A look at Ultimatte – AdvantEdge

Ultimatte has always pulled one of the best blue/green screen keys, hands down. If there was a complaint it was never quality, it was likely the learning curve and number of controls that required tweaking. AdvantEdge answers that by offering a new user interface that helps produce the expected great results with less struggle, while maintaining the full controls for fine adjustments. We took a look under the hood at this great new advance in plug-in keyer

We have had a long relationship at fxguide with Ultimatte, one of our early tips was on using results from the Ultimatte Spark with action. Now with the new UI Ultimatte is much easier to use. This new interface is also identical on all platforms, from a Photoshop plug-in to Inferno the experience is the same and the settings can be moved freely between platforms offering the same user experience and exact same results.

AdvantEdge enables the user to quickly create and edit blue screen composites by simply scrubbing the cursor within different areas of the foreground, background, and matte. The entire image is then analyzed and AdvantEdge automatically calculates optimum settings for several different parameters simultaneously. This powerful analysis allows AdvantEdge to have a very simple user interface without sacrificing flexibility and image control. The final result is a composite that preserves the fine details like hair, smoke, and motion-blurred edges with a minimum of compromises.

The problem with any keyer these days is not can they work, but rather can they work well with the soft of material real users actually get supplied with in the course of a ‘normal’ job?
At FXGuide we have made the point in the past that Ultimatte is “it’s great if things were shot perfectly, and that is rare these days”. Well at the FXGuide test bunker we found AdvantEdge has features designed to deal with many real world problems.

One of the powerful (and patented) features Ultimatte has had since 1990 is called Screen Correction. Screen Correction compensates for anomalies in the backing area such as uneven lighting, smudges, seams, variation in the backing color, blue (green) set pieces, and unwanted shadows cast by set pieces, boom arms, etc. This technique assumes that an exact copy of the problematic blue (green) screen element with the subject matter omitted, usually called a “Clean Plate”, is supplied. Although this technique gives great results by differentiating between foreground elements and backing flaws, we have found that most users have not been supplied with the necessary reference materials. But with AdvantEdge these Screen Correction plates can be synthesized. You draw a rough roto around the foreground element and it fills the area in with the backing color, producing a synthetic Screen Correction plate that yeilds terrific results.

The other enemy of great keys is compression. Digital formats like D1, Digibeta, DV all use compression schemes like 4:2:2, 4:2:0 and 4:1:1. AdvantEdge is capable of auto-detecting which type of compression artifacts have been applied to the image and compensating for them.

Some other features worth mentioning are:
– a Shadows control that allows manipulation of shadow opacity, color and sharpness with minimal effect on foreground
– Smart Matte Sizing
– Color Conformance controls to use Ultimatte Intelligence to match whites, and gammas between the foreground and background.

When something has been around for a long time it’s easy to take it for granted. Ultimatte has been a part of the visual effects toolbox for over 25 years, but it would be a mistake to take them for granted.

Ultimatte’s web site has free downloadable demos, sample images and you can even download the full manual (very helpful actually).