April 10, 2006

Vector Key 2.0 Chroma-Keyer
Oak Street Software

Review by Steve Douglas

The need to produce satisfactory chroma keys sometimes seems like the holy grail of many shooters. As a result there are several excellent pieces of keying software plug-ins now available. New to the block is the Vector Key plug ins for Mac OS-X and Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, Quicktime and Adobe Premier from Oak Street Software. Created by Douglas Tolzman of Oak Street the Vector package consists of 3 individual plug-ins, the Vkey 1 Filter, Vkey2 Filter and the Green Key Filter which are easily installed by placing them in the Quicktime folder found in the Macintosh HD's library.

Application of the any of the filters is just as easy. Depending on the quality of the footage you are using, these filters will all do a fairly equal and outstanding job of successfully keying your footage. I found that the basic Green Key filter was somewhat equitable to that of the Final Cut Pros chroma filter. It did a commendable job, and was simple to apply and set.

Parameters of Green Key Filter

Good handling of the task but notice the
stairstepping of the model's left shoulder

The Vkey 1 filter provides additional parameters for you to adjust. Edge smoothing can help with those tough areas and this filter simply takes things a step or two further should your use of the Green Key filter not provide you with the final results you were looking for.

Using the Vkeyer 1 filter provided me with smoother lines though I had some trouble removing the green from around her hair.

The Version 2 does away with edge trimming effectively evaluating the video and interpolating the alpha between chroma samples. There are controls for both minimum and maximum luminance, which allow you to protect dark and bright areas from keying while widening the vector range or tolerance. This new version of the Vector Key, evolving from version one, now supports PAL and HDV chroma structures as well. While the standard Green Key filter works just fine, especially when the green background is on the dark side, the new vector keyer is completely different and it can achieve great results where the other two might fail. The chroma-key solution has special features built in to compensate for the low color resolution of 4:1:1 video, and it sports the simplest green suppression I have seen.

Before and After split image with the Vkey filter.

In real world application it appears that the Vkey version one filter is the keyer to use. Should you not get the results you are looking for, or if you are using PAL video the new Version 2 vector keyer will be your saving grace as it can pretty much do it all. It is easy then to ask as to why bother with the V1 or Green Key filters at all, reasoning that the Vkey 2 filter will handle everything. Fair enough question; lighting and subjects are always variable and for that we all need to try different approaches and tools. While the Green Key and Vkey1 filter will handle most chroma keying applications just fine, it is beneficial that the Vkey 2 filter is there as a backup should you run into problems.

The Vkey 2 filter seems to do it all.

There is apparently a great word of mouth going about for Oak Street Software's V Key Chroma software. That is how I first heard about them. I found their service and response to questions or concerns to be superb. Be aware that the development of these chroma plug-ins have been on going. I myself received 3 different upgraded versions within the space of a few weeks. This demonstrates Oak Street's ongoing commitment to providing an excellent product. All upgrades will be free to any purchaser. You will also find the Oak Street website to be of special help with their online tutorials, samples and a free download demo for your evaluation. At such a low cost, you have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose.

Steve Douglas is an underwater videographer and contributor to numerous film festivals around the world. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, Steve has also worked on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld parks for their Atlantis production, and is one of the principal organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. Steve leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming filming excursions to Kenya, Bali & Komodo, the Philippines, and the Red Sea. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these trips. www.worldfilmsandtravel.com


copyright © Steve Douglas 2006

© 2000 -2006 Apple Computer, Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Final Cut Pro, Macintosh and Power Mac
are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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