Chroma Key in HD

Chroma Key in HD

Click on the picture above to watch the movie!
We want to give you the opportunity to explore the art of keying. Taking the background out and dropping in something different is a special effects technique that has been around for years. However it was not until recently that we have been able to get broadcast quality results in both a fast and inexpensive manner. Quality Chroma keying is now for everyone.


Think about being able to shoot a background plate in Hawaii to use in the middle of a New York winter (although you may want to make sure that you have plenty of heat in your studio for swimsuits and tropical Mai Tai’s on that one). Now how about being able to capture a restaurant atmosphere without having to rent out and hire everyone in the place? Really, the possibilities are endless. You can have a million dollar mansion, showy corporate office or a fancy broadcast studio with just a few clicks of the mouse. It’s up to your imagination to dream it up and you can pull it off.

Worried about the Quality?With the many HD recording formats available, we now have more pixels to work with than ever as well as a color space that can adequately capture enough information to make keying more believable than ever. The good news is that its even at a price that a budget filmmaker can afford. A Canon HV20 is a good example of a sub $1,000 camera that can capture great quality footage at a phenomenal price.

Worried about the Rendering?Right now even a base model laptop is capable of handling HD Chroma keying in a reasonable amount of time. This opens up a whole new dimension to video content creators looking to spice up their productions. We’ve gone from days of waiting to minutes, seconds and even real-time.

Light your subject for the background.You’ll notice that we have included a few files to let you see for yourself what it is like to composite a foreground and background together. Two of the example backgrounds work and look realistic. You’ll see that the foreground subject was intentionally dimly lit. If we place our subject into a bright, sunny Hawaii beach background it just doesn’t work.

Want to try keying HD?We’ve uploaded a few sample clips we shot for you to try your hand at compositing with Blue Screen. The clips were shot in our studio using the Reflecmedia Chroma key system. We found a few tips that may help you should you choose to try your hand at chroma keying:

1. Light your Foreground Subject appropriate to make your Composite believable. Dim background? Use low-level lighting on the set. Sunny background? Brighter lighting. Take color cues from the background and match those colors onto your talent using colored gels on your lights. Also, watch for lighting placement, window on the left – light from the left.

2. A slight Blurring of the Background can give more realistic results. You can intentionally shoot your background slightly out of focus to avoid Rendering a Blur in Post.

3. The optional $495 Mattenee software chromakey plug-in produces the best results for drag and drop keying, but at the sacrifice of speed. In test after test, the Rendering Time is 10 times longer that of other keying plugins.

4. In Production, watch for shiny surfaces and “Spill” – to avoid additional work in post. You’ll see both of these in our example.

5. Fine hair, small edges, hands and fast moving objects shot in a compressed format such as DV/HDV can be challenging to key. Try to minimize shooting these types of subjects if possible. Shoot two versions if necessary, one close up, one wide.

6. 3rd party plug-ins such as Chroma Smoother from the Nattress Big Box of Tricks can turn a bad key into a good key.

7. In camera, make sure Sharpening is set to Zero or Off. Artificially sharpened edges can actually introduce unwanted background artifacts on your foreground subject.

Download Sample HD clips and project files

Mac – Final Cut Pro

PC – Raw files

Click here to ask a question about chroma keying in Final Cut Pro.


  1. Joseph Davila 13 years ago


    I have a project that I am working, I have a Canon HG10 with a wide angle lens on it and using the BeachTek DXA-2s. What we are planing to do is chroma key a spokesperson and place them over a website. Working with Adobe Premium Suite and also have Final Cut Express. My question is the camera capable of shooting this projects the video will in flash format for final output and will only be seen on the website so it will be pretty small. Any suggestions would be appreciated

  2. Marcelo Bertalmío 11 years ago

    i would like to use some frames from your chroma key sample video for a scientific paper i’m submitting to an IEEE journal: could you grant me permission for this?
    thank you, best regards,

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