Chromakeyers – who’s the daddy?

UPDATE: Download the original footage (130 MB) and try in your keyer.

Shooting greenscreen is one thing. Editing it is another. A good key is balanced between the rushes and the keyer, and not all keyers are born equal.

I do like FCPX – it’s quick, efficient, fun and effective. I wanted to love Premiere Pro, but FCPX is a modern editor. However…

When it comes to chromakey, FCPX has a good built-in option. It’s so good, many FCP7 plug-in writers have shied off trying to compete with it. Yes, it’s very, very good. However, it has a ‘look’ all its own, and however much I raised my game from the ‘perfect DV chromakey storm’ – shooting well-lit interviews on DVCAM and using DVmatte Pro – I could not improve the quality I got from shooting HDV, using Zmatte, and shrinking the results to standard definition.

So I’ve been making do with FCPX’s internal keyer. It’s really ‘not bad’ but doesn’t seem to reward good lighting and and good chromakey backgrounds like I’ve been used to. I’ve kept quiet because I’m publically happy with the results, but underneath, I’ve been seething.

Enter Premiere Pro. I’ve had battles with it. I love it because it ‘gives good demo’ but in reality it’s been a right royal pain, it’s full of lethargy, it seems to operate at the lowest common denominator, so often it’s the wall – we hit a wall where Premiere needs to do something and there’s not enough resources, space or time to let it happen.

But whereas FCPX is about doing things quick and cheap and fast, like a little Fiat runabout, Premiere does actually shrug its shoulders when faced with a task, and then leans on it hard.

So here’s the beef:

Premiere Pro is significantly better at doing chromakey than FCPX. Totally. Utterly. Look – we fed it with the best we can do, 4:2:0 and 4:2:2. FCPX couldn’t really do much. In fact, it delivered a client visible ‘quality difference’ that made my high quality attempts disappear. Yay. Premiere has done a great job with the 4:2:0 material, and tried a little harder with the 4:2:2 material, and if the key had been tougher, it would have worked harder.

There are some gamma corrections to check, there is a spot of grit in the top left-hand corner. But it’s all about the edges, and on this point, Premiere Pro with its UltraKey wins hands down. Sorry FCPX, but you’ve been aiming at amateur stuff. We earn our wages by delivering professional results.

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