Reprinted from a Serious Magic press release:

Today at NAB 2005, Serious Magic, Inc. announced Ultra 2, the latest version of its professional chroma key software. At its launch, ULTRA was the first software to offer highly-realistic composites from DV (4:1:1) sources shot in less-than-ideal environments. Additionally ULTRA introduced VirtualTrak technology which creates shots visually similar to those previously achieved only with hardware-based virtual set systems costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. With ULTRA 2, Serious Magic substantially advances this award-winning solution offering flexible features that enable users to be even more productive, work faster and achieve better quality results.

“ULTRA 2 includes a more powerful feature set for advanced keying needs and is easier and more intuitive to use,” says Stephan Schaem, chief technology officer for Serious Magic. “Fully leveraging the latest PC graphics hardware technologies, ULTRA 2 delivers superior results at high-definition resolutions at speeds that were previously unimaginable. Innovative new features like Virtual Shadows and Plus-90 mode demonstrate that Serious Magic continues to push the technology envelope. We take tremendous pride in producing real-life magic with our software.”

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Fast, High-Resolution Support
With direct support for 16:9 and anamorphic widescreen sources, ULTRA 2 now supports HD and HDV cameras including 1080i, 1080p, and 720p with support for a variety of standard frame rates including 24 fps. With ULTRA 2, users with more recent graphics cards can dramatically increase output speed by shifting rendering demands to the graphics processing unit (GPU). Using GPU-based processing, ULTRA 2 can typically perform complex compositing in real time at HD-resolution and faster than real-time at standard definition (depending on system configuration and file types).

“Using the NVIDIA GeForce 6 GPU, Serious Magic provides an unprecedented level of HD performance,” said Scott Vouri, general manager of multimedia at NVIDIA. “Featuring a full 4:4:4:4, 128-bit, floating-point processing engine, ULTRA 2 achieves real-time processing even with the most demanding HD-resolution content–something previously reserved for expensive, hardware-only solutions.”

More Realistic Keying Results
Realistic shadows are essential to effective keys but setting up shots with special lights to cast detailed shadows for keying is time-consuming and laborious. ULTRA 2 adds the ability to insert virtual shadows and includes options to adjust the shadow’s size, perspective and transparency. When using photographic or rendered backgrounds, users can also insert virtual reflections into their scene to show an inverted image of their keyed talent such as standing on a marble floor.

When shooting subjects for keying, often only the center of the screen is utilized resulting in much of the camera’s resolution to be wasted. ULTRA 2’s new Plus-90 mode allows the video camera to be rotated 90 degrees to capture the entire subject and utilize the maximum resolution. Using this clever approach, a standard definition camera can create a high-resolution key that will increase subject resolution up to 33% in 4:3 and nearly 50% in 16:9. Plus-90 mode is applied with one-click and when used with HD or HDV sources provides higher-than-HD resolution allowing ULTRA’s virtual camera to zoom in on the subject without quality loss.

ULTRA 2 expands on ULTRA’s input cropping function with a powerful mask painting function that allows users to mask arbitrary areas of the input source with a simple soft-edged brush. This feature enables users to create complex garbage mattes to handle difficult shots.

High-Quality Output
For graphics cards that support larger resolutions, ULTRA 2 offers support for high-resolution stills up to 4096 x 4096 allowing digital images to be used as high definition input sources and backgrounds. With image support for .bmp, .jpg, .psd, .png, .gif, .tiff, .tga, and .ppm files, users can export high resolution keyed stills for further editing or output to print or Web.

Additionally, users can now input and output files in Apple QuickTime format as well as output Macromedia Flash files and input Avid .MXF files. ULTRA 2 is also more versatile when working with 2D compositing and 3D animation applications. It seamlessly integrates with software tools that prefer numbered still image sequences instead of video clips such as Adobe After Effects, Discreet Combustion and Pinnacle Commotion.

Pricing and Availability
With the launch of ULTRA 2, Serious Magic is lowering the price and changing the bundle configuration of the product. Originally ULTRA included Master Sets Library 1 (MSL1) and sold for $795. To increase options for users, ULTRA 2 will be sold without virtual sets for $495, allowing users to select the set libraries they prefer to use with ULTRA 2. MSL1 will be sold separately for $395 while MSL 2 & 3 will remain at $495. ULTRA 2 will be available in June for a suggested retail price of $495. Upgrade pricing for current users is $295 and will be available via electronic download or through distribution. Users who purchased ULTRA after April 1st, 2005 are eligible to receive a free upgrade to ULTRA 2 when it ships.* A list of resellers and distributors is available on Serious Magic’s website, www.seriousmagic.com.

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