Chroma Keying for the Masses: Serious Magic Ultra

Contents And Price

Ultra comes in both NTSC and PAL versions. The MSRP of $795 is much lower than that of Ultimatte, which is the choice of professional movie makers. You will need to have a DVD-ROM drive to use this software; there is no CD version.

For those who want to test drive Ultra, a free demonstration download is available at Serious Magic's website. The demo is fully functional, it just puts a watermark on the output video.

Installation And Activation

The install was fairly painless, except for one glitch for DirectX 9.0c users. The install wouldn't see that you already had DirectX installed and kept asking to install DirectX 9.0b. It would bomb out on the install and then get stuck in an install loop. Fortunately, there is a work around for this on the Serious Magic support pages.

The complete install comes in at around 2.6 GB which includes dozens of different backgrounds and practice video clips. Of course, you are free to use whatever background pictures and video you want.

You have to activate the product seven days after installation. To save yourself future headaches, you may want to install Ultra on a clean machine, activate it, and then image the box. Serious Magic allows you to have activated copies of Ultra on a laptop and desktop with one license.


The interface is well thought out. On the upper left side is the Input pane, which shows the raw video; the upper right side gives you a preview of the output. If your computer is fast, you will see your chroma key results in real time. Different settings are accessed using the tabs along the middle of the screen.

To start the chroma key process, you drag a clip into the strip of small panes in the middle of the window. Then you select a background, which can be either a still picture or a video.

Almost every option has a reset button that will change the setting back to its default value. This is very handy for getting the perfect chroma key - you can mess up many times and still get back to a known starting point.

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