Behind the scenes: TV news in a pandemic

One of the best parts of working in TV news is the energy you feel in the studio surrounded by lights and action. So what do you do when a pandemic forces you to work from home? Here’s how my Florida Focus class created TV newscasts 100% remotely.

Anchoring from home

Take a look around this 360 video by:

  • wearing a mobile VR headset,
  • moving your cell phone around from the YouTube app or
  • clicking the video and dragging it on a computer.

To anchor from home you’ll need these things:

  • A good light source (like a sliding glass door, large window or lighting kit)
  • A microphone
  • A computer with an HD web camera OR a smartphone
  • A free teleprompter app or free teleprompter website


For this to look professional, it’s important that your face is being hit by as much light as possible. There are very rare instances where I will say that you have too much light on your face since you likely won’t have the number of lights at home as you would in the studio.

TV studios usually don’t have windows to control the light. But because most people don’t have lighting grids in their living rooms, the best option is to record yourself during sunlight hours. If you have a sliding glass door or large window at your home or nearby, I recommend sitting just a few feet away from it FACING the light. The light should not hit the back of your head. It should hit your face straight on to avoid shadows. The glass from your window will help to diffuse the sunlight. 

Make sure no curtains or blinds are in front of the window or glass door.

Be careful to create as much depth behind you as possible. This may mean moving furniture away from you to help the virtual background do a better job of only keying you in while keying out the background.

Bad lighting
Bad lighting 2
Bad lighting

How To Set Up A Green Screen (aka Chroma Key)

Florida Focus students have access to green screen backdrops when anchoring from home. These can also be used for reporting.

Emart Photo Video Studio 8.5 x 10ft Green Screen Backdrop Stand Kit

Our green screen backdrop comes in a case with the following items:

Here is the company’s website if you’d like more details on how to assemble.

When assembled, you can lay the green screen cloth on the floor if you’d like your entire body in the frame. This allows you to shoot your feet, but keep in mind that you’ll need a virtual background that makes sense with this setup. Most of the time, you’ll only shoot a medium shot. In these instances, please avoid stepping on the green screen to keep it clean and pretty for all of us.

How to use green screen

The two most important things about using a green screen are LIGHT and NO WRINKLES. Wrinkles or creases in your green screen will affect the light because it will cause shadows that will make the green appear a different shade when you go to edit your virtual background in post. Depending on the fabric material, I recommend using a steamer to get the wrinkles out. You may also use an iron on low. Be very careful not to burn the material because it is expensive and will not work properly if there are burns. In rare instances, you may throw your screen into the dryer with a damp towel and then immediately remove it from the dryer and hang it up.

The person on camera must not wear a color that is similar to the green screen or it will become transparent when the green screen is edited out. 

Your green screen must be evenly lit

This is where backlight becomes super important. If you don’t dedicate a light just for the backdrop, your body will likely cast a shadow on the green screen which will make it very hard if not impossible to professionally key out in post. 

Avoid standing too close to the green screen 

Depth between you and the green screen will help reduce shadows.

You must also be evenly lit

Light is the name of the game with green screens. You can diffuse light and reduce shadows by shooting your light into or through white umbrellas. There are also lots of different scrim that you can put between the light and you to reduce the harsh light that creates shadows. You want lots of light, but it has to be soft (diffused).

How to set up three-point lighting

  1. If you only have three lights, you should point two at the green screen behind the anchor. These lights should be no taller than the anchors shoulders. Preferably they should be about chest height depending on how wide your anchor’s shot is. If the anchor is doing a waist up shot, the lights should be chest high.
  2. Then add one light immediately above the teleprompter for the anchor’s face. The teleprompter can be just a tiny bit lower than eye level to avoid the chance that the anchor’s chin will be too high (this is a common mistake anchors make, tuck your chin to look more professional). 

If you’re lucky to have five lights you should:

  • Place one to the left of your camera and one to the right to light your face.
  • Place a very dim light behind you that’s pointing at the back of your head to give you a little hair light.
  • Place one behind you off to the left that’s pointed at the green screen.
  • Place one behind you off to the right that’s pointed at the green screen.

You don’t actually need the green screen to fill your entire camera screen. When we edit, we can crop/mask you out as long as the only thing behind you, is the green screen. If the edges of your camera screen show part of your room, that’s not a problem.


We will get portable teleprompters to help you anchor from home. Although several teleprompter apps work great with front-facing (selfie) cell phone cameras, the rear-facing camera is much higher resolution. So, in order to use this rear-facing camera and a teleprompter, we will get these awesome Glide Gear TMP100 teleprompters for you to check out when you’re anchoring.

You will check out an iPad from the video lab that will be used to reflect your teleprompter script onto the glass. Then you’ll use your own cell phone camera or another camera like DSLR to record the video.

To learn more about this teleprompter, go here:

How To Edit Green Screen Video

  1. Import your anchor/green screen video and drag it to your second video channel in Premiere Pro. V2 is a good spot for the anchor/green screen video because you’ll likely want to use V3 for lower thirds and V1 for the virtual background.
  2. Go to effects control and mask yourself out (see video below).
  3. Go to effects and search for Ultra Key.
  4. Drag Ultra Key onto your clip in the timeline.
  5. Go to effects control click the eye drop tool next to the words “key color.”
  6. Click on the green background behind the person on camera.
  7. Clean your key. Select “alpha channel” from the Output dropdown in effects control.
    1. Increase transparency (see video below).
    2. Reduce shadows.
    3. Adjust pedestal levels
  8. Change the output dropdown to composite.
  9. Choke a tiny bit to reduce any green outline in the matte cleanup section. Soften a tiny bit.
  10. Spill suppression to remove the green light on a person’s face or arms. Increase the “desaturate” level.

Drag your background to V1 and ensure it’s scaled to frame size. Right-click “scale to frame size” or “fit to frame size.”

After keying out the green screen and adding the background, you may want to adjust the color temperature of the anchor so it looks like the anchor was actually in the same light the background was shot with.

What if my glasses get keyed out?

Virtual Background on Teams

Unfortunately, Teams downgrades the resolution of recorded meetings. So, if you’re going to use Teams to create a virtual background, you may want to use a screen recorder, instead of only recording the meeting. Make sure to set your webcam and screen recorder to HD at least 1080.

Then open Microsoft Teams and follow the instructions in this video:

Learn more here

Virtual Background on Zoom

To read more about uploading a background on Zoom, click here.

How to use a Green Screen in OBS


CuePrompter is a simple and free teleprompter website that you can use to turn your computer into a teleprompter. There are many free mobile teleprompters that work with your cell phone or tablet.

Want to learn more?

How does green screen work?

How to edit your background in Photoshop while editing with Premiere Pro.

Top 10 Free Green Screen APPs for Android/iOS

Published by JeanetteAbrahamsen

I am an instructional designer and TV news instructor at the University of South Florida. My passion for innovating learning led me to pursue my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Instructional Technology. I love creating media to enhance eLearning and foster online engagement. I teach students to create multimedia stories for broadcast, web and social media platforms. I lead the Florida Focus class where students produce daily news shows that air on Tampa's PBS station. My reporting classes collaborated with Tampa's NPR station to produce award-winning stories. I am an Emmy Award-winning journalist. I produced thousands of hours of TV news in some of America's largest media markets at Tampa's NBC station, San Diego's ABC station and the San Diego Union-Tribune. I also produced immersive 360-degree virtual tours at the University of South Florida and reported for Hashtag Our Stories.

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