Serious Magic Ultra test and review

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Serious Magic Ultra

DV footage and high-quality chromakeying are usually said to be incompatible, so how seriously should we take Serious Magic's claim that its Ultra software produces excellent chromakey effects from DV source video?

Our curiosity was roused by Serious Magic's claims that its Ultra software for Windows offers an incredibly easy way to achieve professional chromakey results using DV footage - the more so since we're normally highly dubious of statements that promise ease of use, especially from products with magic in their names.
In truth, we felt we just had to investigate, given that the words DV and pro-quality chromakey don't usually appear together in the same sentence. Many of us have attempted chromakey work on DV footage using our favourite video editor's built-in chroma function. While some NLEs perform chromakeying better than others, we've often had to settle for a mediocre key with the familiar stair-stepping effect along edges. Higher-end keyers, such as The Foundry's Keylight (included with Adobe After Effects Pro 6.5), provide excellent keys, but involve a steep learning curve to master - and aren't cheap either, though After Effects itself is more affordable today than ever before.


Ultra is probably the most efficient, effective, and easiest to use chromakeyer in its class. The performance of real-time previews while making adjustments, plus Ultra's fast rendering times and ability to use a live DV camera input to set up keys, make the program almost irresistible - though bringing the UK price into line with that in the USA (where it's £160 cheaper) could be the clincher.
Although we'd greatly prefer to see more realistic sets added to the master set library, the included sets do provide impressive camera tracking and pan controls. Anyone doing DV chromakeying will be pleased with the ease of use and clean keys possible with Ultra.

Curt Wrigley

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Reviewed in this issue:

Dazzle DVC90
Red Giant Magic Bullet Editors
Serious Magic DV Rack
Serious Magic Ultra
Siren Opticopy

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