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PHYX Keyer Review

May 10, 2010 12:00 PM, By Franklin McMahon

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PHYX Keyer is available through Noise Industries' FxFactory Pro plug-in hosting program.

PHYX Keyer is available through Noise Industries' FxFactory Pro plug-in hosting program.

PHYX started out producing plug-ins for Apple’s Shake compositing software, and the company has since branched out to develop a solid keying solution for Final Cut Pro, Motion, Adobe After Effects, and Final Cut Express. PHYX Keyer is available via Noise Industries FxFactory Pro (read my review), which is a single-host program that allows the major compositing/editing programs (such as FCP and AE) to support hundreds of third-party plug-ins. After installing FxFactory, which is free, PHYX is available for purchase from inside the software.

This method allows the individual plug-in developers to update their software, offer free demos, and launch new plug-ins all from one interface. Once you are inside your edit/motion software, your plug-in appears like any other effect, selectable from the Effects menu. Like most of the FxFactory plug-ins, you can try a free version of PHYX Keyer before you purchase it. The keyer retails for $199.

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Keyers generally come in two flavors: a plug-in that combines many features in one or a set of plug-ins that splits specific tasks among individual plug-ins. PHYX Keyer is the latter, comprising five plug-ins: Keyer, Despill, Diffkeyer, Lightwrap, and Screencorrector. You might need a couple of plug-ins for the desired effect, and by combining several plug-ins you can get great results with minimal fussing over parameter settings. Most of the time you will start off with the Keyer, which includes three keying engine modes: YUV Difference, 3d Keyer and Channel Keyer. YUV Difference converts the key into YUV color space and produces a color matte; Channel Keyer, which is the most basic, keys out green or blue; and 3d Keyer mathematically creates a 3D map of the distance from the keyed color to the source pixel's value. You don’t need to know much about the science behind these modes; simply selecting one of the three will usually give you a nearly finished key matte.

There are additional controls for tweaking the channel’s boost, density, and contrast, and just adjusting a few of these sliders can produce a great key. The keyer also allows you to choose the chroma subsampling mode you want to key in, which typically is dictated by your footage. Choosing 4:4:4, 4:1:1, or 4:2:2 matches the keying method to the chroma of the original source footage. The road to HD has been paved with numerous SD and HD formats over the years, and most handle chroma differently. PHYX Keyer slides into the correct mode to avoid the blocky artifacts that can arise, especially with older archival footage.

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