MGLA Meeting Summary for February 8, 2000

Our February meeting, held at the American Film Institute and sponsored by the good people at Nothing Real, was quite well-attended and featured a wide variety of detailed presentations (thus the length of this summary).


First up, and generous sponsor of the event, was Nothing Real giving the first public demonstration of Shake 2.2, their powerful 2D video compositing program . Shake runs under the Windows NT or IRIX operating systems, and focuses on high-end and extremely high-quality image compositing, with particularly clean scaling, blurs, and motion blurs. The program is resolution independent, and features an "infinite workspace" that does not crop any unused parts of the images along the chain. Similarly, when multiple effects are applied the program concatenates the mathematical operation keeping optimum quality, allowing operations like multiple color manipulations without accumulating posterization. The program works at a 16 bit internal depth, also handling Cineon and 8-bit files.

Peter Warner from Nothing Real explained that Shake was not specifically designed to compete with programs such as Adobe After Effects as a "design tool." But as a high-quality compositing system for both film and video Shake features many unique and powerful features that put it in a league of its own. The full version of Shake is available for $9900.00 which includes the excellent Primatte keyer; Shake Video (8-bit only, video resolution) is currently sold by Media 100 for $2000. A free trial version of Shake is available on Nothing Real's web site.

Nothing Real has been working on a conversion utility to translate the basics of After Effects programs into Shake programs (or "scripts"). They are interested in polling the MGLA membership on their opinion of the path they are going down. The question they'd like feedback on is included at the end of this summary.


Moving from 2D to 3D, MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall presented a tip/explanation on how to use reactive shaders with Play's Electric Image. Unlike standard textures which are simply bit-mapped images placed on a 3D object, reactive shaders are procedural shaders that create textures based on mathematical formulae. They can also use information from underlying textures to affect their look and results.

Lachlan showed an example he created of an "energy sphere" where specific points on the sphere were to have a higher concentration of "energy." The fractal-based texture was created with the new MondoCloud Shader from Agrapha Productions and TripleDTools. To get the shader to apply more a higher concentration of the effect to a specific areas Lachlan brought his model into Play's Amorphium (a copy of which Play gave away as a door prize - thank you!) where he "painted" a higher concentration of color on certain polygons of the sphere. The specific color of the polygon was then used by the MondoCloud Shader to determine the intensity of various parameters. A second example of how to use this shader involved the creation of a fire effect. Another plug-in from Triple D Tool called Power Particles allows particle objects to be created with color varying depending on the age of the particle. This was used to have the fire texture fade out and get more "wispy" at the top by having the MondoCloud shader base it's parameters on the color of the object.


After the break, we featured an artist presentation from long-time MGLA member and talented motion graphics designer Trevor Gilchrist of Five Short Stories. Trevor found himself rescuing a large job for a 60-million dollar multiplex entertainment complex in Poland. The previous design company had fallen down on the job and Trevor explained to us how he approached rescuing a film-rez job of this magnitude in a matter of weeks. First off, he had to come up with a number of corporate ID's as the name of the complex had yet to be determined. Trevor then developed a 30-second THX film trailer and various other spots for other areas of the entertainment complex. To do this Trevor used Maxon's Cinema 4D and Adobe's Photoshop and After Effects, as well as a variety of CD-ROM's of stock graphics (including EyeWire's Backstage and Digital Vision's Data:Funk).

Trevor explained that he learned many things on this project. First was that at film resolution, there's a lot of screen real estate to fill up. To help in the creation of detailed and interesting background he judiciously used tiling effects in AE. Another major difficulty was that the client was essentially on the other side of the world. The solution was to create a website where he could post both stills and QuickTime movies for client approval. Trev was able to complete this job on a single computer as he found Cinema 4D was quite happy to render in the background while he worked in After Effects.


Our final presenter of the evening was Barry Berman from Play South who came up to show us a feature of Electric Image called Camera Mapping. This texturing technique essentially allows you to project a 2D image onto simple 3D geometry to create stunning environmental effects. To illustrate this concept Barry began with a picture of an Arizona landscape featuring spires and plateaus. He showed us that a simple push or pan does not look very realistic. He then explained how he de-constructed the image in order to separately project the background and individual foreground elements onto quite simple geometry in ElectricImage. The result was that pushes and pans performed with Camera Mapping now had a stunningly realistic effect and brought incredible dimension to what was originally a 2D image.

Barry showed us how he determines the level of deconstruction require of an image and where he find's you meet the level of diminishing return. He also demonstrated how you set up the geometry to correctly "take" the projected map, as well as how he used projected clipping maps to further modify the geometry. Finally, Barry showed us another example of Camera Mapping which involved a fly-by of a P-38 Lightning. It was quite impressive. Some of Barry's tutorials can also be found on the EI Resources site.


Little-know fact: We're on overtime at AFI when we run past 10 PM. With four detailed and well-received presentations we were reluctant to bring out the hook, and once again we ran out of time for demo reels. We absolutely swear we are going to reserve time for them in the March meeting (new time and place - see below). We are also looking for artist presentations for the April meeting - send email to if you have a project you'd like to share.

In the meantime, we'd like to give some recognition to a couple of the artists who brought their reels:

Joyce Elsroad Motion Graphic Design
310 392 9234

RGB Design Studio
949 493 1180

We'll certainly show their reels at the March meeting.

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



Speaking of our next meeting all MGLA members should take note that our March meeting will be a special event held on a different day and at a new location. This event is currently planned for Wednesday, March 8th. Our sponsor for the evening will be Softimage who will be showing their new Sumatra 3D animation package. The meeting will be held at a new motion capture/training facility in Culver City called Spectrum Studios; we expect members of the Softimage user group to be in attendance as well.

In addition to Softimage we will have a presentation by the Canadian animation company MainFrame who will show us a number of projects they have created using Softimage software. Lastly, we will have ProMax down to show us their current line of DV/Firewire hardware solutions.

A more detailed announcement with the address and directions to Spectrum Studios. Spectrum has a lot that's worth checking out and SoftImage is planning on providing refreshments so we'd like to encourage as many of our members as possible to come out to this special event. It should be a lot of fun.



We are looking for feedback on whether we should devote an inhouse developer to continuing the AE-Shake plug-in. Please email your feedback to Peter Warner.

The plug-in in has two components:

The AE plug-in itself, which goes into AE. You call this up to analyze the AE project and save a Shake script. More work is needed to reflect recent changes in Shake's architecture before this will properly work. Once it is done, that should be it for this component.

The second component is set of Shake's macros which mimic AE functions. This is a set of all AE's Production Bundle functions, for example AE_Fast_Blur,

AE_MiniMax, etc. We have maybe 40% working extremely well (exact matches), another 30% is either close or not all features are implemented, and another 30% which either Shake can't support at this moment (Text on a Curve) or else we are blocked by proprietary AE code (we still don't know what their Multiply Transfer mode is actually doing. Why doesn't the image go black if you multiply an image by a black frame?). In these cases, the macro simply returns the input image and continues on. All of these can be easily updated as Shake's capabilities expand or we discover the Holy Grail of Multiply Transfer mode.

However, keep in mind it is our intent that this is shareware, so it won't always be our highest priority, and that of course NONE of the 3rd party plug-ins are supported. However, if this really takes off, we could probably expect independent users to supply their own macros for these functions - they are very easy to build once you figure out the math.

So, it is up to the MGLA folks to help us decide - Is it easier to use AE to just put in layering operations with animated transforms (all of which exactly translate if we update the AE plug-in to reflect recent changes in Shake), and then add effects using Shake, or to just forget it, and do the comp entirely in Shake whenever a 16-bit comp is needed?