MGLA February 6 2001 Meeting Summary

------Meeting Sponsored by ProMax------

Lineup: Softimage XSI 1.5/ProMax on MacWorld & the new Macs/Scott Billups & Digital Moviemaking/Seesaw Studios & MusicCountry

This month's Q&A began with co-host Trish Meyer telling us about her new Canon G1 digital camera (2k stills, 1 gig hard drive card). Co-host Lucky Westfall then shared his trials and tribulations of getting a DDS-4 DAT drive repaired - the lesson learned: do as much tech-support research on your own as humanly possible. Questions from the audience centered on high-def and variable resolution issues.


Our first presenter of the evening was Softimage who came down to show some of the new aspects of XSI v1.5. Bob Shafron first mentioned the XSI 1.5 launch event that was held Feb 28 at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica; we hope a number of MGLA members dropped in.

Next, Softimage's Michael Eisner from their Special Projects Team took the stage to show us some advanced character animation feature/techniques he and other have been working with. He first showed us Envelope Mirroring where movement from one side of a character can be applied to another. Typically, models and parameters must match exactly to perform this type of operation, but XSI is amazingly flexible in applying movements to dissimilar parts of a symmetrical model.

Michael then went on to show us some modeling techniques. First he showed us how you can extract a line from a series of points on an object's surface. This is very useful for creating complex lines. He then used XSI's multi-patch modeling to build the basic body of an elephant by bridging simple subdivision surfaces. One particularly interesting aspect of the way XSI handles subdivision surfaces is that you can push/pull points on a surface and then still edit the cage that's controlling that surface.

After the elephant, Michael showed us his how he uses multiple UV maps to texture a human head and then explained how expression libraries make it possible to quickly animate numerous human facial movements.

XSI has also been designed to make extensive use of the World Wide Web and Dynamic HTML. You can now very easily share information with others working on the same project, over the internet or through an intranet. For example you can drag a texture off the network and apply it to an object in your project.

Finally, Michael showed us a bit of how expressions work. As an example he created links and constraints on one object so that it would act as if it were linked by a spring to another object. He explained how this technique could be expanded on to create cloth and hair effects.

Softimage XSI runs on NT. XSI Essentials retails for $7995.00 and XSI Advanced retails for $11,995.00. Essentials comes with a single Mental Ray license while Advanced comes with two. There is also an Educational version available for $495.00. More information on XSI 1.5 can be found at <>.


We were then very pleased to have long-time digital motion graphics artist Scott Billups <> take the stage to discuss his experiences in working with motion graphics on the computer and his new book titled Digital Movie Making.

Scott first recalled that in the very room in which we were sitting, Quicktime was introduced to the world. It was also at AFI that Scott taught classes and salons on the emerging possibilities of doing motion graphics on the computer. In fact, that's how co-hosts Trish and Chris Meyer learned the groundwork of motion graphics.

Scott's main point this evening was that there are now no excuses (aside from talent) - the equipment is now affordable enough that if you want to make a film, you can. he shared some of the stuff we'd find in his book on digital filmmaking. He specifically talked about colorspace and how important it is to know where the images you're shooting are going to end up: digital projection, printed to film, or used for broadcast. Each one has its own considerations with respect to color.

Scott is always full of interesting stories. For example, while working on the Sony Playstation commercial with David Lynch, David like the look of the less-expensive PD-150 camera he had been using (tweaked out by Scott), resulting in them setting aside their hi-def cameras. Or that the only reason that he had time to do the book was that he was recovering from an ice-climbing accident - as such, he laughingly dedicated the book to the pharmaceutical companies that got him through his recovery.


After the break Charles McConathy of ProMax <> (who have graciously sponsored MGLA for the year) came up to talk about the new Macs that have recently come down the pike. He explained that they tested a new titanium PBG4 400 against a 533 tower and the speeds were close. Charles also pointed out that the 667 and 733 G4s feature 4xAltivec while the other models feature 2xAltivec. The new G4s feature 4 PCI slots now and the top-of-the-line 733 includes the new Superdrive which can burn DVDs.


Rounding out our quite full evening our artist presentation feature Judy Korin of SeeSaw Studios <>. Judy had been down to MGLA before and we were privileged to have her return.

This evening Judy and her associates, Jean LeBlanc and Jeremy Alcock came down to discuss the design and production for the station ID for "Music Country": a multi-national cable music station. Their task was to create a look for the station that conveyed the idea of authentic guitar-driven music, but didn't come across as solely Country Music. The fact that they also had to accommodate three different languages as well as both NTSC and PAL video formats was an additional challenge.

Judy, Jean and Jeremy explained that their first step was to sit around with pencil and paper and determine what "Music Country" was and what is was not. For example, the would contrast the words "youthful" vs. "young" and "flowing" vs. "cutty." Next, the began working up a color palette, determined how they would use the logo, and came up with the musical note as an effective design element that communicated the concept and was also trans-lingual.

The three continued to discuss both the creative and technical aspects of this job, asking the audience which of the two elements they would prefer hearing about and heartily receiving "both" as an answer.

One particularly vexing issue was brought up by Jeremy who had created a 3D City graphic element in Cinema 4D. He rendering it out at 768 x 576 25 fps but soon noticed that when elements were converted from PAL to NTSC his 3D elements would drop/add frames. His first attempted solution of changing the frame rate in C4D and then re-rendering the element had it's own problems as the many, many keyframes he had set, would necessarily shift as the frame rate was changed.


And yes, we did manage to find time for reels this month. MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall showed the latest work from Quiet Earth Design and Scott Billups showed his demo CD. A couple of attendees showed their reels as well. Contact information follows:

Lachlan Westfall
Quiet Earth Design
23634 Emelita St.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

J63 studios
Judd Flemming
7272 Saranac st. unit #18
La Mesa, CA 91941

Michael McLaughlin

After that we had our raffle which included donations of Trish and Chris Meyer's book "Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects" as well as several copies of "Digital Moviemaking" by Scott Billups, a custom Final Cut Pro keyboard from ProMax, and two copies of BodyPaint from Maxon. Thanks very much to everyone for their donations.

Trish, Chris, Lucky, and Dan
Your MGLA Hosts

door prizes for this meeting contributed by: