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Phyx Keyer for Final Cut, After Effects review

Sections: Audio / Video, Mac Software, Reviews

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Provides: Color Keying
Format: Download
Developer: Phyx
Minimum System Requirements: FxFactory 2.5, Mac OS X v10.5, ATI or NVIDIA graphics processor with 128 MB VRAM (integrated Intel graphics processors not supported), and Final Cut Pro 6, Final Cut Express 4, Motion 3 ir Adobe After Effects CS3
Review Computer: iMac 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 7, Macbook Pro 2.2GHz 13″, 2GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 6
Processor Compatibility: Universal Binary (Intel or PPC)
Price: $299.00 (15 day demo available)
Availability: Out now

Here’s a pro tip: if you want to make your video look like it was made in the 1980s, screw up your Chroma Key. A thin green line around your actor as you try to convince your audience he’s really on an alien spaceship is the best way to get that vintage, “Well, we did the best we could,” feel of the era.

So then, how to do it properly? Keying is a tricky art, and Phyx has updated their Keyer suite with some new tools and GPU acceleration. When used together (with one exception), you can get a great, realistic effect.

phyx keyer final composite

Keyer, of course, is the main component, allowing you to knock out the standard blue or green background and get started on the tweaking. Keyer gives you four sampling methods: Channel and RGB (both of which give you a choice of the standard blue and green screens), and 3D and YUV (which give you the ability to choose a specific color (using a color wheel or eyedropper)).

Fast Keyer attempts to give you a quicker method by combining several tools in one panel: a green/blue key, and sliders for the Despill (the overlap where the key interacts with other colors) and the Lightwrap (which blends the keyed image with the background to make it more realistic). Fast Keyer presents you with a good starting point. It’s useful if you need to work quickly, but lacks some of the precision of Keyer.

phyx keyer two up

The best thing about both of these tools is that the interface is simple. The controls are sliders, which means you can move them back and forth for a live preview of what effect you’ll be getting. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, you’ll quickly get the hang of what each variable does, as compared to the sometimes baffling interface of FCP’s included Key effect.

The next four effects, Composite Matcher, Despill, Lightwrap, and MatteFuse work to trim away the leftovers from the initial key. Despill, as I mentioned, removes the green/blue lines around the body and colored light that splashes onto the subject. Composite Matcher and Lightwrap look at the background image and apply that to the keyed image to make the composite match better. Like everything else when I’m doing a key, it’s trial and error, but again, Phyx makes it so simple with the settings: Despill, for example, has a dropdown menu with “Method 1″ and “Method 2.” The description tells me that it uses different algorithms to separate the green from the not-green, but all I need to know is that when I chose the second, snap, the green vanished and I got a realistic composite.

phyx keyer 100% image

ScreenCorrector is an interesting tool: it corrects an uneven matte, taking out shadows and ripples (and markers) if your green/blue background isn’t perfectly flat and leveling it out for further processing.

Update: When I originally wrote this review, I noted that one feature, DiffKeyer, did not work, even with the test images provided by Phyx. After posting my review, Phyx contacted me with a statement that the issue with DiffKeyer was the result of a bug. They have now fixed that bug with the latest version (2.5.7) of FxFactory. I was able to test a beta of the new Version of DiffKeyer, and found it worked well with the test images Phyx provided (which were shot against an uneven green screen). When I used DiffKeyer with my own footage, it was comparable to the Difference Keyer included with Final Cut 7, doing a better job of isolating the moving part of the image, but still not a “magic bullet” to let you key without a green screen. Still, Phyx has fixed the problem, and DiffKeyer can be a useful tool if you’ve taken some measures to give yourself a clean background.

Phyx Keyer is a useful suite of tools. Perhaps more importantly, it’s dead easy to use. It doesn’t make creating a chroma key into a one-click operation, but it makes the process simple. You’re still going to spend a lot of time tweaking settings, but if you’re ready to start working with keys, that’s the nature of the business. If you have the physical tools to shoot key-ready footage, Phyx Keyer has several effects to help you make it look as realistic as possible. Just don’t try to shoot without the proper background.

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