the original blue screen technology used for chromakey compositing began in the 1960s, green screens first started to be used between 1970 and 1980. This was due in part to the adoption of chromakey compositing technology by American and British television stations. The technology was particularly useful in creating background pictures for weather forecasters.
Technically there is not much difference between the wavelengths blue and green. That means either colour can be used to create a background, or it will work for the exact same purpose. These wavelengths should be used in chromakey compositing as they contrast well with human skin tones. This gives the best results. It would be much more difficult for people to recognize a background that is red.
Popular green screen effects
Today, special effects can be created using the green screen in a variety of media. It’s easy enough to find blockbuster movies using only green screen technology. But it doesn’t have to be the only way to make special effects. Green screen technology can also be used for smaller scenes and segments, as necessary. It is used when digital media requires it.
The 2009 film Avatar was one of the most popular films to be shot entirely on greenscreen. Using green screen technology, the alien Pandora world was made real. The magical forest landscapes and magical world of Pandora seemed photorealized on the big-screen, creating a world that was convincingly real.
It’s difficult even to imagine a film with no special effects. Although Harryhausen never used green screen technology, many blockbusters of big budget were possible because Harryhausen inspired the technology of the 20th Century and beyond.
It all started around the turn of this century, when double exposure techniques was adapted to first green-screen technologies. This technology uses a flat, green background to show special effects. It became very popular in the 1980s and 1970s in particular in the movie and television industry. Digital media is here to stay.
Fast forward a few centuries and the greenscreen hasn’t disappeared. Technology has been growing in strength. In the past three decades the world has experienced significant changes. Digitization has made it commonplace and is vital to the functioning society. It’s evident that the green screen holds a bright future.