***Meeting Summary***
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE (Sponsored by Adobe)------

Lineup: RadTIME 3dFilm, ModelMaker, KeyingPak, and Importer Pro / Magic Bullet / Conoa / dvGarage Composite Toolkit


Our pre-meeting Q&A was handled by co-hosts Lachlan Westfall and Dan Warvi and co-hosts Trish and Chris Meyer were set up in the lobby selling and signing copies of their new book Creating Motion Graphics Volume 1: The Essentials. The profits from this sale went to the California Wildlife Center to purchase an incubator. Trish later mentioned that their goal was met. We thank everyone who purchased a book that night.

Dan and Lucky let the discussion and topics included the announcement of Universe 5 from Electric Image, a lottery/raffle site on which Dan won an Apple Cinema display, and speed benchmarks for Apples latest PowerMac line. A couple of audience members had some real-world experience with the latest machines and their comments were positive. Presenter Alex Lindsey mentioned a few of the new features in Universe 5, including the ability to have camera maps with different focal lengths, and the addition of radiosity.

RadTIME 3dFilm, ModelMaker, KeyingPak, and ImporterPro

Our first presenter of the evening of Bruce Rady of RadTIME who came down to show their integrated, OpenGL-accelerated 3D and video compositing software suite.

Bruce started by showing us 3dFilm. He pulled in some NTSC footage and played it back at 30fps. He then spun the footage around in 3d space and showed us that it kept playing back at full frame rate. Next, he brought in a bitmapped image with alpha and composited the two images. Bruce explained that the impressive playback rates he was getting are due to their implementation of OpenGL for all display in the program. The resolution of the program is dependent upon your open GL accelerator. With a Gforce 4 you can work with images up to 4K by 4K. He then showed us how you actually composite images in the program. The hierarchy can be based on position in Z-space or constructed by setting up specific layers as in AE. The program features a powerful F-curve editor which lets you edit x, y and z independently or simply grab the original motion curve and edit all positions simultaneously. You can group objects and rotate them as a group, but also retain any independent processes applied to the footage or stills.

Next, Bruce to into their b-spline based 3D modeling add-on, ModelMaker. He built a sphere and showed us how the 2D footage can interact with the 3D objects. He then continued to show a bit of the modeler and how you can create and edit objects. The interactivity was exceptional due to the OpenGL acceleration.

Bruce then explored the lighting and shadowing aspects of the program. He explained that due to OpenGL's limited lighting functionality, RadTIME did their own lighting for the program. You can set specularity and many other parameters and images with alpha can cast accurate shadows. He then mapped the NTSC video onto a 3D object, noting that since it was a QuickTime movie the speed with which it played back was dependent upon the speed of the hard disk. Lastly, he showed us the various anti-aliasing options.

Next up was the KeyingPak. Bruce showed us their HyperMatte keyer, which did a good job of quickly pulling a good key. Hey then dropped the keyed footage into the 3D system and showed us how you can apply third-party AE-compatible filters to the footage.

Bruce took us back into the 3D part of the program to show how you can apply footage to a meshed plane and then warp the plane. He explained that the concept behind the software was to develop a program that successfully integrated the worlds of 2D and 3D. They're working on a module that will let you import virtually any 3D file format that will be one of many upcoming add-on modules.

Price for 3DFilm is $795.00, with all the current add-on's it's $995.00. RadTIME generously donated a full copy as a door prize.

Magic Bullet

Scott Billups joined us to give us a look at Magic Bullet (distributed by ToolFarm): asuite of AE plug-ins designed to make video look more like film as well as convert between numerous video formats. Scott's very excited about this toolset. Coming from someone who's been at the forefront of digital video for years, that says a lot.

First off Scott mentioned that ToolFarm provided attendees with a $100-off certificate, bringing the price down from $995 to $895.

Before diving into "the bullet" Scott showed us some images from the new Viper HiDef Camera with which he's been working. He noted that it's HD format and 4:4:4 color space puts it in the same range as film. Scott also showed us some clips and images from his film Mid Century which he shot on Hi Def. Note that Scott and MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall talked about shooting the film, compositing, and creating 3D effects at our October meeting.

Scott used some scenes from the film to show us the capabilities of Magic Bullet. First he showed how easy it was to go from 24 progressive to 29.97 interlaced from within the plug. He also showed us how you can go the other direction and remove interlacing, noting that the software doesn't simply line-double but keeps all the resolution and re-aligns things intelligently.

Next Scott took the converted footage into Ultimate's AdvantEdge to pull a key. Scott then discussed the "Blondes on Blue" rule for shooting footage to be keyed. Since blond hair and green screens fall into the same luminance range it's better to shoot blonde hair on blue screen. He also explained that when you want to shoot actors whom you'll later key, it's best to shoot them without any filters so you can get the footage as clean and hard as possible.

Unfortunately, you often want to shoot actors with a variety of filters for creative reasons. This is where Magic Bullet comes in. Magic Bullet's Look Suite features numerous presets that can be used to replicate film filters. Scott showed us a couple like, "Neo" and "Warm and Fuzzy." You can also create your own looks. There's also a broadcast spec plug in that show you your unsafe areas and features many methods for reducing chrominance and luminance. Scott showed us Letterboxer, which is a quick way of switching to the correct aspect ratio for the variety of broadcast formats we're all dealing with these days. Lastly Scott showed us Opticals, which is a plug that creates transitions that mimic film.

Toolfarm donated a copy of Magic Bullet as a door prize. Click here to read a press release with more information on Magic Bullet.


Gil Irizarry took that stage next to show us Conoa 3D 1.5, an AE plug-in (that also works in Apple's Final Cut Pro, Discreet's Combustion, and other programs) that he designed that lets you do 3D in AE's 2D environment. He explained that the program gives you 12 predefined shape and raytracing with shadow-casting that respects alpha channels. While Conoa is not a full-blow 3D app there are many times when some simple 3D element is all that's needed to sell a shot. Gill then showed us some movies done with Conoa, which were quite impressive.

Conoa has it's own lighting but can also use AE's lights. It's applied as a plug in to a layer; once you add your object you can adjust specularity, reflection, materials, etc. He showed us how a transparent object will actually refract the image behind it and noted that you get accurate alphas with transparency. He then showed us how you can use AE's lights to cast colored shadows with Conoa's 3D objects. Another addition in version 1.5 is bump mapping. Gil illustrated how you can use an animated bump map and Conoa's raytracing to create pretty convincing water effects.

In summary, Gil explained that he designed Conoa for artists and designers who are "in the middle" between 2D and 3D. They want some 3D, but don't want to learn an entire discipline or application. Conoa sells for $299 and is available from ToolFarm and directly from Conoa; again, a copy was donated as a door prize.

dvGarage Composite Toolkit

About a year ago David Macomber came down to MGLA to show and talk about the short film Duality he helped create. At that meeting he met Alex Lindsey of dvGarage and, according to their accounts, they had spec'ed out the Composite Tool kit before the evening was out. Well, it took a little more time to construct that they originally estimated but it's now out and they came down to give us a look at this excellent tutorial on compositing as well as talk about keying footage and how you can create your own keys with some of AE's standard tools.

Alex began by describing the concept behind keying, and how you can extract a matte by adjusting the levels of specific color (or other) channels that make up an image. He explained that the most critical aspect of pulling a key is to keep as many gray levels as possible in the transition between white and black. To illustrate, Alex took an image and shifted the channels to get a single b/w image that defined foreground and background. This, he explained, was a Linear color key, which looks a color in "two dimensions." A more complex keyer, called a Geometric keyer, looks at the RGB values as X,Y and Z in 3D space. It then allows you to define a complex shape that identifies that colors you want included in the matte. Primatte is an example of a Geometric color keyer, which refines the shape in 3D space as you select areas in your image to be included in the matte.

David then took that stage and explained that, even though his primary focus is on Karate instruction, he too can key and composite images. In creating his short, Duality, they shot it on Mini DV and had to deal with the problems of keying DV-compressed footage-which are legendary. Here, David said he approached it like a worthy Karate opponent, because DV footage is "really mean." His first step was to convert the image to LAB because while DV compresses the color channels, it's not as hard on the luma channel. And by adjusting levels on the luma he was able to pull a good key fairly easily.

Alex donated copies of virtually everything dvGarage sells as door prizes. There was a hiccup in shipping them; they just went out mid-October. If you were a winner, we thank you for your patience.

Projects & Demo Reels (sorry...)

Due to our full schedule for the evening we did not have any time for demo reels. If you would like to show yours at a future meeting please 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 to download 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, DVCAM and, thanks to MGLA's new DVD player, DVDs. Please bring your contact information so we can list you in the meeting summary.

Door Prizes

Finally, we'd all like to thank the following companies for donating products for our door-prize give-away (roughly $5500 worth!):

* A copy of the full RadTIME 3dFilm ProSuite 2002 ($995 value)

* Magic Bullet 1.0, courtesy of Toolfarm ($995 value)

* Edit Effects 3 stock footage library from EyeWire ($599 value)

* Water Effects 2 stock footage library from Artbeats ($499 value)

* Spectral Collection: Diffusion stock footage library from Bestshot ($499 value)

* Pinnacle Impression DVD-Pro authoring software ($399 value)

* Conoa 3D plug-in for After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and others ($299 value)

* Your choice of either Final Draft or Final Draft AV software ($179-$249 value)

* copies of 3D Toolkit Version 2 ($199 value), Camera Mapping Lab ($99 value), Surface Toolkit ($199 value), Reflection Toolkit ($129 value), Composite Toolkit ($199 value) and the dvMatte plug-in for After Effects ($79 value), all from dvGarage

* copies of Final Cut Pro 3 Editing Workshop by Tom Wolsky ($50 value), Lighting for Digital Video & Television by John Jackman ($35 value), and Compression for Great Digital Video by Ben Waggoner ($50 value) from CMP Books

(Unfortunately, production issues have delayed the DVD version of Trish and Chris Meyer's VideoSyncrasies; we hope to have it to give away at the October meeting.)

And again, thanks to Adobe for sponsoring the meeting, so admission is free. See you on the 17th!

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

door prizes provided by: