Reviews, Video

Hawaiki Keyer 4, the powerful bluescreen keying system

To create composites, you need mattes. In Final Cut Pro X, you can create simple mattes out-of-the-box, but for anything more complex than a box or ball shape you really need a bit more power. Lots of power and controls come with Hawaiki Keyer. I reviewed version 3 a while ago and although I’m late in the process – version 4 has been out for some time now – I found version 4 worth the trouble of going through this must-have plug-in all over again.

Hawaiki Keyer is a FxFactory plug-in for Final Cut Pro X and Motion, and After Effects and Premiere Pro. It’s not the simplest of plug-ins because of the huge number of controls you can set. The good news is that it comes with a good online user guide to help you master the plug-in. Better yet, if you’re familiar with keying, you’ll find Hawaiki Keyer to be the complete blue/green screen keying system available on the market.

The latest version of this plug-in has been made even more complete as it offers two keying levels in one Inspector. Just as with colour grading, you can have two levels in keying – a primary level and a secondary level. The primary level takes care of the general settings for the matte, while the secondary keyer will allow you to manage traditionally “difficult” areas such as hair and semi-transparent foreground areas without affecting the overall key.

Because the secondary system will often focus on moving “parts” – a moving head, a dress moving in the wind… – there’s a need for a tracking system. Hawaiki Keyer 4 contains a new tracking system that allows for automated real-time tracking of the secondary mask without the need for pre-computing the tracking data.

Secondary key

Of course, having a secondary keying setup suggests a more complicated workflow with more intervention from you, the one who’s doing the keying. That’s only true up to a point because I found out that Hawaiki Keyer 4 is better at extracting the foreground. Even with hair, the keyer has less trouble clearing the backing and preserving the fine edges, although the colour spill remains an area where your manipulation remains important. All in all, however, you can trust Hawaiki Keyer’s autopilot even when the background hasn’t been uniformly lighted. With the previous version, I could only get a proper key if I made sure there weren’t any areas on the screen that were badly lit. With version 4, I could have dark spots and the kay would be just as good as without them.

The Background Match feature is another automatic adjustment. It makes sure the edges of the foreground match the luminance of the background. So, if a foreground pixel is darker than the background, it will be brightened and if it’s lighter than the background, it will be darkened. BackGround Match can be used as a complement to Light Wrap. I tested this to see how far I could take it, using a very bright foreground against a dark background. It did work out the way it’s described, but the rest of the foreground remained much too bright to be realistic and convincing. However, if you remain within a range of reasonable brightness differences instead of the extremes, it works very well.

Something that I couldn’t see the effects of clearly is Edge Replace, which is the ability to replace the edge of the foreground with pixels further from the edge, synthesising new pixels to replace unwanted edge artefacts. It should be useful for dealing with a noticeable dark or light edge caused by excessive in-camera sharpening and chroma subsampling as well as the real-world light wrap that is present in some shots.

Other plug-ins

In addition to the ‘regular’ Hawaiki Keyer plug-in, you’ll also get the Hawaiki Edge Tools plug-in. That’s not an entirely new plug-in, but a more detailed edge adjustment toolbox that used to be in the general plug-in. It’s been added to and refined, and it can be added on top of the main keying module. It includes the new Fine Edge, Edge Replace and BackGround Match operations, so you can use it with images with an alpha channel, e.g. titles, icons, emoji, etc.

A new feature in the Edge Tools plug-in is Fine Edge. This allows you to darken the outer edge and brighten the inner edge of the foreground’s semi-transparent (grey matte values) pixels. I managed to use this with success on my extremely bright test footage.

Finally, Hawaiki Slice is a new image analysis plug-in that comes with Hawaiki Keyer.

To wrap up this review, I knew Hawaiki Keyer as a very powerful keying system, but one that still required some skilful intervention on the part of the human in front of the Mac’s screen. With version 4, the developers have succeeded in making the need for manual intervention a lot less outspoken. That results in faster keying workflows and a lower learning curve as you can start out with an almost entirely auto-made key and gradual build-up of your skills to drive even difficult keying projects to perfection.