Chroma Key Stock Footage for Sci Fi Movies

Certain genres seem more apt for the possibilities to chroma key with stock footage, and science fiction is one that has effectively shown its potential for that. Classic science fiction has always incorporated stock footage to help filmmakers create a setting that usually builds in extensive production value. First, determine your story, then think about what stock footage would be useful for your production.


Where is your story set? What is the style? These are factors that can contribute to your use of stock footage. It seems that a wealth of science fiction takes place in space, under the ocean or in exotic locales, and, as the mega-blockbuster “Avatar” shows, it’s not unusual to have a military presence in science fiction films.

All of this falls in line for using stock footage. As far as space, the farthest of man’s reach has been captured with a wealth of stock footage by NASA. Going to the height of the Andes or the depths of the oceans have been documented by travel groups in the mold of National Geographic. And the military has covered their missions on tape and film for years. It’s important to note that some very good stock footage is available free on the Internet.

Chroma Key

Once you’ve gotten your stock footage, come back to your story. What are you going to embed into the stock footage background you’ve found? Maybe you can’t afford a whole military platoon, but if you can put a few people in army uniforms in front of stock footage of one, you’ve achieved your goal. If you’ve figured out how to animate a realistic-looking, horrific monster, and you want to put them in Tokyo or Transylvania, the chroma key may be the answer. If you want to have time-lapse storm clouds chasing a character, a green-screen can help bring these together.


The trickiest part of matching your content to the stock footage is matching the lighting, and there are two demands – the practical and the aesthetic. Practically speaking, once you set your blue or green screen, you need to light it evenly. You’ll need to light your subject matter, too (front and back), but this is where the aesthetics come in. Where is the light coming from? Headlights? Sunlight? Moonlight? These are what determines the lighting of your subject. For instance, if the lighting in the stock footage casts shadows from left to right, your lighting needs to match that. Make sure your set lighting is consistent with your stock lighting.


The software you use will probably determine some of the content of the shots in your movie. Look at what you’ve got to work with. Before you get too far into your production, know what your software is capable of. Although sometimes it’s easy to be carried away by special effects, remember that what needs to drive your production is your story and your characters. The “Star Wars” movies are brilliant because there are fascinating characters in a compelling story. Nonetheless, by putting diverse contents together through chroma keying, you can take your audience to places they’ve never been before!