Meeting Summary October 3, 2000
Our October MGLA meeting was held in conjunction with DV Expo in Long Beach, California. This allowed many people to attend who have never been to an MGLA event before. While we had a pretty big room to fill, we did have a sizeable crowd once we realized that half the audience and one of the hosts had been sitting in the wrong ballroom. It was nice to see many new faces along with a good mix of "regulars."
We started off the meeting with our standard Q&A and a brief description of what MGLA is and what we've been up to for the last few years. The topic of running your own business and business strategies came up and each of the MGLA co-hosts offered their own insights in that area.
Our first presenter of the evening was Phil Hodgetts. Phil has developed a unique help/training tool for Adobe After Effects called the After Effects Companion. This is an ancillary application that runs along with AE and gives you access to over 100 different topics related to the use of AE. The program is accessed via the Help menu and runs as a floating window. All information is hyperlinked and you can even type in questions which the program will try to answer. The information is presented as text but there are also many useful movies as well. For example, there are a series of movies that show the results of applying AE filters, so you can see what they do without having to wait for them to render. The After Effects Companion debuted at DV Expo and is available for $149.00 from Intelligent Media; we are arranging to have one to give away at the November meeting.
Next up was MGLA veterans Charles McConathy and Cawan Starks of ProMax to show us their new DA Max audio/video converter. This unit is a breakout-box format converter for analog and digital video and audio formats. It features analog video and audio I/O, optional digital video (SDI) and digital audio (AES/EBU) support. In addition, DA-MAX supports uncompressed video and audio over FireWire, tape deck control (including time-code) and functions as a six-port FireWire Hub. The base price is $1495.00. If you'd like to add the optional SDI card that will add an additional $995.00 to the price. Charles also discussed the idiosyncrasies of FireWire chipsets and brought some technical papers down as well for any interested parties.
Continuing with video hardware, our next presenter was Digital Voodoo's Grant Petty plus their US distributor Mike Skibra of DMI. These self-professed "Quality Zealots" make cards that allow uncompressed video on a Mac. The recently announced a high-def version of the Digital Voodoo card - Digital Voodoo HD. Digital Voodoo's current line of cards includes: D1 Desktop 64 Lite which features playback only; D1 Desktop 64 which features both capture and playback; and D1 desktop 64 AV which adds additional audio capabilities. Digital Voodoo cards are unique in that they do both 8 and 10 bit YUV uncompressed QT. The cards also provide you with and an additional desktop via an NTSC monitor. The Digital Voodoo 128 HD will list for $9995.00. It's currently a Mac-only product but they are looking into producing an NT version. They have yet to compile a list of drive requirements but Mike noted that 10-bit hi-def is going to require a pretty robust disk array. They are also looking into the potential of the same card handling both standard and hi-def. Finally, Mike noted that there will be an upgrade path for current owners.
Moving to the software side of things our next presentation was Boris Effects showing the new Boris Continuum. Peter McAuley, the Senior Product Manager, walked us through many of the new filters found in Continuum.
This filter suite features many Z-space function found in Boris Red. It provides true 3D perspective on objects as well as 3D font modeling where you can take fonts and extrude them into 3D space. There is also a very strong particle generator and a few thing that were specifically designed for improving some core AE functions. Their 3D Text has also been upgraded for Continuum to include more texturing options, including reflection maps.
Boris himself then came up to give us a preview of plug-in tentatively titled "Graffiti Pro." This is a titling plug-in which features fine kerning controls, tracking, etc. Text can be saved with style sheets and all text controls can be animated. Graffiti Pro has tabs and can import text files and will support multi-byte fonts; you can also mix and match fonts in the same line(s) of text. Graft is currently $495.00 but these new features and the final product is pending.
Phil Bates of Artbeats took the stage next to give us unique look at how Artbeats goes about creating the wide variety of CD's they distribute.
Phil's first revelation was that Myrtle Creek, Oregon housewives (where Artbeats is based) make excellent rotoscope artists! They are now well experienced in using Commotion, and can't stand watching movies with dirty film at the theater anymore. He also confided that he was thankful that he had the best job in the world as he gets to fly around and blow stuff up.
Phil started Artbeats in 1989 doing still images. He was picky then and did one product per year, but that market zoomed by them. But he soon realized that the same thing would happen to stock footage so he began creating animated stuff. Their first motion CD was Reel Textures released in 1996. Phil explained that MGLA co-hosts Chris and Trish Meyer soon told him that they needed fire, smoke and explosions so he began investigating what that would take.
He found a producer who said he though he could do it, but that they needed to shoot film as video cannot handle the gamut. So Phil went back up to Oregon and found a pyro guy. He was hoping to do it for around $35,000.00 and the guys said sure. However, after many all-night shoots the producer explained that they had $11,000 worth of overruns. It was then that Phil learned that film can get really expensive as every second can costs hundred of dollars. By the time they were finished the budget was up to $120,000. Fortunately the products did well.
In retrospect on of the funniest moments was when they created a very large fire in their driveway with racing fuel and other materials. It was so hot they felt the heat inside the house. After they got the shot no one could get close enough for the fire extinguisher to even work. And then it spilled and there was a river of file heading down the street. Luckily it all worked out in the end.
Phil then showed us some works-in-progress which included Penguins, Changing Seasons, Ground Rush (helicopter fly-bys), interesting soap film effects and some metal gears. They're also working on some cool kalieda effects. Phil noted that Artbeats is always looking for producers of both 2D and 3D design backgrounds. Both subtle and wild are useful.
MGLA co-host Dan Warvi introduced our final presenter of the evening, Ryan Mininger from Toledo, Ohio. Ryan dropped in to show us a project he did in Pixels 3D an inexpensive but powerful 3D animation and rendering package that was shown at MGLA earlier this year. Ryan explained that he uses Pixels 3D because of its customizable user interface, support of Renderman shaders, it's own procedural shaders and spline modeling functions, among other features.
Ryan then re-created a project he did for an add agency quickly building a number of television bodies and screen on which he applied video footage in the form of PICT sequences as a texture map.
After a bit of wrestling with the VHS deck and a quick swap thanks to the A/V crew, we were able to show some demo reels from a number of attendees. Following is a list of contact info for tapes that were shown:
King Thomas - Photoshop, AE and
12530 Braddock Dr., Suite A212
Los Angeles, CA 90066
PO Box 570727
Tarzana, CA 91357
1020 Norma Ct.
Chula Vista, CA 91911
Ryan Mininger - Pixels 3D and Infini-D
1801 Richards Road
Toledo, OH 43607
Lastly, we were able to offer a good variety of prizes for our raffle including: Boris Continuum, three sets of Artbeats titles, a set of Alien Skin Xenofex Photoshop plug-ins, two creative still image stock footage CDs from Digital Vision, a copy of Pixels3D, and an FX Files CD from VCE (the Pyromania people). Thanks to all for their generosity!
Thanks go out to DV Expo for sponsoring this special meeting. We look forward to seeing all our "regulars" back at AFI next month.
Speaking of next month, we will meet on the first Monday instead of Tuesday (the day before Election Day). We already have lined up REALVIZ showing a trio of programs, Toolfarm showing Alias|Wavefront's Paint FX plug-in for After Effects, co-host Chris Meyer giving an audio editing tutorial, and an additional artist that is being finalized this week. It also looks like we're going to have literally thousands of dollars worth of software and CDs to give away (including libraries from Digital Vision, VCE, and VideoHelper) - so make sure you come! A tentative line-up is available on the our web site <http://www.mgla.org>; email of the full agenda will follow soon. Also drop by the web site and participate in the forum discussions.
Trish, Chris, Lucky, and Dan
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