Chroma Keying for the Masses: Serious Magic Ultra


Modern filmmaking attempts to blur the line between fiction and reality. Actors and actresses may look like they are performing in Rome, New York or the planet Tatooine, but are actually in front of a blue or green screen. This process, known as chroma keying , digitally replaces a background with either a still picture or with video, giving the illusion that the scene is taking place in a far-away city - or on a distant planet.

While movie studios can spend $100 million on special effects, the normal person is not so wealthy. Is it possible to obtain the same quality of effects without breaking the bank? Serious Magic promises that their Ultra program will give users quality chroma keying at a reasonable price.

How well does Ultra work? Will aspiring amateur filmmakers love or hate Ultra? Read on to find out.

Where Do You Get A Blue Or Green Screen?

Before you can use Ultra or any other chroma keying software, you must prepare either a blue or green background. The color to choose depends on what your actors are wearing. If they are wearing blue, then use a green screen. If they are wearing green, then choose blue.

There are several ways of getting a chroma key background. If you are setting up a home studio, you can simply paint a wall green or blue. There is special chroma key paint - which costs $40 a bucket - but you can get similar results with cheaper paint from Home Depot. Use either pure green (255 green) or pure blue (255 blue) paint. First sand and primer coat the wall. After the primer dries, evenly paint the color on the wall.

Another, cheap way to get a green background is with green colored posterboard, which is sold at Wal-Mart or any art supply store. At about $1 a sheet, you can affordably cover a lot of area. The downside of this method is that the edges of each sheet may show in the final video. It is also a pain to tape up many small pieces of posterboard to a wall.

Many vendors sell a foldable chroma key backdrop that is blue on one side and green on the other. The folding backdrop collapses small enough to be portable, which is great for doing interviews on the run. The drawback is that the screen may not be wide enough to do certain action shots like two people fighting each other.

Chroma key fabric is the last way of getting a background for the Ultra software. True chroma key green or blue cloth will be very expensive, but your local fabric store probably has a similar color. Buy a small piece and test it out with the software. If it doesn't work too well, then you are not out very much money.