Entertainment

The Realities of Life on a Set: Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts

Where would we be without the beloved green screen? It’s brought to life some of our favorite films and created visuals we could never recreate if it wasn’t for the technology. It’s the process in which foreground action is combined with separately constructed or separately filmed footage. And by using bright green backdrops or objects, the color can be isolated, replaced, or removed.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 38
Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It’s used for a huge spectrum of filmmaking and, get this, isn’t always green. But these images have a totally different edge when green screen photos of memorable scenes in cinema or TV are side by side the final edited version. Take a look at the CGI magic that’s responsible for some of the most striking scenes on-screen.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Actor Eddie Redmayne followed in Daniel Radcliffe’s footsteps when he had to film underwater for the Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Similarly to Harry in The Goblet of Fire, Eddie’s character Newt Scamander is pictured in a magical and mystical subterranean atmosphere.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 12
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In this still, we see Newt riding on the back of an underwater sea creature through a forest of tall seaweed. The reality is much less glamorous as Eddie simply straddled over some scaffolding. After all, they were filming in water and couldn’t use anything electric! At least they put some padding around the poles to make it slightly less uncomfortable for him.

The Matrix

With the upcoming release of The Matrix 4 in 2021 and talk on the internet of people trying to establish a Keanu Reeves day, there’s plenty of reason to revisit a classic of cinema. Neo and Mr. Smith blew our minds in those mid-air fight scenes that froze them mid-action. Here, they’re mirroring each other on the subway.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 1
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The green screen image reveals them to be suspended in the air on ropes, in a green room littered with dots and markers for the post-production team. We don’t know about you but we had no idea they weren’t really at the train station. Pretty impressive editing for 1999!

Game of Thrones

The finale of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones received a mixed reception, but that didn’t stop anyone from tuning in during the summer. We couldn’t resist a glimpse of Daenerys’s dragons as they continued to grow season by season. Here she is sharing an intimate moment with Drogon.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 9
Images: HBO

But we can’t help but giggle at what was really going on behind the scenes. She stares lovingly at the sponge on a stick and while she caresses it with her hand – maybe shes even smiling to herself about the man on the other end, whose job it is to move “Drogon” convincingly. We’ve all got to start somewhere.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s epic high fantasy adventure film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was an immensely expensive project that thankfully became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Gandalf the Wizard is meant to appear much larger than the Hobbits and Dwarves, and it’s hilarious to see what the set he was on actually looked like.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 11
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

We didn’t expect that he was all alone in a smaller version of the Hobbit home! It’s especially funny to see that Bilbo and Thorin have been replaced with lamp bases that have small print out photos of the cast sellotaped on them. And we had no idea that his image was just copied and pasted on top of the location footage.

The Legend of Tarzan

The 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan starred Alexander Skarsgard in the lead role of David Yates’s movie. The character is meant to be the king of the jungle, so don’t be surprised to see him charging head-first towards an ape, looking for a fistfight.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 44
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

This side by side shows us just how they managed to get that action shot from Alexander. They had him leap into mid-air and hurtle himself towards a foam mattress, in a large room of blue curtains. In front of him is a reflective screen to aid in lighting, and a camera in front of the actor to capture different angles.

World War Z

Take a look at how they managed to fake this scene in the 2013 movie World War Z starring Brad Pitt. An event that would be seriously difficult to film was masterfully put together in two pieces. We never would have known that the men and the helicopter weren’t really on location!

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 8
Images: Paramount Pictures

Because you’re caught up with the momentum of the film, you likely wouldn’t pay too much attention to the details. This scene from the beginning of the film was meant to occur in Philadelphia but was actually taken from Scotland. They matched the panorama of the actual location to the desired location, and we never knew.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

In Frank Miller’s sequel to the first Sin City film, actor Josh Brolin is the new face of reoccurring character Dwight McCarthy. He’s trying to forget his violent past and dependence on alcohol, having embarked on life as a private detective. The film is in black and white, except for carefully placed pops of color here and there.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 15
Images: The Weinstein Company

Even though they had to add the black and white feature digitally, they still gave the characters black and white clothing. But it’s interesting to see how far removed Josh has to be when filming. Dwight may be driving in the seedy streets of Basin City, but Josh is indoors in a fluorescent green room.

300: Rise of an Empire

A sequel to the 2007 Zack Synder film 300, 2014s Rise of an Empire had a more broad timeline than its predecessor, taking place before, during, and after it. It featured large mountainscapes and scenic views, but filming took place in a studio. They needed very large green screen rooms to accommodate armies of people.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 5
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

We can see that they created the ground that they wanted for the film, but the scenery was a digital creation. As it turns out, the beautiful landscapes of Sparta that we experience in the film aren’t even real places.

Life of Pi

The 2012 adventure drama film Life of Pi wowed audiences with its touching story of a boy and a tiger adrift on a boat. And one of America’s best known special effects companies did a masterful job in animating the 450-pound Bengal tiger on-screen.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 3
Images: 20th Century Fox

In this split-image, we can see how different the reality was from the final product. We see actor Suraj Sharma, who plays Pi, softly caress the head of the giant feline in the film, but in reality he was stroking a crudely made soft toy!

The Avengers

It’s interesting to see the way in which green screens can be set up to create the desired shot. Even for a blockbuster like The Avengers, green screens are jigsawed together awkwardly, as the camera angles take unusual shots. Here, the camera is filming from the ground with the actors in varying perspectives.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 2
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Widow and Captain America try to shield themselves from the explosion in the foreground, with Thor bracing himself for the powerful impact with only his arm. It appears the actors didn’t have many props to help them get into the moment, other than fans to blow their hair.

Monuments Men

The George Clooney directed war movie Monuments Men saw A-list actors play the part of the rescue team of stolen art. Aside from George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett made up the Hollywood heavyweight cast.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 4
Images: Sony Pictures Releasing / 20th Century Fox

Here, Bill Murray and Brad Pitt look out onto the digital re-enactment of the Merkers mine, discovered in 1945. It was a great treasure mine in Berlin that contained tons of gold, jewelry, and artwork that had been stolen.

Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton’s 2020 American-fantasy remake, Alive in Wonderland, brought to life the many magical characters of our childhood. While the original version was a Disney animation, they naturally needed to come up with an ingenious way to reimagine Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 42
Images: Walt Disney Pictures

Actor Matt Lucas was the actor for both characters (seeing as they’re twins) and required a larger-than-reality green suit with markers on it. How else were they going to recreate the infamous duo! The body-double to his side wasn’t featured in the final film, as his facial performance was integrated and “track-in” to appear on the heads of the Tweedles.

300: Rise of an Empire

Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton played the lead as Themistocles, admitting to the grueling exercise regime he and the actors of his Greek army had to stick to. As we can see, it paid off. But it must have been quite anti-climax to turn up on set after months of working out, to be met with huge green curtains.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 7
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The ominous backdrop for this scene is a big and intimidating mountain-side, which Themistocles and his army set up tents near. We’re especially impressed with how they managed to get the lighting just right on the actors so that they fit in seamlessly with their environment.

Everest

We return to the hard-to-believe true story of a hiking group that attempted to climb Mount Everest during one of the harshest blizzards ever recorded. In Everest, we are taken through the gorgeous but brutal landscape of the Himalayas.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 40
Images: Universal Pictures

One of the members of the brave hiking group has to cross over from one side to another, just as the blizzard picks up. It’s a tense scene where we watch him struggle to stay on the makeshift bridge. And we can see from the original photo just how huge the room is that they film these crazy scenes.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

The 2019 Marvel film focuses more on Jean Grey’s loss of control over her overwhelming mutant power. We know watching superpowers in action uses a lot of CGI. But we might not have realized it looked quite so ridiculous in real life. Take a look at actress Sophie Turner doing her best to make-believe.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 39
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Jean Grey is able to manipulate all manner of objects, small or large, and certainly cause or control explosions. We’re surprised to see that for this scene, they didn’t even give her a fan or plug-in heater. She just had to close her eyes and try her best to imagine it.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

You wouldn’t have expected the need for a green screen in this scene, but here it is. In the seedy bar where Mickey Rourke’s character, Marv, watches Nancy dance, they actually had to use a green room. Our guess is that they just couldn’t find a location perfect enough.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 13
Images: The Weinstein Company

That, or similarly to director Zac Synder in making Watchmen, they were willing to go to any lengths to recreate scenes exactly. As Frank Miller’s comic book already had such a purist fan base, it might have been in the film’s best interest to digitally create places that mirror the graphic novel’s locations.

Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen and Drogon share another scene together in which the “Mother of Dragons” rides him. We see the wind blowing in her silver-blonde hair, her body rocking through the flight path and her steely, determined stare. But all of that was achieved with smoke and mirrors.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 16
Images: HBO

Actress Emilia Clarke didn’t have a lot to work with when getting into character for the scene. Other than her wig and costume, in fact, she had nothing at all. She was sat on a large animatronic shell that moved from side to side, the body of which didn’t even have a head.

Godzilla

The 2014 Warner Bros reboot of the Godzilla Franchise was a marvel of special effects as, naturally, the main character was a completely digital creation. But the sophisticated CGI wasn’t reserved only for when the prehistoric predator was on-screen – it was also used to create the landscape.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 10
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In the movie, soldiers stare out from a high perspective at the was ships ahead. It would have been a beyond-expensive venture to scatter the vessel’s among an ocean and capture it live with the actors. So this solution, while also no small costs, proved much less expensive to create.

Game of Thrones

Jojen Reed, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, has an encounter in the woods with the direwolf Shaggydog, the pup that belongs to Rickon stark. Shaggydog ends up accompanying Jojen, Meera, Brandon, and Hodor for some leg of their journey, utilizing more special effects as he meant to be even larger than a wolf.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 51
Images: HBO

It’s interesting to see how they overcome that obstacle. Shaggydog isn’t a digital creation, but they filmed the scenes with him in a green screen studio. As we can see, his trainer encourages him to snarl and bark, which is edited on top of the footage of Jojen. His size is also increased, in keeping with direwolf proportions.

Black Panther

The Black Panther movie was the long-awaited film that depicted a highly sophisticated African nation called Wakanda, and the powerful enemy that tries to overthrow King T’Challa. And everyone has superpowers. This side by side depicts a flying vehicle being formally received by people in Wakanda.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 50
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The beautiful landscape of the nation is all a make-believe, unfortunately. From the towering buildings to the natural landscape – everything was edited together in post-production. The actors would act in front f a bright blue screen – rather a green screen – that had marks all along it.

Alice in Wonderland

Helena Bonham-Carter plays the part of the mentally unhinged Red Queen in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake. She sports a super-sized head with a regular-sized body and an eccentric bright red up-do. Not to mention, the regal outfit and bizarre makeup that makes her seem even more unstable.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 34
Images: Walt Disney Pictures

It’s good they put so much effort into her appearance, as her makeup and costume were all she had to work with in the green screen studio. Besides some wooden frog “stand-ins,” which gave Helena an eye-line and scene partners. But, if you look closely at Helena’s head, you can see a green reflection from the set dressing!

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The 2018 fantasy-adventure film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was the long-awaited big-screen rendition of Ashleigh Powel’s screenplay. It was an explosion of fantasy backdrops and dreamy-colors, which were, for the most part, created in post-production.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 48
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

As we can see, the palace was digitally rendered (apart from the entrance the guards stand by.) Really, a lot of effort has gone into making it a realistic outdoor environment – a cobbled stone path, brick balustrades, and sculptures make up the set. But at the end of the day, they rely on the CGI team.

Avengers: Endgame

The 2019 Marvel blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame, saw the star-studded ensemble team up again for one last time. One of the more bizarre moments in the film came when we saw actor Chris Evans fight himself inside Stark Tower. It looked super believable and we didn’t have a reason to doubt it.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 41
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

We should, however, as Chris really just fought with a stunt-double on a green screen set. The only set dressing they have is the glass balustrade to the side of their action sequence. Even the floor had to be digitally-rendered as they needed the surface Chris lands on to be spongey.

Everest

Take a look at how they managed to film this nerve-wracking scene where one of them has to save the other from falling off of the makeshift ladder. We see they are faced with a huge drop in a crack between the mountains, and more than one life is at stake.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 33
Images: Universal Pictures

This reality of it is that he’d have quite a soft landing if he did fall. The green set-covering was over the top of a padded landing for the actors, who also had air machines aimed at them to make it more realistic to the mountainous environment. No actors were sacrificed for the making of this movie!

300: Rise of an Empire

Here’s another photo that shows just how different the reality is from what we see on screen. It’s hard to imagine how the actors could get a good enough idea of what backdrop they’re meant to be working with, considering that all they see is that green glow.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 6
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

This side by side from the 2014 period action film shows just how much landscape they edited into the movie. Looking at it now, it doesn’t look like a fictional, magical land and less like somewhere real. While the mountain backdrop is likely a real place, it has been altered heavily.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Actor Andy Serkis gets in the motion tracking suit once more for the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He reprised his role from the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and he was familiar with this type of filming from The Hobbit series, too. He’s basically a pro at this.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 25
Images: Chernin Entertainment / TSG Entertainment

They put markings all over Andy Serkis’ face to track his expressions, and then digitally worked the face of his character over the top of it. We can see that as Andy frowns with his lips slightly ajar, his ape counterpart does the exact same. Modern CGI is allowing for a seamless final product on-screen.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Actor Powers Boothe reprised his role as corrupt politician Senator Roark for the second installment of the Sin City franchise. Looking at the set he was on, it’s clear he didn’t have a lot to work with. He sits at the head of a table playing poker, and there are minimal set props. On top of that, the lighting is stark and white, likely due to the strong contrast it provides in the final edit of the film.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 14
Images: The Weinstein Company

As we can see, things are rather different from the actual movie. Senator Roark sits among a sea of poker chips which were all added in post-production. They not only represent his huge wealth but of his all-powerful position in Basin City. The more you look at it, the more the poker chips look like a cityscape of buildings at night.

Hollow Man

This science-fiction/thriller movie from 2000 had a couple of tricks up its sleeve. They did use green screen technology, but not how you may think. Rather than making the background a luminous green, they put actor Kevin Bacon in a neon morph suit in order to completely edit him out in post-production.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 17
Image: Reddit / _The-Big-Giant-Head_

This way, Kevin’s character Sebastian Caine is totally invisible, due to the serum he created for the military. Luckily, Kevin has that distinctive voice so we’re not left in much doubt when he’s on-screen! The film received negative reviews, but one thing that wasn’t up for debate was the quality of the special effects.

The Avengers

Interestingly, the filmmakers opted for real fire and explosions at times for The Avengers franchise. This was done for realism as opposed to cost, as Marvel is known for spending incredible amounts of money to achieve the effects they want for their blockbusters.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 23
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Here, they really did go to the trouble of creating an explosion in a vehicle. The only difference is, the risky business happened at a time when no one was around. They cut together two pieces of footage – through the help of green screen technology – to put Captain America in the middle of all the dangerous action.

The Martian

The 2015 science-fiction/drama movie The Martian was a huge hit in cinemas and award shows, starring Matt Damon as the stranded astronaut struggling to survive on Mars. While the filming crew were taken to Jordan to film certain exterior scenes of the planet, it wasn’t practically possible for many scenes.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 24
Image: Popular Everything

In the scene where Matt’s character Mark Watney builds a large hexadecimal map in order to communicate with NASA on Earth, we’re treated to beautiful views of a breathtaking alien landscape. But Matt wasn’t even in the Middle East for those scenes – he was in a large, echoing studio.

Captain America

Actor Chris Evans had to be in fighting shape for his role as Marvel’s Captain America. But that doesn’t mean he was executing some of the arduous tasks we saw on screen. In a shot that would have been near impossible to film from the perspective we saw it, Steve Rogers zip-lines alongside a train on a snowy mountain-side.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 47
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

So Marvel Studios forwent the challenging scene and replaced it with a very simple set up; suspending Chris an inch off of the ground in front of a green screen. It hardly looks challenging when we see it behind the scenes. And we’re sure he was much happier with their alternative.

Everest

Here’s another image showing how it really was on the set of the adventure film. One thing we see that’s been edited out is the rope coming down from the ceiling that’s attached to the actor. It gives him extra support during the scene as risks are still involved.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 54 2
Images: Universal Pictures

While he’s not looking at the distance he would fall from on top of Mount Everest, he can still fall considerably to the floor of the set. The CGI team also edited over the snowy mountainside set, as we can see more texture and detail has been added to what was really there.

300: Rise of an Empire

Zack Snyder didn’t just rely on green screens for his 2007 film 300: Rise of an Empire. He also had reason to use blue sometimes, too. Blue screens allegedly have less “spill” than green screens do, and are also easier to color correct. In this scene, Xerxes is lying in his bedchamber in his grand palace.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 29
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

We’re surprised to see how much of the room was actually on set. In this still, the only thing that needed CGI was the background and more fire in the pit. The furniture and giant statues were all really there, making it less costly in post-production and easier for the actors on the day.

Life of Pi

Here’s perhaps a surprising example of the use of blue screens. This time, Suraj Sharma is actually on-set in a large expanse of water that wouldn’t look out of place with some clearly defined swim lanes. Naturally, there’s no tiger on his boat. But unexpectedly, the blue walls are a similar color to the water.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 30
Images: 20th Century Fox

We would have thought green would have been preferred for a bigger contrast between the mass of water and the backdrop, but apparently this isn’t the case. Either way, we can see that the mid-ocean scenes of the film were all filmed indoors. Without this technology, it’s likely this film wouldn’t be possible to make.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Tim Burton’s live-action remake of the 1951 Disney animation utilized modern technology to its fullest in 2016. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, is taken on a magical journey through Wonderland once more, which meant needing a great deal of fantasy-filled locations.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 45
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

We expected CGI was needed for a lot of the film, but we didn’t imagine it was an entire backdrop like it is here. When Mia’s character finds herself in an enchanted forest after jumping over a brook, she has to react to her bizarre and unfamiliar surroundings. But of course, she was actually in a rather unstimulating environment.

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

This is an interesting one. This 2010 fantasy-adventure film also requires many magical sets of far-off locations that no one has the budget to build in real life. But they were extra lucky with this one, as they found a location to build an entire city on top of just based off of one building.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 32
Images: 20th Century Fox

The thing is, they didn’t need to bring a green or blue screen to the outdoor location. They used the good weather to their advantage and simply used the blue skies as the backdrop! It was such a clear day that they didn’t need anything else – it was easy enough to digitally build a city behind the wall.

The Legend of Tarzan

The 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan made use of the sophisticated technology available with VFX. Making up actors in heavy prosthetic dressing like in the Planet of the Apes franchise of the 60s and 70s is now long gone. Today, action actors get into a morph-suit and paint dots on their face.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 43
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Such is the case in Tarzan, where the brave adventurer fights with the gorilla Akut. This hilarious side by side captures the realistic and scary version we get on-screen, with the considerably less intimidating reality of a man giving it his best.

Blade Runner 2049

The neo-noir sci-fi film, Blade Runner 2049, starred Ryan Gosling in the lead as “K.” We’re shown a dystopian future where industrialists are biologically replicating human beings for labor. We come across many post-apocalyptic looking landscapes which, naturally, don’t really exist.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 26
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

So green screens were relied upon to create such foreign locations. They would take Ryan, for example, to a rubbish dump and erect a green screen in the background. As we can see, the foreground really is a pile of trash, but their background is actually peaceful-looking countryside.

Game of Thrones

Games of Thrones‘ Arya Stark has quite the story arc through the series. In eight seasons, we see her in a number of different scenarios on her journey to get revenge on her enemies. Here she is looking at one of her next locations, and surprisingly it’s not somewhere that looks so out of the ordinary.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 20
Images: HBO

They simply propped Maisie Wiliams outdoors in front of a blue screen! She could have even been filmed in this scene in her back garden for all we know, as the only consistent thing between the side by sides is Arya. Who would have known it’s all a lie!

Avengers: Infinity War

The 2018 Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War had all the big stars of the Marvel universe in it. It saw the star-studded ensemble come together to team up against Thanos, who is trying to acquire all six of the infinity stones. And the young English actor who plays Spider-Man today, Tom Holland, was seen reprising his role once more.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 27
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Here he is pictured on the side of a school bus on a bridge, with nothing but his face mask protecting his identity. He takes advantage of the open window and holds tight as he gets ready to leap off of the moving vehicle. Hilariously, we can see in the real-life comparison that there was a stage-hand in a blue morph suit holding up his foot to make it look more believable.

Ender’s Game

This science-fiction film sees teenagers attending a military academy in space in order to be prepared for a future alien invasion. Hailey Steinfeld’s character Petra Arkanian is one of the students we encounter, and much of the film takes place in a space ship environment.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 31
Image: Summit Entertainment

But not only was the environment CGI; parts of Petra’s suit were, too. We can see that her helmet and shoulder pads have had elements added to it and they even threw on a glass face shield to boot. Green screens allow for all sorts of on-screen magic to take place.

King Arthur

The 2004 British/American historical drama, King Arthur, offered a different interpretation of the King as a Roman officer. Previously, he had been depicted as a knight, but with actor Clive Owen as the lead, we assume they thought there was no harm in changing up the story a bit.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 18
Images: Touchstone Pictures

To be fair, it wasn’t very highly rated by critics or casual movie-goers. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some impressive effects to appreciate. We particularly like this side by side comparison of Clive, his horse, and his horsemen at the base of some snow-topped mountains. There was actually pretty mild weather and green cliffs.

Avengers: Infinity War

There are a few things to unpack here. In this scene from Avengers: Infinity War, we’re revisiting a memory shared by Thanos and his adopted daughter Gamora, in which he takes her under his wing after destroying her planet. As we can see, a blue screen has been used around the set so the smoke from explosions could be added digitally.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 28
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

On top of this, we can see that Thanos isn’t half as intimidating as he appears on-screen. A regularly proportioned actor is in the place of the tyrant, with a long pole attached to his back and hovering over his head. This is to mark the height of the character. We also had no idea the soldiers’ entire wardrobe was added digitally. One guy in the foreground is particularly confusing, as it looks like he’s wearing a bin!

Godzilla

The 2014 American monster film, Godzilla, had some tricky scenes to film that required painstaking attention to detail. Take for example this scene, where Godzilla’s front paw is in shot but only through the window of a rain-drenched car. On top of that, there is a military tank and various military personnel.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 22
Images: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The army men are supposed to be attacking the giant sea monster from a bridge, but they weren’t on one at all. In reality, they were safely on the ground in front of large and tall green screen walls, as so much of the scene had to be CGI’d.

Man of Steel

The Superman movies reboot, Man of Steel, had Henry Cavill playing the part of the superhuman. A green screen was needed throughout the comic book interpretation (think of Superman’s flying ability) but this one, in particular, caught our eye. Henry Cavill, in the role of Cark Kent, hovers over a super suit.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 19
Images: DC Entertainment

This complicated garment had something extra-magical about it. A green piece of fabric was sewn into the neck of the suit, for the post-production team to digitally include a leather cover, under which a hologram hovers. And the final product is seamless; there’s not a lot of green in sight.

Everest

In this screenshot of Rob Hall, played by Jason Clarke, he chats happily on the telephone to his wife. It is before him and his traveling company have started to ascend the mountain, and camping groups are happily preparing and excited for their adventure.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 46
Images: Universal Pictures

They weren’t even at the base of a mountain at all, in reality. And only a few of the colorful tents were real – the rest were added into the footage afterward. Surprisingly, they weren’t even around snow. All of the extreme weather we saw in this scene was completely fake.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Take a look at this close-up of Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen for Tim Burton’s fantasy remake. She got the full works – the huge red wig, the wacky makeup, and crazy look in her eye. She’s not even sat on an actual throne – she’s completely acting off of her imagination.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 37
Images: Walt Disney Pictures

But we can see what changes they’ve made to Helena’s body in the edit. Her head has been kept the same size, but her body has shrunk to give the illusion that they are out of proportion. And while her forehead wrinkles have been photoshopped in the final cut, we’re glad to see it didn’t take away from the actress’s performance.

Avengers: Endgame

The 2019 finale to the Avengers film franchise included this particularly thrilling scene in which Captain America fights himself in the Stark tower. The great skyscraper doesn’t exist in real life, however, and was all created and added in the post-production process.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 36
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

But we’re really impressed with just how realistic they made it seem. We would have hardly guessed they were in a relatively small green screen corner, reenacting their fight sequence. But at least we know one thing for sure; the fake Captain America wasn’t digitally copied and pasted, a real body double was used.

King Arthur

This one was a real surprising one to see. When King Arthur’s men are shooting arrows into the distance, we’re led to believe that they’re in near-arctic conditions. They are outside as we can see, but surrounded by greenery! The mountainous landscape was all VFX.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 21
Images: Touchstone Pictures

Interestingly, they didn’t need to green screen a lot of the background. They only put it up where there was something in the foreground. We’re guessing that once you’ve digitally edited out the background around an actor’s silhouette, the task is much simpler to perform.

Everest

Here’s a close up of the individual sleeping tents of the ambitious mountain climbers in Everest. We can see that there’s no snow to be seen whatsoever, just rocky terrain that doesn’t look an awful lot comfortable to rest your head on.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 35
Images: Universal Pictures

And obviously, there aren’t even snowy mountains in the distance. Why not just prop up a green screen whenever possible? Its easier, cheaper, and to the same effect when done professionally. The people and the tents blend seamlessly into their Himalayan environment.

Everest

The breath-taking adventure film based on a real story, Everest, depicted one of the most brutal blizzards ever encountered by men. Naturally, they weren’t really going to go to the top of the infamous mountain with the cast and film crew. So they used a bit of Hollywood trickery instead and opted for the green screen.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 49
Images: Universal Pictures

This nerve-wracking scene had us on the edge of our seats in the cinema. But seeing it actually being filmed in a studio of green walls makes it a lot less tense. The distance between the actor and the floor is far less worrying, and the computer-generated graphics are so realistic these days, the final product looks seamless.

Avengers: Endgame

When Captain Marvel made a brief appearance in the 2019 Avengers movie, she was looking as glamorous as ever in space and no one thought to question it. We certainly didn’t think to ask if she had any hair on in the studio, but it looks like they’re up to all sorts of trickery in the green screen rooms.

The Realities of Life on a Set  Hollywood Blockbusters Side by Side Their Green Screen Counterparts 53
Images: Digital Spy

In reality, actress Brie Larson had a bald cap on while she was filming and no hair attached. Her real hair was hidden away out of sight for it to be digitally incorporated. She did a pretty good job, considering her neck must have been colder than usual. Now when you see Captain Marvel flying it’ll be hard to forget the image of Brie, suspended in mid-air, in a swim cap.