It's not easy being green.....or blue!
My initial search turned up a large variety of software options but many were quite expensive and complicated to use and I was reluctant to pay until I knew for a fact it was easy for my students to use. As luck would have it a post popped up in my Microsoft Innovative Educator Network feed that very week asking whether Windows Movie Maker has chroma key capabilities. It appeared that Windows Movie Maker 6.0 had this feature however it had been removed from recent versions of WMM.
This sounded exactly like the solution I needed so I started to research. I quickly discovered that you can indeed use this version of Windows Movie Maker and that it is incredibly intuitive to use and very quick to get up and running. My final product was excellent and the cost was minimal!
Step by step!
Get yourself a green screen. My kit was quite expensive (about $700. Which suggests why there was not much money left in the Drama department budget for software). You can use a simple piece of green fabric hung from anything suitable or even paint a green wall for a more permanent 'studio'. I wanted my kit to be impressive and professional looking so the students really could feel like they were 'on location'. I bought my kit on line and was very happy with the product. Link for Chroma Key Kit
If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8 is it likely you will have Windows Movie Maker Version 2012. You will need to install the older version Windows Movie Maker 6.0 (don’t get confused with 2.6). Being an old program with several recent upgrades it took a bit of detective work to be able to download the software. I stumbled across a great blog which provided me with the link I was looking for. Download WWM 6.0
The Chroma Key feature is actually a plug in for WMM 6.0 and won't appear in the version you have just downloaded. You will need to purchase this plug in for a mere AUS$18.
Download plug in
Film your Green Screen scenes. My students even found an old green bin and a green shopping bag allowed for some fun special effects.
Find your background shots. We used stills for our first attempt. I'm looking forward to using moving backgrounds next time. When finding your images make sure you use "large" images so you don’t end up with a blurred and pixelated background.
Import your footage and backgrounds into WMM 6.0. Editing is very easy and the tools are located right where you want them to be. It was just like saying hello to an old friend.
Select the appropriate Chroma Key (Green or blue screen) effect you want from TRANSITIONS. There are different levels of saturation. I went with B 0.3 which worked well. It is really hard to tell the difference between the levels actually.
Make sure the length of the still image is the same as the Green Screen footage and simply drag the footage onto the image. There will be a blue fader appear to guide how far you can drag.
It's two thumbs up from me!