***Meeting Summary***
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE------

(Co-Sponsored by Apple Computer and ProMax)

Lineup: Media 100 844/X / guest artist Clayton Glen of the WB / Hermosawave Internet on web sites for collaboration / Digital Film Tools Composite Suite 3

We want to thank Apple Computer and ProMax for co-sponsoring the meeting, so that admission was free. ProMax was also in the lobby before the meeting and during the break, answering questions about the latest gear - thank you!

Media 100 844/X

Will Harris and Robert Stacey of Media 100 gave MGLA a product update on the Media 100 Product line. They have started shipping Version 8 of Media 100, which is OS X ready. New is also support of OMF export between the 844 system and Avid, (844 version 1.5), plus Photoshop layer import as multiple files (844 version 1.2). Final Effects Complete is now OS X compliant. But the real focus of their presentation was Version 2 of the 844/X system.

Andrew Heimbold of Reality Check Studios proceeded to talk about how the 844 system was used in their studio. They use it mainly for compositing - while it's not After Effects, the 844 lets them do most of their work in realtime. Along with being a time saver, powerful and very easy to integrate into their studio's workflow.

Andrew then turned it over to Danny Martinez of Reality Check, who was the producer of the spot for Digital Cable Provider Comcast. While he said that his main job was to be the liaison between the client and the artist, Danny did say that he picked up the system fairly easy, and that anyone with basic knowledge of AE can pick up the 844 fairly easily.

Danny then started to recut the spot. He did the usual three-point editing on a nonlinear system, but once he hit a segment he wanted to send to After Effects for finishing, he did so, set up adjustments, and then hit render, letting AE render in the background while he went back to 844 to continue editing. Danny burned in a few times, but got the basic nonlinear edit demo out to the audience.

Will Harris then seized control, and put out the good stuff. All media can transferred between AE and 844x via the use of plug-ins. The fact that all Metadata gets transfer back and for (transformations, opacity, et al) was very impressive. Codec support is a good addition. Also, complex nesting is supported on 844x (multiple precomps)
Other features include time remapping with curves and keyframes, new matte tools with Bezier masks and keyframes. There is no motion tracker (Will demonstrated how to perform tracking in AE, then how to copy the resulting keyframes from AE and paste it into the 844 - impressive!), but does include a fairly powerful color corrector. New hardware has more realtime effects, which are added in the Effects palette, and there is a motion sketch with keyframes that works in realtime.

Clayton Glenn of the WB on Creativity

After showing a great montage of his work (set to a death metal - something a bit different…), Clayton Glenn of the WB talked about the Creative Process. After a brief intro including mentioning what tools he used (After Effects, Flint, Flame, Invigorator), he broke down a process to follow:

Sourcing your inspiration: Break down the basic job.

Talk to the client - all the specifics. Then regurgitate it back to make sure you understood it, trying to not talk like an artist. Look for inspiration (or divine guidance, if needed); style frames can help the process.

It is important to know how to talk to non-artistic clients. Talk and get reactions. Get the non-specific stuff out of the way. Use comparisons ("What does this remind you of?") to get the client's picture out of his mind. The goal is a shared vision; coax them to pull it out of them. Hear them talk first, then talk yourself. Take notes! Don't let them contradict themselves.

Then get the energy flowing into the project - start right away, then procrastinate. Get some energy, get a plan, and then run with it.

Brainstorming is important: have the ability to bounce ideas. Don't be afraid of stream of consciousness writing.

The next step is problem solving. If you're a small shop, call friends. If you work for a large shop, go to other offices for a different point of view.

Then it may be time to veg out! Take a creatively break - just sit there and go blank. Clear your mind and let it go. Then do other stuff (like ride your bike or play videogames, doodle, take a nap) - energize your brain other ways.

Now, stop - after you've been inspired, next plan and go forward when you have it.
So, how do you get inspired? Clayton provided a list of ideas, including getting out of the house, seeing bands (particularly new ones you've not heard before), visit a museum, read a novel, travel, try photography, garden, go to festivals (like Burning Man), get a massage, meditate, or do art just for your own enjoyment. Take care of your mind and your body - have a work environment that inspires you, rather than repels you (good chairs and lighting, etc.).

Hermoswave Internet on Web Sites for Sharing Projects

MGLA's web host Daniel Sofer of Hermosawave Internet took us through a case study of the Manna-Design website, showing us how it was used to coordinate clients, designers, and animators (including Wendy Vanguard of Manna-Design, the LePrevost Corporation, and our own Lachlan Westfall of Quiet Earth Design) on a broadcast package for an NBC affiliate in San Jose.

Rather than rely on the night FedEx drop to get changes to the client, he helped set up a way for the client to check on the progress of the project via Wendy's website. It was a special sub-section that was not accessible thru any posted link on the existing website.

He then went into the "how to" of setting up such a site. The first step is to talk to your existing webmaster. Then, create users with the appropriate level of access. That can be done through user management page. Freelancers have their access, clients and any other users as well. For paranoid clients, you build in a username/password access to appease their fears. In any event, the key idea is not to have a link to this portion of the page on the main website - make it accessible by a link that is either agreed on in advanced, or emailed when you want the client/freelancer to look at anything.

When movies are used, either to show clients the status of a project, or to show a freelancer what you want them to work on, they can be compressed in a number of ways. If you need to have it look exactly the way it's going to air, use the animation codec, with the appropriate warning to the viewer about file size. Otherwise, use the Sorensen or the Photo-JPEG codec. Sorensen Squeeze works, but it needs a lot of tweaking to work well. MPEG4 is also a good alternative.

Getting it on the Web usually means a trip to Macromedia's Dreamweaver or similar web tool. The way it sound work is you click on a HTML link, and a new window opens in Internet Explorer (or whatever brower you are using). Make a still frame to represent the movie instead of a looping version of the movie, and then link it in!

Digital Film Tools Composite Suite 3

Marco Paolini of Digital Film Tools filed in for a last-second cancellation, and gave us a sneak preview of the latest version of Composite Suite plug-in set for After Effects.
To give us some background, Marco played a demo reel and talked about his "day job" at Digital FilmWorks including some of the movies they worked on. He is a compositor by day. About 3 to 4 years ago, they started writing their own plug-ins for inhouse use.

There are now three suites of plug ins from DFT - 55mm (film lighting and lens effects), Composite Suite for CGI, greenscreen and practical compositing, and zMatte, which is a sophisticated new keyer. Composite Suite focuses on the day-to-day stuff that working of shots needs to have fixed. He then called it the Swiss Army Knife of plug-ins.

Marco then blazed thru the set of plug-ins. Favorites shown included Light, Ozone, Temperature (a way to shut up smartasses in the edit bay.) Film Masks for HD Academy et al, Matte Generator, Camera Flash, DVE, Non-additive Mix & TBC for switcher geeks, Optical Dissolve and Lightwrap, de-artifact defocus, and Fast Blur. Download a demo of this set to try it for yourself. He then ended with a quick demo of the new zMatte, which was really quite impressive.

Door Prizes

This night, we had two drawings: our normal door prizes, plus a a special second drawing for the Media 100 i XS system. All together, the list of prizes was worth around $15,000:

* A refurbished Media 100 i XS system with DV option ($9995 value)

* Discreet Combustion 2.1, courtesy of ASG ($995 value)

* Pinnacle Plug-in Pack, including Primatte keyer, Composite Wizard, and Image Lounge Windows version ($995 value)

* 2 copies of Media 100 Final Effects Complete for OS X ($795 value each)

* a copy of the Digital Film Tools plug-in set (up to $350 value)

* Artbeats Rain Forest stock footage library ($249 value)

* The winner's choice of either Final Draft or Final Draft AV software ($179-$249 value)

* from Total Training, copies of Creating Web Graphics using Adobe Photoshop ($149 value), and Set 3 of Adobe Illustrator 10 which includes the subject "Slicing Web Graphics" ($99 value)

* copies of the BDA Bronze Award Winners tape from their 2002 conference, as well as a tape from their very special Artist Studio with legendary motion graphic artist Pablo Ferro ($55 value each to nonmembers; $40 to members)

* for the harder-core web programmers out there, copies of Learning Perl (third edition) and the JavaScript Application Cookbook from O'Reilly ($35 value each)

* little known to many MGLA members, co-hosts Chris Meyer and Lucky Westfall are the rhythm section of a band called Alias Zone. In celebration of their debut album Lucid Dreams being chosen as best independent electronic instrumental / ambient album of 2002 (they gave away a signed copy of the original gatefold eco-pack version of the album ($18 value)

Additionally, we had a stack of calendars and magazines from sponsor Digital Vision.

And again, thanks to Apple for being our meeting sponsor in 2003, so admission was free!

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

door prizes provided by: