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PHYX Keyer Review

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

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Adding the Despill effect after a key usually cleans up most of the stray pixels. If you’ve done any keying, you know that artifacts tend to crop up. They can be difficult to correct, costing you time and money. As long as you've set the keyer correctly, adding Despill leaves an amazingly realistic key, free of the little fringes that are often left over from a standard key. After you adjust the Despill amount, you’ll usually have your final key.

The next one you may want to add is the Lightwrap effect. This taps into the background image or video and creates a light source that is blended into your keyed-in scene in the foreground. When this works, it adds a higher level of realism. Sliders help you keep this mode subtle. On a recent client project, I tried the Lightwrap effect and found that it did the job quickly. The results were better, however, if I sampled the background colors and mixed them in via proper color-timing tools within After Effects. It's worth noting, though, that this manual process took considerably longer. The Lightwrap effect is definitely meant for deadline-driven projects or those in which you want to add just a hint of the background hue for added realism. Like most of the plug-ins in this kit, they are designed for quick, professional results. Just applying the plug-ins themselves should get you 90 percent of the way most of the time, and minimal fiddling will take you the rest of the way.

Rounding out the package, the Diffkeyer produces a matte based on two separate images. So if you lack a green screen, you can film a person against a plain wall, then film again without the person. The Diffkeyer will calculate the difference between the two shots and pull a clean matte for keying. Screencorrector is handy for uneven lighting on footage to be keyed. This plug-in takes a clean plate and a solid key color and adjusts the key color in your shot, usually brightening it up and making it more even, so that it's easier to key. It won’t compensate for bad key lighting, but in a couple of clicks it goes a long way toward keeping the color consistent throughout the shot.

The package of five plug-ins is quite a great value; however, some might find it a little inconvenient that they need to install the host FxFactory program before they can install PHYX Keyer. Don’t let that stop you. Not only is FxFactory a free download, it comes with it a lot of free plug-ins as well as demos of many other cool effects software. FxFactory has grown into its own little ecosystem, and it's definitely worth checking into.

PHYX Keyer serves an emerging market well: It's a low-priced keying solution that does most of the heavy lifting for you. In the past, keying software offered a dizzying array of parameters and options to tweak. This level of control came in handy for laborious adjusting, but sometimes programs offered little in the way of automatic options. PHYX Keyer lets you combine two or three of its included plug-ins and produces professional results with little effort. It does not have the number of features the larger keyers have, but you generally shouldn't need all the extra parameters as the software does a great job on auto-pilot. Despill goes a long way toward obviating the need for constant correcting. That you can operate in different color spaces and choose your chroma-sampling mode ensures that the software will be up to the task on any SD or HD project. Take the plug-in package for a test drive; it does the job, and its purchase certainly will not break the bank.


Company: PHYX
Product: Keyer
Assets: Affordable price; automatic settings provide good results with little effort; ability to choose color space for keying.
Caveats: Mild incovenience in requiring FxFactory.
Price: $199 (retail)

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