adobelogoMeeting Summary

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
LA Film School

LINEUP: 3Dconnexion's new I/O devices / Vital Distraction on 3D pre-visualization / Rich Helvey of Access Hollywood on 3D Motion Graphic Design / Steven Walker on VFX projects and Walker Effects 2.0

As usual, the meeting opened around 7pm to Questions and Answers, and industry gossip. Of particular interest were Trapcode's new Lux plug-in for After Effects, and news that Combustion 3 is near shipping for Mac. Trapecode's Lux is now available, as is a downloadable demo ( which simulates visible light within an After Effects comp. Other issues addressed included concerns over AE 6 slowdowns, and concerns of problems with files and AOL mail.

3D Connexion

hand using controllerOn to the main meeting: this month's presenters leaned heavily towards the 3D side of motion graphics. Our first presenter was Pratish Shah from 3D Connexion showing their line of controllers, and demonstrating the two-handed workstyle. Noting the natural tendencies of writers and artists to use their dominant hand to draw or write, and the other hand to orient the paper, Mr. Shah demonstrated how their controllers, the Spaceball and the SpaceMouse, builds on this knowledge to extend the use of the non-dominant hand to pan, scroll, and navigate in 3D space more efficiently than with a mouse and a keyboard. Tests suggest that productivity can be improved by as much as 30% while reducing muscle activity, stress, and carpel tunnel problems significantly. These controllers also expand the productivity of 2D applications, such as Photoshop, allowing for more direct access to pan and zoom, while the control knob can be twisted to change brush size.

Vital Distraction

Kevin from Vital Distraction provided our next presentation of the evening, showing how their company produces previsualizations for motion pictures utilizing Cinema 4D. Using client supplied storyboards and rough audio track, Vital Distraction creates an animated sequence in 3D that approximates the final live footage as it will appear in the final film, permitting early detection of mistakes and allowing for fixes prior to actual filming.

Rich Helvey/NBC

Glass MGLA logo

Following the break, we heard from Rich Helvey from NBC, who demonstrated some of his techniques for creating text-based motion graphics in Lightwave for programs such as Access Hollywood. After the initial set-up, every stage could well have been acceptable as complete, but each further step demonstrated how to push the process further, building stronger imagery, and enhancing legibility. Of particular interest was Helvey's use of shaders that produced less reflection head on, and more on the sides and edges, as in real life. It should be noted, too, that Rich has authored a tutorial DVD titled Textual Revolution, available from Desktop Images.

Walker Effects

F18Our last presenter of the evening was Steven Walker demonstrating the latest version of his Walker Effects. This is a set of tools for After Effects that, while simple and straight forward, allow for very sophisticated results with a modest amount of set up. The Alpha Tool plug in demonstrated how to extract a usable alpha from difficult plate footage, such as fire. After providing an example of how fire composited using a luma matte for an alpha looked quite artificial, Walker proceeded to show how Alpha Tool was able to produce a clean matte from the same footage, and composite over other footage convincingly. Composite lighting makes use of the technique of lighting 3D models with colored lights in a separate pass from the local color pass, and using this plug in to adjust key, fill, and backlight all in After Effects. Colorize is not just a duplicate of other color and tint filters; it allows for a wide range of subtle (and not-so-subtle) color effects. Walker demonstrated how this can be used to emulate popular film looks, such as those seen in The Matrix, Fight Club, and O'Brother.

Ring with highlights Walker Effects Logo

Many more examples, deeper explanations, demo copies of the plug-ins, and tutorials are available from

Demo Reels

We had two reels this evening; thanks go to Ricardo and Matt for sharing:

Ricardo Silva
Motion Graphics Designer/Animator 2D+3D

Matt Hernandez
CBS/UPN Promo Animation
CBS Television City
7800 Beverly Blvd. #112
Los Angeles, CA 90036

All in all, a great meeting to start off the new year!

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

Many thanks for Tom Luth for compiling this summary. Thanks also to Dale Ellis for coordinating the refreshments for the break.

door prizes provided by:

maxon_logo artbeats_logo3Dconnexion_logo

This month's list of prizes includes (totaling over $3000 in value):

* 2 copies of Maxon's Body Paint Release 2 ($745 value each!)

* 3Dconnexion's Space Ball 5000 3D trackball with 12 programmable buttons ($499 value)

* Artbeats: Light Illusions stock footage library ($499 value). Note if you buy any library worth $229 or more from them in January, you can add on Timelapse Landscapes 3 for just $199 more (a $200 discount).

* the Walker Effects Professional Edition plug-ins for After Effects ($349 value)

* Magnet Media's Digital Media Training DVD, Inside After Effects 6 (normally a $150 value - note that DTMS has extended their MacWorld specials until the end of the month for user group members)

* a set of LiveType fonts and utilities from (over $100 value)

* 2 copies of Rich Helvey's Textural Revolution training DVD from Desktop Images ($69 value each)

* 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 Apple Pro Training Series: Final Cut Pro 4 by Digital Film Tree (with an intro by Walter Murch), courtesy of Peachpit Press ($50 value)

* a copy of Final Cut Pro 4 Editing Essentials by Tom Wolsky from CMP Books ($30 value)

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

And again, thanks to Adobe's sponsorship of MGLA this year, admission is free! We look forward to seeing you on the 20th.