Serious chroma keying: ultra

Recently released as a PAL version, ULTRA's primary advantage over competing tools is a proprietary technology called vector keying. This allows you to create high-quality chroma keys easily, even with DV25-based camcorders and less-than-perfect keying material.

The NTSC version's one-click key button has disappeared, so you'll find yourself having to adjust a wide range of settings, but ULTRA is pretty accommodating, and eliminates the need for expensive setups and stacked chroma key filters. The fact that you can do this in real time on a laptop would make it invaluable to off-site setups, eliminating costly retakes when footage proves to be unsuitable back in the editing studio.

But ULTRA isn't just a chroma key, it's also a compositor, and comes with a collection of 15 "virtual sets". These are backgrounds you can drop behind your keyed out clips, covering typical camera views with a range of themes, not to mention tracking moves and reflections/shadows. Where this differs from standard backdrops is that ULTRA lets you include video and stills as elements alongside your talent, holding them in place as you seamlessly pan and zoom around the set (a notoriously difficult thing to achieve with regular compositors). Sequences of finalised clips can be created without the need for additional software, but you can also export keyed clips with transparency channels for use with video editing software.

We'd like to see the crop tool replaced with a more flexible garbage matte, and a plug-in version would be nice for anyone with a preferred editor, but otherwise there's very little missing from this excellent chroma key compositor.

of how we used ULTRA to great effect on the Back To Basics video found on the PC World November CD.

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Laurence Grayson

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