Lineup: Discreet Combustion 2.1.1 / Digital Voodoo & Bluefish 4.4.4 video cards / Looking Like Film: Don't Just Scratch the Surface / Useful Things contest winner
It seemed like a lot of folks choose our MGLA meeting as a way to get away from the fact that they had likely given all their cash to Uncle Sam just hours earlier - which was good for us, as we once again had a nice crowd. Co-host Trish Meyer was busy wrapping up her and Chris' latest book, which meant tonight's gathering was hosted by the boys, Chris Meyer, Dan Warvi and Lucky Westfall. We began with our typical Q&A, focusing primarily on the recent NAB show in Las Vegas. Chris and Dan attended the show (Lucky was mired in a 3D Roman sea battle which will be the subject of a future presentation should he recover) and gave their thoughts on Apple's new Final Cut Pro 4, DVD Studio Pro 2, and Shake 3. They also discussed the fact that Adobe's new DVD authoring software, Encore, is a "PC only" product. No, it doesn't look like Mac/Adobe users are soon going to be shut out, but it was interesting to observe the possible repercussions of Apple's foray into software procurement & development - something we will all watch with much interest.
We wrapped our pre-meeting with a bittersweet farewell and thank you to long-time co-host (and even longer time MGLA attendee) Dan Warvi. Dan landed a good gig in his hometown of Denver and will be trading in his roller-hockey blades, shades and Kings jersey for ice-skates, skis and an Avalanche jersey (well, next year anyway). His years of work as our artist coordinator, BDA liaison, paintbox expert, and jazz music critic have been much appreciated and will be sorely missed by his co-hosts, and I'm sure by all who attend our meetings. Thanks for all your help Dan, keep your edges sharp and come back any time.
Discreet Combustion 2.1.1
Our first presenter of the evening was MGLA sponsor Discrete who dropped in to show Combustion 2.1.1. Marshall Fontaine began by showing how the effects shop Zoic used Combustion to create effects for shows such as WB's Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He showed us how he created a vampire-thwarting electrical "shield" using various Combustion tools and techniques. He began with a 3D fractal-based image that served as the textural content for the shield. He then added some Combustion particles on top of that - the OpenGL previews for the particles were impressive. Marshall illustrated the compound RGB math that can be used to combine the CG element and the particles. Next he animated the interaction of the vampire with the screen, making it more luminent as the character struck the screen. He also added a ripple effect to the screen, put in a vector paint layer for more texture and had the entire screen distort the background image seen through it.
Next, Marshall discussed how Combustion gives you variable bit depth for processing images. He took an 8-bit image, blurred it and added a bump map. The more the image was processed the more you could see "banding" or areas where there was a distinct transition from one shade to another. When he switched the source image to 10-bit, it gave the subsequent processes more detail witch which to work, and thus drastically reduced the banding. In another illustration of higher bit-depth processing he brought in a rendering from 3DS Max and showed how, even if you apparently "blow out" the whites with one adjustment, if you have higher bit depth in your image, you can often bring "blown out" data back. He explained how Combustion's Float (or variable) bit depth is particularly well-suited to that. Chris Meyer noted that the Float bit depth can essentially borrow some bits to go higher than 100% without clipping data. Thus you can bring everything up in level, but then take the highlights back down since they haven't been clipped.
In addition to Discrete, we had folks down from dhima (also MGLA sponsors) who graciously donated a free Combustion class to be held at their training facility. Thanks!
Digital Voodoo/BlueFish444 video cards
Adding to our NAB coverage, Jeff Bernstein of Digital Desktop Consulting and Mike Skibra of Digital Voodoo/BlueFish444 further explored the implications of Apple's recent announcements before getting into specifics about DV/BF's new video cards.
First, they talked about Apple's announcement of FCP 4, DVD Studio Pro 2.0, and Shake 3.0. Some of which were complete re-writes. He specifically noted that they're making significant improvements with respect to network rendering via Apple's Rendezvous technology.
They also noted Apple's shift with FCP4 from basing processing primarily on the video card too real time effects based on the processing power of the main CPU. Since Apple's CPU's continue to improve in speed FCP4 now has many more real time effects. With FCP you now have 2 channel in and 8 out of audio, as well as the ability to mix in real time. FCP4 allows you to mix and match different codecs in the time line, and then have them optimized for offline, real time, DV, DV50 (JVC and Panasonic - 4.2.2), JPEG, Uncompressed 8-bit and Uncompressed 10-bit. FCP4 now also includes 32-bit floating point which means any color space and any bit depth.
They also mentioned Sony's announcement at NAB. He noted that Sony's new HDCAM SR camera does a true 1920 x 1080 plus it has a 4.2.2 YUV 10-bit and a 4.4.4 RGB 10-bit mode. It can also record 2 separate 4.2.2 YUV video channels, plus 12 AES/EBU audio channels.
After deftly explaining the state of computers, software and cameras (and also admitting where Digital Voodoo had missed promises and ship dates waiting for all this dust to settle), Mike ultimately showed how the Digital Voodoo cards sit in the mix. Over the last year or so Digital Voodoo has focused on integration with new formats, as opposed to features that Apple was going to move to the CPU anyway.
DV/BF just recently announced the HD|Lust - the first HD I/O card with dual link support and twelve channels of AES/EBU audio - perfectly matching the new CineAlta hardware from Sony. Digital Voodoo's HD|Fury is matched for Final Cut Pro on the Mac and Premiere 6.5 on the PC editing applications and is currently available.
Looking Like Film: Don't Just Scratch the Surface
If you've been attending MGLA meetings for a long time, you'll recall a "film-look" shoot out we had back when we were meeting a New Media Hollywood. The winning recipe that night came from Kevin Dole of Tag Team. Kevin was back at this meeting, discussing in detail the topic of film vs. video, why film is so attractive, and what you can do to your video to get similar effects
Kevin began by asking how many of the motion graphics professionals in the audience had ever actually touched a piece of film. There was a large segment who hadn't. It became larger when he asked who had actually spliced and edited with film.
Kevin then showed us three spots he did for promoting kids games, noting that they all had combinations of film and video. He also showed a motorcycle toy commercial that was shot on video and given a film look by changing the effective frame rate, going from interlaced (60 fields per second) to progressive scan (30 frames per second).
He went on to explain that the choice between shooting on film or video depends on many factors. In on situation, Kevin needed to shoot a toy that had an electrical effect that couldn't be captured on film since the shutter had to close. He needs small lenses so he can get really close to the small objects.
Kevin explained how motion pictures started with the zoetrope and other such devices. When the industry progressed we still had many different film sizes and formats - and even non-film technologies that put images sequences on plates of glass. He noted that early on, people who went to movies often came out with raging headaches. This was due to the strobing effect when images were flashed on the screen at 24fps. Fortunately, projectors now strobe faster (2 or more times per film frame) so there are no ill effects.
Kevin then described how film, gets transferred to video and interlaced. With film you have 24 movements per second, but with video you have 60 movements per second, interlaced. This is a big difference and the primary reason film and video "feel" different when you're watching. He noted that film presents fewer movements is akin to how impressionist painters developed a style of painting that dropped out detail, except that film drops out detain in time
To illustrate this Kevin took a 60i shot that looked very "real." When he took the shot down to 15 fps it took on a dreamlike quality. Then when we settled at 24 or 30 fps we retained a bit of the dreamlike feeling, but not so much that it was distracting. He noted that non other than Thomas Edison determined early on that after 60fps increasing the frame rate no longer has any perceived effect.
Another important difference between film and video involves focus, or depth of field. With film, the background focus can be very different from the foreground - namely, film has a narrower depth of focus; only now are video cameras that have a similar imaging area as 35mm film (or clever tricks with lenses that focus the image on a 35mm area, and then shoot that with video) becoming more common. Film also has more dynamic range to hold details in brighter areas. Lastly, he showed how adding dirt and scratches can make images appear more filmic.
With respect to tools of the trade, Kevin showed us how Magic Bullet can process 60i footage with color presets. He also showed CGM effects that added dirt and scratches as well as Video Gogh and noted that he like ReVision's deinterlacer and Joe's Filters for FCP.
Useful Things Winner - Randy Lindquist
As you know, we held a design contest for those who tried out the demo version of Profound Effects Useful Things. Well, we have a winner: Randy Lindquist of Lindquist Design. His second entry in particular caught our eye; it was inspired by Brian Maffitt's presentation at our February meeting. Randy won a copy of Useful Things, as well as over $100 in Python programming books from O'Reilly. Thanks to every one who entered!
The following brave souls shared their demo reels with us at the end of the evening (who won their very own classic Atomic Power t-shirt for their trouble, courtesy of Total Training):
1237 Valley View Rd. Apt. #A
Glendale, CA 91202
4921 Art Street
San Diego, CA 92115
HD - Hammer Designs
519 N Los Robles
Pasadena CA 91101
We ended this quite full evening by giving away over $3000 in prizes:
* Digital Vision gform 1.26 layered Infinity series stock image library ($599 value)
* Artbeats Ground Rush 2 stock footage library ($499 value)
* a copy of Pinnacle Commotion 4 ($499 value)
* a copy of the comprehensive BigFX FilmFX 2.35 plug-in suite ($499 value)
* a free pass to a Discreet combustion one-day workshop, or $100 off any evening course at dhima ($100 value)
* copies of the BDA Silver Award Winners tape from their 2002 conference, as well the News packages compilation tape - good eye candy to study ($55 value each to nonmembers; $40 to members)
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