Tuesday, October 15, 2002
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE (Sponsored by Adobe)------
Lineup: Boris Continuum Complete / Fnord Software Übercolor / Scott Billups & Producing an Independent Hi-Def Movie, "Mid-Century" / Lachlan Westfall & 3D Imagery for Mid-Century
As we typically do, we began our October meeting with an informal Q&A session hosted by the MGLA team of Trish Meyer, Chris Meyer, Dan Warvi and Lachlan Westfall. Subjects included: Hi def conversion, the apparent demise of the Mac Auction website, the fact that the latest generation of new Power Macs are loud (and perhaps a bit warm inside too, causing troubles with some video cards), a comment that a new IBM chip is being looked at by Apple, and letterboxing and interlacing issues. It was then on to the regular meeting.
Peter McAuley was first up, demonstrating Boris Continuum Complete. This new package is an updated combination of Boris AE and Boris Continuum including plug-ins from both of these packages and many new additions. Price is $595.00. Upgrade from either of the two previous packages is $199.00. Peter notes that they are currently upgrading many of the effects from 8-bit to 16-bit and that this will be a free upgrade. He also noted that they are continuing to develop for this package, with more plug-ins on the way.
Peter then brought some stock footage into AE to show off the filters. BCC Super Blend allows you to take any of up to five layers, and then blend them from within the filter. You also have access to various transfer modes for mixing the layers.
Z Space 1, 2 and 3 deal with 3D space. There are three versions due to AE's plug-in architecture limitations. The differences are as follows: 1 lets you work with planes. 2 gives you 5 layers, but less control. 3 lets you map onto spheres as well as planes. There are many, many parameters in these plugs. Including lights, shadows, mapping to front/back faces and more.
Peter showed us the BCC 2D Particles Filter that was designed to allow you to wipe stuff on and off the screen with particles. You can create custom particles by importing a graphics (Vector or RGBA) into a layer and then having the plug-in access the shape from that layer. 3D Image Shatter is another useful transition plug-in. You can use custom shapes for the images shatter. You can also use a movie as a custom shape, allowing the shape to change over time. There are many options for gravity, etc. You can also load and save the effect's parameters.
Lastly, Peter noted that Boris' Pixel Chooser is "a hugely underrated filter." Actually it's available in all Boris plug-ins and allows you to generate a mask for the effect from within the filter. You can manually create a mask, but also use the luma values of the image, or many other selection methods, to determine which pixels of the layer will respond to the filter.
New developments at Boris are focusing on Optical Flow technology. This technology has been around for a while (and versions of it are implemented in ReTimer and Twixtor, but is relatively new to the desktop. With Optical Flow you can remap pixels over time without resorting to simple frame blending. Boris' Velocity Remap plug-in, looks forward and behind in time to create blended frames. Optical Flow does a similar thing, but interpolates pixel positions rather than just blending between frames, so you get crisp images on every interpolated frame. Peter then showed up a few moves illustrating products in development: a synthetic brick filter, a bump map filter, a cloth generator, a film damage filter, film grain, fractal generators, a morphing granite filter, a light zoom filter, procedural marble and more.
BCC runs under Mac OSX and is cross platform Win and Mac. Peter noted that Boris Red is a separate package, but does have some of the same things built in. You can get a "Power Pack" including Red and BCC for a reduced price. If you'd like to check out the wide variety of plug-in in this package Boris has demo versions of the filters on their website.
Finally, Peter showed how to use the Boris blurs with transfer modes, and oft-used technique for sweetening footage noted co-host Trish Meyer, and Cartooner, a free plug-in available on the Boris website.
Co-host Trish Meyer took the stage to explain that unbeknownst to many, digital cameras use a color space called sRGB. The blacks are black and the whites are white, but there's a different gamma. Because of this image editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop and AE need to be aware of this in order to display the correct color. For AE, this requires some forethought and a plug-in shown by Brendan Bowles of Fnord Software.
Brenden explained that Ubercolor is a plug-in designed specifically to address these color space issued. He showed an image from a digital camera dropped into AE and noted that when the same image is imported into Photoshop 7 it prompts you to color manage. Ubercolor adds similar color management to AE. Brenden noted that most users simply ignore the color management issues, which will actually cause an image to be displayed incorrectly.
Brenden then gave us a bit of history on color spaces. Back in 1931 the Commission International de l'Eclairage came up with device-independent color spaces like Wavelength, CIE XYZ and CIE L*a*b*. These are in contrast to device-dependent color spaces like RGB or CMYK. The trick is to accurately translate between the two. This is accomplished with ICC Profiles. Ubercolor can read these color sync color profiles and gives you better color management from within AE. Brenden noted that the plug-in runs under OSX and is 16 bit.
Lastly, Brenden told us about EXIF data, which is typically included in images from digital cameras. This info can tells you a whole lot about the shot-including the colorspace, focal length and more.
Scott Billups and the creation of Mid-Century
Next up was digital cinema guru Scott Billups (who co-host Chris Meyer noted was responsible for inspiring the Meyer's into this biz in the first place) to talk about his approach to creating his own independent film, titled Mid-Century, being produced in hi-def.
Scott began by telling us that during some recuperation from a severe injury he spent his time writing books and screenplays to keep busy. He explained that while in an altered state due to pain medication he came up with a chapter in his book titled "how to make a movie for under $10,000." After his head cleared he figured that if he'd written that, he'd better be able to do it. So he began the process of turning his screenplay into a movie. Along the way he enlisted many folks from all over the world to work on the special effects (noting that co-host Lachlan Westfall and his partner Peter Lehrack were the only two he'd actually met) for the futuristic sci-fi thriller. He also was able to enlist the talent of actors like John Glover and Faye Dunaway. To facilitate the collaboration he created a website where folks could post images and files.
Scott talked about his use of the Magic Bullet suite of plugs for AE for conversion and deconstructed a number of composites used in the film. A particularly tricky shot involved placing Glover and Dunaway's characters in a flying vehicle (designed by 3D artist Cristobal Villa) high above the earth. The characters were having a conversation, but due to scheduling issues the were shot at different times, with one on green screen and the other on blue (following Scott's "blondes-on-blue" mantra that he explained at Septembers MGLA meeting).
Scott went over the development of many of the scenes and looks in the movie, as well as the various shortcuts he employed to keep costs down (such as using the set of a cancelled religious show for many of his interior scenes). He then showed the current trailer for the film with made it into the Sundance Film Festival with minutes to spare.
Lachlan Westfall and 3D Imagery for Mid-Century
As Scott mentioned, a couple of the shots for Mid-Century were created by Lachlan Westfall and Peter Lehrack of Quiet Earth Design. Lachlan came up to show how they approached taking a green-screen shot of a woman in a bio-suit and creating a finished composite of her exiting a vehicle. The main challenge is that the actor was shot before the vehicle or the rest of the virtual set had been designed.
First off, Lachlan explained that the character's position as shot required a vehicle that was low to the ground. However, the vehicles function - a truck for picking up dead bodies - called for something large like a van or a trash collector. The solution was a cab that lowered on arms and a canopy that opened like a fighter jet. No, not terribly practical, but good visuals for a sci-fi film.
After the vehicle was designed and built, the background scenery and cityscape had to be created. Lachlan showed various early attempts and approaches and discussed how he took images from a wide variety of sources to create the city. Earlier, Scott had taken a number of shots of old warehouses and building around downtown Los Angeles. One of these was used to a key foreground building. The ground a other close objects were taken from digital shots Lachlan took around the San Fernando Valley. Finally, the background city was composited from dozens of images of skylines from around the world. All this was put together in a multi-layered Photoshop file. Grouped layers were then exported as Image files with alphas to be used as camera maps in Electric Image Universe. Lachlan then showed how he projected multiple camera maps on geometry in Universe to give a more realistic look to the composite when he did a simple camera move as the vehicle entered the shot. Here is an image of the vehicle:
Projects & Demo Reels
Yes, we had time for demo reels this month. A list of those who were brave enough to show theirs follows:
3 Palms Media International
(no contact info provided)
2 via costanza
20146 Milano, Italy
We again had another impressive list of prizes (roughly $4000 worth!). The following is a list of prizes and the companies who provided them-thank you!
* A full copy of Boris Continuum Complete ($595 value)
* Emissions Collection: Particulars 1 and Terraforms Collection: Solid Globes stock footage library from Bestshot ($499 value each)
And again, thanks to Adobe for sponsoring the meeting, so admission was free!
Chris, Trish, Lucky, and Dan
Your MGLA co-hosts