MGLA Meeting Summary for January 11, 2000

MGLA's first meeting of the new year was well-attended and featured a broad range of 2D and 3D topics. As usual, we started with our Q&A session. As has been the case in the last few meetings, SDI (Serial Digital Interface) and it's use in transmitting uncompressed video to/from the computer was a hot topic.

Our first presenter of the evening, as well as sponsoring host, was Maxon Computer US who brought down the latest version of Cinema 4D, a popular cross-platform modeling, animation and rendering program. Paul Babb and friends did their best to show us or mention virtually every one of the 800 to 1000 new features in their allotted time. One of the most immediately apparent features was the new and customizable user interface. Other improvements include the addition of Action/Title safe indicators and multiple render settings templates.

A large amount of Cinema 4D's new features are in the area of modeling. There are now a variety of powerful snapping tools (edge, point, polygon center, object axis, construction plane and more) as well as some very creative new selection tools which allow you to define and modify selections by powerful marquee and painting tools. You can also grow/shrink existing selections and select all connected polygons. New spline creation tools include the ability to create splines based on imported bitmapped images and well as from a meshed terrain. The new HyperNURBS also provides many new powerful NURBs-based modeling functions.

Perhaps the most visually appealing improvements to Cinema were in its shadows. Now you can have Hard, Soft and Area shadows. In addition, the shadows can pick up the color of transparent objects casting them. The results were very impressive. Negative lights were also added.

Animation improvements included the ability of the camera and lights to track objects and change tracking with interpolation. Rendering improvements include Velocity Engine and QuickTime support.

Cinema 4DXL v6 is a $495.00 upgrade to current owners; Maxon also offers a competitive upgrade price of $695.00. The current price for C4DXL v5.3 is $1495.00; it is cheaper to buy now and upgrade than it will be to buy v6 after it is released.

After Cinema 4D, sound designer David Sonnenschein took the stage to offer some non-traditional ideas to graphics designers with respect to sound design and interactive media. Those interested can contact David directly at crystal@ax.apc.org.

Our next presenters were Magnus Löfgren (magnus.lofgren@cycore.com) and Cycore US sales rep, Matt Dewees, who flew in from Sweden and San Matte respectively to show us Cult Effects, their suite of plug-ins for Adobe After Effects. CE Paint allows you to record mouse or pen strokes made in the comp window in real time. Since it's vector-based you can modify the way in which the strokes are played back. They also focused on using their plugins to create what we call "stuff" - interesting moving background effects. They came up with a variety of recipes using their CE Grid, CE Radial Shadow, CE Lightning and CE Noise Turbulant filters. Cult Effects is normally $695.00, however, Cycore is offering an MGLA member special price of $445.00 until the end of the month. Thanks guys!

After a break, we then jumped into a variety of techniques presentations.

Zax Dow presented a simple shading technique using his 3D Invigorator for After Effects, which won the "Best of Show" award at the recent MacWorld. Zax showed how you could use lighting on a 3D object to reveal it in interesting ways. He demonstrated this by moving a single strong light across a logo creating a moving high-contrast effect. He then used this as a displacement map creating a very interesting background effect.

Tony LaTorre and Tony Romain of Blind Date Productions were up next to discuss some of the techniques they've developed for keeping up with the very fast-paced production schedules demanded by a network television show. They have to produce 100 - 170 separate graphics per week for the UPN show Blind Date. Because of this they must be both quick and flexible. They found that grouping their graphics into various delivery formats gave their Avid editors the flexibility they needed. They use PICT files and PICT Sequences over black backgrounds for the simplest stuff; they found that using a superblack luma key was much faster for the editor than it would be if they rendered an alpha channel.

Our last presenter was the ever high-energy Frank Cords, who came down to talk about some techniques he used in working on the opening titles for Inspector Gadget and a new video for Master P. Frank uses a combination of Cinema 4D, Electric Image, Form Z, After Effects and Photoshop. Frank showed how he was able to create a Blade Runner feel for the Master P video in Cinema under a tight schedule of three weeks. Topics discussed included the use of refractive transparent domes, depth of field, integrating video and 3D footage, matching frame rate and "look" from various types of footage, and more. Frank is also an excellent trainer; those interested should contact him directly at fcords@earthlink.net.

We ran late, and therefore didn't have time to show demo reels; please bring them to the February meeting and we promise we'll fit them in.

We wrapped the evening with our raffle - a free copy of Cult Effects, thanks guys! Special thanks again to Maxon for hosting the event, and we'll see you next month, where we will have Nothing Real's Shake Video, a sneak preview of another new program, and more artist presentations.

Your MGLA co-hosts:
Trish, Chris, and Lucky