Green screen photos that show how Hollywood really works
Most people know that not everything you see in a movie or TV show is actually real. Some productions, especially in the sci-fi genre, use a heavy amount of CGI. In order to create a particular spectacle, they use a technique called chroma keying.
Chroma keying layers images on top of another to create a new image. The way that this is set up is through the use of a green screen. This lets filmmakers create visuals such as space battles and alien worlds without actually having to build them. Here are 35 green screen photos that show how Hollywood really works.
Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien had been craving a live-action Hobbit series for decades and it wasn’t until 2012 that they got their wish. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was the first in a trilogy from Peter Jackson, who had previously directed The Lord of the Rings films in the past.
In this photo, you can see Peter Jackson going over the script with the actors who play Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). Backgrounds are often put in later with the help of a green screen, especially in fantasy films. This helps prepare for projecting things like arrows and dragons or massive battlefields.
The Wolf of Wallstreet
Some directors choose to film boat scenes in the ocean while others prefer to shoot those scenes with the help of a green screen. For The Wolf of Wall Street, director Martin Scorsese decided to go with the latter. Although this detracts from the actors’ experience, it is more convenient to film.
The Wolf of Wall Street starred Leonardo DiCaprio and brought in a respectable $392 million (for a film of this size) at the box office. The film was based off a memoir by Terence Winter and actually sparked a lot of controversy among audiences because it was so mature in content.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road brought audiences back to the crazy, post-apocalyptic world created in the late 1970s by filmmakers George Miller and Byron Kennedy. Critics were all over this movie when it released, even nominating it for awards, while audiences reacted positively, but not enough to make it a box office hit.
Actress Charlize Theron (who plays Imperator Furiosa) is seen in this photo with green screen material worn like a glove over her hand. This helped animators create her metal arm without having to make her wear a prosthetic piece. Green screens aren’t always used for backgrounds, but serve a variety of purposes.
Game of Thrones
The massively popular Game of Thrones series couldn’t have been created without the use of extensive green screen technology. The amount of CGI and special effects demand it: It’s not like you’re going to find an actual dragon lying around, let’s be honest. Although you never know, maybe we just haven’t found one.
Game of Thrones is one of the most successful TV shows of all time in terms of viewership and critical acclaim. The series amassed over 160 Emmy nominations throughout its run and won many of them too. The series ended after Season 8, dividing audiences with the spectacle of a finale.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter was already massively popular as a book series when they began being adapted into films. They made a total of eight films that ended in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011. There were plenty of opportunities for green screen implementation throughout the film series.
This photo is from the filming of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, based on the sixth novel by British writer J. K. Rowling. Hermione, played by Emma Watson, is taking books from green screen-wrapped hands. This is how the books are made to look like they’re being suspended in midair after special effects come in.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Star Trek originally aired in the 1960s, lasting three seasons and leaving behind a long-lasting legacy for the sci-fi genre. There have been numerous films and TV series reboots throughout the years with varying success. The most recent film reboot of the series began with Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams.
This photo is from the production of the sequel to the reboot, titled Star Trek: Into Darkness. As you can expect, the film relies heavily on CGI to create its sci-fi world. Oftentimes, a green screen is used in tandem with actual set pieces. The green screen fills in what can’t be physically constructed.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight blew audiences and critics away when it arrived in theaters in 2008. The film brought a whole new take on realistic superheroes that few had captured before. One of the highlights for fans was the late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, arguably Batman’s most iconic villain.
In this production photo, Ledger is suspended in the air in one of the most memorable scenes in the film. As you can see, everything is coated in green screen (it’s not like they were going to dangle him off a real skyscraper). It’s situations like these that green screen can come in handy.
Shutter Island mostly took place in a creepy insane asylum. The film was based on a novel by Dennis Lehane of the same name and starred Leonardo DiCaprio. This particular production photo shows again how filmmakers use green screen along with manmade structures to create scenes to match the director’s vision for the film.
The Martin Scorsese-directed film proved to be a massive success at the box office, considering its lower-than-average budget, and eventually made almost $300 million at the worldwide box office. The film features a really great narrative twist and strong performances by the capable cast. It’s a great movie if you’re into psychological horror.
DC had been struggling to win the box office competition against Marvel: critics and audiences weren’t responding positively to their films and they knew they needed to make a change. That’s when Wonder Woman hit theaters, led by Gal Gadot as the title character. Reactions changed and DC was back in the game.
Audiences had fallen in love with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman when she had made her debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman took audiences back to the World War I era, pitting Wonder Woman against time and the war itself. You can see her on the battlefield, staring intensely into the camera.
James Cameron’s Avatar was the world’s most successful movie when it released in 2009. It brought back the use of 3D in theaters and shattered box office records, becoming the top-grossing film of all time. It wasn’t until Avengers: Endgame came along in 2019 that the top spot was taken away.
You can see James Cameron on set here, posing for the camera. As a sci-fi film, Avatar needed the use of green screen to be made. The difference from a lot of other films was that Avatar relied more heavily on CGI. Many of the characters and environments couldn’t be created realistically without it.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
How do you bring in over $1 billion dollars at the box office in 2018? It turns out that all you need is a little luck and a sequel to a rebooted classic film. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom did just that. It turns out that audiences were hungry for some dinosaurs on the big screen.
Although CGI was necessary for some of the dinosaurs, they also used physical props for some. You can see one of the workers holding a dinosaur prop, which looks really lifelike. And in the background, you can see… blue screen? The color doesn’t have to be green in order to do its job. It’s mostly preference.
Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner is hailed as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, even more than 30 years later. When fans learned that a sequel was coming after several decades, you can imagine the excitement. Blade Runner 2049 brought back Harrison Ford and starred Ryan Gosling and sadly, lost money at the box office.
The film had been praised by critics and audiences, but just didn’t bring in the necessary viewership to succeed financially. CGI was extensively used in the film to create its dystopian world, which drove up production costs. Ryan Gosling stares at a green screen-looking ramp on set. Filmmakers get really creative with green screen-use; anything to get the shot.
Justice League was DC’s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Sadly, it didn’t perform that well at the box office. This was due, in part, to its failure to set up the film properly like Marvel had done with their films. It still set up characters like Aquaman and Wonder Woman for their own successful films.
Both Wonder Woman and Aquaman are in this shot, alongside the Flash (who will get his own standalone film). The green screen-use here is heavy since they didn’t have an actual location to shoot this scene. The cast is having a bit of fun in this photo, as you can see Gal Gadot is laughing.
Titanic is another of the highest-grossing films of all time, also directed by James Cameron. It seems the director has a knack for creating box office-champs. Yet another film that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic wasn’t actually all shot on a ship. As evidenced by the photo, parts of the Titanic were constructed individually.
Although you can’t really see much green screen, this photo shows how dedicated filmmakers are to creating their vision for their films. There are times when whole sets are created for a single shot. Creating these environments with CGI isn’t necessarily cheaper, it really depends on the situation or the scene.
The Matrix is yet another classic sci-fi film that left audiences in awe. The Wachowskis created a film that stood the test of time and influenced dozens of films after it. Keanu Reeves played the title character, Neo, traveling through lots of different environments. There are plenty of memorable scenes audiences haven’t forgotten.
The film used a large amount of CGI to create the robots and environments in the film. In this shot, Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving) and Neo face off in a suspended gunfight. As you can see, the entire set was constructed using CGI, set up by a large green screen.
Men in Black: International
In a world where remakes and reboots and sequels thrive, films like Men in Black: International are the norm. Production companies have been taking fewer risks as films grow more expensive. But even the franchise name couldn’t save this film from failing at the box office, not even the cast.
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson played the main duo in the film. They had amazing chemistry between the two, which was one of the film’s highlights. In this photo, they’re fighting a green screen man holding a green screen weapon. Sometimes, costumes don’t cut it and you need a little CGI.
Sandra Bullock landed another successful film role with her performance as Dr. Ryan Stone in 2013’s Gravity. George Clooney starred alongside Bullock in the film, both of them cast as American astronauts who ended up stuck in space. The film made a ton of money, rounding out at about $700 million.
In this green screen photo, Bullock is actually swimming underwater. To film the scene, they found that the most accurate way to shoot it was by wrapping the underwater tank in green screen. Filmmakers get really creative and go to great lengths to capture the perfect shot. It paid off in this case.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ready for some more green screen and Wonder Woman? Although the title characters of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice definitely had their place in the film, audiences seemed to favor Wonder Woman’s appearance. The fan-favorite superhero entered with a thrilling-riff that was the most memorable part of the soundtrack.
This photo has Gal Gadot fighting a man in an outfit with sensors, used to create a CGI character. The camera on his face is used to capture his facial expressions and use them for CGI. The duo is just practicing their scene in this photo, as evidenced by the ladder in the background.
Filmmakers had been trying to bring Marvel’s irreverent comic book character Deadpool to the big screen for years. They finally succeeded in 2016, casting Ryan Reynolds as the infamous “Merc With a Mouth.” The fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero proved to be a huge hit with audiences, leading to a second film, Deadpool 2.
Deadpool himself isn’t in this photo; even so, this photo captures a moment leading up to one of the funniest scenes in the movie. They didn’t actually film the scene outdoors (where the scene actually happens) and opted for a safer approach. Jumping out of an actual plane wasn’t required either.
Ready Player One
Reader Player One is another film that absolutely could not have existed without the use of green screen. The film’s virtual universe was constructed almost entirely of CGI, even some of the characters. As you can see, one of the actors is covered in sensors and is holding a green screen-covered gun.
Technology has come a long way in the last few decades — green screen is just one of many techniques used to create different and even alien worlds. Use of green screen is typically blended with other techniques, but that doesn’t take away from how useful it is for makers of film.
Stephen King’s It had previously been adapted into a TV mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise, the film’s clown antagonist. 2017 brought a film adaptation of It, with Bill Skarsgård taking on the role of Pennywise. The film ended up grossing $700 million, making it one of the highest earners in horror-genre history.
In this photo, Skarsgård is dressed up as Pennywise and is posing with one of the crew. Although most of the movie was shot outdoors, there were certain sequences that had to be filmed using green screen. This scene took place indoors, which means they had a particular feel they wanted to the room.
Japan’s Godzilla franchise had proven successful with overseas audiences for years. The rebooted Godzilla film was actually American-made and did really well at the box office. A blend of CGI and motion-capture performance was used to create the Godzilla in the film. Director Gareth Edwards claimed this was the biggest version of Godzilla yet, at 355 feet.
In this photo, the military is getting ready to take on the film’s threat: MUTOs, which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. You can see the green screen in the back, against the night sky. Sometimes, green screen is used outside; it really depends on what the director wants to accomplish.
The Walking Dead
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series had gained a reputation as one of the most gnarly comic books out there, and one of the most popular. Seven years after the comic book began, AMC got a TV series adaptation going. Audiences immediately slurped up the series, giving the show record-breaking viewership ratings.
One of the most well-known production aspects of The Walking Dead series is the great makeup used for the zombies, called “Walkers” on the show. Even then, there are times when makeup won’t cut it. In this photo, an entire person is covered in blue screen material, standing in for a walker.
Judge Dredd is another character adapted from a comic book into a movie. The original comic appeared in a British anthology titled 2000 AD. He was first featured in Judge Dredd in 1995, starring Sylvester Stallone. The film didn’t perform well at the box office. It was later rebooted in 2012 as Dredd with similar results.
Stallone is riding a sci-fi vehicle in this photo, along with one of his other castmates. The crew was able to create the vehicle, but the surrounding city would have been an impossible thing to construct. With green screen tech, the filmmakers were able to prep the scene for editing later.
DC’s most divisive film, Suicide Squad, left a lot of people with a sour taste in their mouth. Despite this, the film was a giant success, bringing in over $700 million at the box office. The film starred Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto as part of an ensemble cast of supervillains.
In this production photo, the crew is filming a helicopter scene where the Joker shows up. Although you can’t see Jared Leto in the photo, he was an integral part of this scene. The film used a decent amount of CGI, which meant that the crew needed plenty of green screen.
Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the creepiest and most charming cult classics out there. Written entirely in Spanish, this Mexican film blew audiences away with its incredible art direction—the monsters in this film are some of the most iconic in cinema history. Many filmmakers have taken inspiration from this film.
The film was written, directed, and produced by Guillermo del Toro and won many awards in almost every category that a film can be nominated in. The film is meant to be watched in Spanish and Guillermo del Toro took on the task of writing the subtitles so they would be as accurate as possible.
I, Robot, a film starring the popular Will Smith, hit theaters in 2004. The film did pretty well in the box office, but wasn’t regarded as that good a film. The plot is a classic robots vs. humans tale with plenty of CG and action sequences to keep audiences entertained.
Although there were ideas for a second film being tossed around (and even being written), a sequel ultimately did not materialize. In this dynamic green screen photo, you can see Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner saving a cat in a bunch of swirling wreckage juxtaposed against the neon green background.
American Horror Story
American Horror Story, an anthology series with a different story each season, debuted in 2011 with Murder House. AHS: Murder House featured a cast of progressively crazy characters dealing with supernatural forces. The show has gone on to spawn seven more seasons and has been renewed for a tenth season.
This picture features a hallway scene with Evan Peters as Tate Langdon and Taissa Farmiga as Violet Harmon. Scenes like this may not use an entire house and instead, construct only partial sets for efficiency. Green screen (blue screen in this case) is used to fill in the rest of the scene.
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
The Pokemon franchise finally received a live-action adaptation in 2019 in the form of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. Ryan Reynolds starred as the mega-famous Pikachu with Justice Smith as his partner. The duo spend the film trying to unravel a mysterious case, with dozens of realistic Pokemon appearing throughout the film.
It’s difficult to tell that this photo is from Detective Pikachu because the CG hasn’t been incorporated yet. The green-screen stand-ins were replaced with a variety of Pokemon creatures after the film was edited. You can even see that one of the extras is holding a package wrapped with green screen.
Dwayne Johnson starred in Rampage, a monster film based on the 80s arcade video game, Rampage. Although critics weren’t fond of the testosterone-filled film, it still pulled in a pretty large audience. The action movie went on to gross close to half a billion dollars at the 2018 box office.
You can see Dwayne Johnson chilling in this particular photo, looking intimidating even while sitting down. The green screen behind him serves as a stand in for even more rubble and debris caused by the outbreak of giant monsters in the city. The set in this particular shot is smaller than most.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a two-part finale to the insanely successful Harry Potter film series. Some of the sets in this film would have been impossible to shoot without the use of green screen. Danielle Radcliffe (the actor who portrayed the title character on-screen) is smiling alongside one of his co-stars.
Although not that prominent in this photo, you can see the green screen peeking out from behind part of the building rubble in the back. Helena Bonham Carter (who plays one of the main villains) is seen holding the script to the film as she kisses the young Radcliffe on the cheek.
Aquaman finally received his own solo film in 2018, smashing the box office to pieces and bringing in over $1 billion worldwide. Jason Mamoa took on the title character role, bringing a whole new interpretation to the classic hero. A second film is planned to release at the end of 2022.
Aquaman ended up being the highest-grossing DC film of all time, passing up The Dark Knight Rises and Suicide Squad. Mamoa dons Atlantean armor in this set photo, with blue screen standing in for the ocean and marine life. Costumes are almost always built from scratch, with CG being reserved primarily for non-human characters.
Doctor Who was originally created in the early 60s and ran until the late 80s. It was rebooted for modern audiences in 2005 and has been running ever since. The rebooted Doctor Who series airs on BBC and has proven to be a massive hit for the British television network.
Once the popular series picked up steam and the budget began to increase, Doctor Who began to rely on green screen and CG for some of the more creative scenes. The series has relied exclusively on male doctors up until 2018 when actress Jodie Whittaker was cast as the iconic doctor.
Preacher, a television series that airs on AMC, is based on a comic book series of the same name. The bloody and irreverent series lasted a total of four seasons, receiving praise from many publications. Preacher’s audience began to dwindle in its fourth and final season, which finished up in 2019.
In this rare production photo, you can see that the camera crew is using both blue and green screen to create the moody environment for the scene. The white tarps that are set up around the car are used to create appropriate lighting to set the tone for different scenes.
American Gods is a TV series adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. The story follows Shadow Moon leaving prison after his wife is killed in an accident. The series was created for TV Michael Green and Bryan Fuller, who had previously helped create the series Pushing Daisies and Hannibal.
Blue screen is used in this scene to create the entire background. Actors are often the centerpieces in scenes, being used for things that can’t be portrayed in CG, yet. The orange markings on the screen help editors line things up correctly and measure the distance between two points on the screen.