7 Best Green Screen Software of 2021 (Chroma Key Reviews)
Video is the most popular form of online content with more than 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
With that kind of content volume, you’d want to make your videos stand out. And one of the best methods to do that is to use chroma-key or green screen software.
These are special tools that allow you to replace the background of the videos you’re shooting.
Whether you want to create Hollywood-style effects, create and sell online courses, build a video subscription business with OTT platforms, or just replacing that background for a home-movie, green screen video is a vital feature in video editing software.
In this guide, I ranked and reviewed the best green screen software based on video quality, chroma-key effects, ease of use, pricing, and more.
Let’s get right to the list.
Adobe Premiere Pro CC is a software package that offers all the tools for professional video editing. Premiere Pro is a massive tool and delivers an all-too-familiar non-linear editing interface with dedicated toolsets.
The software provides you with a timeline to arrange and edit audio and video clips. You can do basic editing from the timeline itself. There’s a razor tool for cutting, dedicated tools for ripple and slip edits, along with a ton of special effects and stylistic additions.
Premiere Pro CC supports advanced chroma-keying, and you can overlay video layers on top of any colored background, such as a blue screen. It even allows you to alter the intensity of the effect to mask a greater color range.
From transition effects, team collaboration features, and dedicated green-screen effects, this video editing software provides you with everything needed and more. It runs on Mac, Windows as well as Linux, and delivers the largest feature set available.
The following is a list of its significant features:
- Provides options for 4K editing
- 360-degree video editing
- Multicam editing options
- Options for exporting to social media sites such as Vimeo and Facebook
- Clean and flexible user interface
- Largest collection of tools
- Chroma-key feature
- Excellent collaboration options
Premiere Pro CC is a subscription-based service that’s available with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. You can either opt for the all-app plan at just $39.99 per month or select individual tools for use.
The following is a breakdown of the Premiere Pro Pricing Plans:
- Monthly plan at $31.49 per month
- Annual plan at $20.99 per month, paid monthly
- Prepaid Annual plan at $239.88 per year
And in case you’re not satisfied, you can always opt for the 30-day money-back guarantee.
To get started with Adobe Premiere Pro CC today, opt for the 7-day free trial.
iMovie is the best chroma-key software for Mac users and offers the premium experience associated with all Apple products. It comes preinstalled with Mac devices and contains a wide variety of options for macOS and iOS.
Apart from being an effective chroma-key software, iMovie provides you with many tools such as narration, color grading, and media organization. It even has options for split-screen effects.
The software allows you to change the background image of any video and handle two tracks simultaneously. You can also use an iPhone for editing, which means creating videos on-the-go.
Apart from green screen effects, iMovie provides you with other basic editing options. You can crop and rotate videos, trim the clips’ length, and even apply built-in sounds and animations.
The following are some of the essential features of iMovie:
- Extremely easy to use
- Professional grade movie templates
- Supports 4K video
- Seamless audio and video transitions
- 13 high-fidelity filters
- Hollywood-style special effects
- Over 80 smart soundtracks
- Ability to add custom graphics and logos
- Easy editing process across all Apple devices
iMovie is available for free on Mac as well as iOS devices. Apple device users don’t have to spend a dime on it.
The Lightworks video editing software is best suited for applying real-time effects. The basic package is free software that has green screen editing features. It makes giving your videos a new background simple and effective.
Lightworks gives access to professional-grade features that let you create attractive videos. The software is fast and can quickly adapt to your needs, whether beginner or pro. It has a bit of a learning curve, but there’s perhaps no tool out there easier to operate once you get used to it.
It provides users with advanced effects that allow enhancing videos in real-time. You can choose from among a range of tools such as blurring, masking, and color grading.
You’ll also be able to export videos directly to YouTube, Vimeo, and other alternatives.
Apart from chroma-keying, Lightworks gives users advanced features such as video and audio special effects. It even provides proxy workflows for use with 4K videos. Lightworks is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux.
The following is a list of some features that Lightworks offers:
- Works with a wide variety of video formats
- Allows fast export to MPEG4/H.264
- Fully optimized to offer fast speeds
- Multicam editing options
- Realtime effects with the help of inbuilt presets
- Advanced Boris FX Plugin
- Boris Graffiti for text effects
- Fully customizable interface
- Options for real-time collaboration
- Dedicated hardware support
Lightworks comes in two versions: Lightworks Free and Lightworks Pro. The free version provides you with limited capabilities but allows all import formats and social media exports. It also lets you edit and update projects along with archiving and back-up features.
The following are the paid plans for Lightworks Pro:
- Lightworks Pro: Month at $24.99 per month
- Lightworks Pro: Year at $174.99 per year
- Lightworks Pro: Outright at $437 (lifetime license)
The Monthly plan doesn’t come with Boris FX/Graffiti. The yearly plan only comes with Boris Graffiti, and the Outright license has both Boris FX and Boris Graffiti.
VSDC is a free video editor and green screen software that can operate even in systems with low graphics resources. It’s one of the few best free green screen software that provides chroma-keying abilities.
It uses a non-linear editing style and allows you to perform many video manipulations such as split-screen effects, picture-in-picture, and drawing tools. It also contains lighting and color correction instruments.
The only two downsides that I can think of for this software is that it has a rather steep learning curve and is available only for Windows systems. If you’re using a Mac system, you’ll have to stick to dedicated software such as iMovie.
Despite being a free tool with low system requirements, VSDC doesn’t skimp on capabilities. It supports mask creation for PiP videos, offers embedded social sharing templates and other advanced features.
The following is a short list of the essential features of VSDC:
- Supports most popular video formats and codecs
- Video and audio conversion tools
- An extensive array of video effects
- Advanced audio effects
- Simple and highly usable interface
As I’ve already mentioned, VSDC is a free video editor, which means you can download and use it without paying anything.
In case you’re a professional looking for advanced features, you can opt for the VSDC Pro Video Editor that’s available for $19.99.
HitFilm Express is the one software tool that offers professional-grade video editing tools completely free. Whether you’re a filmmaker looking for VFX features or a gamer working on your next hit game video, this is the tool for you.
The software has already built a vibrant community that consists of almost six million video content creators. It even comes with several excellent tutorials that you can use to enhance your editing skills.
The best thing about HitFilm Express is that it continues to receive updates even though it’s free. This means you’ll get continued support from the developers. It supports most popular video formats such as AVI and MP4.
HitFilm Express provides users with seamless workflow management capability. You get a personalized workstation, combined timelines, and mask editing and rendering options. It even provides you with a range of non-linear editing tools.
The following is a list of the software’s essential features:
- Built-in voice recorder
- An unlimited number of tracks and transitions
- Over 400 effects and presets
- Comprehensive tutorial videos that are free
- Complete 3D and 2D compositing
- Compatible with most audio and video formats
HitFilm Express is available for free download on Windows and Mac systems. However, for several features such as the green screen background editing and sci-fi effects, you need to purchase separate paid add-ons.
When downloading the software, you’ll also be prompted to opt for any of the below packages:
- Starter Pack for $9, contains all basic effects and tools
- Content Creator Pack for $19, ideal for video professionals
- VFX Artist Pack for $39, best for Hollywood style effects
In case you’re opting for any of the above packs, a portion of your payment will be spent on social and environmental causes.
OpenShot is an open-source video editor that’s available for free. Using the software, you can create 3D animations, video transitions, and even slow-motion effects.
In case you’re shooting against a green color background, it lets you apply chroma-keying as well.
OpenShot is entirely cross-platform and works across Mac, Linux, Windows, and FreeBSD. It allows you to create professional green screen videos and even combine 3D effects with it. Also, the user interface is highly intuitive, which makes using it a cinch.
However, optimization features are a bit sketchy, and the program throws occasional errors that negatively impact the editing process. Still, if you’re a supporter of the open-source movement, this might be the software to go with.
As I’ve already mentioned, OpenShot is cross-platform and supports multiple audio, image, and video formats. It comes with a robust animation framework and can work with unlimited keyframes and multiple interpolation modes.
Apart from the above, OpenShot provides the following features:
- Full drag-and-drop support
- Comes with unlimited layers and tracks
- Clip trimming, rotation, snapping, and cutting tools
- Contains over 400 video transitions with real-time previews
- 3D animated effects
- Advanced video editing timeline
- Audio mixing and editing
- Digital video effects such as green and blue screen
OpenShot is entirely free to download and is available as direct download links as well as torrents. But you can choose to donate towards its development if you want. Donations make your name eligible for display in the product credits.
OBS Studio is yet another completely free video editing tool with recording and live streaming capabilities. Apart from recording, it can also allow you to perform professional video editing and chroma-keying.
The tool is fully customizable and lets you apply green screen effects to videos with a few clicks. However, apart from chroma-keying, its editing capabilities are limited compared to options such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
The limited features of the tool make it suitable for beginners. It’s available on Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded as an installer or a Zip file. You can also choose to download via BitTorrent.
The following is a list of its most prominent features:
- Ability to handle multiple screens
- Easy video recording and streaming
- Receives regular updates
- Continuous community support
- Simple and user-friendly.
OBS Studio is entirely free to download and use. However, you can choose to become a contributor by sponsoring the OBS Project on Open Collective. You can even support Jim Bailey, the project maintainer, on Patreon.
Green Screen software refers to software applications that can change the background of videos. Using these tools, you can edit videos to add a new background color and then replace the background layer with another one.
Green screening is also called chroma-keying and usually uses a bright green background. However, you can also use other colors. To know why green is the preferred color for chroma-keying, move on to the next section.
The reason is relatively simple: green screens are green because this is not a color that’s widely used in everyday life. The green that’s used to add chroma-key effects isn’t found in nature, so it can be easily filtered using the software.
Here you might argue that people can wear green clothes, but you can remedy that with a change of clothes. The only thing to remember when using a green screen is that it should be a single solid color that doesn’t match the color of any other scene elements.
Initially, green screens used to be a solid blue. Larry King first used the technique in his Academy Award winning movie, The Thief of Bagdad, and back then, the screens were blue. Even today, you can use blue as a substitute for “green” screens.
Replacing video backgrounds does seem to be a complicated concept, but green screen software can make the task easier. The key aspect here is to use the right combination of digital photography techniques and software tools.
Here’s a list of the essential equipment you’d need for green screen video production:
- A digital camera or webcam
- A sufficiently powered computer; both Macs and PCs work well for video editing
- A data cable to download images from the camera to the computer
- A green or blue background; you can use a cardboard cutout or fabric
- Appropriate green screen editing software
The very first step to recording a green screen video is getting the green screen in the first place. As I’ve already mentioned, you can also use a blue background for this purpose. Either pre-made cardboard or a fine fabric such as muslin will do.
It’s important to note that the screen color should never match any surroundings, so don’t wear green clothes or colors that match the background.
As the second step, you’ll need to select a camera that can shoot high-quality video. Ensure that the camera (or webcam) can shoot videos at least 720p to 1080p or higher, with at least 24 FPS. Also, check whether the camera can record and save the video in a supported file format.
If you need to, you can even use your iPhone or an Android phone with a high-quality camera for shooting the videos.
Next, I recommend you put some time to arrange the lighting properly.
The purpose behind this is to get rid of shadows on the backdrop, as they can create glitches in the green screen recording process. To ensure this doesn’t happen, ensure that you illuminate the recording area from all angles.
The best practice is to use separate light sources for the subject and the background. This way, you can control the color saturation levels and intensity of the screen. You’ll need to adjust the backlights and filters until no shadows are left.
Another aspect to be aware of is “green spills.” Green spills arise when there’s excess light in the background. This creates light hotspots on the subject and makes the keying process less effective.
When recording green screen videos, the screen must be as tight as possible. Wrinkles or folds in the screen can cast unwanted shadows. Such shadows might interfere with the chroma-keying process.
I recommend using an iron to work out any wrinkles in a cloth screen. Ironing should take care of any irregularities that might lead to distortions.
When choosing the camera, be aware of shutter speeds. Shooting a motion-intensive action scene with a low shutter speed can introduce motion blurs. In case your camera is of a low shutter speed, you’ll have to ensure that the subjects move in slow motion.
Finally, once filming is complete, use the right green screen editing software to replace the green background with the desired one post production. Any of the tools mentioned above can help you do this with just a few clicks.
Here are some of the precautions you need to follow when creating green screen videos:
- Try to put at least six to ten feet of distance between the green screen and the subject.
- It’s best to void high ISOs.
- When shooting in a natural setting with greenery, use blue screens instead of green.
- Make sure you review your footage after shooting.
- The subject’s costume and makeup should match the background you’re going to add in later.
Green screen video shooting is not challenging. With the right tools, anyone can create green screen effects like a pro. Just follow the mentioned precautions and select the software that suits your needs.
Here are the top green screen software you can choose from:
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC: Best for Industry-Grade Video Editing
- iMovie: Best for Mac Users
- Lightworks: Best for Applying Real-time Effects
- VSDC Free Video Editor: Best for Lightweight, Non-linear Editing
- HitFilm Express: Best for Free Professional-Grade Video Editing
- OpenShot: Best for Open-source Video Editing
- OBS Studio: Best for Video Recording and Streaming
Whether you’re shooting a professional movie or making a simple family video, I’m sure you’ll be able to find your pick from the choices above.