Price When Reviewed: 165 . 70
Primatte Chromakey is one of two compositing aids for still images we’re testing this month. Like Cinematte, it’s a Photoshop plug-in, and it works on the same principle of removing a single-coloured backdrop from a studio-shot photograph, leaving a natural-looking cutout that can be added to a new background. This works for semi-transparent objects such as glass, fine textiles and hair. Any plain coloured backdrop can be used, though green and blue are still recommended.
Primatte has been available for many years as a plug-in for video compositing suites such as Adobe After Effects, but this is the first time it has been available for still-image work in Photoshop. Primatte uses the jargon of analog and digital movies – but it’s easy to understand that mattes mean masks, and they appear in negative compared to Photoshop’s Quickmasks.
The user interface is more sophisticated than Cinematte’s. The 80-page PDF manual is clear and takes you through all the steps adequately.
There’s a broad range of foreground/backdrop selection and adjustment tools, but processing of images is slower than on Cinematte. It’s easier to get satisfactory semi-transparent hair cutouts, but on the other hand it’s easy to overcompensate and end up with a transparent main subject, or an aggressive blue/greenscreen removal that actually lightens the new background.
Primatte operations depend on your finding areas of imperfect mattes and clicking on them with correction tools. There’s a choice of several of each type, to adjust the matte, the foreground and to remove any blue spill. It takes some practice, but bluespill removal from hair works well. You can pull the preview screen out to a larger size and zoom in. You can view the matte in isolation, over the replacement background layer, or over a plain colour.
Digital Anarchy is working on a new Backdrop Designer to accompany Primatte. It’s based on Digital Anarchy’s Texture Anarchy program and will create textured and coloured backdrops.
Compared with Cinematte, Primatte handles the notorious hair cutout better, but it’s slower, more expensive and harder to learn. However, unless you’re willing to pay $495 (around £270) for Ultimatte’s super powerful but ridiculously slow AdvantEdge, there’s nothing better.