MGLA Meeting Summary for June 6, 2000

Our typical Q&A session at the beginning of the evening was slightly abbreviated due to the snacks and drinks provided by New Media Hollywood and the evening's sponsor, Discreet Logic - thanks!

A large portion of the discussion was centered on exploring a fun web site devoted to presenting the absolute worst in 3D: Gallery Abominate.

* discreet logic's combustion *

We had a packed house to see the latest offering from discreet, the composting package combustion, an evolution of effect and paint with a liberal dose of the high-end flame. Greg Niles of discreet gave an excellent demo of the program. One of the first features he pointed out was that combustion was designed around a caching system, so it's essentially always rendering in the background and playing back cached frames as you work. Because of this you can have it playing while you make adjustments. This provides for a very quick workflow. In addition, you can have multiple views so you can work in one view and monitor the movie playback in another.

Although you're dealing primarily with bitmapped images combustion works on more of a vector-based paradigm. As you paint, all brush strokes are recorded. Thus you can go back and, for example, modify the brush size later. In addition, the motion tracker can be set to control brushes.

The program features an extensive keyer that was ported from flame. The keyer looks complex but it's fairly straightforward. One of the most impressive features is that fact that the program supports Z-depth allowing each "layer," or image, to exist in 3D space. The camera can also be animated through the scene.

Another very powerful feature was combustion's ability to import Adobe Illustrator files and then edit and animate the vector paths. The program will also import layered Photoshop files, but the transfer modes and effects are not retained. The program also supports most After Effects plug ins. Finally, cross-platform network rendering will also be supported.

combustion will retail for #3995.00 and is expected to be released in mid-July. There is also a cost-effective upgrade path available for current owners of paint and effect. The program runs on both Mac and PC and is multi-threaded which will allow it to work on multi-processor computers.

* artist presentation: Tony DeRosa and Super Spy *

Next up Tony DeRosa took the stage to show us a project he created in combustion which was a promo for an animated show called "Super Spy." Tony used many of the "paint" aspects of the program to animate imported illustrator files. With vector path editing and extensive use of keyframing and tweening Tony created a surprisingly nice animation. He also talked about merging live action clips and animation (including using keyed footage to create cell-like animation), and how he created a 3D world via the creative manipulation of elements created in Illustrator.

* break: Otis College Junior Class Reel *

As we came back from break (with refreshments again provided by discreet and New Media Hollywood), we played the demo reel from the junior class at the Otis College of Design. Longtime MGLA participant Harry Mott is the chair of the of the Digital Media program at Otis, and announced that many of his excellent junior and senior students are available for internship, job placement, and freelancing. If you have an interest, please contact Harry directly. We'll plan to play the senior's reel at the next meeting.

* technique: Lachlan Westfall and earth mapping *

After the break MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall took a quick look at a scene he recently created that involved a 3D animation of Sputnik orbiting the Earth. Lachlan used a variety of fractal shaders in Electric Image to create earth, water and cloud and glow effects. These elements were then imported into After Effects as separate layers for further manipulation, including color correction and blending that would be too tedious or even impossible all in 3D.

* technical info: RPF (Rich Pixel Format) *

Our last bit of the evening focused on combustion and it's use of the RPF file format. Dave Campbell explained how RPF allows you to render information out of a 3D program such a 3D Studio Max that will allow you to further edit/manipulate the image in a 2D program. He showed us how a scene containing building at varying distances from the camera could have depth of field and fog applied in combustion

The RPF file format can contain date for the following channels: Z-depth, Material Effects, Object, UV coordinates, color, transparency, velocity and others. These specifications will allow you to, for example, apply a different texture after an object is rendered, apply intelligent motion blur in your 2D compositing program, and other extremely interesting post effects. The level of integration available between the 2D and 3D portions of the production process is really quite amazing. To their credit, Autodesk and discreet have made the RPF format's details available to other companies; we hope more implement it. Click here to learn more about 3D Studio MAX.

* next meeting *

Once again we'd like to thank discreet for sponsoring the meeting (and also, the Orange County folks who always seem to show up with Kripsy Kreeme doughnuts!). Next month's meeting will be pushed back to July 11 to avoid the July 4 holiday. The main demonstration will be NewTek's Lightwave version 6, Lifeforms from Credo, and a project the design studio Belief put together for BDA called "Untitled: Darkness" which included the collaboration of a number of artists and studios.

We hope to see you there!
Trish, Chris, Lucky & Dan
Your MGLA co-hosts