***Meeting Summary***
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE (Sponsored by Adobe)------

Lineup: Discreet Combustion 2.01 / DVD in Practice / guest studio Klasky Csupo

Our first meeting of the Summer was another success. With a wide range of presenters we had one of the largest crowds yet. As usual, we began the meeting with our Q&A session and the co-hosts were joined by Apple's Paul Saccone (who Trish has officially renamed "iPaul"). The main topic centered on FireWire hard drives and some drive failures that folks have encountered. Cables and connectors could be a contributing factor; Charles McConathy of ProMax has created a survey (which we emailed earlier) in attempt to get to the bottom of this. We'll share the results with you when we have them.

Discreet combustion 2

Our lead off batter for the evening was Marshal Fontaine from Discreet who came by to show combustion 2.0. Marshal was joined by freelance Combustion artist Eric de Haven who's currently working at Money Shots in Santa Monica.

Prior to the demo Discreet's Scott Ryan informed us of two cool promos/offers. First, dhima in Santa Monica (also an MGLA sponsor, along with Discreet) was offering a one-day workshop in Combustion for only $99.00. This July class was pre-announced to MGLA members, who promptly filled it. Second, Scott noted that Discrete has an excellent cross-grade program where you can get Combustion for $2995.00 (normally $4995.00) if you provide a serial number from another compositing package retailing for more than $1500.00. Further details available by contacting your local discreet combustion reseller or by emailing Adam Cuneo at adam.cuneo@discreet.com; details on both the offer and class were sent out earlier.

The demo was performed on Windows; Marshal explained that on a Mac, Combustion runs under both OS 9 and OS X. It features a RAM-based cache and allows you to composite in both 2D and 3D. He then began his demo by showing a video from the band Basement Jaxx, going through the process he used in constructing the complex composites for the video. In the video there were human faces placed on the head of monkeys. Marshal showed how this was realized. He began by tracking the motion of the actor's head and using it to quickly create a garbage matte. He showed the many options for modifying the edge of this matte which included both inner and outer edge gradients and the ability to vary the thickness of the edge via spline controls. He then pulled a key and set the color correction. Marshal noted that the color correction parameters can be exported, making batch color correction a snap. Next, he tracked the head of the monkey and placed the actors head in the shot.

Marshal explained that the speed with which you can work in Combustion is made possible in a large degree via Open GL. This allows you to spin 3D layers around as the shot is playing, for example, and really speeds up the workflow.

Next, Marshal showed us the vector-based paint function that allows you to animate each vertex of a spline. He used an animated brush to reveal an underlying cloned image in the Basement Jaxx video. Erik added that the program's ability to import Adobe Illustrator files is quite good, allowing you to animate the vector points after import.

Erik continued by explaining how he works on music videos at Money Shots and showed a reel of videos that were done in Combustion. He then dissected some shots from those videos. He showed how they created camera moves in a video by the artist Pink. All the cameras used to shoot the video were locked down so they created the pans with Combustion's 3D camera. He explained that to create pans they built comps that were 1800 x 486, but the performance was still really good. He also showed how the used a gradient to displace one shot in order to it to match another. The fact that they were able to adjust the gradient in real-time and watch the displacement update was a huge time-saver.

Erik talked about how the tree/node system was a great way to work. You can create a complex tree and when it's finished, lock it off and render it out. But you can also load it up again later if changes are required. Another bonus is that you can actually view the element and play shots from within the tree/node view.

Erik continued by showing how quickly they were able to drop a starry sky into an Outkast music video. He noted that sometimes they'll do 90 shots in 5-7 days, adding that Combustion is a good tool for lower budget music videos as you can put more folks in front of more machines in order to crank out the job on time.


Eric de Haven is a freelance combustion artist currently working at Money Shots in Santa Monica. He has broad industry experience having worked in production for 10 years on numerous film, commercial and music video projects. Recent projects include music videos for Pink, Madonna, Jay-Z, Jewel and the film "Cats and Dogs". 

Marshal Fontaine is a combustion specialist for Discreet. Recently relocated to the Santa Monica office, he spent several years in New York City both as a combustion specialist and a visual effects professional. Marshal completed his education at the Florida School of the Arts and the NY School of Visual Arts, and counts numerous high-profile client credits in his freelance and full-time career including Chase Bank, Tommy Hilfiger, Bloomingdales, US West, NASDAQ, Nike, the NHL, the NBA, B. Dalton, Barnes & Noble, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition video.

Apple iDVD

Paul Saccone from Apple was next up to give us the "world's fastest DVD authoring tutorial" via Apple's iDVD 2 software. iDVD 2 comes free with any Apple computer that includes a Superdrive. Apple also offers a professional DVD authoring application called DVD Studio Pro that includes many more features.

Paul's demo focused on taking two cuts from Apple's Final Cut Pro and creating a DVD to show a client. Paul exported the DV clips by creating a Quicktime move that contained pointers to the original clips on his drive - so it was really quick.

Paul explained that MPEG 2 compression is required for the DVD, this is handled automatically by the software. He then imported the clips into iDVD 2 and set backgrounds, poster frames, titles, fonts, etc. He showed up how you can drag a Photoshop file onto the screen to create your own background.

As Paul burned the DVD he took a number of questions from the audience:

Q: Will the DVD play in any player?
A: Some of the older players might have problems, but newer machines don't.

Q: What are your bit rate options?
A: iDVD 2 is a fixed system, DVD Studio Pro is more flexible.

Q: Does it matter if you're working with uncompressed video?
A: Not really, it all gets converted into MPEG 2 anyway.

Q: Does is save the encoded file so you can easily make more?
A: If you do one right afterward, yes, but it is not saved to hard disc to burn copies from later.

Q: Can you loop stuff, for say a tradeshow?
A: With Pro, yes, but with iDVD 2 you could set a QT movie as a background and it would loop.

Q: Can we create our own buttons and chapter stops?
A: With Pro, yes. But not with iDVD 2.

Q: Does iDVD 2 support external hardware?
A: No, but Pro does.

Paul finished by noting that the latest version of iDVD runs under OSX only. And that Pro allows copy protection and multi-region options while iDVD does not. Here then burned the DVD, and played it back.


During the break, members tracked down Discreet's presenters in the lobby for more one-on-one questions; ProMax also had a table set up. As long as we're thanking sponsors, we should note the ProMax donated the computer, DVCAM deck, and wireless mics both MGLA and LAFCPUG use at their meetings - thank you.

Dan Warvi - Fox Family DVD creation

MGLA co-host Dan Warvi was up next to show how he helped create an in-house DVD when he was with Fox Family. The project was undertaken when Fox Family was purchased by Disney. Their department made a DVD as a way of explaining to the new management what the department was capable of producing. They worked with 342 Media to create the DVD. Representatives from 342 were supposed to take part in the presentation, explaining the technical aspects of the process, but unfortunately they were unable to attend at the last minute. Dan told us that he designed the DVD, which had to match the on-air look. Fortunately, he was able to get the layered Photoshop files and did all the design in Photoshop.

Once everyone signed off on the menus, etc. they did all the prep in Adobe After Effects and then lay off to tape with slates, etc. 342 then created the DVD itself from the tape.

Dan needed to make a 10-sec looping background and used a 44k SWF file created via Flash. He then came across the fact that you have to make both a 24bit and an 8 bit file. This is for making menus. The 24bit is all the RBG info. The 8-bit is the keying information. The keying is generated via Red, Blue, White and Black.

As if Dan needed more frustration after dealing with sudden no-show presenters, he worked through some technical glitches and was able to show us the final DVD which included tours of the studio and more. Lastly, Dan admitted that, while they were all happy with the final DVD, it didn't matter much as Disney shut down the entire department anyway.

Guest Studio Klasky Csupo

Dan Warvi introduced our next guest Klasky Csupo in the persons of John Andrews and Sam Schoemann, who gave both an inspirational and refreshingly frank presentation of their work and how they interact with clients. They showed their demo reel featuring well-known spots for Earthlink, The Osbournes, and other show opens and commercials.

John explained that as of this January the company launched Klasky Csupo Broadcast Design. The original studio has been around since the mid-90s. They went from 75 to 350 with rooms all over Hollywood. Recently, they consolidated into one office, which happens to be right next door to the LA Film School where we hold our meetings. John and Sam discussed the fact that 2001 was a tough year-even before 9/11. But he did say that things are getting better. He noted that their open for the popular "The Osbournes" series on MTV is working well for them.

Regarding The Osbournes they went for an old 50's-style look. They'd originally had cartoon-style characters but the client preferred something else. The designers suggested stylized photos and the client said "Great! But what do you mean?" Apparently this was an oft-heard phrase. Eventually they went with it and the open (as well as the show) is very popular.

John and Sam also presented an open they produced for a short-lived series featuring Ellen Degeneres. This was another 50's-look style based on travel signs and other posters of that era. They originally worked up the layered look in After Effects but ultimately created real 3D layers and used a 3D camera in 3DS Max.

They concluded their presentation with by discussing techniques they used in an Earthlink commercial where animated rotoscoping techniques were used to create characters based on live shots. They used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop as well as Painter to animate the characters. Audience members noted that programs such as Commotion, Combustion and Studio Artist would be useful for techniques such as this.

* Member Project - David J. Billings *

Our last presenter of the evening was David Billings who came down to show some techniques he's used in a short animation for kids as well as for the popular kids show Blues Clues. The design style is reminiscent of traditional frame-by-frame animation of cut-out paper figures. However, David uses After Effects to create the animation. He explained that he scanned in paper bags and other things for basic texture creation. Once the elements were constructed in pieces in Photoshop, they were hooked together in After Effects using parenting. He noted that he often had to move the center point of a comp in order to have the rotation point work correctly. Subcomps were then created for different variations of each character. He also explained that there we many hold keyframes used as the client did not want a smooth computer-look for the animation.

David can be contacted at:

David J. Billings

* You too can present a tip at MGLA *

If you're interested in presenting a tip or showing a project we'd love to have you. We plan on reserving the last 20-30 minutes of most meetings for demo reels, recent projects, or any tips you might want to share with the group. Priority will be given to those who have a tip or project to share as opposed to simply showing a demo reel. Contact Dan Warvi <mailto:d2warvi@earthlink.net> if you'd like to reserve a slot. After any tip presentations, demo reels will then be shown on a first come/first serve basis until we run out of time.

* Demo Reels *

Click here to download a PDF file with guidelines for presenting Demo Reels and Projects. Reels must clock in at 3 minutes or under (unless the soundtrack contains music by Miles, 'Trane, Bird, or the like-if so Dan may give you an extra 15 seconds). Formats we can play include DigiBeta, BetaSP, VHS, DV, and DVCAM. Please bring your contact information so we can list you in the meeting summary.

In addition to David Billings, we had two other interesting reels presented (unfortunately, we had to cut both short as they were running long, as was the meeting overall):

Christopher W. Spears
27209 Santa Clarita Rd.
Saugus, CA 91350

Pablo Alejandro Holcer
371 W. Lexington Dr. #7
Glendale, CA 91203

* Door Prizes *

Once again we had a large number of door prizes to give away at our June meeting (adding up to over $1800 in value), thanks to the generosity of our sponsors. Following is a list of products and the companies that donated them:

* A very timely prize of 3 copies of DVD Authoring and Production by Ralph LaBarge from CMP Books ($55 value each)

* Synergy: Dynamics stock footage library from EyeWire ($599 value)

* Shape Flow stock footage library from Bestshot ($499 value)

* Frameworks stock footage library from Bestshot ($499 value)

* Learning Mac OS X training CD-ROM from lynda.com ($30 value)

* Typographic Principles training CD-ROM from lynda.com ($30 value)

* A copy of the BDA 2001 Gold Design Awards video ($50-$100 value)

And again, thanks to Adobe for sponsoring the meeting, so admission is free. See you in July, where we will have the Media 100 844/X, Digital Anarchy's 3D Assistants, and guest studio Belief showing off the latest Untitled project. As a special incentive, Media 100 is giving away a previously-owned Media 100i XR system (valued around $15k!!!). See you there!

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

door prizes provided by: