Fast, Clean Keys Are One Click Away

ULTRA from Serious Magic has a seriously stellar reputation as a great keying tool in the ubiquitous world of DV, where clean keys aren’t always easy in the 4:1:1 or 4:2:0 color spaces. Version 2 makes that reputation even better.
I tested ULTRA 2 in a variety of keying situations, including those in which the greenscreen is improperly lit, resulting in nasty hotspots on the edge of the screen. This creates a gradient that makes it difficult for most any NLE to quickly key. A few clicks in ULTRA 2 fixed that problem. You can add, edit and remove keypoints easily. Working with a well-lit key proved to be a one-click operation.
The program is a little quirky and even the documentation couldn’t answer one particular problem. At one point during my tests, the display dropped the keyed image into an odd position on the preview screen. Restarting the application with both a 16:9 and a 4:3 project yielded the same result- a shift in location of the image. It really didn’t matter much in the end, but it was slightly irritating to deal with as I worked.
Repositioning/flipping a scene is a snap. Clicking on the Scene tab lets you drag/flip the scene to any desired location. For example, you could shoot a DV scene vertically, key out the background and use the Scene tab to rotate the horizontal capture to a vertical position. Now that’s a truly budget-conscious way of creating HD output!
Another clever feature lets you use the Mask Painter to paint out and blend edges. Tabs in the interface are oriented right to left for a logical and sensible workflow; from them, you can access tools to color correct, pan/zoom, add shadows, input virtual sets, render and call up previous sessions. ULTRA 2 can accept live input and provide live output too, making it a valuable tool for budget broadcasters or Webcasters. And if you need to build out a virtual studio quickly, Serious Magic also sells a collection of virtual sets that make nice backdrops for your keys (though some of them are a bit too CG-looking for my tastes). In September, the company released Master Sets Library Suite, a boxed set of its three virtual set libraries designed to work with ULTRA; the suite lists for an additional $799.
This is a software tool that any editor should own if keying is important to the workflow. It saves a lot of time and provides a first-class output for DV or HD.
System Requirements: Windows XP or 2000; 933 MHz or faster processor; 512 MB RAM; DVD-ROM drive