Movie Effects for Ghosts

by Robert Godard

When putting together a supernatural movie, ghosts are a necessity. There are various types of ghosts, from the classic white sheet to floating undead. Making ghosts look realistic can be a tricky effect to render, but if you take certain considerations into account, you can achieve something that matches your vision for the scene.


The function of a ghost effect is to make it clear that the ghost in question does not look alive. There are classic examples in the movies such as "Ghostbusters" and "Ghost." People will often pass right through a ghost. The ghost will seem to float through the air as if he were weightless.

Production Considerations

Film your ghost separately from the rest of the movie's action and combine them later in editing. Shooting against a green screen, or a wall that is solid green or blue, can be helpful. This will allow you to matte out the background and leave only the image of your ghost. If you cannot shoot on a green screen, shoot on as light a background as possible and light your ghost so that he really pops out.

Editing Considerations

Once you are finished shooting the ghost, you will bring them into a non-linear video editing software such as Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Making a ghost look good will take a lot of hard work, but it starts with layering your ghost image clip on top of your movie clip, then removing the background either by matting out the green screen or cropping out the light background. You can then lower the opacity of the ghost clip to make your image look translucent.

Extra Effects

You may want to add little touches either in production or in editing. Using makeup on your ghost will give her that typically pale appearance. In addition, some ghosts have a grayish color. This can be achieved in editing by layering a semi-opaque color matte on top of your ghost image, then using the image as a layer mask.

About the Author

Robert Godard began writing in 2007 for various creative blogs and academic publications. He has been featured on multiple film blogs and has worked in the film industry. He attended Baltimore College, earning his B.A. in history.

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