Acting and Reacting in Front of a Chroma Key Screen

Working with a chroma key screen is awesome because it allows filmmakers to take their movies to places that would otherwise be impossible to go to, like space or under the ocean. It’s a special effect that needs proper technical execution in order for it to be sold to the audience. But, the technical aspects don’t carry the entire sale of the effect. The performance of the actors is a huge part of it, as well. If the performances are unbelievable, then all the special effect wizardry in the world will not engage the audience and your movie will be deemed as bad. So, how do you get great performances from your actors in front of a chroma key screen? 

Step 1: Cast Great Actors

This one is actually a no brainer. If you want a great performance, then you hire a great and experienced actor. Ninety percent of a director’s work with the actors is done with the casting. It’s helpful too to cast actors experienced in working with a chroma key screen. 

Chroma key screen acting is a lot different than acting out a scene in a real location with real props. It requires an actor with a great imagination to sell the scene. A bad actor will not be able to make it work. 

Step 2: Show the Actor the Background

The performance is going to be a lot more convincing when the actor believes it. So, show your actor what the background is going to be. If he can see this world as you see it, then he'll have a much easier time imagining it and incorporating it into his performance.

Step 3: Create Marks

A huge part that goes into selling the effect and performance is the actor’s eye lines. They need to be looking at an object that isn’t even there. To help with this process, create marks on the set with either chroma key green tape or with painted stands that can easily be keyed out. Create visual cues on the set to help them sell the world that isn’t even there.

Step 4: Have Someone Play off the Performances

You’re actor might be on a green screen pretending that he is a pilot stranded in an alien world, but his performance is not going to be so good without someone to play his performances off of. There are chroma key suits that one can wear so that they can be on the set during the shoot, and then get keyed out later. Part of acting is reacting, and as a director, you need to help your actor out in any way you can.