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Chromakeys: Where has the Serious Magic gone?

When it was mentioned that Lunawebs would be offering a chromakey facility, I started scanning the web for the best possible keying software that would render the best possible key. Chromakeys (or "green screens") can be tricky and if done wrong, look horrible.

For the uninitiated, a chromakey is most commonly used by your local weatherperson. They stand in front of a giant wall painted green (or blue) and that color is replaced by whatever video source he or she wants (typically a computer featuring weather graphics). This same idea is often employed by Hollywood to place actors in places that aren't safe or practical to shoot "live" in. It's not my favorite effect (you can always spot it), but it is popular, especially in the web video world (See Daisy Whitney's "New Media Minute" for an example).

The former Ultra 2After much perusing, two things about chromakeys seem abundantly clear. The first is that you need to take care in setting up your key before one frame of video is shot. The other is that Ultra 2 is the best product for the job. It's been highly praised and will apparently even compensate for a poorly setup key. Imagine what it would do when the proper care is taken.

Ultra 2 used to be sold by it's creators, a company called Serious Magic. They were bought by Adobe two years ago, and Ultra 2 was relabeled Adobe Ultra. That's all fine except the only way you could now get Ultra was to shell out 1500 smackers for Adobe's Creative Suite Production Premium 3 which inlcuded a ton more than just Ultra. To add insult to injury, version 4 of the Creative Suite Production Premium has dropped Ultra altogether! Aaaaargh!

What is a video creator to do? Do I find the older version of CS3 and ask my employer to shell out a chunk of change so I can use 1/10 of a software package? Do I looked for a hacked version online? Or do I just give up and use an inferior product? There doesn't seem to be a clear cut answer other than I still want to produce the cleanest keys possible even if Adobe has put a Serious kink into my plans.


01/05/2009 12:59pm
You mentioned using Vegas in a later post. Using chromakey green screen in Vegas Pro 8 is a piece of cake not requiring any special plugins. Using Plug-in Chooser, select Sony Chroma Keyer and then set the Preset to Pure Green Screen. The bottom video clip on your timeline will show through the green screen part. You might need to tweak with the Brightness & Contrast plug to make them match. Be sure to put enough distance between you subject and background to avoid spill contamination on your subject or the edges will suck.

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