Post Production

Review: Imerge Pro, a RAW image compositing and green screen champion

Imerge Pro, the world’s first non-destructive RAW image compositor, available for both PC and Mac, may be the modern unsung hero of image editing, despite all the potential it offers.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Key, edit, crop and color your way to high-end  composites with FXhome’s Imerge Pro, which features unlimited layers and zero baked-in changes for a unique experience in image compositing. Try it!

Since its introduction as an option in terms of image editing, RAW has been like the Holy Grail for any photo editor that makes it to the market, be it FREE or commercial. While there is a whole lot of excitement from users about the options to work directly with RAW files in programs as ON1 Photo RAW or Luminar, to mention two modern options, there seems to be no appetite for Imerge Pro, FXhome’s option for photographers.

In fact, the software, from a company best known for its video editing products, from HitFilm to Ignite Pro, does not seem to be able to generate much attention, if one is to believe some of the comments online, that go from “Never heard of it. Might have a look at it” to “Looks like yet another one man show. Does it work as promised? Any personal experience?”, suggesting the most complete knowledge – or even interest –  for the program. There is hope, though, as some other comments sound more like “If you are interested in image compositing then it is probably a very strong choice. Lots of features to help compositing. Imerge is probably short for image merge.”

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Edit RAW images and create high-end composites

In fact, Imerge Pro is, as I wrote here briefly before, “the first software of its kind to edit RAW images without compression or loss of quality”, and is essentially the world’s first non-destructive RAW image compositor, available for both PC and Mac. The program includes advanced Luminance and Chroma Keying, 35+ one-click filters, Batch Processing and 16-bit colour processing, so you can key, edit, crop and color your way to high-end composites without fear of baking your changes in.

While we are seeing more and more programs allowing users to apply changes directly to RAW files, Imerge Pro is in a league of its own, as it allows users, as FXhome notes, to “create pro-level composites with unlimited layers and zero baked-in changes. Imerge Pro is the first photo editing software to keep your image data RAW and your layers self-contained. Every edit is live. Every change is flexible” and there is “no need to hide and show layers to compare different compositions – each layer can hold multiple images or text items for every variation.”

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

PhotoKey 8 Pro is the source

Imerge Pro is a revolutionary step, although it does not come out of the blue. In fact, it is not even the first photography software from FXhome, as the company launched previously PhotoKey 8 Pro, whose name suggests what it is for: a program which is presented as the world’s leading green screen software. This legacy software, available in two versions, the PhotoKey 8 Pro and the PhotoKey 8 Studio, the second offering the same green screen photography software & image bundle, is the starting point from where FXhome developed Imerge Pro.

Imerge Pro is, as I wrote earlier, the world’s first non-destructive RAW image compositor,  and one has to understand what compositing means to fully grasp what the program offers. Yes, it is entering a world populated by photo editors that all do many of the same things, and where the term AI (or Artificial Intelligence) seems to be the selling key – for whatever in the past had less exciting names –  but one has to understand where FXhome comes from and what their original PhotoKey 8 Pro does to understand what Imerge Pro really is.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Green screen made easier

PhotoKey 8 Pro is essentially a tool to make the use of green screen techniques easier than before. The software analyzes your photos and instantly switches out the green screen for a brand new background of your choice. Realistic light spill creates even more convincing composites; replacing unwanted spill from your green screen with the ambient lighting from your background.

Praised by professionals,  the software also offers color correction tools and creative filters such as vibrance, half tone, bilateral blur and vignette can be applied on up to 16 layers. PhotoKey 8 Pro even uses facial recognition to improve skin tones for the perfect photo every time. Furthermore, it features full Photoshop integration, via a plug-in, meaning you can combine PhotoKey’s advanced green screen removal with Photoshop’s extensive layering and brush features for a super-fast, integrated workflow.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Image compositing was born with photography

Imerge Pro seems to have been built on the experience acquired with PhotoKey 8 Pro, plus the recent advances in imaging technology, to offer the market a RAW editing program, which doubles as an image compositing tool. Compositing is the key word here, and what separates Imerge Pro from the rest. While image Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen championcompositing has been with us since the very early days of photography, through laborious darkroom work, it is with digital manipulation that the experience becomes accessible to more people. Still, image compositing is a tenuous task, made easier through the use of layers, which allow mixing multiple images to create the illusion that all elements belong to the same scene.

One of the key elements of compositing is the green screen technique, also called chroma key or blue screen, widely used in films, but also used in photography to the same end. Green screen techniques in the digital world allowed studio photographers, for example, to stop using background images, of which they would have an assortment in the studio. I remember, at a Photokina edition back in the 90s, to see a system to project slides to create backgrounds against which people were photographed, which was revolutionary at the time. Green screen makes it much easier.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Essential if you create composite images

So, Imerge Pro takes the green screen features from PhotoKey 8 Pro and adds them to a package that, while not being a complete image editing tool, may well be integrated into a workflow where the need for fast, easy and reliable image compositing is essential. Imerge Pro is not intended to work as a substitute for your regular RAW photo editor, but is a complementary tool which, once you try it, will probably end added to the collection of tools being used lots of times. Especially if you need to create composite images.

The software makes workflows faster for studios dealing with either product or people photography, as it not only allows to speed up the whole image compositing process, but also allows to return to the originals, which are RAW files, and change anything from color to the way the final image appears. In fact, one of the multiple advantages of Imerge Pro are its flexible layers, of which you can, apparently, have an infinite number (if your computer has the power to work with them!).

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

The magic of flexible layers

Flexible layers are a unique approach to image editing that lets you change your mind whenever you like and however many times you want. Your layers are live and fully adaptable. Breathe easy knowing that your change of heart or sudden stroke of  genius doesn’t mean starting over or repeatedly clicking ‘undo’. Simply go into the layer you  want to edit and make your changes there.

The list of options available on Imerge Pro is impressive, both for the image editing options and the keying, viewing and delivery. No amount of explanation will prepare you for what the program offers, and I really believe you’ve to try it to understand how interesting this offer from FXhome really is. Playing with the various options in terms of photo editing is revealing of the potential of the software, but I must admit that what really amazed me are the green screen options, which I explored for a while.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Automatic Chroma Key “kills” the rotobrush

Imerge Pro announces the end of manual keying, as it automatically removes green screen from areas that would take hours with industry standard software. FXhome says that “Automatic Chroma Key throws out the rotobrush and does all the hard work  for you. Never slave over erasing fine hairs or lace detail again.“ While you’ll have to make the final adjustments to any image, the tools included, from the ​Light Wrap, that takes elements from your backdrop and curves them  around the foreground to create one seamless image, to the automatic Spill Suppression, will make the ride more enjoyable.

Imerge Pro may, as I wrote, be a tool for professional studios who have to deal with lots of image compositing tasks, but it can also be a creative tool for the single photographer who likes to mix different elements in photographs.  From the essential tools for any photo editor to the creative filters present  and the potential to add more filters and LUTs, Imerge Pro is an exciting tool that invites you to explore the multiple options available.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen champion

Clean interface, excellent results

The interface, which follows, essentially, the conventions for modern software, is easy to grasp, although you may need to read the information available and watch some tutorial to grasp, if you’re not familiar, the concept of keying. While I explored the different options in terms of image compositing, I must admit that keying was something that attracted me immediately. Having used other software and even the old-style darkroom techniques, there is an immediate sense of power when one clicks on the options available in Imerge Pro and sees how fast everything works, thanks to the way the software uses your computer’s GPU to speed up tasks. Again, the more computing power you have, the faster Imerge Pro will work.

Imerge Pro hands-on: a RAW image compositing software and green screen championThe images published here show some of the results achieved while playing with Imerge Pro. While these may not be the most common uses for the program, they do point to areas where it may used. I wanted both to test the software and understand what it could do for me if I wanted to make changes to some of my images. No amount of words will give you the full picture, though, so I urge readers to download a trial version and take the time to explore what the program can do. I believe you’ll be amazed and will want to integrate Imerge Pro in your workflow. Especially if you regularly create image composites, as I do believe there is no better way, available, to do it at the moment.

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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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