Meeting Summary

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
LA Film School

LINEUP: GrangerFX / Cleaner 6 tutorial / Trapcode Lux / Imagine Los Angeles 2050

This month we had a nice blend of tools, techniques, and practice - a real rubber-hits-the-road evening. While everyone was getting parked and seated, we had a chance to discuss the latest events in the motion graphics world during our usual Q&A.

Attendees were also given notice of an upcoming meeting of the Media Comunications Association Orange County/Los Angeles Chapter. Titled "Shoot Gently on the Earth," the meeting on 4/21/04 focused on environmentally-friendly media productions. Check out their website for more information on this group.

GrangerFX

Matt Hoffman opened the evening demoing a new set of plug-ins for Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro - the TrinityFX package from GrangerFX (founded by Mark Granger, one of the founders of Electric Image). It contains over 500 video transitions and effects including over 150 in PAL format; these are based on the Trinity Software Suite from Play. What makes these effects different from regular After Effects plug-ins is that they contain a large number of pre-rendered transitions and raytraced 3D elements, so they look flashy but are also very fast to render (near real time):
grangerfx image

TrinityFX are shipping now for Windows, but Matt demo'd the beta set on the Mac. Despite the large number of effects, the set appears in the After Effects Effects menu as one plug-in (whew!). You click on the Options button to gain access to the custom UI and the hundreds of available effects. The effects are rendered using the Image file format, which is lossless, but a full installation requires 6 gigs of hard disk space.

The main trick behind these effects is that a 3D scene is rendered that contains a map of which pixels of a source image appear in which pixels of the rendered final, taking warps, reflections, and the such into account. The plug-in then just needs to remap and blend pixels, rather than calculate the distortions, reflections, etc.

TrinityFX was designed for After Effects animators who are using the same effect over and over again, perhaps in a daily or weekly show, and doesn't have time to render the 3D animation each time. Matt mentioned that the next version of Electric Image Universe will be able to write to the GrangerFX format, which is exciting news for users of both Universe and AE as it allows for full customization of the effect; third parties are also creating packages of virtual sets using this workflow.

Cleaner 6 tutorial

Hage van Dijk of Discreet was up next, and he gave a thorough overview of their Cleaner 6 for Mac. He opened with a disclaimer: Since codec technology is constantly evolving, the demo he was about to give was accurate only for today's technology!

Cleaner exels at web-based video, QuickTime delivery, and prefiltering before you encode. Its user interface is divided into three main areas: the Project window where you trim and crop, the Destination dialog where you choose where to render to, and the primary Settings window. The Settings window is divided into two parts: the left side where the Presets reside, and the right side where you choose the actual settings.

Hage commented that he rarely creates a new preset from scratch, but rather chooses one that's close to what he needs and then modifies it. When you pick an existing preset and then change anything, you'll be prompted to Save it as a new preset; but he warned that you have to be careful to keep saving your settings when you make further changes.

Hage's workflow consists of first analysing the clip in the Project window, trimming it to the most complex area, or the area that looks like it will be the hardest to compress (detailed, sharp color transitions, lots of motion. etc). He also suggested cropping a little of the image all around, particularly removing black lines and other artifacts in the action safe zone. He cautioned to crop with care though, as you don't want to change the aesthetics, and be sure to crop evenly so you don't change the aspect ratio. But if you can crop, the smaller the image the less compression you will need to apply to the area being retained. He favors using an output size of 400x300, and added that the 16:9 option was good when the footage is of a band playing on stage.

Hage then proceeded to walk through the various options, and noted that the Preview window is useful to A/B the image before and after:

Deinterlacing is used to remove one field, using the Adaptive option to only deinterlace pixels that move. Intelecine is useful for footage shot at 24fps as it will remove 3:2 pulldown and return the clip to the original 24 progressive frames. The Sharpen and Adaptive Noise Reduction will keep edges sharp and blur areas inbetween which helps during compression; a setting of Mild to Moderate was recommended. The Brightness property is useful for adjusting the black Level, while Contrast adjust the white level. In the Black Restore and White Restore sections, the trick is to use twice as much Smoothness as the Restore value.

In Hage's opinion, Apple MPEG4 compression looks better than Sorensen 3 and is one third faster. He also thinks that the AAC audio format is the "best thing since sliced bread"!

break

A chance to stretch, network, and partake in the snacks and beverages provided courtesy of Discreet and Red Bull. Author Diannah Morgan was also in the lobby signing her new book, Creative Titling with Final Cut Pro, just released by CMP Books.

Trapcode Lux (and sneak preview of Particular)

Following the break, we heard from Ko Maruyama, who demonstrated Trapcode Lux. Using Maxon's Cinema4D, Ko manipulated Illustrator splines to create 3D animation paths for several lights and sweep NURBS. With Maxon's .AEC format built into Cinema4D, animators are able to export camera and light position data directly to After Effects. Cinema4D also allows for naming multiple objects, such as lights, in one pass, simplifying the naming process for use in After Effects.

Ko then imported the lights and camera data into After Effects. Without rendering volumetric lights in the 3D application, Trapcode's Lux creates volumetric rays around After Effects lights, while still obeying their 3D position properties carried from Cinema4D. Additionally, Lux recognizes the cone angle from spot lights.

Trapcode Lux image

In anticipation of April's NAB Convention, Peder Norrby of Trapcode allowed Ko to show us a sneak peek of the beta plug-in called Particular. Trapcode Particular is a particle generation effect which simulates 3D particle emission. Particular has an interactive preview allowing for camera orbit or moving the particle emitter in real time. Ko demonstrated a small portion of this rather large plug-in set. Particular has the ability to emit particles based on 3D Layers, 3D Lights, Point (x,y) and several other variations. Ko showed that not only could Particular create particles from 3D lights, but the particles could have custom properties, even using other layers as particle shapes.

At the time of the demo, there were 20 presets, but by NAB, there were over 40 presets that will ship with the plug-in. Trapcode Particular is due to release on May 10, 2004 for Mac and Windows, After Effects 6 or higher.

Keep an eye on Trapcode's website for details of Particular. In the meantime, you can download demos of the available Trapcode plug-ins.

Note: Peder (via Ko) also announced a contest for a copy of Lux for MGLA members. Rules were sent out by Chris in an email to members in late April.

Bio: Ko Maruyama has been working in broadcast promo and commercials for several years. Although he has worked for commercial and music video clients, he has spent the past two years primarily working on promos and ids for Disney's ABC Kids. You can contact Ko at Treelined@Earthlink.net.

Heaven - Imagine: Los Angeles 2050

Design studio Heaven - represented by Michael Shores, Director/Editor; Aaron Latham, Producer; and Emilio Sa, Artist & Lead Animator - wowed the audience with when they showed off Imagine: Los Angeles 2050. This two-minute 2D/3D conceptual animation piece was commissioned by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to realize a vision of a futuristic Los Angeles. It was executed using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Maya and Final Cut Pro.

A vector-based, superflat style with a specific palette was established. With transportation being a paramount element to the future of L.A., a 2D map and 2D/3D monorails were chosen to link together the futurized sections of the city, including Long Beach and the Port of L.A., LAX, Santa Monica, the Valley, Hollywood and Downtown. Both recognizable landmarks of the present and architectural evolutions based on research were then created in Illustrator as original vector art and animated in After Effects. All elements were assembled and/or embellished in Final Cut Pro.

Michael, Aaron and Emilio discussed in details some of the challenges their team encountered during production. Their biggest concert was to prioritize what effects and the number of scenes that werepossible in the limited time period they had to work with; the client didn't even see the finished piece until the event!

To get started, the team comped out the animation by scanning in a map of Los Angeles, then and rehearsed multiple moves in After Effects before deciding on which areas of the city to focus on. It was decided that 6-8 areas were feasible to do over two minutes. The comps were then assembled in Final Cut Pro to test for final timing.

The inspiration for the overall look came from Art Director Tavis Cobur, a 2D illustrator, who also gave them a palette of colors to work with. Emilio created additional elements in Illustrator and prepared the files for importing into After Effects. Some buildings were drawn from reference images, but most were original artwork. Once inside After Effects, the layers were turned into 3D layers and a camera was used to fly around the scene, using small rotation amounts to compensate when the camera turns a corner. Most of the time was spent in Illustrator creating elements. Although they had a roadmap for each section, the actual camera moves were mostly improvised in After Effects. Also helping with the animation was John Van Barneveld, 2D Animator.

The project was heavily researched in pre-production with help from Cal Tech, Sci_Arc, USC and UCLA Schools of Urban Planning, The Port of L.A. and the A.C. Martin architectural firm.

After talking with many architectural firms, Emilio added that everyone agreed that public transportation would be the very important to the future of Los Angeles (this was about the only consistent theme they came across). So to unify the piece, they decided to use a monorail whizzing from one area of the city to another. The tunnel shots were created in Electric Image by MGLA co-host Lachlan Westfall.

The results of everyone's hard work was played from a DV from a video server, and shown toan audience that included CA Governor Arnold Schwartzeneggar.

Demo Reels

Two demo reels were shown this evening, from:

Dianna Morgan
diannah@fcpeditor.com

Chino
www.chinovian.com
a student at USC - School of Cinema-Television, Division of Animation & Digital Arts

If you'd like to show a demo reel at a future meeting please contact MGLA co-host Warren Heaton at the beginning of the meeting. Please keep the running time under 3 minutes, and make sure your sources are copyright cleared and properly attributed. Formats we can play include DVD, DigiBeta, BetaSP, VHS, miniDV, and DVCAM. Please bring your contact information so we can list you in the meeting summary.

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

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

Thanks for Trish & Chris Meyer and Ko Maruyama for compiling this summary.
Thanks also to Trish for coordinating drinks and snack for this month's meeting.

 

Door prizes for the April 2004 meeting were provided by:
Maxon buttonTrinityFX buttonArtbeats button
Total Training buttonDiscreet button3Dconnexion button
Desktop Images buttonCMP Books buttonThink Geek button

Another great list of goodies! Tickets are free, handed out one per person during the second half of the meeting. You get to pick from the remaining prizes in the order your ticket is pulled. You must be present to win. Here's the list (worth roughly $4000 total):

* For those who have Cinema4D - or virtually any other 3D program - Maxon donated a copy of their BodyPaint 3D R2 surface painting and texturing program as a door prize ($745 value)

* Cleaner 6 for Mac courtesy of Discreet ($599 value; note Discreet is currently offering a $50 discount at their online store)

* the winner's choice of either Adobe Illustrator CS or Adobe Premiere Pro, courtesy of Adobe ($499 to $699 value)

* a copy of TrinityFX from for After Effects or PremierePro, from GrangerFX ($499 value)

* Light Illusions stock footage library, courtesy of Artbeats ($499 value)

* Unit 02 NTSC/PAL ProductionBlox stock footage elements from 12 Inch Design ($299 value)

* Total Training for Adobe Illustrator CS hosted by Deke McClelland ($179 value)

* Ignition Advanced Training for Combustion (Volume 1; 4 DVD set), courtesy of Discreet ($150 value)

* a set of 2 LiveFonts and 20 LiveType Effects from LiveTypeCentral (over $100 value)

* a Logitech MX900 Bluetooth Optical Mouse (for Windows) courtesy of 3Dconnexion ($100 value)

* Rich Helvey's Textual Revolution motion graphics for Lightwave DVD training from Desktop Images ($70 value)

* courtesy of Diannah Morgan, a copy of her new book Creative Titling with Final Cut Pro (CMP Books, 2004)

* a copy of Creating Motion Graphics Volume 2: Advanced Techniques by MGLA co-hosts Trish & Chris Meyer ($60 value)

* Adobe Photoshop Tips and Tricks by Steve Holmes and Total Training ($49 value)

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

 

 

{sponsorads}