Meeting Summary September 1999

MGLA kicked off their third year with a special evening devoted to working in film on the desktop. Thanks to a long list of presentations, plus sponsorship by Medea and Play/ElectricImage, this is the largest attendance we've had at a meeting, spilling into the aisles of the Goodson.

During the beginning section, co-hosts Trish and Chris Meyer of CyberMotion went over the basic differences between film and video, as well as a list of gotchas. This included frame rates and sizes, file formats, and physical transfer media that are all different than typically used for video. Another is the greatly increased rendering times (multiple machines come in very handy) and amount of storage needed (the reason why Medea was invited as a sponsor).

One of these included the "TAR" (Unix Tape Archive) format used by many film transfer houses. The Mac-based program that speaks TAR to the largest collection of tape drives is CyberComp's QuTape ($395). QuTape's author, Al Ciplickas, was at the meeting, and is interested in talking to current and potential QuTape users about possible refinements to the program - if there's enough interest, he may make a special version. Contact Al at

Next, Richard Patterson of Illusion Arts and Royal Garden Post went through a detailed, often humorous presentation of the myriad of film and file formats and their respective considerations. For those who were daunted at the sheer amount of information, the good news is you often have to deal with only one format during a job; you just need to get the format right as early as possible. Richard is considering posting his presentation on his web site (; regardless, they are a good resource for inexpensive film output.

Afterwards, Tim Sassoon of Sassoon Film Design covered uses of the Cineon Converter plug-in for After Effects (one of his babies), including many of the reasons to work in log color space. Ever a fountain of knowledge and opinions, Tim also had some interesting counterpoints to Richard's presentation, which unfortunately we did not have time to cover in depth. Tim is considering publishing parts of his presentation at a later date in his own Box Magazine; a recent back issue had a searing discourse on DLT drives.

During the break, Medea had some drives set up in the lobby, and Roger Mabon of Medea drove down from Westlake Village to answer questions. Hopefully people had a chance to check these drives out - they pack a lot of fast storage into a small, quiet, relatively inexpensive box.

The videotape playing before the meeting got started and during the break were previews of VCE's Pyromania Pro and Visual Effects CDs. A great collection of royalty free clouds, fire, explosions etc. $199 each. (These preview tapes should have gone to the winner of the CDs in the raffle - see us next month or email us.)

The second half of the meeting was devoted to examples of film projects, including real-world experiences. First up was the opening title Jeff Jankens of Imaginary Forces created for The Avengers, where most of the graphics were created in After Effects and were then posted on a higher-end system. The title took three months, where a large number of treatments were first created, and then edited into a linear flow.

Warren Heaton then showed a title (with support interstitials) he created for the independent film East of A. He had lots of good suggestions on creating film work on a lower end budget, such as working out good compromise frame sizes with the film house, and using the built in video output available on some Macs for low frame rate video proofs.

Roger Nall of SOTA Digital then went over a couple of projects, including some in-progress shots for The Crow 3, and a good amount of detail about greenscreen compositing work performed for Blessed Art Thou using the Primatte keyer. This included flying in an angel, cleaning up the rig, keying, and blending the lighting into the shot using Puffin's Light Wrap plugin.

Co-host Chris Meyer ran through a 3D "cyberspace" environment created in ElectricImage for the move The Omega Code, as well as some considerations on creating special credit sequences that could be composited optically or digitally. In stark contrast to some of the other feature projects, he had only one week for R&D, one week for animation, and then needed a week (across multiple machines) to render it.

Finally, co-host Trish Meyer previewed a portion of the opening title to the new Anthony Minghella movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley. The focus here was on keeping a shot in Cineon log space throughout the entire process, so there was no loss of color range from scan to output, while converting new elements into log space so they would composite properly. It also required data management for over 8 minutes of film resolution frames, in to out.

Many companies stepped forward and donated door prizes for this meeting. Most surprising was Royal Garden Post donating two minutes of film output(!). Prizes were also donated by ElectricImage, VCE Inc., Synthetik Software, Corbis Images , IDIG, and the BDA. A huge thanks to all!

Special thanks again to AFI for making the Goodson Screening Room available to us, and to our meeting sponsors Medea Corporation and Play/ElectricImage for paying for the room, so admittance was free.

***We're still nailing down a DATE for the next meeting, so keep an eye on your email. It will include Adobe After Effects 4.1, as well as ICE for After Effects. See you there!


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