meeting summary

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
LA Film School
------7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ------
------Cover charge: FREE------

(Co-Sponsored by Apple Computer and Digital Desktop Consulting)

LINEUP: Radley Marx of Electronica-Optica on VJ'ing / Apple's Soundtrack / Culley Bunker of Base 2 Studios on music videos

This month, the theme was music: creating visuals that support music, and creating music that supports visuals.


Jeff Bernstein of Digital Desktop Consulting joined us this month, discussing issues with SCSI and he new Apple G5s. The new PCI-X slots have caused some driver issues with previous SCSI cards; ATTO's drivers for their Ultra3 cards work but are VERY, VERY slow. At the time of the meeting, they had just released drivers for their Ultra4 cards that finally got back the speed many were looking for. Other alternatives for very high performance applications are going FiberChannel (for example, Apple's Xserve RAID), or building a RAID out of FireWire 800 drives or Serial ATA (such as the ProMax SATA RAID solution, which CyberMotion is now using in-house).

Culley Bunker of Base 2 Studios

Culley Bunker of Base 2 Studios in Santa Monica took time off from a delivery deadline to show us some of the work he does there, including the recently finished Finger Eleven video. Although we had some technical glitches (Culley's work machine was needed, so he did the demo from Scott Ryan of Discreet's laptop - sans the plug-ins and fonts he normally uses), Culley still managed to convey a lot of useful real-world tips from his experience in using Discreet's combustion 3, such as the judicious application of Gaussian blur to fake depth of field.

One challenging shot Culley walked through involved shooting a large number of music stands on a greenscreen set. The thin, metallic stands had a lot of trouble with color spill. He used Composite Wizard (now distributed by Red Giant Software) to help, including it's Light Wrap plug-in.

A common task he has to perform is cleaning up lines in the faces of talent. To do this, he creates a paint layer, and makes an alpha for the forehead, as well as for the cheeks and jowls - all with a soft falloff. He duplicates the face, blurs it, and then uses this mask to blend the blurred version in over the normal face, retaining detail in the face where desired (i.e. where it isn't masked). This requires careful tracking of the mask shapes as the talent and camera moves - some by hand, some using the motion tracker. A bit of grain fakes texture in the blurred copy of the face. Removing and adding grain comes up a lot in his work; combustion has built-in grain features which he uses, but he also likes Visual Infinity's Grain Surgery 2.

Apple Soundtrack

One of the side effects of the desktop video revolution is that artists are being asked to take on more and more tasks - such as also providing the music for the visuals they are working on. Previously, creating music required that you be a musician, with a micro knowledge of the individual notes. Now, with sample loop based tools (such as Sonic Foundry's popular Acid, and now Apple's Soundtrack), it is possible to compose music on a macro level, choosing what styles and pieces of individual performances you want to combine. Bill Foster of Apple Computer led us through a demonstration.

Soundtrack comes bundled with Final Cut Pro 4, and is also available as a standalone package. It ships with 4000 loops, all royalty free - and third parties are releasing additional loops for it (it can also import Acid format loops; you can also import your own from AIFF, WAV, etc. files - Soundtrack has a utility that helps you analyze the beats in your imported files). Soundtrack includes some good organizational tools to help sort through all of these to find the style (jazz, dance, etc.) and musical section (drums, bass, etc.) you want. All the loops show their native tempo and key. As you add loops to a composition, Soundtrack automatically conforms their tempo and key to the others, to keep everything planking together. You can then program key changes, tempo changes, etc. Soundtrack has a pretty easy to use grid system, which makes trimming and offsetting loops easy. You can also apply effects - those that come with Soundtrack, and those compatible with Apple's Logic. You can work against a Quicktime movie or dialog track; there is tight integration with Apple's Final Cut Pro where you can bring markers across to help you spot your music. Additional thanks to Apple for donating a copy of Soundtrack as a door prize.

Radley Marx of Electronica-Optica

Radley Marx of Electronica-Optica - an amazing clearinghouse of software, hardware, videos, and information for the VJ and visual artist - fought the insane traffic driving up from Orange County to introduce us to the alternate reality of VJ'ing. The way Radley put it is "what feature films are to novels - video art is to poetry."

VJ's are becoming an international phenomenon, with lots of folks creating visual content. The industry is about at the stage DJ'ing was several years ago - just starting to define common rolls and goals. There are people (Visual Artists) who create content to be used by others; there are those (VJs) who mix visual content to be viewed - either as part of a live performance, or in more experimental stand-alone videos. The content they work with varies: Some feel you shoul only use stuff you create, while other feel anything on the Internet is fair game. The market for content is just now growing; it is another potential creative outlet for a motion graphics artist (although there currently isn't the money in it that there is in, say, more traditional stock footage).

Radley's talk was pretty wide-ranging, giving us demonstrations of some of the videos and programs common to the genre, as well as views of some of the hardware (such as Pioneer's new DVD "scratching" tool"). You really should visit the Electronica-Optica or VJTV sites to get more information, as well as other main sites such as VJ Central, VJ Forums, and Audiovisualizers. It's a fun new world; we hope to have some VJs at future meetings to show us their work.

demo reels (sorry...)

We did not have time to show demo reels at this meeting.

door prizes

However, we always have time for door prizes! And those prizes included:

* Digital Vision Sounds from the Chill stock music library ($499 value)

* Artbeats Centrifusion stock footage library of kaleidoscopic patterns ($499 value)

* the winner's choice of Final Draft or Final Draft AV screenwriting software ($179-$200 value)

* a copy of Vegas 4 Editing Workshop from CMP Books ($50 value)

* Total Training's Mac OS X video training disc ($49 value)

* a copy of Windows Media 9 Series by Example from CMP Books ($45 value)

* O'Reilly's Digital Video Pocket Guide ($15 value)

* and, as mentioned earlier, Radley Marx also brought a few VJTV compilation DVDs to give away as door prizes.

And again, thanks to Apple's sponsorship of MGLA this year, admission was free!

Chris, Trish, Lucky, Tony, Warren, and Marshal
Your MGLA co-hosts

door prizes provided by: