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Review: Hawaiki Keyer 3

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Core Training: Compositing and Visual FX course!

Final Cut Pro X’s built-in Keyer effect has received much praise—it’s a very good keyer that can often produce very good results, very quickly. However, if you’re looking for a really clean key with perfect edges, it can be difficult to really finesse the key’s edges. I’ve written about various ways that the Keyer could be improved here and again here, but if you’re still not satisfied with the Keyer’s results, you have a third-party option: Hawaiki Keyer, now at version 3.

You can go through the app or the web to find the download link.

You can go through the app or the web to find the download link.

Starting out

As Hawaiki Keyer is sold through FxFactory, you’ll need to download and manage it using their app. Head to their page and then press Download Trial to kick the process off. There are also multiple videos you can watch for detailed information on how to use it, and you’re likely to need them. There are many options here, and it’ll take time to get familiar with all of them.

While I’ll be using FCP X here, Hawaiki Keyer also works in Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects, but on Mac only.

Here’s the FCP X Keyer on the left, and Hawaiki’s default result on the right, with less opaque fabric and reduced white halos in the hair.

Here’s the FCP X Keyer on the left, and Hawaiki’s default result on the right, with less opaque fabric and reduced white halos in the hair.

Initial Results

Just throwing Hawaiki Keyer 3 onto a clip works just fine, and indeed can do a better job than the built-in Keyer. Using the well-known but tricky green-screen test clips from the generous folks at Hollywood Camera Work, the results are, in general, an improvement, although the limited resolution of these clips (they aren’t full HD) is revealed more clearly by the sharper edges that Hawaiki produces.

Another issue is that the background is still partly visible on default settings—you’ll need to tweak parameters to get the best results from this effect. That’s where it shines, though: there are many options here, and ways to view the intermediate stages and final results.

One of many ways to see how Hawaiki Keyer does its magic.

One of many ways to see how Hawaiki Keyer does its magic.

Analysis View

Viewing the final output isn’t actually the best way to get started here. Instead, activate Analysis view (by pressing the button at the bottom of the Viewer) to see a false-color view of what Hawaiki Keyer has decided is the foreground and background, then adjust the Density controls (High, Low, Quick Density and FG Fill) until the background and foreground are cleanly separated. There are also Knee controls for High and Low for finer control over the edges, and they’re worth paying attention to. Finessing the definition of the foreground and background areas now will make the rest of the key go much more smoothly.

You can leave Analysis view by pressing the Analysis button (or Inspector checkbox) one more time, but there are additional intermediate views available. Two drop-down menus let you see the Final Key, the Pre-Qualify view and many more. You can switch between your two current choices with the arrow between the two drop-downs, or press the Dual View button to show both at once. It’s fast and flexible, and for the next step, we’ll want to see the Pre-Qualify view.

See two of the optional displays at once if you wish.

See two of the optional displays at once if you wish.

Pre-Qualify

If the matte doesn’t look quite right yet, there are many more controls in the Pre-Qualify section of the Inspector, found just above Density. You can tweak the Pre-Qualify controls, adjusting the color and separation of the foreground or background, with more Knee controls and three very handy “Auto” sliders. These controls help to more clearly define the foreground and background before you start really messing around with the edges and the overall color.

This edge matte can be used to darken the magenta areas and lighten the yellow ones.

This edge matte can be used to darken the magenta areas and lighten the yellow ones.

More Controls

The Matte controls let you push the mask around, adjusting its gamma, shrinking it, and cleaning it. There’s also an Outer Matte slider which helps to eliminate tracking markers.

The Edge controls are really quite interesting, and allow you to set up a frame-wide gradient that can be used to correct different parts of the key’s edges in different ways. If your subject has dark hair but light clothing, this can help to disguise the edges very effectively.

What else? Denoise gives simple but effective controls to remove fine digital grain. White Balance can be used to tint different parts of the image in different ways, including an auto-balance based on skintone. Despill gives extensive control over not just the removal of the green or blue that’s made its way onto the subject, but over which areas of the subject are affected. There’s also a full bank of Luminance, R, G, and B sliders for each of Shadows, Midtones and Highlights in the Color section, and a Light Wrap/Edge Blend which gives more control over how the edges blend with the background.

My slightly blurry hair from the FCP X Keyer on the left is much improved with Hawaiki Keyer and a little tweaking — and of course further tweaking is possible.

My slightly blurry hair from the FCP X Keyer on the left is much improved with Hawaiki Keyer and a little tweaking—and of course further tweaking is possible.

Minor Issues

Because the key is generally more precise than you’re used to, imperfections in the original shoot are more likely to be exposed. Applying Hawaiki Keyer to a Full HD clip of myself shot on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, I found the default results gave a much sharper edge around loose hair compared to the FCP X Keyer, but didn’t quite remove enough of the background. Extensive tweaking of the Hawaiki settings couldn’t let me keep the hair and ditch the full background, though I could get close.

It was easily fixable, though: the main issue with my shot was that the green screen wasn’t evenly lit, and the best solution (short of a reshoot) turned out to be using secondary color correction to brighten the edges of the frame before applying Hawaiki Keyer. This way, I could achieve a clean, sharp, accurate key with minimal tweaking, requiring only a little garbage masking to remove the far edges of the frame.

So many options, but watch the videos to get a better understanding of how to use them.

So many options, but watch the videos to get a better understanding of how to use them.

Conclusion

In many ways, Hawaiki Keyer 3 is a keyer built for professionals: it expects professional input and can produce professional output. While the built-in keyer gets very good results from average-quality shots, Hawaiki Keyer 3 gives you the extra controls needed to get terrific results from good-quality shots. If you’re not satisfied with the key edges or the controls that the FCP X Keyer gives you, Hawaiki Keyer 3 is a great option, and good value. 

Hawaiki Keyer 3: $99, $49 upgrade until end of October

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Core Training: Compositing and Visual FX course!

Iain Anderson

Iain Anderson | Articles by this author

Iain Anderson is an editor, animator, designer, developer and Apple Certified Trainer based in Brisbane, Australia. He has taught privately and in tertiary institutions, and has freelanced for Microsoft and the Queensland Government. Comfortable with anything from Quartz Composer to Second Life and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Creative Suite, he has laid out books, booklets, brochures and business cards; retouched magazine covers and product packaging, shot and edited short films and animated for HD broadcast TV, film festivals and for the web.

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