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3rd Party Plug-ins: Keying

Going outside the After Effects box By Stephen Schleicher
I really like and appreciate the keying plug-ins found in Adobe After Effects 5.5 Standard and Production Bundles. Nearly every single green screen or blue screen composite that I have done over the last two years, has been completed with the keying capabilities Adobe has included in the application. However, for some people, spending any length of time making adjustments to the built in plug-ins may be too much time taken from the post process. For those times, you may want to go outside the box and take a look at some 3rd party keying plug-ins.

When I set out to write this article, I did not intend to rank these plug-ins in any particular order. Instead, I decided to group the plug-ins from least to most expensive and describe what the capabilities of each of these plug-ins are. Regardless of price, I have used every single one of these plug-ins to pull off successful keys.

Ill start off with the least expensive keying plug-in. While it is the least expensive, it also allows you to pull a decent looking key in less than a minute. With some further adjustment (maybe a minute or two more) excellent keys can be achieved. This is not only a real time-saver, but can also be a real mind saver.

The first "easy" 3rd Party Keyer for After Effects is the dvMatte plug-in from DV Garage ( Created by Ben Syverson especially for footage shot on DV (which tend to have a lot of compression artifacts and "jaggies"), this key effect can take less than a minute to apply with dramatic results.

Using this plug-in is really rather easy; you select the background color with an eyedropper tool, adjust the amount of spill, and make some matte choking and feather adjustments similar to the matte controls found in the Color Difference Key of the Production Bundle.

The matte in the following image was created in about 30 seconds by simply selecting the background color and tweaking the matte softness. A quick garbage matte to remove the unwanted junk took just a moment longer.
After Effects Shortcut By pressing the M key on your keyboard, you can access the Mask Shape property of a layer. In order to quickly access all of the Mask properties, press the M key twice (mm).

The thing I like most about this plug-in is in many cases the default settings will often work without further adjustments needing to be made. If you are looking for convenience, then this is a great addition to your plug-in toolbox.

If I had only two negative things to say about this plug-in, it would be that the plug-in does not allow you to view the composite in multiple modes at once. Instead of being able to see the final composite, the original plate, and the matte in a split view, you have to switch back and forth in the Effect Controls Panel.

The second disappointment (at least for now) is the plug-in is not designed for 16-bit mode. This is mainly because the plug-in is designed for DV footage, and not HD or film resolutions. Regardless, it is still a very handy (and cheap) plug-in for those needing to create their latest Star Wars Fan Film.

DvMatte is available now from DV Garage as an Internet download for both the Mac (OS 9/OS X) and Windows platforms for $79.00.

Even easier than dvMatte is zMatte from Digital Film Tools ( Tell zMatte what color you wish to key (blue or green), and then drag the foreground and background sliders to adjust the Primary matte to your liking. Like DV Matte, zMatte allows you to view the various sources as you pull the matte to monitor your progress. If your keyed shot was done correctly, zMatte can pull a matte in a few moves.

In four moves, a decent key can be pulled using zMatte.

zMatte Tip If you have a very tough key to pull because the plate was shot with poor lighting, wrinkles, or color shifts in the background, apply zMatte multiple times to clean up those really tough spots.
If your foreground plate was shot "less than perfect" (and you know who you are), zMatte has some very powerful controls that allow you perform color correction (shadow, midtone, and highlight controls), remove spill from just the edge of the subject or the entire foreground and grow and shrink the matte. In addition zMatte gives you controls to wrap the background around the foreground subject without losing the fine edge of the keyed subject.

ZMatte will work in 16-bit mode for higher end productions.

zMatte is available for the Mac and Windows platforms and can be purchased for $350.

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Related Keywords:keying, after effects, plug-in, primatte, ultimate, pinnacle systems, dvmatte, zmatte, dv garage, digital film tools, schleicher, compositing, keying, chroma key, composite


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