Software Review CHV-Electronics -The Bezier Garbage Matte

February 10, 2003

A Review of the Bezier Garbage Matte Pro
A Set of Filters For Final Cut Pro

Digital Video Effects for Apple Final Cut Pro OS 9 and X, FCP 2 and 3
Pro version $49 - Lite version $39
by CHV-Electronics

Review by Andrew Balis

I recently took a look at a new set of plugins for Final Cut Pro. They are the Bezier Garbage Matte Pro set of filters by CHV-Electronics.

When I first looked at this set of filters, I thought it was interesting. After I spent some time with it I thought, "Really cool". Then I spent more time with it and now I think that this is a vital tool for any effects artist working in Final Cut Pro. It is actually a set of garbage mattes that were written specifically for Final Cut Pro. There are 10, 20 and 40 point filters that are full featured, and a 12 point filter that is a little more limited.

These plugins can do a lot. The fact that it is the first good tool to be used for intricate selection in FCP is an understatement. They are not simple filters, they are a full effects palette.

Shown to the right: just some of the controls on one of the Bezier Garbage Mattes.

I keep thinking of the way I was creating certain effects in FCP and now I think of just how prehistoric it was. Additionally, its opened up options for creating effects that normally would have to be done in After Effects.

What would we do with one of the built in FCP garbage mattes? There are numerous uses for a garbage matte that all stem from cutting out or preserving a section of the video image. Variations on that theme include the most basic, like cropping out extraneous parts of an image before blue or green screen work.

The mattes that are built into FCP are limited in what they can do. Although various different points can be used to make the needed selection, the points can only be rounded and/or feathered.

With the new Bezier Garbage Mattes, and the various controls, a variety of effects can be created that go beyond the basic:

- Selective color correction: Selecting an object and altering its color. Because complex shapes may be selected, its ideal for altering a specific object that might be difficult to select with other options, like FCP's color correction filter and its "Limit Effect Controls".

- Highlighted effect: Selecting a portion of the frame and making its appearance different from the rest of the image, like shading everything but the matted area. This was possible before, but you would have had to duplicate your video clip, matte one of them, and apply another filter to one of the clips to separate it in appearance from the other clip. With one of the new Bezier Garbage Mattes, this can all be done on one clip and with one filter. Below are examples of a clip that has been matted, outlined, and the outside of the selection was then blurred and tinted. All of these controls are found on a Bezier Garbage Matte Pro.


- Cops style effect: Similar to the example above, but this time blurring out a portion of the frame and leaving the rest of the image intact. Again, we have been doing this in FCP for some time, but we would also have to duplicate the video clip, and then mask and blur one of the clips with two different filters, possibly three filters. With the new filters, this can also be done on only one clip with just the one filter, as the filters also have an option to blur the selected area.

Tracking: While not real motion tracking, this filter can be animated around the screen with a center point (Global Offset), something that FCP's garbage mattes do not have. Along with the controls for size, rotation and aspect ratio, it is a lot easier to follow an object in the frame, whether the use is for a cops style effect, or for replacing a shot of a blank tv screen with a new image, or any other tracking effect.

The global controls available on the filters

Glowing or outlining an image: Here we go well beyond a standard garbage matte, and a whole host of effects can be created on the edges of a selected image.

Without glow
With glow around bottle

Shape generator: Apply one of these filters to Slug and create any color shape or line. These can be used as backgrounds for text or logos.

Various lines and shapes
created with mattes applied to Slug
Shapes with corresponding matte points

Highlights: creating texture in an image by adding a subtle shape and glowing and feathering it, making it appear as a lighting effect.

Original image
Matte used to create an outline
Final image with matte feathered

Some of the impressive attributes about these plugins are as follows:

- Global Offset: Wow! Finally a matte that has a center point that can be animated. I will often use a Mask Shape when I need to animate a simple matte as it has a center point. Now we have a matte that can have very precise points, and then the whole matte animated around the screen. This makes for great tracking of an object in the frame.

- Size, Aspect Ratio and Rotation: This is very cool, and the only options for really tracking an image in Final Cut Pro, as these settings can be animated. Rotation even gives an option for what you will rotate around (anchor point). It can be set to the Global Offset, the center of the points, the center of the screen, or any point that you designate manually. I have one small gripe about the way that Size was implemented on this filter as I'll discuss later.

- Bezier Handles: Double wow! Each point has two Bezier handles that can be set: one leading into the point from the previous point (the Blue handle), and a handle leading away from the point to the next point (the Red handle). How can these Bezier handles help us when creating mattes? Using these handles, you can select irregular or jagged shapes, or smooth, round surfaces . The website for this plugin CHV-Electronics shows a long-neck bottle being perfectly selected.

Red and blue lines indicate the Bezier handles stretching away from each matte point.

- Area or Outline: This gives you the flexibility of creating a standard matte (area) or creating an outline that can be used for making straight lines, curved lines, arrows or other shapes. With either Area or Outline (in combination with some of the other controls), you can create all sorts of objects, making this plugin not just a matte, but a full featured shape generator (no more going out to Photoshop for these simple things). For shapes and lines, simply drop this filter on Slug, and choose any color you desire. Examples of this are shown earlier in the article.

- Opacity Source: This could be a real time saver. You choose whether the non-matted section of the image is fully transparent, opaque or anywhere in-between. This can eliminate the need for duplicating a shot on the next track above in certain applications. For instance, highlighting one section of the image with the rest of the image dark. Without this filter, you would have to duplicate the clip, one of the clips would have a matte, and one would have some color correction to separate it from the matted image. With the Bezier Garbage Matte you can do it all on one clip: in fact, just with the one filter. Because the matte or the inverse can be blurred, you can even create a Cops style effect much easier than the ways we used to do it in FCP, and more precise.

- Zoom feature: Now I know you are ready to buy this set of plugins already, but there is a lot more. Most notably, the Zoom feature. When this option is turned on, there is a separate smaller window in the Canvas that shows a magnified section of the Canvas. It magnifies in on the point of the matte that you are setting. If you click and drag while setting the point, both the point in the Canvas will update as you drag, which will help you place the point exactly where you want it. This magnified window can be resized (window size) and the magnification can be altered (zoom factor).

Example of the Zoom window in the Canvas to help
guide you to set very precise points on a matte.

Beyond the features I just listed, you have options for inner and outer borders that can be fully customized from a glow to a solid border, tinting the matted section, blurring the matted section, as well as other features that you would expect to find like inverting the matte, feathering the edge of the matte (Feather Edges) and rounding the points (Smooth Outline).

- And before I forget to mention it, you get to decide just how many points you want to work with! You get a few different flavors of the Pro version of the matte: 10pt, 20pt, 40pt. Beyond this flexibility, you can enable or turn off points in any of the filters. For instance you only want 7 points: start with the 10 point matte and turn off points 8-10. Very nice. In my tests, I have yet to use all points in the 10 point matte, but having the flexibility of a 40 point matte for the right situation is tantalizing.

Additionally, the mattes are very customizable and you can choose the size and opacity of the labels, their colors, and which information you want displayed on the screen.

Above are the controls to customize a matte.

Beyond all of the glowing aspects of these plugins, there are things that could be improved.

1. Quick and easy way to turn on/off all labels (like a preview and final mode with other similar filters). Right now, there are several checkboxes to turn on/off.

2. Better documentation. The pdf manual does cover the basics, but I still spent a lot of time trying to figure out certain things that could have been easily covered with a couple more pages in a manual.

3. A simpler way of starting off with fewer than 10 points for a matte (currently you have to start with at least the 10 point matte and turn off whichever points you do not want to be enabled. If you wanted to start off with only 4 points for example, you would turn off 5-10, so that all 4 points you are working with would be right next to one another in the controls of the filter. The problem is that you now start off with a matte that looks light a straight line. Now of course you will be re-centering all of these points, but you have a hard time being able to see where you want to start making a selection. I found this time consuming.

4. Changing size of matte. Currently, to modify the Size of the matte, you would scale it up from the center of the Global Offset. Instead, it seems more necessary to be able to Scale up from the center of the points. The way it works now makes it difficult to animate the size of the matte to compensate for an objectÕs changing size during a shot. If you modify Scale, the matted section can quickly move away from the object it was selecting. There is an option when rotating to rotate around the center of points, it should be added to size as well. There are a couple ways around this, however. Before you begin, set the global offset to the center of the section to be matted. Now all controls, including size, will be easier to manipulate. The other option for manipulating size around the currently defined points is using the choke setting, which will only help in certain situations.

5. Adjusting Bezier Handles. This was my biggest concern. To adjust a handle, you click on the crosshair for that handle (Red or Blue) and then click in the Canvas to relocate the position of the Bezier handle. Sounds straightforward, but its not. Instead of clicking in the Canvas where you want to set the point of the handle, instead you set it at a relative point from the main crosshair (the Global Offset). The only way to set it precisely is to click in the Canvas, and without letting go, drag until the Bezier handle is positioned where you want it. The instinctive spot, which would be near the point of the matte, will end up sending the Bezier handle way off the image outside the Canvas. Its doable, but it seems to take a bit of practice.

Although there are a few things that could be improved, there is quite a lot you can do. I did find that there were a couple of things that helped me when working with one of these filters. When working with a matte, start off with Opacity Source set around 50, so that you can see the matted area as well as the area around it. Also, set a Global Offset that is centered around the area to be matted. This will help when animating the Size if needed. Also, create a few Favorite filters by dragging the filter into the Favorites Bin in the Browser. Set up the amount of points and labels the way you like it on the different favorites. This avoids having to adjust the same things every time you start to work with a filter. For instance, I created a 4, 6 and 8 point version of the 10 point matte. I also found that resizing the labels smaller, and turning off the green points (the center of a point of the matte) helped me work the way I wanted to.

Another important working method: click and drag. When you activate a crosshair on the filter, try not to simply click in a new location in the Canvas. This can create undesirable or imperfect results, especially when setting a Bezier handle. Instead, activate a crosshair on the filter by clicking on it. Then move to the Canvas, and click and hold down on the mouse. Then start to drag the cursor around slowly. The Canvas will update, giving a somewhat slow "real-time" update of the point you are choosing (this wasn't instantaneous on my dual 1Ghz G4, so you have to wait briefly for the update to happen). When you have found the exact placement of the new point, let go of the mouse.

That's about all I can say about the Bezier Garbage Mattes. I highly recommend this set of plugins.

After graduating from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for film, Andrew Balis has been in the film industry for over a decade, working in both production and post production. Currently, his time is shared working as a cinematographer and editor, consultant and instructor in Final Cut Pro. Andrew has also written and co-written the Apple certified Final Cut Pro student guides for the FCP 101, 201 and 210 classes used by Apple certified education centers, developed at the Moviola Education center, as well as having written chapters in other books on Final Cut Pro.

copyright © Andrew Balis 2003


All screen captures, images, and textual references are the property and trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.