Lineup: Quantel file exchange / Quantel QPaintbox Pro / Boris RED / Tough Enough opening titles / Unusual Approaches to Design
As we kicked off a new year, we were happy to introduce our new meeting sponsor for 2003: Apple Computer. In addition to meaning all meetings will be free in 2003, Apple is co-presenting the meetings with their local video-oriented VARs (Value Added Resellers), which means a different VAR will be in the lobby each month to answer your questions and show off the latest gear. In January, we were pleased to have New Media Hollywood as the supporting VAR.
Additional sponsors mean additional services we can provide our members. Quantel has joined us as MGLA.org forum sponsor for 2003. This in turn has allowed us to start offering beverages and snacks in the lobby at the meetings.
The pre-meeting consisted of an abbreviated form of our traditional Q&A session. Subjects discussed included CD burners (dedicated units are faster than DVD writers; go with brand names such as Sanyo and Teac; avoid CD-RW writers as they might have slight compatibility issues), NTSC color matching (you can try using color profiles to check your video-destined work on a computer monitor, but in reality nothing is a replacement for a real NTSC monitor), and other issues.
Interfacing Between After Effects & Quantel Systems
Co-host Dan Warvi, who has personal experience in both Quantel and desktop environments, discussed his own experiences and approaches for bridging the gap between these two worlds. One of the most common ways to get files between them is over Ethernet, using the OPEN protocol run by most older Quantel systems. You also need a server, and the IP address of each box. You can then use FTP utilities such as Fetch, or AppleScripts some users have developed (such as Bob Maple) to move files.
One of the biggest aids in these transfers is a set of plug-ins developed by FAN. One of the jobs their plug-ins perform is translating between the Quantel's 720x488 upper field first media and the typical D1 720x486 lower field first media most AE users expect. FAN generously donated a copy as a door prize.
Quantel Qpaintbox Pro
We then moved onto an introduction to the new generation of Quantel systems: generationQ. Tom McDonald went over the generational differences for us. Previously, Quantel systems were known for speed and quality - but at a price. To make the price/performance tradeoff more inviting in today's desktop world, they ported their software and hardware to run on higher-end Windows PCs as opposed to their prior closed hardware platforms.
Many of the new systems are now resolution independent, not PAL or NTSC specific as before. In some, you can work with multiple resolutions simultaneously. The data path is also now 16 bit per channel. You can build a project on the basic system and then move it up to the higher end systems. The new AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) file exchange standard - which seems to be gaining some serious momentum - allows different systems to share editing meta-data.
Kate Preston, a designer who works for Quantel UK, walked us through the Qpaintbox Pro system, showing us a demo reel of work done with it to whet our appetites. Sections she explored included color palettes, Qscribe for editing text in the system, their well-loved airbrush tools, and the new undo features.
Kate then demonstrated keyframe graphing and function curves, including how a user can have multiple layers and collapsed groups.
A second demo reel focused on third party plug-ins supported inside the Quantel system - including many After Effects compatible effects. This is an outgrowth of the "open rendering" system they came out with a few years ago.
Quantel brought boxes of their Digital Fact Book, which we handed out to attendees. They also booked more up-close-and-personal demos for MGLA and BDA members the day after the meeting at Moviola Digital. If you're going to NAB, check out Quantel's booth to learn more about their evolving product line.
After a break, Peter
McAuley of Boris FX gave
us a thorough demo of Boris RED
2.5: a cross-platform self-contained 2D and 3D compositing system that
runs inside most of the popular editing systems out there. It supports and
creates a wide variety of file types, including splines, primitives, EPS files,
movie files, stills images, and others.
One of the most powerful features of RED is the way it can handle text. Peter demonstrated using the text editor to apply color individually to selected words or characters, or even apply a gradient to individual letters. You can import blocks of text and easily re-wrap the line breaks. When you bring in a sheet of text and style it, you can then automatically roll the type up the page, crawl it, etc.
RED's 3D features are very deep as well. You have the ability to perform a 3D DVE move on any object. You can also make 3D beveled text; OpenGL makes previewing this fast. RED also contains a number of procedural organic textures that can be applied to objects. A 3D object can have different material properties for the front, back, and sides. There is also a lot of flexibility in using spline curves to define object profiles that can be extruded, as well as for motion paths, etc. And then there's the usual exhaustive set of Boris effects included.
Boris generously donated a full copy of RED as a door prize - many thanks!
AlphaDogs and Tough Enough title sequence
Russell Frazier, Vice President of Graphics Technologies at AlphaDogs, walked us through a recent project they performed for MTV: Their wrestling reality series (okay, so that sounds like a contradiction in terms) Tough Enough, about would-be wrestlers training and trying out for a spot with the WWE. Russell was a particularly appropriate presenter this evening, as he worked on Quantel HAL and Domino (as well as Discreet smoke and flint) systems for 8 years before going desktop.
As Russell summarized, "Tough Enough was the first main title that I've created since forming a new company with a small group of friends last year. I was eager to design such a project, having worked largely in promo graphics and visual effects previously. One major obstacle to overcome was convincing the client that I could do something suitably gritty for a wrestling show, when everything on my reel is much lighter in tone. For this reason, I did a full-length version of the :20 title 'on spec,' and put a lot of thought into presenting for the client what I thought the main title should impart about the show." Russell walked us through the intermediate steps and boards he showed the client, and shared with us the client's feedback and how he worked this into the evolving spot. There were also a lot of technical challenges to overcome, such as inadequate chromakey shots, changing music, and so forth.
By the way, this is exactly the type of member project we would like to see featured more at MGLA meetings - a chance to strut your stuff and share with fellow users, without the pressure of filling 45-60 minutes with a full-blow "artist" presentation. Keep this in mind as you work on your next job, and collect interesting style frames and war stories as you go. If you have a project (or just a tip or trick) you would like to share, contact Dan Warvi and reserve a slot at a future meeting. Presenters also get bonus door prize tickets.
Unusual Approaches to Design
Lloyd Alvarez of BLINK.fx in New York gave an inspiring presentation at DV Expo West this past December, going over out-of-the-box techniques he and others have used to solve various creative challenges. As part of this, Lloyd prepared a tape interviewing several designers, including Ben Orisich, Mark Repansky, and Stacie Plassche of BLINK.fx, Will Heins of Skitch, Pierre Vilmenay of Carbon Design, and Prashant Bhargava of Jiva Universal. They each took apart a specific job they had done, and also gave some of the flavor of their own approaches and personalities. Lloyd graciously agreed to let us replay this tape at MGLA so we could share it with those who could not attend the conferences at DV Expo.
It's dangerous to try to reduce so many individual approaches to specific design challenges down to a few tips, but a few themes did emerge. One was shooting your own elements, including distressing text and imagery through vellum or mirrors in an attempt to get more organic, "alive" treatments than using flat art or plug-in presets. Another is shooting elements - including variations on timelapse approaches - with still image cameras (digital, or normal film transferred to PhotoCD), and then using blended sequences of these to create unusual motion. One excellent example (3 Down Kidz) took a live action plus 3D opening for a cartoon, and reshot each frame off a video monitor, experimenting with different camera settings or even jarring the camera over the course of the opening title - the result was a great, gritty version of the original clean work.
We seriously don't know how we (or are sponsors) can keep this up, but once again, we had nearly $4000 worth of door prizes to give away, including:
* copies of Audio Postproduction for Digital Video and Producing Great Sound for Digital Video Second Edition by Jay Rose ($45 value each) from CMP Books
Again, thanks to Apple for being our meeting sponsor in 2003, so admission was free!
Chris, Trish, Lucky, and Dan
Your MGLA co-hosts