Famous Films Using Green Screen

Have you ever wondered how the special effects in your favourite films are created? The chances are, they’re done with the help of a green screen. Here, we reveal the magic behind the movies and take a look at some famous films using green screen techniques.

Creating illusionsfamous films using green screen

These days, we often take for granted some of the unbelievable imagery that’s projected in the cinema and on our TV screens. Whether it’s a scene from a fantasy world or a single actor playing identical twins, today’s film editing techniques are so advanced that we can easily suspend our disbelief and immerse ourselves in a vivid and brilliant make-believe world.

But if you could see the reality green screen in famous films, the illusion would quickly be shattered (it’s a little like Dorothy’s discovery of the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz).

The history of the green screen

Green screen technology has an impressive heritage. The history of special effects goes back almost as far as the invention of moving pictures itself, and a precursor to the green screen technique was first used in a 1898 picture in which the filmmaker and protagonist Georges Méliès manages the incredible feat of removing his head and placing it on the table.

How was it done? The effect was achieved by physically painting out parts of the relevant frame of film and placing it on top of another, separate frame. The combination of the two separate shots creates a fantastical but realistic effect. And while things have changed a little since Méliès’ time, that same principle of superimposed shots is what underlies the green screen technique today.

Chroma key technology

Over the course of the 20th century, many famous films employed similar editing techniques, using different ways to blot out parts of a shot and superimpose it over another – which meant two parts of the same scene could be filmed in different places entirely, or that one could be animated, or constructed as a scale model. The key to these techniques was to create a matte – a way to combine the two separate images into one.

The development of something called chroma keying was a vital stage in the history of green screen, because it made the process of creating a matte much simpler. Chroma keying involves filming in front of a coloured screen, then later blocking out everything in the film that contains that colour – in effect cutting out the foreground from the background. (It means the actors mustn’t wear anything of the same colour, or parts of them will be cut out, too!)

In 1940, colour movie The Thief of Baghdad won an award for best special effects after employing a blue-screen background to create the illusion of a magical flying horse. The 1964 film Mary Poppins used bright sodium vapour lights to illuminate a white screen that enabled animated imagery to be imposed onto the live-action scenes.

Green screen scenes from your favourite movies

Today, for a number of reasons, most film makers have settled on green as the best colour for chroma keying.

Here are just a few famous films using green screen special effects – before and after:

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Avengers
  • The Hobbit
  • Alice in Wonderland

Add a little movie magic to your own productions

It’s not just famous films that use green screen technology; today, green screen is everywhere, from weather reports to soap scenes. If you’d like some help to bring your photos and videos to life, contact us to find out more about our green screen photography system.