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You no doubt encounter chroma key effects on a regular basis whether you're aware of it or not. Keying removes the background from behind an actor, for instance, and it replaces it with any real or imagined background. And you see this process used in everything from big-budget fantasy and science fiction movies to nightly TV weather reports. Now, you can do it on your home computer too. You need two things to create the effect and I do recommend you work in Expert view; it's a little hard to make this effect successful if you're working in Quick view. You need two things.
You need a new background and you need a key clip, and our key clip is going to be our actor shot in front of, in this case, a green screen. So let's add our background to Video track 1. In this case, I'm using a photo, and you can use a video also. If you add a photo to your timeline and your video frame is 16 x 9 and your 4 x 3 photo does not fill out the frame, it may be because Scale to Frame Size is checked. Right-click on the clip and uncheck Scale to Frame Size.
Now it'll fill out the frame. Let's get our key clip and we'll enter key clip to Video track 2, directly above our new background. Whenever you add a clip that has a smooth background to it--in this case a green screen background--the program automatically assumes you want to create a Videomerge effect. Now we do; we just don't want to do it right now. I find this little pop-up annoying because sometimes it pops up when you just have like a picture of the sky, something that is a smooth-color background.
It assumes it's a green screen or a blue screen. If you want to see this message go away and never come back, click on that box and then select No. The success of your green screen, it's only going to be as good as the clip you have for your key clip. In this case, we have a really nice one. See how smooth the background is? It's a nice even color of green. It's evenly lit. There are no wrinkles. There are no shadows. There are no hotspots. That's going to make a very nice key clip. And what we're going to do when we apply Chroma Key or Videomerge is we're going to remove everything that's green from this picture and make it transparent, and that what we'll reveal the video or the still photo we have on Video track 1.
Now, our still photo doesn't go the entire length of the clip. Since it's a still photo, we can just hover over the end here until we get our trim indicator and drag it out so that it's the same length as our ChromaKey clip. Now we are ready to go. The Chroma Key effect is located on the Effects panel. We can open that by clicking on the Effects button on the Action bar. And let's go to the Keying effects category. Chroma Key comes in a couple of different flavors: Blue Screen Key, Green Screen Key. Chroma Key is sort of the generic. In this case we have yet a green screen, so let's apply the Green Screen Key. Just drag it right onto your key clip on your timeline.
That's the one on Video 2. And there, at its default setting, it does a pretty good job. Let's go to Applied Effects by clicking on the Applied Effects button on the right-hand side. We'll open up the Green Screen settings, clicking on that, and when you make adjustments to your green screen or your blue screen or your chroma key, I recommend that you select the option to see Mask Only. That will show you what is and what is not being removed and as you can see, we have just a little bit too much being removed right now. So let's adjust the cutoff a bit.
That looks pretty good. Threshold will kind of smooth it out. Let's uncheck the Mask Only and when we go back to the clip, it looks pretty darn good. We'll reset the playhead to the beginning by dragging it to the beginning of the timeline, and then I'm going to press the spacebar to play it. That doesn't look too bad. It'll look even better when we render it out. There is one challenge here, and that is if you have the Macintosh version of the program, unfortunately you have neither Blue Screen, Green Screen or the Chroma Key effect.
I don't know why they left that out. Fortunately, you do have Videomerge, and that's available in both the PC and Mac version, and it does this kind of keying effect extremely effectively. So let's go back to our clip, and I'm just going to remove the Green Screen Key effect by clicking on the trashcan, and this time we'll apply Videomerge. Now, Videomerge is available in a couple of different places. You saw that it will automatically apply if you let it. If we go to the Effects panel and go to the Videomerge category, it's right there. Or we can just right-click on the clip and select Apply Videomerge.
At its default setting, not too bad. We do have a little bit of dithering up here in the sky, so let's adjust it a bit. We'll open up Videomerge in the Applied Effects panel. And what I recommend you do, even though Videomerge does a pretty good job of guessing what the key color is, we're going to designate it, and you can do that by checking the box where it says Select Color, then clicking on the eyedropper--that's a sampler--and let's designate the background at a good sort of midrange of that green, right about here. Now it does a great job of taking it away.
If we want to adjust it a bit, we can adjust the Tolerance; the wider the Tolerance, the more color it's going to remove. We don't want to remove too much, because we don't want to remove any of our actor. But we're in pretty good shape, and this time let's render it out. I am going to click the Render button here. You can also render your timeline by pressing the Enter key or the Return key on your Macintosh. I'll set the playhead back to the beginning of the timeline, and I'll press the spacebar to play it.
Chroma Key and Videomerge fall into a category I like to call Magic Effects. They make something that isn't real appear to be real and ideally they do it without the audience even being aware of the effect. For my money, keying effects are some of the most fun effects in the program to play with.
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