VKey2f End of Life

The vector keyer for FCP 6/7 will remain available for sale until we no longer have an FCP 6/7 installation for testing. However, the chroma keyer provided with FCPX provides similar, if not better functionality in most areas and the changes Apple made to the API would require significant development to port VKey2 to that environment. Also, it is possible that VKey2 would not even function as well under FCPX, due to changes in the rendering pipeline.

Our editing department has made the leap to FCPX, and we are mostly satisfied with the functionality of FCPX. There are some things it does much better than older versions of FCP (background rendering, real time playback without rendering, syncing audio and video clips, multi-camera clips). We’re not sold on the new project management paradigm, where projects and events are packed in libraries. There have been several stability issues; especially in titles, but for the most part, FCPX is quite capable.

FCP X/Motion 5

I’ve had one phone call about Motion 5 and/or FCP X support for VKey2f. I suppose some others might be curious, so I’ll let you know where we’re at with the 64 bit version of VKey2f.

First, the vector keyer code is fairly portable, so it can be compiled for 64 bit, as is, and it will work in Motion 5. I guess that’s the good news. Unfortunately, there is more to the story. Apple changed the way video frames are passed to plug-ins when they rewrote everything. Instead of handing the plug-in the full frame, the host software (e.g. Motion) first scales and transforms the image to the size and perspective of it’s format in the composite. That means that there is no way to do chroma reconstruction on the image, since that requires that the plug-in receives every pixel of the original video frame. I would have to strip out the chroma reconstruction feature from the new version of VKey2f, and the chroma reconstruction is one of it’s key features.

Furthermore, I think it’s a bad move on the part of Apple, to pass a potentially reduced resolution version of the video to the plug-in. The key would be much better if it were done on the unscaled video image, for maximum resolution. One of the tricks to better keys was to turn the camera on it’s side when shooting a vertical subject, to utilize as much of the frame as possible, then rotate and scale the result in the final composite. With Motion 4/5, the additional resolution would be discarded before the chromakey, so there would be no advantage.

The vector keyer that ships with Motion is pretty good. VKey2f without it’s chroma enhancing feature is just about on par with the built in keyer. I tested the two, side by side, and the results were almost identical. VKey2f’s green suppression was a little better.

I may be able to move more of the VKey2f function to the GPU, which may provide a performance enhancement. Otherwise, VKey2f for Motion/FCP X would be a stripped down version of the current VKey2f product that would function marginally better than the built in chroma keyer.

I’d love to hear from my Final Cut Pro users on this topic; especially if you are planning to migrate to FCP X, or have migrated to FCP X. If any of you have any influence on Apple’s design team, you may want to plead for a design change. Otherwise, I’d suggest that anyone who is serious about chromakey work, use After Effects or Shake. I wish I knew what was going on at Apple, but it sure seems like compositing quality is not very high on their priority list.

The bottom line is that VKey2f may never be released for 64 bit, unless I hear from some people who are dissatisfied with the built in chromakeyer and want to see a 64 bit version of VKey2f with no chroma reconstruction feature.

Quicktime component and Snow Leopard

Thanks to Ron Cole, we worked out the necessary configuration for users of the VKey2 Quicktime component who have upgraded to Snow Leopard. You will need to install the Quicktime 7 update for Snow Leopard in order to use Quicktime Pro features. The default (new) Quicktime player does not support the export options you need to use VKey2. The VKey2 component must be installed in the /System/Library/Quicktime folder. In Leopard, and previous OS versions, Quicktime components were installed in /Library/Quicktime. They will not be recognized in Snow Leopard unless you put them in the /System/Library/Quicktime folder.

Notice to upgraders

One of my customers asked me, today, if he could evaluate version 2 of VKey2f without deleting VKey2f version 1. The answer is yes, version 2 is a different plug-in with different controls and a different bundle name. You can have them both installed, and if you have projects that use version 1, you absolutely must keep them both installed, or you may not be able to open your old projects that use version 1.

You may install the demo of version 2 alongside version 1 for testing. If you later purchase the upgrade, the installer will replace the demo with the product version, but it will not touch your version 1 plug-in bundle. If you happen to install the demo in your home library folder and then install the product in the root library folder, be sure to go back and manually remove the demo from your home library folder or it will override the one in the root library folder, and you’ll continue to see the red “X” on your videos.

I hope that is clear. If anyone has any questions, please e-mail them to support@oakstreetsoftware.com and I will try to clarify any ambiguities.

VKey2f V2 Advanced Tutorial

We have completed the advanced tutorial for the new version of VKey2f. This tutorial covers the new features in VKey2f Version 2. Specifically, it covers the Minimum Radius modifier control, the advanced spill suppression, and the completely rewritten edge blending feature. You can find the tutorial on Vimeo and on YouTube.

For more information about the operation of version 2.01 of VKey2f, feel free to download the documentation from the downloads page.

Licensees of previous versions of our vector keyer product may upgrade for $34.99 through April 30, 2011.