Introduction: Economical Green Screen for Home Office Space
Here we'll show you how we built a cheap and effective 'green screen' installation for a home office. This shows a full installation, however a lesser approach (such as a single curtain rod with a screen hanging behind a laptop user) is also functional.
This enable the use of customized backgrounds and 'fitting' these to your image without significant tearing or flickering. This is useful for several software packages including Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google, etc. as well as professional or hobbyist video recording.
*NOTE: If you are installing this near any electrical or heat apparatus, evaluate your needs to make sure that you are not introducing a fire risk.
Adhesive Velcro pads or buttons
Lighting (two goose neck lights on the desktop are optimal to me, though your solution may vary.)
Webcam (I use the Logitech 1080p C920)
Level (for curtain rod installation)
Sewing Machine (or Hand sewing equipment)
Masking tape (for marking positions during design)
Step 1: Location and Camera View
I chose a corner for the installation. The strategy was to use a green fabric Panel sewn into a ‘curtain’ and hung on a curtain rod. As I am in an apartment without the ability to drill holes, Command Strip Hooks would be useful.
I set up my camera on the monitor and raise the monitor to the correct ergonomic height for my seating position. Viewing the camera, I found for a corner it was beneficial to use two curtains, meeting in the middle. The curtains would be fastened with Velcro pads, though green buttons could also be used.
In a corner installation, two screens are needed which meet in the corner. While this increases the size of the install, it does minimize taken-up floor space by your desk. I chose the corner installation.
Step 2: Dry Hanging & Test
I test fit the curtain using masking tape to check the lengths and make sure the field of view was covered. The different video software programs have green screen functionality options. In the image, I dry-fit some command hooks to hold the curtain temporarily.
I used Zoom and my camera viewing software to confirm that my field of view was covered, and that shadows were minimized. Using a single goose-neck light was sufficient.
Step 3: Sewing Curtain Rod Sleeve & Hem
The sleeve for the curtain rod was made using a straight stitch down a roughly 2" fold at the top of the green curtains. The curtain rods were then threaded through and bunched to the center, to allow the level to guide the installation of the command hooks.
The hooks were pressed on and held pursuant to manufacturer's instructions. After gentle pull testing to ensure a bond, the curtain rod with the curtain was installed, and the length tailored to put one end into the corner and the other beyond the field of view of the camera.
The curtain rod along the right wall was installed in a similar manner.
Step 4: Bottom Hem
As I have a heat register behind my desk, I measured the hem required to keep the screen in view of the camera, yet safe for installation above the register. This was sewn using a straight stitch in a similar way. Pay special attention to electrical and heat areas wherever you are working.
Step 5: Final Installation
The right wall screen was pulled forward until flush with the camera mount to allow for the corner to be fully covered(see image). Velcro pads were applied to the fabric at the interface, to allow the two green panels to be held together forming a clean seam.
On my chosen software (Zoom), I selected the virtual background feature and tuned it to detect a green hue from the back wall (see image). I also loaded an image of a lakefront to confirm that the lighting allowed the algorithm to detect the fringes of the presenter, without 'tearing' or flickering of the software applying the virtual background.
Step 6: Finished and Functioning!
The installation has been running now for three weeks. It is stable and functional, does not take up incredible space, and can be easily configured. While the Pandemic continues, I leave this set up deployed for general use. In the future I may incorporate hooks in my computer office to allow a similar installation.
We have used this setup to host virtual murder mystery parties, Zoom family gatherings, educational seminars and consulting with various businesses. It has been a great conversation tool at a low price point!
Hope this is helpful, stay safe and enjoy!