Tuesday, July 16, 2002
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE (Sponsored by Adobe)------
Lineup: Media 100 844/X / Digital Anarchy 3D Assistants / Untitled:003-Embryo
With a solid group of presenters and our largest door prize ever, we expected a good crowd for our July 16th meeting held at the LA Film School, and we were not disappointed as roughly 200 people braved the sweltering temperatures as well as the rock god appearance at Amoeba across the street to join us. Once again, our room expenses were generously paid for by Adobe, so admission was free.
We began with a smattering of gossip for our Q&A session hosted by Trish Meyer, Chris Meyer and Dan Warvi. Co-host Lachlan Westfall dashed in late and told of his recent (as in, up until the time of the meeting) wrestling with network TV deadlines for a show premiering on Fox the following day. Dan surveyed members about the recent BDA meeting - approximately 330 MGLA members took BDA up on their offer of a free day pass. Chris summarized some of the findings of Charles McConathy of ProMax about the recent flurry of FireWire failures that have been news. It has been hard to find distinct patterns, and some rumors have pointed to design issues with specific Mac models, but contributing to the problems are cheap cables (thicker is usually better), and users who plug in the cables at an angle or even backwards, resulting in shorts. The safest path is still to power down at least the drive, if not the entire system, first.
Our first presenter of the evening was Media 100 who were down to both show their new 844/X editing system and (even better for one lucky attendee) give away a preowned Media 100i XR system (a $15k value). Needless to say, we thank them for their generosity; a nod must also be given to Post Op Video for the extensive work they did in setting up the demonstration, including arranging a special two-projector display plus a widescreen TV for the video preview from the 844.
Robert Stacey and Will Harris from Media 100 came down to show their powerful new system and how it works in a real-world compositing scenario. First off, they fielded a couple of questions from the audience related to the ICE effects for Adobe After Effects. They noted that they have not made any official steps toward making these plug-ins OS X-compatible, but they are looking into it.
Next, Will dove into the 844/X. The concept of this system is to give the user a powerful blend of effects creation and video editing in a single powerful system. From what we saw, the 844/X does this quite well. Will explained that first and foremost, the system is extremely fast (so fast that he no longer gets smoking breaks, he joked). It support four streams of real-time video playback (with alpha channel), an unlimited number of video and audio layers, an unlimited number of effects, and all processing is done in 10-bit. On the effects side you can work with a filter stack, a viewer and a keyframer. You can manipulate the layers in real-time and the system supports Adobe After Effects filters in addition to its own.
Will put the system through its paces by showing a TV ad spot. He loaded the clips in from the bin by dragging a dropping. He easily set in/out points and noted that you can scrub the clip and view the amount of available media beyond the in/out points. He showed us how to apply real-time effects, and use blend (transfer) modes and view them on four streams simultaneously. Will used the effects to illustrate the power of 10-bit processing. He then performed a drastic brightness/contrast adjustment to illustrate just how far you could push the colors in 10-bit space. Will keyframed a few elements, showing how you can "ride" the rotation value and set keyframes in real-time as the video is playing. The system features an integrated matte painting tool as well.
Next, Will took the system beyond
the four real-time playback layers showing us the various ways you can optimize
the playback while working with many, many layers. He then showed some keying
functions and matte creation tools.
The 884/X also has the ability to integrate with other programs running on the same hardware. Will loaded Discreete's Combustion in the background with the 844/X was running. He explained that you have the option of "giving" the hardware to the other program which can then output live video. He also loaded Trapcode's Shine plug (for After Effects) from within the 844/X. When you load an AE plug such as this it renders to a clip for playback, but still give you access to the controls for any changes.
Next up was MGLA favorite (and a participant from our very first MGLA meeting nearly five years ago) Jim Tierney of Digital Anarchy. Jim dropped in to show us his new 3D Assistants for Adobe After Effects. Jim explained that while AE's 3D layers are very cool, there aren't many tools, other than straight keyframing, that take specific advantage of them. That is until now. The 3D Assistants are designed to automatically generate keyframes and values for multiple 3D layers to create very complex and interesting effects. Some of these effects include creating a deck-of-cards look for multiple layers and assembling layers into a geometric shape such as a sphere or a cube. As an example Jim show how he could easily take 300 AE 3D layers, spin them around and eventually have them coalesce into a sphere.
Jim showed us some of the ten assistants in the package. The Matrix Creator is good for assembling a video wall allowing you to set the dimension of the grid, space between elements and many other parameters. The Box Creator takes square layers and assembles a box, repeating layers as needed.
Next, Jim gave us a quick tour of Color Theory which Digital Anarchy is now distributing. He explained that the AE plug in applies traditional color schemes for selection complementary colors. Once the basic hue is determined you can vary the saturation and lightness to come up with colors sure to work well with the main color you're working with. Jim also handed out sheets with special MGLA pricing on many of Digital Anarchy's products (we appreciate the support), and gave away a copy of 3D Assistants later in the evening.
We then took our break and reminded everyone to go a register for the Media 100i XR giveaway which was held separate from our normal door prize selection.
After the break we were happy to have the design studio Belief drop in to discuss their latest "Untitled" project: UNTITLED:003-EMBRYO. For the past three years Belief has coordinated their annual Untitled projects as a collaborative effort involving different design studios. The project is designed as a purely creative exercise and it's always intriguing for us to see what happens each year. The project's producer, Kane Roberts, and Belief's Mike Goedecke came down to discuss the technical and creative aspects of this adventurous project. This year they wanted to make a narrative, or as Kane put it - "something his mom could watch, or something you could see at a festival." However, they still wanted to keep the experimental, collaborative feel.
Thus they came up with a story centering on an agoraphobic character who comes upon a "dream catcher" device. The story takes you through him capturing the dreams of various people who come by his house. Each dream sequence was created independently by various studios (including Belief) and then tied together by the main story. All elements were shot and edited in hi-def which made for a great look, but taxed Belief's systems even though they measure their amount of storage in terabytes. Kane also explained that they were dealing with so many computer crashes that they contemplated installing a "restart pedal" on their machines.
After explaining the concept and approach they showed the 30-minute piece. Afterward, they revealed what they had learned about producing a short film-one that involved all volunteer talent and crew. Mike explained that on a project of this scope it's critical to have folks with experience tackle specific tasks. For example, they first attempted the set design themselves, but soon learned that practical experience counts just as much as good ideas. Mike and Kane also discussed the building of the Dream Catcher machine as well as an organic "monster" that lived inside the machine. Again, practical experience was the key to pulling things off quickly and efficiently. The also explained that in all areas of the project they would often get good creative ideas from folks, but have to abandon them if they didn't quite fit with the project. In the end the project did successfully integrate a "story" with abstract creative elements. We're always happy to have Belief down to show these projects which are designed to push creative boundaries.
* Tips, Projects, and Demo Reels *
We did not have time for demo reels at this meeting. However, we would love to see your reel, project, or tip at a future meeting! Priority will be given to those who have a tip or project to share akin to the First Americans and Isuzu Ascender projects seen earlier this year; contact Dan Warvi to reserve your slot. Demo reels will then be shown on a first come/first serve basis until we run out of time. Click here is a PDF file with guidelines for presenting Demo Reels and Projects. Reels must clock in at 3 minutes or under. 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.
Door Prizes (10:20-10:30)
Door prizes this month came in two segments: A special drawing for the preowned Media 100i XR system, and our normal giveaway. Due to the magnitude of Media 100's giveaway, we allowed them to take a separate registration; they were considerate enough to include checkboxes for you to decide how much information you received from them (including none at all).
The preowned Media 100i XR shipped with V7.5 software but the owner will be able to upgrade to their upcoming version 8 software for free. Version 8 is a native OS X application. The Media100i XR system supports SDI, Component, DV, RT Fx, and comes with Boris Graffiti, 30-days free tech support and a 1 year warranty on all hardware. Boards and software only; Mac CPU ( G4 or higher needed ) and drive array not included. The retail value of the system is up to $15,495. Click here if you're curious in seeing a compatible peripheral guide; Post Op Video (who helped with the demonstration of the 844/X) kicked in one of their EZ Keyboards optimized for the Media 100 to sweeten the pot.
Our normal prizes were nothing to sneeze at, either - we continued to have a large number of door prizes to give away at each meeting, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors. We gave away over $2350 of prizes this month (in addition to the Media 100 system above):
* Two copies of the just-released Nonlinear Editing Storytelling, Aesthetics, and Craft by Bryce Button, from CMP Books ($50 value each)
* Vidbits: Gizmos stock footage library from Bestshot ($499 value)
* dhima donated a certificate worth a free 1-day Combustion 2 class, or $100 off any other evening class they offer
And again, thanks to Adobe for sponsoring the meeting, so admission was free!
Chris, Trish, Lucky, and Dan
Your MGLA co-hosts