meeting summary
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE (Sponsored by Adobe)------

Lineup: Getty Images / Digital Anarchy plug-ins for After Effects / Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator Pro for After Effects / Electric Image Universe 4 / demo reels & projects

Our March meeting was yet another jam packed event held at the LA Film School and graciously sponsored by Adobe, so there was no cover charge for attending.

Special Q&A: Getty Images (7:00-7:30)

Instead of our normal Q&A session we had the stock footage company Getty Images down as they were interested in getting feedback from our group regarding their numerous brands of stocks footage including EyeWire, PhotoDisc, Archive Footage and Image Bank.

Getty's West Coast Region Director of Film Sales Charley Patton explained that he and others from Getty Images (Doug Segers, Account Executive, Image Bank Film; Philippe Sanchez, Senior Vice President Marketing; Chris Ashworth, Global Design Director; Jim Craig, Web Designer; Denise Waggoner, Director of Creative Planning RF & Development; Linda Ranz, Vice President, Business Development) were on a road trip to meet with clients and learn what motivates and inspires them and how they work with stock footage, in order to better tailor their services to their clients. They were specifically interested in workflow, and how clients procure and source images for their projects.

After showing their sample reel Charley posed a few questions to our audience regarding brand perceptions, how artists search for and procure footage, content preferences and preferred resolutions. Regarding content, preferences were pretty even across the audience. The preferred medium was clearly CD-ROM and/or DVD-ROM, and a fair amount of folks expressed interest in hi-def footage. A number of audience questions to Getty focused on what they are looking for from artists. Charley explained that international business and ethnicity, as well as the concepts of speed and technology were key these days. Other questions/comments from the audience focused on how some artists were displeased with the new unified contract Getty is trying to use across their brands. Where it is clear that some are unhappy, Getty reports that well over 90% of their artists agreed to the new.

For the 100 or so who came early to participate in Getty's focus group, we held a special door prize drawing for four of EyeWire's newer titles. But that was hardly the end of the prizes for the evening - read on...

Digital Anarchy plug-ins for After Effects (7:30-8:15)

After Getty's presentation we opened the regular meeting with MGLA regular (and host of the Bay Area Motion Graphics group) Jim Tierney of Digital Anarchy. Jim was on hand to demonstrate Geomancy, a three plug-in set for Adobe After Effects designed to create and animate lines and shapes as well as a few other AE plug-ins that Digital Anarchy offers. Jim also noted that all their plug-ins now run under OS X on the Mac.

Jim began with Gradient, a 6-color, 16-bit gradient tool. He described it as similar to the Adobe Photoshop gradient tool in function. Beyond simple broad color washes, Jim showed some very creative uses of Gradient, such as how to easily make a frame with faded edges, which in turn could be used as a track matte for an interesting image composite. As you would expect, everything is animatable. Gradient sells for $49.00 but there's a special price of $39.00 till the end of the month.

Jim then jumped into Geomancy showing a number of movies illustrating the numerous creative effects that this plug-in makes possible. This plug-in suite creates "particles" (which are actually lines or other geometric shapes) that follow the path of a grid via three separate plug-ins: GridLines, HairLines and GridSquares. The point of these plug-ins, as Jim described it, was to make stuff that looks good, but that you don't want to spend hours keyframing. Geomancy does this quite well. You can generate lines and numerous geometric shapes, you can control how they react to the grid and how the overlap themselves via transfer modes. In addition, many parameters have a randomization function that varies the value between a user-definable min and max point. GridLines gives you lines that flow through and around a grid, GridSquares produces various shapes and HairLines products liquid, flowing and warping lines. The package of three sells for $99.00, with a $79.00 special until the end of the month. After going over each filter Jim then jumped into AE to show us how a user would work with them.

Jim also gave us a look at Psunami and its ability to create photorealistic 3D water within After Effects. He also showed us how you can use it to create non-liquid effects via texture and displacement maps. Jim showed us how he created a camera fly-over of a rolling grass field. Psunami sells for $199.00 with a $149.00 special until the end of the month.

As a special bonus, MGLA co-host Trish Meyer of CyberMotion took the stage to show a project she was working on for Isuzu using the Geomancy plug-ins. She explained that she used grid squares as a matte for still images but mixed the matted images with displaced and processed original images to create a sense of depth. Trish then showed us the nice-looking piece, stopping it short of the point where she would have broken her NDA (it was for a new car about to be introduced at an auto show).

Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro (8:15-8:45)

Continuing with an evening featuring "old-favorite" presenters, Zax Dow of Zaxwerks took some time off from coaching baseball (yep, he's a dad) to come down and show us the latest version of 3D Invigorator for Adobe After Effects. Zax explained that the Invigorator was designed to make "bread and butter" 3D work fit more easily into a 2D artists workflow. He showed that in the latest "Pro" version you could now import 3D models in FACT, OBJ, LightWave, 3Dmax, and Cinema 4D (Go) formats. Polygon colors are maintained, but not texture maps. Nonetheless, the ability to bring in a simple object and the use AE's camera and lights is pretty impressive and quite useful.

Zax also discussed the OpenGL previews and the OpenGL renderer available in the Pro version along with the fact that OpenGL and Invigorator really scream on the new 1GB G4's. Zax then walked the "un-invigorated" through the program showing the powerful bevel creation and coloring tools as well as object styles. Lastly, Zax showed us how the layer cycling (where Invigorator processed Adobe Illustrator layers in sequence) can be used for effects such as "writing on" a 3D logo - very useful tips that we're certain will make it into MGLA attendees' work very soon.

A "classic" version of Invigorator now comes with Adobe After Effects along with a discount coupon for the Pro version (Zax was kindly distributing some of these coupons at the meeting, thank you very much).

break (8:45-9:05)

We had a hard time pulling people out of the lobby after the break, and for good reason: the Getty Images people were hanging around taking more feedback, plus ProMax and the BDA had tables set up as well. ProMax generously donated some wireless mics to MGLA to help us better amplify the presenters for our new large room; BDA was talking about their upcoming conference in June, and gave away a full conference pass to the show as well.

Electric Image Universe 4.0 (9:05-10:00)

After our break we continued with MGLA veterans featuring Blair Burtan of Northern Lights Productions and MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall of Quiet Earth Design take the stage to show and discuss some of the new features available in Electric Image Universe 4.0.

Blair began by presenting an overview of most of the new features including global illumination, constraints, skinning, painted weight maps and more. He then opened a few projects and images to show how these functions worked and the final images the produced. He illustrated how the constraint system allows you to have separate objects linked to the movement of one and how the new skinning/bones system allows you to use polygon color from the modeler or texture maps to change how a skin reacts to bones. This feature makes Universe a much more viable character animation tool then ever before. Blair also covered the much speedier OpenGL previews and other performance enhancements in this version of the software.

Next, Blair talked about what's on the horizon for Northern Lights' plug-ins for Universe dealing with physics and soft body dynamics and gave us a very preliminary look at an in-development system for putting hair on an object-which we all hope will make in into Universe in some form in the future.

Lachlan then took the mic to talk about global illumination and how much easier camera mapping had become with the addition of real time previews. He talked about the concept of Global Illumination where an Illuminator is used to simulate the look of outdoor diffused light, but the effect was best Illustrated by viewing images lit by this technique, which is not all that difficult to implement.

Lachlan then discussed the tricky concept of camera mapping where a still image is projected onto 3D geometry allowing you to animate stunningly realistic camera moves. He showed how he broke up a picture of a snowy mountain pass, projected it onto various amorphous shapes (created in Electric Image's Amorphium - go figure), and was able to preview the projected images in real time-although both he and Blair admitted that the OpenGL performance is much better on more powerful systems than the laptop we were using. Lachlan then contrasted two composites in AE. The first was a simple camera pull on the original still image of the mountain pass with a 3D jet comp'ed in. While it looked "okay" the shot didn't sell. Next, Lachlan showed the version with the camera mapped background. In this version the foreground and background elements showed the movement and parallax you'd expect from a real camera pull, and looked more realistic. Lachlan explained that while he was still exploring camera mapping, in this example he could clearly see the benefits.

Lastly, Brad Parscale from Electric Image told the audience about the latest 4.05 Universe update available on EI's website and the new "Duo" key for Universe that will work on both Mac's and PC's. He also mentioned the 3D Tool Kit from DV Garage <> that is an excellent way to learn how to work in 3D and how it gives you an update path to Universe should you want to take advantage of a full-featured 3D program with support for 3rd party plug-ins.

Demo Reels (10:00-10:30)

The remainder of our evening was spent showing demo reels. Since we'd missed this welcome feature of our monthly meetings for a few months MGLA co-host Dan Warvi organized a slew of reels the covered the gamut from folks just breaking into the industry to the Klasky Csupo design house showing their reel which included a number of network TV titles (they had mentioned that they had no problem dropping into MGLA as our meetings are held right next door to their studio; we've tentatively penciled them in as presenters at our June meeting). The reels that were shown, as well as contact info are listed below:

ThumbWars (Gabba the Butt)
Mark Hebert
780 Hamilton St. #22
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Christopher Biggs
Digital Effects Artist (EI, Maya, AE, Shake, PS)

Nick Santora

Bobby Mardis
RSM Entertainment
PO Box 34928
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Harry Eisenstein
3D Modeling & Animation, Compositing, Motion Graphics

Robert Dennis
Photo retoucher and graphic artist
241 W. Alameda Ave. #15
Burbank, CA 91502

Fred Kaplan
Second Sight Production

John McConnell

Brian Castleforte
14905 Dickens Street #2
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Klasky Csupo Broadcast Design
6353 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Those who presented reels were given their choice of an ATTIK Noise4 additional content CD or t-shirts from Apple, Digital Anarchy, and ProMax - thanks to all who donated those extra prizes.

Door Prizes (10:30)

And speaking of prizes, we had a slew of them to give way! These included:

* A full pass for the BDA conference in Los Angeles June 26-29

* Digital Anarchy's Elements of Anarchy: Text for After Effects

* Digital Anarchy's Geomancy for After Effects

* Automatic Duck's Automatic Composition Import for Final Cut Pro and After Effects

* Bestshot's Continents stock footage CD (click here to preview)

* A copy of Final Draft or Final Draft AV (your choice) screenwriting software

* Artbeat's ReelExplosions 2 stock footage CD (click here to preview)

* EyeWire will be donating four titles as well; as noted above, they will be given away early as a special incentive

* Three ThumbWars videos courtesy of our first demo reel presenter, Mark Hebert.

MGLA also gave out nearly 100 passes for the upcoming NAB show in Las Vegas. If you weren't able to grab one here are some other ways of getting into the show:

- You can email Digital Anarchy to pre-reserve a pass
- You can register online and use the following code provided by ProMax: JH77

(And speaking of ProMax and NAB, don't forget to register for their DV Cafe)

Again, we'd like to thank Adobe for sponsoring this meeting. Our next will be held on April 16, again at the LA Film School. The planned line-up includes people from the design house T-A-G speaking about their design of a network package for Hallmark, plus RE:VisionFX and Digital Film Tools showing off some new plug-ins for After Effects.

Thanks go out to all our presenters and attendees, we'll see you on the 16th!

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

door prizes provided by: