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Finding Chroma Key Backgrounds for Wirecast

The Chroma Key (Green Screen) functions in Wirecast are a great way to enhance your broadcast.  They allow you to insert an image or video behind your talent, allowing them to virtually enter a set or location. Broadcast from your new high quality news desk or live from the beach.  It can be useful and fun.

The chroma backgrounds that you insert can be a movie or a picture. Wirecast does not include any backgrounds but it’s easy to import your own.  I receive a lot of questions about where to get backgrounds. There are several possibilities to consider.  Many websites sell or create images or movies that are specifically made for chroma backgrounds.  Tube Tape is a great example.

The types of backgrounds available vary in complexity.  Your talent in front of a simple image of a beach may create the setting that you like.  However, a movie of a beach with a slowly swaying palm tree or moving waves may create a more realistic scene.  Some background packages will even include multiple images or movies, each with different angles of the same scene. Each camera in your studio can be assigned to the background with a similar angle. This makes the scene look even more believable because as you switch cameras the background changes.  Some of these background packages may also include “props” you can use in the foreground, such as a (fake) news desk.

Starting with a simple picture background is a fun and easy way to get started.  I suggest you start with a Google Image search.  Type in any subject and you will find thousands of photos.  In the advanced search options you can specify a specific resolution you’d like to search for.  This is helpful because when you bring the image into Wirecast you want the resolution of the image to match the resolution of your stream.  Otherwise the background may get distorted, squished or stretched.  I would also suggest you bring in the highest quality images you can in PNG, TIFF, JPG, or BMP format. Most other image types will work, but those formats will give you the best quality.  Please keep in mind that if you are broadcasting live you need to own the rights to the background images you are streaming.

Another great way to get images or movies is to create your own.  You may spend a lot of time and money to find just the right background for your project.  You might also find that several other people found the same background as you. Shooting your own backgrounds can be fun, effective, may save you time, and allows you to create a background that is wholly yours and unique.  The best way to get started is to simply grab your camera and start shooting. It will take a couple of tries to find what works and what does not.  However, you will be surprised at how easy it is to capture a great background image or movie. For movies, start with slow subtle moving backgrounds. Fast motion can distract from your on-air talent.  Also keep in mind the aspect ratio that you will be streaming in.  Using the same camera for both your background movie and your broadcast is a good way to ensure the aspect ratio is consistent.

If you don’t want to create your own backgrounds, there are several vendors who sell or create backgrounds individually or in packages. Many of these vendors also sell green screen supplies like green backdrops or lighting kits.  Again, TubeTape is a great resource.  They sell all things chroma-key related.  For chroma backgrounds, they have everything from movies of moving clouds and sunsets, to multi-angle news rooms. They even sell a virtual space ship set with multiple angles and several foreground objects including doors that open and close, and smoke that wafts across the screen, in front of the talent.  A very cool effect.  Wirecast is capable of using all these layers to create a pretty impressive scene.

Virtual-Studio-Set is another great site for backgrounds.  They update with new backgrounds often. Several of their sets include moving parts, for example in the news room a large LCD screen drops down from the ceiling.  With Wirecast, you can insert a movie into the screen that drops down.  It is a powerful transition.  Additionally, Virtual-Studio-Set has a free HD background for download every month.  They are always good quality and great for experimenting with in Wirecast.
A search on the web may help you find other vendors.  If you would like something custom-made, you can find that as well.  Some vendors will even build a real set in a studio and take pictures so you have a virtual set. It all depends on what you want to do.

If you would like instructions on how to turn on chroma key and insert your background click here.

Do you have a place that you like to get backgrounds?  Please share by posting in comments below.

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