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Best Chroma Keying software


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#1 Phil Beastall

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 07:20 AM

I am sorry if this has already been answered and I am sure there is not one answer to this, but I am trying to find out an industry leading compositor for chromakeying. What do they use in Hollywood? I am currently using Keylight in After FX and I just don't think its up to scratch...it certainly does the job very well but would love to be using software that is used in high end films/adverts & music videos.

Thanks

Phil
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#2 Adam Hunt

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 12:02 PM

Shake is really the industry standard. Or was depending on who you ask. Apple unfortunately stopped selling it, but large operations like ILM, Weta, etc bought the source code and use their own proprietary versions of it.

As for smaller operations they either use a Shake-like clone - Fusion, Maya Composite (formerly Toxik) or Nuke or are still using Shake. Personally I still use Shake despite it being EOLed. It's just simply the best compositing tool for what I do.

If you are serious about doing keying or any kind of high-quality compositing you need to ditch After Effects. After Effects is an excellent motion-graphics package, but it is a crummy compositer. Is all about the right tool for the right job. After Effects is not designed for that purpose. I cringe when ever I see people doing heavy VFX work or colour grading in AE.

Now there will be a big learning curve because node-based compositors are a completely different animal than AE. But after you wrap your head around the UI and do a few projects in it they will have to drag you kicking and screaming back to doing that work in something like After Effects.
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#3 Adam Hunt

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 12:22 PM

As far as actual keying goes you have a lot of different options within the software. Most of the node-based compositors include some of the same keyers that AE has as plugins, perhaps with a few more advanced controls.

What is typical in high-end green screen work (at least from my experience) is to combine several different keyer plugins. One may be great for keying around clothing, another for the hair, etc. The different plugins can easily be masked of to different areas with tracked masks. You can combine any number of different keyers and versions of the same keyer at drastically different settings, along with some roto for the real tricky bits to get all areas to key correctly.

Personally I don't use any keyers at all. I do it the "old fashioned" way. I found a book on how the old film strip to film strip keying worked (it's very simple) and mimicked it with a chain of nodes in Shake. It works very, very well and gives me highly visual control over each aspect of the keying. I combine this with some luma keying (mostly for dark hair) and the occasional slight bit of roto, and voilĂ ! Super-clean composites.

Really professional keying is an art. And one that takes time to learn. If you are expecting to buy the same software the pros use and automatically get their results you will be sorely disappointed. But if you switch to a node compositor (which gives you the flexibility you need) and start investing the time to master the art you can get amazing results.
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#4 Frank Glencairn

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 05:16 AM

After Effects IS a node based compositor, but almost nobody knows or uses the node interface.

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#5 Adam Hunt

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 06:21 AM

After Effects IS a node based compositor, but almost nobody knows or uses the node interface.

Frank


No, actually it's not. In recent versions (CS4 onward I believe) it has something called the "Flowchart panel". It allows you to view your layers and compositions in an interface similar to a node-based compositor, but it is not the same thing exactly. It's not as low-level and flexible as a true node-based compositor although it does allow you to do some handy things you couldn't do with After Effects previously. And because it is simply an interface for After Effects current render engine, rather then a true node-by-node render-engine it is not as fast and efficient as most node-based compositors are. It is a handy feature to have when doing motion graphics in After Effects but it hardly turns AE into a node based compositor.

Besides, the question was what software do the pros use for keying and compositing, and it's not After Effects. It's used for a lot of graphics and VFX such as computer displays, but for heavy keying and compositing TRUE node-based compositors are needed and are faster and easier.

Not too long ago we sub-contracted somebody to do some clean-up of damaged film. They ended up taking two months to clean up 1/3 of the shots when if we had done in in-house with Shake it would have taken a week at most to finish the job. Turned out it was because they were trying to do it in After Effects and the render and load/save times where unbearably long, not to mention the interface was cumbersome and just plain wrong for that kind of work. Eventually we found somebody else using the right tool and they finished the other 2/3 in no time. Both persons were skilled. The shots done by both were excellent, but one person did them quickly and easily because they were using the right tool for the right job, while the other was doing the software equivalent of trying to bang a nail in with a hack saw. It works eventually, but it's a huge pain in the ass to do.
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#6 Phil Beastall

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 03:49 AM

I was disappointed when I realised Shake wasn't being made anymore because we have Final Cut Studio and it seemed like the perfect crossover, but when I went into applications looking for it, it wasn't there! Shake does seem to be the one people always talk about...I just need to clear out my brain of old junk before I can fill it with some new Shake knowledge...maybe a heavy night is in order to kill of some memories I don't need anymore?
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#7 Adam Hunt

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 05:15 AM

I was disappointed when I realised Shake wasn't being made anymore because we have Final Cut Studio and it seemed like the perfect crossover, but when I went into applications looking for it, it wasn't there! Shake does seem to be the one people always talk about...I just need to clear out my brain of old junk before I can fill it with some new Shake knowledge...maybe a heavy night is in order to kill of some memories I don't need anymore?


It's one of those things that seems misleadingly complicated, but it's actually the opposite. Shake is very, very simple. Each node is one operation on the image. It starts with a FileIn node for your plates and ends with a FileOut node for the rendered shot. In between you simply place a node for each basic manipulation you want to do to the image. A blur, a colour adjustment, a rotation, etc. each node is then fed into other nodes which add another adjustment until the final image is fed into the FileOut node to save the final image.

You may have seen screenshots of enormous trees of hundreds of nodes used in one shot. It may seem daunting at first sight, but in reality you can zoom in on that tree and adjust a node or two that you know controls one specific adjustment and see the result ripple down to the final image. It makes the most finicky adjustments of tiny details in overall complex images ridiculously simple.

If you are learning node compositing I would recommend starting with Shake. Even though Apple doesn't sell it licenses are abundant on ebay and other places. The advantage to learning with Shake is that because of it's wide spread use there are way, way more tutorials for and learning resources for Shake than other node compositors. Although once you learn the basic interface, it's not hard to follow a Shake tutorial in Nuke or vice-versa since they work on the same basic principles.

A really good place to start is the introductory Shake DVDs from The Gnomon Workshop. They will get you through the basic interface and basic concepts of nodes quite easily.
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#8 Adam Hunt

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 05:22 AM

Once you master the interface and basic concepts you will need to start learning the various chroma-keying techniques. I would recommend hunting the net for all the chroma-keying tutorials you can. Once you are good with Shake you can adapt techniques to it rather than needing a Shake-specific or even node-specific tutorial. The more techniques you know the better. Like I said before, it's an art. You will need to have as many techniques in your arsenal as possible because every shot is different and provides different challenges, and most will likely require a combination of more than one technique. It's more about learning to adapt and problem solve, than mastering any one technique.
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Visual Products

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