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is your bit depth in AE maybe set to 16 or 32 bits?
HDV uses heavy compression, therefore the chroma sampling is not really what you nee for achieving a good key.
Read here abut Chroma sampling
you need to find a way to smooth the chroma in your footage, with a plugin or a bunch of combined filters in AE.
interpreting your footages field order to none would be also a good way to achieve a better key. when rendering out set fields back to original state.
I use CS3 and keylight with HDV 24p 1080 from an hv-20 frequently. Never have a crash. Works pretty well, better than you might expect. Of course lighting is the most important thing, and learning to use keylight. But I don't usually smooth footage before keying. Some noise in the dark areas after keylight, but crushing the blacks a tad usually takes care of it.
On a dual 2.5 G5
You do not really get better keys with HDV. The expanded pixel area is mostly of no consequence, not even when you scale everything down. It's really the block artifacts combined with the chroma undersampling that kills it. Specific to your crash issue, you may experience an incompatibility of your HDV material with MediaCore, introduced in CS3. It grabs a hold of anything it thinks it can handle. The question here is, how you captured it. Via normal Firewire or through a Matrox-specific device/ driver. If you used the Matrox version, there may be just minor variances that prevent this, so try to capture natively by choosing a different device driver... and of course Keylight is a memory-eating monster, so it's still possible, you simply don't have enough RAM in your system.
Thanks for the advice guys, I agree lighting is everything and have got some great keys in the past with Mini DV because I took a lot of time lighting the background and subject. With regard to Media Core, I know nothing about that and will read up. Will try a test bypassing the Matrox card. I have 4 gig of Ram. For important jobs I think a pro facitlity is the answer.