Creating a matte based on colour — a blue or green screen — is not easy. Especially when dealing with “fuzzy” edges such as hair or fur, creating a matte that allows you to seamlessly blend the cut-out foreground with a new background can be hard. Hawaiki Keyer should make it easier. I tried this plug-in with Final Cut Pro X.
My experience with keyers is limited to tests with Red Giant Software’s Primatte Keyer. That keyer is an industry standard, but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to work with or the one that you create the best results with. It is, however, one of the most powerful keyers available. If you can’t create a matte with Primatte Keyer, you probably won’t with any other keyer plug-in. I master Primatte Keyer, so I was particularly interested in how I would get along with Hawaiki Keyer 2.0.
In Final Cut Pro X, Hawaiki Keyer presents itself as an effect with a whole list of parameters. I first took the tutorial, which is a screencast that explains clearly how you can create a perfect matte with Hawaiki Keyer. Then I tried using Hawaiki Keyer on my own, using — as I always do with keyers and trackers — a badly lit blue screen and a person with grey hair in the forefront. The reason for such a bad setup is that I am pretty confident you can create a good matte with any current keyer provided your screen has been perfectly lit and the forefront doesn’t contain any or very few elements that tend to blend in with the background.
At first Hawaiki Keyer gave me headaches in deciding which of the settings I should opt for and in which direction to change them. When it comes to automatically selecting the background in all its imperfection, I found Primatte Keyer to be easier and faster to start with. However, after going through the tutorial a second time while I processed my own crappy footage, it sort of caught on with me what I needed to do to make my setup work. That means the learning curve was something like 45 minutes before I could create a decent matte.
To create the perfect matte, I spent another 45 minutes figuring out which parameters needed tweaking. Now, Final Cut Pro X’s Inspector is really simple, but in this case I had the feeling that it didn’t offer a granular enough control to tweak my matte to perfection. For example, entering 0.977 in a parameter field results in the figure being entered as 0.97 — whereas I found 0.98 to be too high a value to make the matte work.
This doesn’t mean Hawaiki Keyer performed worse than Primatte Keyer. In fact, using the same clip, they both performed about the same, with Primatte Keyer being a bit more intuitive and faster at perfectly masking fine detail. The best of course is to set up the blue/green screen properly, with no wrinkles or uneven lighting.
The bottom line is that I am really impressed with Hawaiki Keyer, regardless of the method I chose when I started keying — going the automatic route or manually selecting the colour, etc. Given a bit more preparation and some more experimenting I could have created that perfect matte in well under half an hour. Hawaiki Keyer costs about €44.50. In comparison, Primatte Keyer costs approx. €452.35…