Shooting Screens - An idea

I’ve done screen replacements a zillion times and have to say that I’ve never been 100% happy with a tried and true method of the best way to shoot a display that you will need to comp something into later.

Am thinking about trying a low to mid Grey checkerboard (with the two greys not being too dissimilar and definitely erring on the darker side) for sending to production to put on screens when shooting. Gives you something to help with the track, defines the size of the screen, would give you the ability to keep reflections and if you know that you are going to be adding something bright onto the screen, would give you a bit of natural light to play with (but not so much that when the insert ends up being dark, you have an issue). You’d generally have some roto and the use of pixel spread or something to get a hand back over the top of this, but has there ever been a time where you haven’t had to do this apart from when you have a screen that is off and a mostly black element to be comped into that plate?!! When a key works for me, it is usually when I have keyed the skin then inverted the matte.

My preference is currently off (as it is much easier to add light to what has been shot than it is to take it away) so you maintain reflections.

I have tried green or blue checkerboard in the past and really not loved it. Spill is obviously a bastard and you often can’t retrieve the reflections. A grey screen can cause issues when you suddenly have a mostly black insert to comp onto a screen (once again, easier to add light than remove it).

I had one DOP insist on shooting a white screen even when we strongly advised against it. The phone was held up to faces (and when you do that, the display on a phone actually goes black) or had a mostly black call screen so I/we had a nightmare time removing light from hands and faces.

The darker grey checkerboard seems like a good compromise. Any thoughts? I’ll shoot a few tests to try it out but thought some of you might be interested in that idea. Maybe it is a thing some people do already?!!

Not sure why you’d want to use a checkerboard though? I know there is a balance between having something to track and having it as clean as possible to easily put the reflections back over, but I would have thought a checkerboard would make that a nightmare. Unless I’m missing something,which is entirely possible! Haha,


My preference is green and no markers which helps with all these wierd phones shapes/notches and edges, any time I have had black for reflections I make it look real then they take away the reflection and it looks like a regular green screen comp anyway. Also u can still pull some decent reflections from green using 2d histo

My 2 cents


I’m with @grantconnor about checkerboard. Make sure as @joelosis says, the screen goes up to the edges.

Far better to use something like this tracking marker app and paint out a few marks then multiply/add/hard light or mix and grade. There are grey, green and blue on this. Different size tracking markers too. And the app locks the screen so the picture stays on.

PLUS it’s free so the production companies love it.

Personally I avoid chroma versions because I just can’t be bothered dealing with spill.

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I wouldn’t go with a checkerboard. I prefer black screens if the scene is well lit and hands or fingers with reflections need to be replaced.
A planar track or perspective grid usually works fine. I’ve also had to work with white screens as the director wanted the light from the phone as the main source reflecting back onto the actor’s fingers and face, with the added fun of a pull focus in camera.

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For me, a checkerboard, or any pattern with variance in chroma or luma, will likely cause enough problems with consistency in edges to make it not worth it. In fact, I think of screen comps as less a problem of comping screens, but more of a challenge each time to arrive at a just solution.

Rightfully so, we have a tendency to look for one size fits all solutions. Kinda like always ordering the same 6 inch Turkey club from Subway for lunch. Sure, it means consistency and not having to think about it if that’s what’s most important. But typically, a more nuanced approach yields superior results.

Wait….we were taking about lunch right?


My vote is for dark green screen.

Reflections will show up and also you can key it. with subtle green dots on it that you can median out.

Also, there’s utilities on Android and iOS that will lock the screen so it doesn’t react to finger presses. So you load the image on the image viewer app and then lock the screen.

Seriously, ever since Boujou suggested using these ridiculously elaborate tracker marks in the 90’s, every VFX supervisor thinks thats what tracker marks should look like. It’s so insanely stupid. And whoever designed this app fell into this trap. I remember seeing this design in the Boujou help and now it’s forever canonized in our VFX language.

I use darker or lighter shades of green tape or dots on a green screen. With modern digital cameras, that’s all you need.


It doesn’t matter what you say to them. They go off and shoot some crazy stuff sometimes.

Those apps can sometimes make matters worse and you get it too bright or with MASSIVE digital tracking markers all over it.

It is a different story when you can be on set to control and manage but if a production company asks me how I want them to shoot it. I like to keep it as simple as possible.

Shoot the screens off please. Small white tracking markers in the corners and two in the middle.

Arguably not the best setup but maybe the least likely to be messed up.


Here you go:

I made these Green and Blue shades somewhat closer to 50% grey…so you can use Overlay mode to replicate hilites and shadows from the a desaturated screen.

In overlay mode, 50% grey does nothing…>50% will screen the hilites and <50% will multiply the shadows.

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As you can see, there is no consensus. All I can say is that I’ve comped all methods (a lot of fruit based work) described here and they all work. They all have their pros and cons. Do some tests. Find out what works for you.

I just completed a fare few screen comps where the screens were a mid to dark grey with slightly darker grey crosses on. Worked well as I could key off it, get rid of the crosses easily and get some reflections back.

The main delight of the job was not spending hours removing all the tracking markers that I didn’t ever use .

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one thing to note is that many modern phones (iPhone is one of them) have PWM dimming so you cant really film them when turned on…

I usually go full black/ off with tiiiny white markers, there is also the case of “floating” screens at night where the screen seens to be floating above the phone due to
rolling shutter…

I just want 32bit cameras so I can throw on a UV map onto the screen :rofl: