|A Creative COW "Real World" Product Review
Adobe has announced that The Foundry's Keylight will be bundled with the upcoming release of After Effects 6.0 Professional Edition. In this article, Creativecow leader, Barend Onneweer gives us a sneak peek at Keylight.
Adobe has announced that
The Foundry's Keylight
will be bundled with the upcoming release of After Effects 6.0 Professional
Edition. Amongst VFX professionals Keylight is no stranger. From the manual:
"Keylight is an Academy award winning blue and greenscreen keyer. The
core algorithm was developed by the Computer
Film Company and has been developed and ported to After Effects by The Foundry".
Keylight has been available for a couple of high-end compositing solutions for
a while, from Shake to AVID|DS upwards to Flame* and Inferno*, with prices ranging
from $1250 to $7,500.
The Foundry is well known
in the industry for other high-quality plugins like the Tinderbox series that
are also available for After Effects. At this years NAB The Foundry premiered
the port of Keylight to Adobe After Effects. At that point in time Keylight
for AE was still in beta and the Foundry states that in fact the After Effects
version of Keylight is a further developed algorithm and effectively a 2.0 version
(although the software information will state 1.0).
of Keylight which comes with it's own installer, the plugin can be found in
the Keying menu of After Effects 6.0 Professional Edition.
After doing some quick tests
that looked promising I thought it would be fun to revisit the footage that
I used when I wrote my first article for Creative COW about chromakeying difficult
footage. It was shot on DV under pretty bad circumstances.
Preparation of the
Without making this a full-blown
tutorial, I'll quickly explain the preparations I take before keying DV footage.
Without these preparations no DV key is going to good good anyway. I usually
prepare my footage by de-interlacing and de-artifacting using Magic Bullet.
Especially the de-artifactor does an excellent job at removing the pixelation
of especially the red and blue channel that are the result of the 4.1.1 (NTSC)
or 4.2.0 (PAL) color space of DV. There are examples of the de-artifactor in
my review of Magic
If you don't have Magic
Bullet, try this: Add an adjustment layer on top of your footage and apply a
gaussian blur of around 4 pixels. Set the transfer mode of the adjustment layer
to [Color]. This way you slightly blur the colors without touching the luminance,
so the image is perceived as sharp, but some of the DV artifacts are removed.
Precompose the two layers and apply the keying to the precomposed layer. It
doesn't work as well as the Magic Bullet de-artifactor, but if you're on a budget,
this will at least help.
A quick and dirty
Like I said I took and old
clip from my original chromakeying tutorial to see how Keylight could make life
less miserable. When all the parameters of Keylight are folded out there's about
45 parameters to tweak... (If you want to see the whole bunch, click here).
Now don't be frightened away by this, the most essential tools are arranged
right in the top, and depending on the complexity of the key you'll gradually
work your way down until you're satisfied (uhm... that didn't come out right...).
The default screen color
of Keylight is black, which doesn't do anything. A trivial but nice touch -
in many other keyers that default to green, you need to disable the effect,
select the screen color with the color picker and then enable the effect again.
After selecting the right screen color I instantly got a half-decent result.
Well, better than I had ever had using this particular footage.All the background
is keyed out without serious holes in the matte. With better shot footage, preferably
less compressed and less noisy, chances are that picking the right screen color
will do 90% of the work.
OVER IMAGES TO SEE A DETAIL @ 100%
Well, as said the first result looked
somewhat decent in it's own right, but the matte is too soft and a quick look
at the resulting alpha channel shows that the screen needs cleaning up and the
density of the matte needs some work to get the holes out.
So let's take a look at some of the
other tools Keylight has to offer. First of all Keylight offers a set of different
view of the results in different stages of the process. A particularly handy
view is 'status' which renders an exaggerated view of the matte. With this view
enabled, it's easy to adjust the Screen Strength to the right level: until all
the background is solid black, without eating too much into the foreground matte.
Next I tweaked the Screen Bias a little to lift the density of the matte a little,
reducing the holes in the foreground. The resulting matte looks a lot better,
and this within a minute or two!
OVER IMAGES TO SEE A DETAIL @ 100%
SCREEN STRENGTH AND BIAS
Well, this article was supposed to
be a sneak peak so I'm going to pick up the pace a little: the basic keyer in
Keylight serves as a spill-remover at the same time, and using the Despill Bias
control the amount of spill removal can be tweaked.
The next set of tools is for tweaking
the matte, with it's own Clip Black and Clip White tools, Grow/Shrink and Spot
Removal, serving the purpose of refining or smoothing out the matte if it doesn't
look right yet - somewhat resembling After Effects own Matte Choker in it's
goal. This is where you can tweak the details of the matte to remove the specks
and lift the density to make a nice solid matte.
Here you can also control whether
you want to blend a little color back into the semi-transparent areas, if the
spill-removal results in unwanted loss of color.
Built into Keylight you'll find a
very usable set of basic color correction tools, and separate color correction
for the edges of the foreground. The basic tools are Saturation, Contrast and
Brightness, but you'll also find Color Suppression, Suppression Bias, Suppression
Amount and a nice Color Balance Wheel. The width and softness of the reach of
the Edge Color Correction can be manually adjusted.
Well, I must say I'm impressed.
This is a very, very complete set of tools, added to a very powerful keying
algorithm. Besides the keyer you get matte tools, color correction with separate
controls for edge color correction, inner and outer mask tools... the works.
And it works really well. I would have been very happy with the addition of
the basic keyer to After Effects, but Keylight is a huge bonus to the After
So, is this the only keyer
you'll ever need? Well, no. I tried Keylight on a wide variety of greenscreen
and bluescreen shots, and it worked excellent on all the material. But Keylight
is a chromakeyer, meaning that it works on the color information. It won't be
very effective if you try to use it as a luminosity keyer, so it's always good
to have a couple of different tools at hand.
The 76 page manual that
The Foundry wrote for Keylight deserves a big compliment. It starts out with
a quickstart guide which gets you up and running within minutes. The next part
explains the basic theory behind the color keyer in very clear language. Then
all the tools in the Keylight effect are explained, including why and when you'd
need them, with very clear examples - the used images can be downloaded for
practice at The
Foundry. These same images are used in 20 pages of tutorials in the end
of the manual. All in all I find the manual very well written, highly readable
and a subtle touch of humour.
Well, as you can probably
tell I'm sold. I think Keylight is almost worth the price of the upgrade alone.
Unless you are sure that you won't find a single composition job on your doormat
for a long time, I'd seriously consider upgrading to the Professional Edition
of After Effects 6.0.
Keylight is bundled with
both the full version and the upgrade to Adobe After Effects 6.0 Professional
Edition (wow, that's a mouth full...) and will be bundled for the life of AE
6.0. It's not definit yet whether Keylight will be bundled with future versions
The Foundry says there are
no current plans for selling Keylight separately from After Effects, and there's
currently no time in their schedule to work on a stand-alons 2.0 version.
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