LINEUP: Anark Studio 2 / The Matrix Global First Feedback Project / guest artist yU+co on Shake / Multiscreen Space Museum for NASA
Our final meeting of 2003 was another solid one and we appreciate all those who took time out from their holiday shopping to attend. One of our goals for the year was to more evenly mix straight product demos with presentations and analysis of real-world project. As such this meeting featured a unique new product and various looks at how artists use tools from AE plug-ins to Shake and from Illustrator to Electric Image Universe and Maya to realize their projects.
We began our meeting with Q&A, gossip and our standard pre-meeting banter. Co-host Chris Meyer (MGLA's resident audio guru) began by noting that Apple's QuickTime 6.4 and Adobe After Effects 6.0 are having a difficult time co-existing--specifically when it comes to working with audio. Chris noted that if audio is not used in the project (i.e. any waveforms are not twirled down) you should be fine. (Update: The solution is to either downgrade to QT6.3 or upgrade to QT6.5.)
We also took a poll of DV Expo attendees and found that those who went found it quite useful and informative. Co-host Trish Meyer noted that if any holiday movie-goers have the film "Cold Mountain" on their list, she animated the opening and closing title sequences for Deborah Ross Film Design.
Our first presenter of the evening was Anark who dropped in to show us their high-end multimedia authoring tool Anark Studio 2. The primary focus of this product is to make interactive 3D content available on the web. Brian Wiffin from Anark explained that they are able to import 3D assets from a variety of popular programs and assign Java script functions that allow the viewer to experience an object or environment interactively. As an example he showed a Power Point-type presentation where the 3D objects on the screen followed the mouse as it moved. Anark Studio 2 is also well-suited for employee-training as you can interact with complex objects in 3D space. Brian explained that the initial buzz about their software and its application stemmed from a website their creative division, Anark Digital, developed to promote the UbiSoft game Splinter Cell.
Next, Brian took us into the actual application that featured a list of 75+ Java Script behaviors and a number of included 3D models. He dropped the behaviors onto the object and they instantly became interactive. Not only could you simply spin an object around but you can assigns various physical properties, such as inertia, to each object. In addition, you can drop video as a texture map onto an entire object, or a section of an object. It's also noteworthy that the extensive help files give you detailed visual examples of how each behavior works. Once you've created your 3D scene you can export it to a variety of formats, including the Anark Player format. Their proprietary compression format takes the 3D elements you've created and crunches them down to an impressively small file size that uses the viewing computer's Direct-X or Open-GL renderer to display.
Anark Studio runs on both Mac and PC and is currently at version 2.0, but a 3.0 version is in development with a 2.5 coming out as well. Visit Anark's web site to see more details, as well as a number of case studies. You can also download a free 15-day trial. List price is $995.00 and their are various specials available including cross-grades for $695, a bundle with Maxon Cinema 4D where you get both products for $995 and an end-of-the-year special for MGLA members of $595 (a great deal).
Tony LaTorre and AOL's Matrix Global First Feedback Project
If you think deadlines of a week, or even a few days are tough, on a recent project for AOL's broadband content division, Tony LaTorre of Odd Box video was facing a deadline of a few hours! AOL wanted to put feedback from movie-goers who had just seen the premier of The Matrix Revolutions on its website as fast as possible. Since the movie opened at the same time in theaters around the world camera crews were simultaneously placed in Tokyo, Sydney, Hamburg, Paris, London and Los Angeles. The shots were zipped back to Tony and crew here in L.A. and they edited it together, incorporated his graphics and posted it on the site that evening.
Tony explained that he created a 3D globe with Matrix-like text to illustrate which area of the world the comments were coming from. He did this with AE plug-ins like Digital Anarchy's Text Matrix (from the Text Anarchy set) and Boris Continuum Complete's Sphere. He used tiles created with Text Matrix of different densities to define the ocean and land areas of the globe on a 4K x 4K square. BCC Sphere was used to wrap this into a globe. Interestingly, Sphere accommodated the fact that the source was not in a typical 2x1 aspect ratio.
Thanks to Tony and crew the content delivery came off without a hitch and everyone was able to see the decidedly mixed reviews of the final installment in the Matrix trilogy.
Tony LaTorre is a motion graphic designer and video editor and a longstanding member (and past presenter!) of MGLA. He currently works for AOL Broadband, while maintaining odd box video, a video production and editing business which he founded in 2001. He has previously worked as a motion graphics designer for the television programs Blind Date and Fifth Wheel.
yU+co produces some of the most visually inspiring graphics we have seen in a while. They produce film titles, video, TV spots and now visual effects for film. Their compositer of choice is Apple's Shake. Compositing supervisor Rob Cribbett dropped in to show yU+co's work and discuss why they use this powerful tool. Rob began by showing yU+co's compositing reel featuring title work for the films The Hulk and The Italian Job. He also showed numerous shots from the film Open Range. He explained that they primarily focussed on sky replacements for that film.
Next Rob opened the project they built for The Italian Job. He showed us the complex node tree and explained how they would build a specific tree for masking (there were many animated masks in the title). He then showed that a separate tree was used for the extensive color correction. Rob noted that Shake's ability to work with proxy versions of the film footage was critical.
Color correction was another key reason yU+co uses Shake. Their source images were in Cineon format which uses a LOG color space. They had to convert the images to linear in order to perform color correction and the ability to use a floating bit depth helped them avoid the clipping of the whites and blacks that can typically occur in that situation. Apple's Color Sync and some custom applications were key in allowing them to maintain color accuracy. Another key feature was was Shakes network rendering.
We strongly suggest you set aside a few minutes to visit yU+co's web site, install the plug-ins (you probably don't have the latest version of Shockwave, which they require), learn how to navigate (drag your mouse around and watch what happens), and go through their portfolio.
Lachlan Westfall and NASA Space Museum
MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall was our last presenter of the evening. Lachlan's company Quiet Earth Design recently completed some 3D content that's currently being displayed in a traveling museum sponsored by NASA.
His work was part of a 360-degree theater that displays a five-minute piece designed to inspire kids and get them interested in space exploration. Lachlan built a three-camera rig in Electric Image Universe that he used to fly past planets, into galaxies and black holes, and past comets - giving the viewers the feeling that they were in the middle of these cosmic events. Lachlan explained that he quickly abandoned the idea of making the distances between objects relatively accurate due to the fact that space is mostly, well, space. So the design goal quickly moved from "technically accurate" to "visually appealing." There were also challenges in presenting a 360-degree 7-screen show to the client because simply looking at 7 screens simultaneously does not do the trick.
Lachlan built a simulation of the theater in AE's 3D space so as elements were finished they could be proofed in a fashion that represented how they would be viewed. Another trick was to compensate for the distortion introduced by projecting from above onto a curved screen.
Lachlan created an animated grid that changed from no distortion to extreme distortion (via AE's Bezier Curve filter) and they were able to test the projection on-site and quickly determine what distortion was appropriate. The museum is currently in residence in Seattle, Washington.
Co-host Warren Heaton organized this month's demo reels and each person came down and talked about the work that was shown. Below is contact information for those who showed their reels:
The Big Pixel Design
(Note: looking for internships - uses FCP and PS and AE.)
We would again like to thank the following companies who were gracious enough to provide items for our door-prize giveaway.
A list of prizes included:
* Anark Studio 2 for Mac or Windows ($995 value)
* Artbeats: Digital Microcosm stock footage library of kaleidoscopic patterns ($499 value).
* a set of LiveType fonts and utilities from LiveTypeCentral.com (over $100 value)
* a copy of Creating Motion Graphics Volume 2: Advanced Techniques by MGLA co-hosts Trish & Chris Meyer from CMP Books ($60 value)
* a copy of O'Reilly's Mac OS X Hacks ($25 value)
And again, thanks to Apple's sponsorship of MGLA this year, admission was free!
Next year Adobe is again our sponsor and we look forward to another successful year.
Happy Holidays to all!
Chris, Trish, Lucky, Tony, Warren,
Your MGLA co-hosts