What is best DV Chroma Key Solution?

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by rdunbar, Mar 10, 2005.

  1. rdunbar

    rdunbar Guest


    I'm sure everyone is aware of the problems with chroma keying footage
    shot on Digital Video, specifically, the blockiness distortion on
    vertical borders which is particularly bad when the image is moving.
    My question is, what is the best hardware or software solution today?
    Best means cheap with good results. It looks like the top contenders

    Adobe After Effects 6 Production Bundle

    Serious Magic Ultra (Wow! This one looks good)

    Canopus Capture Card (but which one???)

    rdunbar, Mar 10, 2005
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  2. Though having never personally experienced problems with chroma key on
    digital video I continue to hear of those who do. All of my experience with
    DV and chroma keying or luma keying have been with hardware editing
    solutions. I have seen beautiful keying done using the dpsVelocity, NewTek
    VideoToaster, Pinnacle Targa 3000 and my DVRexRT card.

    In as far as Adobe After Effects all the output without hardware plug-in
    would be rendered. The outcome would be very good, but depending on the
    speed of your system output could be time consuming.

    Serious Magic Ultra is very good at chroma keying, though it takes some
    getting used to as the keying sometimes needs tweaking depending on the
    camera angles - that is in their virtual sets. Ultra takes advantage of
    DirectShow codec's, which my DVRexRT does not have. Therefore the codec does
    not show up in the codec's option list. In this case the files are output to
    DV Type 2 using a generic DV codec.

    Luckily the DVRexRT plug-in for Adobe Premiere will playback these files in
    real-time, but the Rex Edit program rejects them because there is no
    software encoding related to the real-time hardware. Premiere sort of cheats
    using the 1394 output regardless of the codec.

    The DVStorm has good chroma and luma keying, just like it's big brother
    DVRexRT. Whether Ultra will recognize the DVStorm I do not know. If it does
    then the hardware would assist in the rendering. If it doesn't I would
    assume the Premiere plug-in would be as forgiving as with the Rex. You may
    not want to endeavor to use the Storm as many have found some flaws in the
    Premiere plug-in that I won't go into here.

    The Matrox RT.X100 has excellent real-time chroma keying and will be
    recognized by Ultra. So, having these two together would sort of be the
    "best of both world's" so to speak. In the respect of software only using a
    1394 card, Ultra is the answer.

    For live keying, that is to say having the ability to see the key in
    relationship to the Ultra virtual sets, utilizing a DirectShow codec is the
    way to go. This allows you to have a live preview of your key while being
    able to adjust the camera height and angle to match the virtual set being
    used. In my opinion Ultra is a killer app and if you purchase it you won't
    be sorry.

    I have Ultra, the DVRexRT, Matrox RT.X100, DVStorm and a generic 1394 option
    for capture and edit. I would test Ultra with all of these, but the program
    has only two activations. My first was on the Rex system and I chose the
    path of least resistance for the second - the RT.X100. Oh, I have After
    Effect 6.5 Production bundle and the X100 plug-in works great.

    Larry Johnson
    Digital Video Solutions

    877-227-6281 Toll Free Sales Assistance
    386-672-1941 Customer Service
    386-672-1907 Technical Support
    386-676-1515 Fax
    Digital Video Solutions, Mar 10, 2005
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  3. rdunbar

    rdunbar Guest

    Hi Larry,
    A few years ago it was a real pain but I was hoping things had improved
    since then. I have never done a hardware key, only software. I
    haven't used any of the products you mentioned but I had a dpsSpark
    once and an early Targa. I currently use a DVRaptor.
    P4 3.2 GHz. I have heard good things about After Effects with the
    DVGarage plug-in. I think that would allow me to stay native Canopus
    DV codec all the way through.
    I've heard generic DV codecs aren't that good (i.e., the MS DV codec is
    Yes, I've heard about too many problems with the Storm and the Edius NX
    is too expensive. I'd hate to buy it and have it not work.
    Aaarrrggghhh! (The cost!)
    Don't need live keying, too difficult and time consuming. Would make
    the shoot much longer and I have many scenes to shoot.
    AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Ultra only has two activations???!!! How does that
    work? I'm always upgrading my system, replacing hard drives, etc, is
    that going to get me into trouble? That's why I run Win2k and not XP.
    Unfortunately, the Matrox RT.X100 xtreme only runs under XP.

    rdunbar, Mar 10, 2005
  4. <----Rick Said--->

    Don't need live keying, too difficult and time consuming. Would make
    the shoot much longer and I have many scenes to shoot.

    <---End Rick Said--->

    The "Live Preview" I spoke of in Ultra is for the user to adjust the camera
    height and angle according to the virtual set being used. Obviously the
    "talent" cannot be placed realistically into a scene using jus any shots of
    someone on a chroma key background. Which brings me to another thought about
    what you said above.

    "Too difficult and time consuming". What are you thinking? Obviously you are
    not interested in doing realistic looking chroma key compositing. If you
    don't take the time to match the camera angle and position of the scene you
    are planning to chroma key people and objects into, then how are you going
    to make the scene seem realistic? If you want someone to jump over a moving
    bus it is not possible to simply take the camera onto a chroma key set and
    tell them to jump really high from a camera tripod shot.

    In order to make scenes work you need to study the background shot and
    somehow create comparitive movements of the "talent" on the chroma key
    background. Take "the Matrix Reloaded" as an instance. How would that have
    looked without the proper planning for the spectacular fight scene atop the
    moving semi-truck? Or, how would those "Lord of the Rings" movies looked if
    the animators just make little ugly beings in whatever fashion they desired
    without matching the camera angles and movements of the scenes they appeared

    Explain to me how doing live keying "would make the shoot much longer
    because you have many scenes to shoot"? Sorry Rick, but I personally don't
    think you know what you are doing. All angles and movements must match for
    proper chroma keying - unless the talent and background are static shots.
    Larry Johnson
    Digital Video Solutions

    877-227-6281 Toll Free Sales Assistance
    386-672-1941 Customer Service
    386-672-1907 Technical Support
    386-676-1515 Fax
    Digital Video Solutions, Mar 11, 2005
  5. rdunbar

    rdunbar Guest

    Hi Larry,

    The short answer is they are all static shots. I'm making a feature
    movie (it will be my second) and there are about 118 pages in the
    script and some 160 scenes. Yes, I would love to do the fancy stuff
    you mentioned, but even with just static shots, it will take several
    months to create the virtual sets, add in special effects, and do all
    the normal stuff (foley, music, etc.). The fundamental problems are no
    money, of course (it's just little old me and a couple of credit
    cards), and not enough time (I work full time in a different field). I
    really would like to complete it before October (Sundance deadline) but
    I realize I may not make that goal.
    Understood. I'm basically just trying to do backgrounds and static
    Yes, I want realism, but I also want to complete this thing in my
    lifetime. (I'm actually much older than you think). :) Plus, as you
    might have guessed, it is probably outside of my set of skills. The
    fundamental reason for the green screen is because I can't get access
    to some of the places I need to shoot, e.g., a police station - they
    just laughed at me when I asked. Oval office - I didn't even ask. :)
    And of course, some of the places don't exist. Or rather, making it
    cgi will cost me a lot less than trying to build a set in my garage.
    For example, an Egyptian pyramid. Yes, it won't be totally realistic
    but making a semi-realistic movie is better than making no movie at
    all, IMO. Maybe somebody with money will see it and say, "hey, I could
    remake that into a 'real' movie!" :)
    Why not? Then you could make the backgound movement to match the
    camera movement. You'd have to shoot a couple different angles.
    Please explain.
    Yes, those were spectacular! And *far* beyond my capabilities! :)

    Well, first I'd have to build the cgi sets before I did any shooting,
    right? I've already scheduled auditions so they would have to be
    postponed. (Not a good idea because even now I don't finish shooting
    until June - I can only shoot on the weekends, and shooting in the
    summer interferes with people's vacation plans). Secondly, when doing
    the shooting, you then have to track camera movements to the cgi
    background movement, yes? I'm not sure how to do this either, all I
    have is a tripod with a wheel bracket adapter thingy (like a dolly, but
    it moves in any direction). Do you move the camera and guess rates of
    movement and zoom? Or, what you do is shoot the camera first, then
    create a cgi background to match that movement? Seems like the latter
    would be easier.

    But, the bottom line is, you are correct. I do not know how to make a
    scene such as you described. That is why I'm sticking to static shots.
    However, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of
    view, that is not gonna stop me from making this movie! :) To
    infinity and beyond!

    On the otherhand, if your services are available, and you don't need
    money to live on, I would be glad to have your help. (Actually, I do
    give a small percentage of the profits to all participants, but the
    chances of making a profit are extremely small). I'm just trying to
    follow my dream.

    rdunbar, Mar 11, 2005
  6. I'm glad to hear you are working on your second feature. I would be
    interested to see the first. Is there an example clip anywhere that I could
    see? Also, I would be interested to see more of what you are attempting
    which has led us to this discussion. Enlighten me, cause I really am not
    finding any sense of the process as you see it.

    Now, here's my take from what you have said so far.

    Again, regardless of whether or not these are static shots the camera
    height, angle and movement has to match the background shot. In your words
    you say, "it will take months to create the virtual sets" for your
    production, and again herein lies the problem of matching camera shots in
    these "sets".

    Without the ability to see the chroma key set in relationship to the
    "virtual set" how will you match any long shots to these sets? Matching
    medium, medium close and close shots I can see. It's just a matter of having
    camera angle approximate the "talent" camera angles. Otherwise even a static
    camera shot can have people moving through the shot. How will you manage to
    eyeball the proper setup to accomodate this "virtual set" environment?
    Digital Video Solutions, Mar 11, 2005
  7. rdunbar

    rdunbar Guest

    Hi Larry,
    You can download the trailer at
    just click on the trailer hyperlink. However, there is only one very
    brief scene in the beginning which shows the technique (when the Specks
    say "Surrender or Die"). It's a pretty good movie for the amount of
    money I spent on it, but it is not good enough to play with the big
    boys. The good news is that I didn't have to sell my house after I
    made it to pay for it. :)

    Examples of the production techniques are here:
    (The guys in armour were shot against a green screen)

    There are many other examples in the Production Status section, but the
    technique was basically the same. Ryan did the best job, middle of the
    page, the lady sitting behind the desk:

    Everything you see in the scene is cgi except the lady. He even had
    reflections in the glass, the guy is a master! :)
    The way I (we) did it before was to create a 3D scene in a 3D animation
    program. Then, I moved the animation camera to where I thought it
    would be a good match to the actor. Then I saved one frame of the
    scene as a jpg and imported that into After Effects. Then in After
    Effects, I chroma keyed the live action onto the background. Since the
    background and actor were both static, it was relatively easy to do.
    And admittedly, not completely realistic. The easy part was, after the
    scene was made in 3D it was very easy to move the animation camera
    around to match the actor. There is a way to import the actor into the
    3D animation program but I never actually did that.

    I guess I'm trying to do the same thing again. Although, as you point
    out, it would be nice to have more variety of shots (long, medium,
    close) this time around.
    Most of the time we were just doing headshots, or from the waist up.
    We made the set to match the camera (rather than the other way around).
    It took approximately 7 months to create all the sets and animations
    with a team of about 7 or 8 people. (I'm not sure of the time we spent
    doing sets versus animation). Yes, we did have some problems doing it
    this way. For example, that is why the lady has such a big name plate
    on her desk. She was shot full frame from the chest up and then shrunk
    down to fit the scene. Without the nameplate whe would have been
    floating above the desk. :)

    Yes, long shots are a problem. What we did before is shrink the actor
    and then create the background to match the actor. Yes, matching shots
    is a problem. I'm not sure how Ryan did it (the lady scene above), but
    that was pretty much the only scene where there were mixed shots. But
    bottom line was, yes, we just eyeballed it. When we ran into problems,
    a common technique was to use a foreground object to mask the problem.
    Yes, I would like to have more matching shots in this movie. Actually,
    I think it is necessary this time around.

    rdunbar, Mar 11, 2005
  8. Then Ultra would be the way to go. Having the live preview of your green
    screen set would greatly improve your matching of these shots. You could
    then decide in the 3D program the angles you need and then match the actor
    positions accordingly.

    It's really a matter of placing the 3D scene, either a static shot or motion
    shot, into the background of Ultra. Turn on "Live Preview" position the
    camera and shoot only the chroma key with no one there while keying out the
    background. Then bring in the talent and move the camera to match the scene.

    Naturally the more chroma key background you can cover the more movement and
    freedom you will have in the shot. Once you have eveything in line you can
    then shoot the talent doing what they do best, and later tweak the key for
    maximum reality. With your friend Ryan's inginuity and enought backdrop
    material you could have the actors walking inside the sets, including the
    use of foreground objects through the provided overlay track. Not every one
    of your dream scenes could be accomplished with foreground objects, since
    using the overlay would be present in the entire scene, but with a little
    thought - which I see you guy's are obviously using, the production would be
    much better.

    Mull this over. I have searched the internet for green screens and the least
    expensive one is 10 foot wide and 30 feet long - no stand included. We have
    10 foot wide 100% cotton muslin chroma key green material for $15 per hard.
    30 feet (10 yards) is only $150. We have a background stand capable of going
    to 150 inches wide for $249.99 (you only need 120 inches - 10 foot). With or
    without the stand with enough green material and a large enough area you
    could be doing a lot with Ultra as you software choice. Serious Magic has
    the FlexDrop Instant Backdrop, which is good for standing medium long,
    medium, medium close and close shots. We sell that for $199.

    Sorry for the blatant plug for our products, but I use Ultra and am so blown
    away by it I have turned into a "Johovah's Witness" type advocate for the
    product. It is seriously a very very cool program! If you had it in your
    hands you would see what I mean.
    Larry Johnson
    Digital Video Solutions

    877-227-6281 Toll Free Sales Assistance
    386-672-1941 Customer Service
    386-672-1907 Technical Support
    386-676-1515 Fax
    Digital Video Solutions, Mar 11, 2005
  9. rdunbar

    rdunbar Guest

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for the pointers!
    I will see what I can do to follow your suggestions.
    Actually, I was going to put up drywall in the garage and paint it with
    Rosco chroma key green. However, the material sounds like it might be
    better for the floor. I also have a small portable green screen (cloth
    foldable) but I haven't been impressed with the keys. I think the
    material is too dark.
    :) Not a problem! Another message board has recommended Adobe AE, so
    I'm thinking they're both good products and it is just a matter of
    preference. Only problem is I can only afford to buy both. And I
    don't want to make a mistake.

    rdunbar, Mar 13, 2005
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