MGLA Meeting Summary - May 1, 2001

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

Lineup: NAB wrap-up/Quiet Earth on 2D+3D integration/Felicia Oh & Autumn Boh on DVD/Zaxwerks Invigorator ProModeler/Alex Lindsay & dvGarage on surface texturing

A relatively quiet night for us (whenever we have a meeting on the first or second, we always have a dip, as some are caught off-guard by the calendar change <g>), but a very interesting one for content nonetheless. We were also technically snakebite, being able to only hook up composite video to drive AFI's brand-new projector - but we survived.

Once again, the meeting was graciously sponsored by ProMax . Most of the pre-meeting was based around discussions of the just-passed NAB show, and trends in hi-def production.

* Lachlan Westfall & DSL City 2D/3D integration *

Our first presenter of the evening as MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall who discussed some techniques he used to integrate 2D After Effects segments into a previously rendered 3D city fly-through created by Reality Check Studios. Lachlan discussed the pro's and cons of using corner-pin tracking of screens on which his 2D elements would be placed, as well as the alternate method of rendering out movies which would be used as moving texture maps and rendered in the 3D application.

Some of the trickiest and more creative challenges involved getting the 2D stuff to look like it was in the 3D environment in the first place. This involved using motion blur, faking shadows and changing luminosity to match the 3D world as it flew by. Another challenge was the fact that the project we split in two with two completely separate teams working on it, and at completely separate times. Lachlan pointed out that the organization of files and other elements by the project's producer, Ahdee Meitus, was critical in keeping the project on-track.

* Felicia Oh! & Autumn Boh on DVD Menu Issues *

We then had a presentation by Felicia Oh! and Autumn Boh who came down to discuss the design and creation of DVDs. With DVDs there's a wide range of budgets - from substantial, to "what can you do for a hundred bucks." Felicia explained that they tend to work on the smaller budget jobs, so there's a limit to what they can and will do for a specific project.

They mentioned that since DVDs are relatively new, a large part of working on DVDs is educating the client as to what's possible. To accomplish this, they construct flow charts in Adobe Illustrator to show the client how the DVD will map out. This helps in getting the client to sign off on the project at various stages. They explained that if you don't manage the client effectively, it can be a real budget-buster when the come back with change after change. Another issue is getting the client to realize that you need some content with which to work. Often Felicia finds herself pulling stuff from the movie itself or begging for at least a video cover.

Questions from the audience related to how chapters are divided up. The answer was that you can pretty much do whatever you like. Color requirements are pretty much that same as NTSC, but the aspect ratio is 720 x 480. One technical tip related to the use of thin lines as design elements: If the line is less than 3 pixels wide, it may completely disappear when the movie is displayed in 16 x 9. As far as tools go these two use both Sonaris SGI and Sprice DVD Maestro as authoring tools. For deliverables they'll put everything on a DLT for creation of the master DVD. Audience questions continued and got a bit more technical. One topic discussed was the technical requirements for buttons - specifically that they're keyed off of 255 red or 255 blue, and there's no antialiasing. All in all, the audience had lots of interest in DVD authoring, no doubt fueled by Apple coming down the prior month to show iDVD and DVD Studio Pro.

* Zax Dow & Invigorator Pro Modeler *

Next up was Zax Dow to show us the latest state of his Invigorator series of products. He explained that the idea behind the Invigorator was to create a procedural modeling system so that you can metaphorically drop things in the top and have a model drop out the bottom. He wanted to simplify 3D modeling so that you don't have to use an architectural modeler to create a simple logo.

Invigorator has evolved from a plug-in to a stand-alone application called the Invigorator Pro Modeler that has many cool new features. Transparency mapping is supported, you can open Adobe Illustrator files by layer, you can rotate individual objects was well as the camera and you can move objects along their own axes no matter how the camera is pointing. The OpenGL implementation is improving so you'll have practically real-time rendering in After Effects. Other modeling improvements include new edge offsets which allow front faces to be made thinner or fatter, a "spike buster" which will eliminate anomalies created by Illustrator beziers that are too sharp and the ability to customize edges and even make your own in Illustrator.

The Invigorator Pro Modeler sells for $495.00. There are also special updates from discontinued versions of Invigorator so be sure to check with Zaxwerks.

* Alex Lindsay & Surface Mapping Toolkit *

Continuing in taking excellent care of our 3D-attendees this month, we wrapped the meeting with MGLA favorite Alex Lindsay of dvGarage. Alex flew down from the Bay Area to show us his new Surface Toolkit. Alex explained that in working on Star Wars and other projects, he came up with a collection of grunge texture maps that he turned in the Surface of Reality CD, and now the Surface Toolkit.

Alex explained that it's not the basics that make an object or scene created in 3D look "real," it's the details. Imperfections give an object scale and that's critical for selling the shot. Alex's textures can be used to this end and they give us the ability to add detail without spending a whole lot of time painting textures for every element in the scene. The textures can also be used to add a randomness to a repeating element. For example, a tile floor is a series of repeating rectangles. By adding a larger grunge map on top of the tiles you add a randomness to the tiles that breaks up the repetition. Alex then discussed the use of grunge maps in the specular and reflectivity channels as well as the diffuse to better mimic reality.

Alex then went through a pumpkin tutorial that can also be found on his website. He used Amorphium and various textures to create a realistic pumpkin. This tutorial showed us that you cannot think of a texture as a single flat element. Alex creates his textures in Photoshop layers and uses a variety of transfer modes (hardlight, softlight, overlay and multiply are his faves) to build up a complex texture. Nearly all of Alex's insightful tips can be found on the dvGarage website, which also contains weekly tutorials that are very helpful and useful. The dvGarage Surface Toolkit is available from Toolfarm.

* demo reels & door prizes *

We had time to show a number of demo reels from the meeting attendees, including one of our presenters. A list of contact information for those that were shown is included at the end of this summary.

We also had a nice haul of door prizes, including an Apple optical Pro Mouse, a 3D Studio Max training manual, a copy of dvGarage's Surface Toolkit, and a copy of the new Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator >. 3D Invigorator was given away under "Zax's rules", which means we expect the winner back in a few months to show us what they did with it!!!

Our demo reel presenters:

Ken Locsmandi

Fred Greissing

Adam Goodwin

Finally, we left off contact information for a reel shown at April's meeting:

Thomas D. Luth

door prizes donated by: