Background videos can be a dynamic part of any creator’s workflow, whether for a green screen replacement, adding behind rotoscoped subjects, spicing up a website, or adding some life to a waiting room screen. But what exactly are background videos? Are there different types? And how many different ways can background videos be used? Let’s dive in and find out!
What are Background Videos?
Background videos are exactly what the name implies: videos that play behind the main subject of your video, animation, display, or even on a website. (Producers and editors often refer to background videos as “bg” for short.) They usually integrate directly into the design of a project, adding to the visual appeal. Background videos can be dropped into an edit digitally, usually with some minimal compositing work. They may also play directly on a screen or monitor or projected on walls or buildings. Some big-budget productions use giant screens to display backgrounds to create an entire environment surrounding the subjects. The TV show The Mandalorian is famous for this technique. This is much more dynamic than a green screen since the lighting of the background reflects directly on the environment and the actors in the scene.
How are Different Types of Background Videos Used?
The type of background videos you want to use can depend on many factors. Some are just for aesthetics or accents, while others are literally an entire wall or environment for a TV/Film production. (As mentioned above in The Mandalorian.) Here are some examples:
Abstract backgrounds are usually simple but effective animated video clips. They typically have somewhat of a focus on a genre or subject matter, making them suitable for corporate videos, meditation, conference calls, etc. They often will seamlessly loop so that you can play them on repeat forever. Depending on the subject matter, some abstract backgrounds are busy, and others may be incredibly minimal. Lively and fast-paced abstract backgrounds are great for DJs and other cases where high-energy visuals are needed.
Video Footage Backgrounds
Video Footage backgrounds cover an extensive range of background videos, and this is where most background use cases occur. We often refer to these “real-world” backgrounds as “video plates.” Video footage backgrounds are usually broader, not focusing on one specific detail in a scene. (Since the purpose of the background is to blend behind the main subject of the scene.) An example would be a background of an apartment interior to make the subject look like they’re in the building.
Similar examples would be something like a train station, a restaurant, or a crowded bar. You can use nearly anything and everything imaginable as a background behind a subject. Stock footage you find online, or something you shoot yourself can be used later as a compositing plate. Compositing them into your video can be simple or complicated, depending on the subject, shot, movement, etc. Check out this VFX breakdown video for Ted Lasso, showcasing the use of video backgrounds with compositing.
Driving plates are video footage backgrounds filmed from a moving vehicle, specifically to be used as background footage for actors driving in a vehicle on screen. This is obviously a much safer and more accessible alternative than having actors actually driving on a roadway. Using a driving plate also provides much more control over how the environment outside the car looks in post-production.
Completely digital sets are also popular background videos. You’ll often see these surreal digital sets used on news broadcasts, YouTube channels, or stylized television shows. They also can work great for digital meeting backgrounds or client testimonial videos. They provide a much more economical and easier alternative for an interesting interview background. All you need to do is film your subject on a green screen and swap in the digital background in post production.
360° Video Backgrounds
You can also find background footage for 360 video projects. These serve the same purpose as all of the other backgrounds we’ve mentioned but are presented in a seamless 360° equirectangular format. Check out this 360° Video Background Loop by StockPixels.
3D Rendered Environments
Some productions will also utilize 3D-rendered environments for their backgrounds. These can be anything from Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, or even real-time game engines that project the background relative to the position of the actors or camera. Because of the real-time and realistic nature of these types of backgrounds, 3D tools such as Unreal Engine are typically used for this type of background work.
Tips for Working with Backgrounds in Post-Production
You will need to know at least a few compositing basics to integrate video backgrounds into your videos. Luckily, we have plenty of tutorials covering everything from pre-production to post-production for green screens and background videos.
Working with Green Screens
First, knowing the basics of filming on a green screen is a good idea. This is essential, so you can easily remove your actor from the green screen background in post-production. Check out Working With Green Screens: Production and Post-Production for a full breakdown of green screen setups and lighting tips.
Removing a Green Screen Background in Post
Next, you should know how to remove (or key out) the green screen footage in post-production. Check out our video tutorial: How to Work with Green Screen Footage in Premiere Pro. In the tutorial, you will quickly learn the basics for masking your subject and how to key them out using the Ultra Key effect.
Replacing Screens on Phones and TVs
You don’t always need to replace an entire green screen background. Sometimes, you may just need to replace a screen on a phone or a wall-mounted TV. We have tutorials showcasing how to do this too! For substituting a phone screen, you will often have to do some tracking along with the screen replacement. Check out: How to Track and Replace a Screen in Premiere Pro with Mocha Pro. If you need to change the TV screen (or a wall of TV screens), check out: How to Shoot Screens for Graphics Integration.
No Green Screen? Use the Roto Brush!
What if you didn’t film your subject on a green screen? Well, not all hope is lost! You can use the Rotobrush in After Effects to separate a subject from the background, even if you don’t have a green screen.
Here are a few extra compositing tips you can try on your background videos. Adding a blur to the background footage can give the subject some separation, essentially simulating a shallow depth of field effect. Adding a blur to the background can look nice when you want even more focus on your subject.
Try adding subtle scale movements, rotations, and position movements using compositing software (such as After Effects) to help make a background move if the subject is also moving. In some cases, you may need to camera-track your original green screen footage first.
Finally, you can experiment with color-matching techniques to help the composite of your subject over the background video. To achieve this, you can use a few simple effects like blur, tint, and color saturation. This helps your subject match the background better, or vice versa.
Pond5 in Action: Booming Backgrounds💥
Pond5 in Action shorts are monthly stories to inspire creativity, featuring trending industry topics or techniques. The time has come to put backgrounds front and center. Watch as multiple storylines unfold, thanks to visionary scene setting with background videos.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the many different use cases for background videos and the wide variety of background video types. Background videos have long been a video editing, compositing, and production staple. Knowing how to utilize them correctly can save you a lot of time and production costs.