SUB2r AGS review: A green screen for content creators who don't want to deal with lighting

SUB2r AGS review: A green screen for content creators who don't want to deal with lighting
By: Tech Posted On: June 04, 2024 View: 13

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"Innovation" is a word that's constantly thrown around in the tech space – the latest AI model, the newest smart-gadget – but rarely do we come across something that's actually, well, innovative.

A few months ago, I was served an ad for a new product for livestreamers and digital filmmakers – and I immediately realized I needed to try this product out. It was truly innovative. A new take – something I'd never seen before – on an item that is crucial for most content creators.

It was a green screen. I can hear the readers through the computer screen now: "An innovative green screen?" Yes. More specifically, it's the SUB2r Active Green Screen – or AGS for short.

What is a green screen?

Before we dive into the review, let's get this out of the way: What is a green screen?

A green screen is essentially a large green backdrop that's used to add in digital effects or backgrounds in photography or film via a process known as chroma key compositing. Green screens have primarily been used in movie productions or photography studios. However, green screens have increasingly become popular among online content creators, livestreamers, YouTubers, and even people who just regularly make video calls or hold meetings over services like Zoom.

While a green screen facilitates an incredible end product with advanced visual effects, the technology itself is fairly simple. A green screen is usually made of either a painted board or colored fabric. If one really wanted to, they can make one DIY-style. That's all you need to make movie magic.

Well, that's really not all you need. 

A major component of a perfect chroma key (i.e., removing the green screen in order to insert a new background or effect) is lighting. You typically need a bare minimum of two lights to properly illuminate your green screen backdrop. Once you have those lights, you need to know how to set up your lighting. If your green screen or subject isn't perfectly lit, then your end video product will look bad. Green coloring can leak through and create a border around your subject. Shadows or other digital artifacting can appear and ruin your otherwise convincing effects or backgrounds. 

The SUB2r AGS green screen price and specs

So, we've already broken down what a green screen is: a green colored board or piece of fabric. How can the SUB2r AGS possibly innovate here?

Simply put: It solves the complicated green screen lighting problem. There's no other green screen product out there that I've come across that does this.

How? By building a lighting system inside the 5x7 foot green screen itself as a backlight, ensuring a perfectly lit green screen at all times, without the need for any other lights.

SUB2r AGS
Mashable's Matt Binder next to the 5x7 SUB2r AGS. Credit: Mashable / Matt Binder

You can buy the SUB2r AGS direct from SUB2r's website right now at a sale price of $549 and it comes with the following specs:

  • 5'x7' size green screen

  • Built-in lighting setup to illuminate the green screen

  • Ships with stands and a compact carrying case

  • A remote control to change the lighting settings

  • Power the SUB2r AGS lighting by plugging it direct to the outlet or take it on the go and plug it into any USB battery pack

Now that you've got an overview on the SUB2r AGS, including its capabilities and specs, let's dive into my personal experience with it.

SUB2r AGS
Credit: Mashable / Matt Binder

SUB2r AGS green screen: What I like about it

So, does the SUB2r AGS' deliver on its main selling point? It absolutely does.

Using the SUB2r AGS, I was able to perfectly key the green screen out without any additional lighting on the green screen backdrop itself. Even without lighting my subject (in this case, me) the SUB2r AGS enabled a perfect chroma key effect to be achieved. I can imagine that this ability could provide use cases for digital filmmakers looking to get a certain look out of their shoot, while still utilizing a perfectly lit green screen.

There were no issues with the subject's shadow appearing on the screen. The backlight enables the subject to be extremely close to the green screen, much closer than one would be able to get with any other green screen product. This is helpful for YouTubers and other creators who may work and record in very small home studio spaces.

Furthermore, as a streamer, I utilized software that keys the green screen out in real-time, which is usually less accurate than chroma key features in dedicated post editing software like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

Here's a visual example.

In the above clip, the SUB2r AGS is set up behind me. There are no lights setup for the stream. The only lighting is from room lighting, a single lightbulb on the ceiling. My livestreaming program is already setup to key out the green screen, but as you can see, with the SUB2r AGS turned off, you can barely see the blue Mashable logo background coming through.

When I put the SUB2r AGS on, however, I get exactly what I'm looking for without any specific lighting set up for the shoot.

And here's what it looks like when the room is completely dark, no lighting, and nothing but my computer monitor lighting my face:

As you can see, the SUB2r AGS still achieves a perfect chroma key. I haven't come across any other green screen product out there on the market that can pull this off.

The SUB2r AGS comes with a remote that can turn the lights on and off and also adjust the brightness level so you can control just how much the green screen is illuminated by the built-in lights. And because the lighting is built-in, I was able to try the green screen out, away from my desk, where my regular lighting setup is mounted. It's easy to see how this specific feature can be utilized by guerrilla filmmakers and others who find themselves needing a green screen someplace where a full lighting setup won't fit or is otherwise unavailable.

Speaking of portability, the built-in lights on the SUB2r AGS can be powered by a USB battery pack, much like the ones that are used to charge smartphones on the go. Again, a low-budget shoot could likely utilize this green screen on-location without having to lug around — and take the time to set up — an entire lighting kit.

Next, let's focus on the setup, an integral selling point in a green screen for streamers. For example, the last truly innovative green screen product I came across before the SUB2r AGS was from the popular streaming product company Elgato. Elgato creates a collapsible green screen that simply rolls up out of its case when needed. The case also acts like a stand so setup takes seconds and the green screen takes up minimal space for those streaming from smaller rooms.

Most basic green screen kits that can be bought on Amazon and elsewhere typically consist of a green fabric sheet and tripod-like stands. I've used these before. These green screens are usually fine for big studios where there's time to set up and then leave everything up for as long as needed. But, for streamers with home studios, these green screen packages are a pain. They take up lots of room and take a bit to put up and then break down.

As for the SUB2r, it opens right up and expands itself straight out of the carrying case. From there, you just clip on 8 batons. These are meant to keep the SUB2r AGS sturdy and put some room between the green screen and the rows of lights that are built into the back of the green screen itself. Then you snap on stands, and the SUB2r AGS is ready to go. When looking at the directions it sounded like a lot, but I was able to get the green screen up and ready to go in about 5 minutes.

Folding up the SUB2r AGS was fairly quick too, though it did seem daunting at first because it requires multiple twists, turns, and folds of the green screen in order to get it back into its fairly small carrying case.

SUB2r AGS
The SUB2r AGS fit just fine in my tiny closet-turned-home-studio space. Credit: Mashable / Matt Binder

SUB2r AGS green screen: What I dislike about it

There's really only one thing I truly dislike like about the SUB2r AGS: the price.

The SUB2r AGS is quite expensive with a retail price of $649, although it's currently on sale for $549 as of this writing.

In talking with SUB2r's co-founder Richard Neumann about the pricing, he acknowledged the issue and shared that the company is hoping to bring the price down in future iterations. SUB2r is a fairly small, yet up-and-coming streaming accessory company. Due to that, their manufacturing costs are higher than what the company would like them to be. SUB2r is currently working on two streaming cameras, but aside from a few mount accessories, the SUB2r AGS is the company's main product currently.

Looking online, it seems that you can find prosumer-level green screen kits, complete with lighting equipment, ranging from $350 to $650. So, factor in the lighting costs that you'll save and the convenience of what SUB2r AGS brings to the table, and the $549 price tag is much more sensible. With that said, those kits are more for photography studios or indie filmmakers, so the SUB2r AGS price may still be out of range for many streamers and YouTubers.

As a streamer, there's also one other glaring issue with the SUB2r AGS: Its competitor in innovation, the previously mentioned Elgato collapsible green screen. At around $160, the Elgato Green Screen is obviously positioned as a completely different product. But as a consumer, these are the two products I'd be choosing from if I needed a green screen. You can't help but compare the two. 

SUB2r Green Screen
A side view of the SUB2r green screen. Credit: Mashable / Matt Binder

The SUB2r AGS has many advantages for filmmaking and photography, but streamers usually need the quickest setup and breakdown possible. The Elgato Green Screen simply requires the user to lift a handle to unroll the green screen out of its case. The SUB2r AGS is fast to set up, but the Elgato screen is just much faster.

Many streamers also constantly deal with space issues and need their setup to take up as little room as possible. The SUB2r AGS adds about 10 inches of depth to the green screen, resulting in a product that looks a bit like an oversized softbox, in order to provide space for the built-in lighting. That depth helps function as a stand, too, so the SUB2r AGS actually ends up needing less space than most other green screen setups that use tripod stands. However, the Elgato Green Screen has them all beat, with its case functioning as a stand as well.

Is the SUB2r AGS worth it?

The SUB2r AGS tries something completely new and different with a product that traditionally consists of a green colored board or a piece of fabric. And it hits it out of the park. It just works.

Livestreamers and smaller creators should certainly consider the SUB2r AGS if it's in their price range. The choice between this and the Elgato Green Screen will come down to what matters to you more: the SUB2r AGS' built-in lighting or the Elgato's compactness. 

If you're a photographer, filmmaker, or even a longform YouTube creator, the SUB2r AGS would likely be a really useful production tool for creating any type of content that requires different backgrounds or special effects.

Regardless of your decision about the AGS for now, based on the uniqueness of their green screen, I think SUB2r is certainly one company to keep an eye on in the livestreaming and video content creation space.

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