getUserMedia() part #1

Building a live green screen

While recently watching a talk about the new WebRTC features I was reminded of Paul Rouget’s great green screen demo and thought that this would be a cool thing to have for live video as well. Let us build a live green screen!

The markup

  <video id="v" width="320" height="240"></video>
  <canvas id="c" width="320" height="240"></canvas>

Those are the parts we need. A <video> element that plays the media stream and a canvas we will use to read and transform image data.

The JavaScript

function initialize() {
  // Get the webcam's stream.
  navigator.getUserMedia({video: true}, startStream, function () {});

function startStream(stream) {
  video.src = URL.createObjectURL(stream);;

  // Ready! Let's start drawing.

We call navigator.getUserMedia() and pass {video: true} as the first argument which indicates that we want to receive a video stream. We assign the MediaStream to the video’s .src property to connect it to the <video> element.

The video starts playing (which means the camera will be activated and you will see your webcam’s live video) and we request an animation frame using the requestAnimationFrame() API. This is perfect for drawing to our canvas as the browser schedules the next repaint and we will be called immediately before that happens. Now for the last and most important part of our green screen:

function draw() {
  var frame = readFrame();

  if (frame) {
    context.putImageData(frame, 0, 0);

  // Wait for the next frame.

function replaceGreen(data) {
  var len = data.length;

  for (var i = 0, j = 0; j < len; i++, j += 4) {
    // Convert from RGB to HSL...
    var hsl = rgb2hsl(data[j], data[j + 1], data[j + 2]);
    var h = hsl[0], s = hsl[1], l = hsl[2];

    // ... and check if we have a somewhat green pixel.
    if (h >= 90 && h <= 160 && s >= 25 && s <= 90 && l >= 20 && l <= 75) {
      data[j + 3] = 0;

What happens here is actually quite simple: we read the current video frame and extract its image data. We then iterate over all pixels in the frame and check if we found a green one - if so its opacity byte is set to zero, which means fully transparent. The manipulated image data is put back into the canvas and we are done for now until the next animation frame is ready.

The demo

Take a look at the live demo, you will need a recent Firefox/Chrome/Opera build. Make sure that getUserMedia() support is enabled in your browser of choice. Hold a green object in front of the the camera and try it out yourself. Your camera and light setup is probably very different from mine so you might need to adjust the color check a little to make it work. Alternatively, here is a screencast of the demo:

The end

This is an admittedly very simple example of a green screen but you can use this little template to manipulate your webcam’s live video stream and build all kinds of fancy demos with it.