Tag Archives: Adobe After Effects

Adobe acquires Mettle’s SkyBox tools for 360/VR editing, VFX

Adobe has acquired all SkyBox technology from Mettle, a developer of 360-degree and virtual reality software. As more media and entertainment companies embrace 360/VR, there is a need for seamless, end-to-end workflows for this new and immersive medium.

The Skybox toolset is designed exclusively for post production in Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC and complements Adobe Creative Cloud’s existing 360/VR cinematic production technology. Adobe will integrate SkyBox plugin functionality natively into future releases of Premiere Pro and After Effects.

To further strengthen Adobe’s leadership in 360-degree and virtual reality, Mettle co-founder Chris Bobotis will join Adobe, bringing more than 25 years of production experience to his new role.

“We believe making virtual reality content should be as easy as possible for creators. The acquisition of Mettle SkyBox technology allows us to deliver a more highly integrated VR editing and effects experience to the film and video community,” says Steven Warner, VP of digital video and audio at Adobe. “Editing in 360/VR requires specialized technology, and as such, this is a critical area of investment for Adobe, and we’re thrilled Chris Bobotis has joined us to help lead the charge forward.”

“Our relationship started with Adobe in 2010 when we created FreeForm for After Effects, and has been evolving ever since. This is the next big step in our partnership,” says Bobotis, now director, professional video at Adobe. “I’ve always believed in developing software for artists, by artists, and I’m looking forward to bringing new technology and integration that will empower creators with the digital tools they need to bring their creative vision to life.”

Introduced in April 2015, SkyBox was the first plugin to leverage Mettle’s proprietary 3DNAE technology, and its success quickly led to additional development of 360/VR plugins for Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Today, Mettle’s plugins have been adopted by companies such as The New York Times, CNN, HBO, Google, YouTube, Discovery VR, DreamWorks TV, National Geographic, Washington Post, Apple and Facebook, as well as independent filmmakers and YouTubers.

Nice Shoes Creative Studio animates limited-edition Twizzlers packages

Twizzlers and agency Anomaly recently selected 16 artists to design a fun series of limited edition packages for the classic candy. Each depicts various ways people enjoy Twizzlers. New York’s Nice Shoes Creative Studio, led by creative director Matt Greenwood, came on board to introduce these packages with an animated 15-second spot.

Three of the limited edition packages are featured in the fast-paced spot, bringing to life the scenarios of car DJing, “ugly crying” at the movies, and studying in the library, before ending on a shot that incorporates all of the 16 packages. Each pack has its own style, characters, and color scheme, unique to the original artists, and Nice Shoes was careful to work to preserve this as they crafted the spot.

“We were really inspired by the illustrations,” explains Greenwood. “We stayed close to the original style and brought them into a 3D space. There’s only a few seconds to register each package, so the challenge was to bring all the different styles and colors together within this time span. Select characters and objects carry over from one scene into the next, acting as transitional elements. The Twizzlers logo stays on-screen throughout, acting as a constant amongst the choreographed craziness.”

The Nice Shoes team used a balance of 3D and 2D animation, creating a CG pack while executing the characters on the packs with hand-drawn animation. Greenwood proposed taking advantage of the rich backgrounds that the artists had drawn, animating tiny background elements in addition to the main characters in order to “make each pack feel more alive.”

The main Twizzlers pack was modeled, lit, animated and rendered in Autodesk Maya which was composited in Adobe After Effects together with the supporting elements. These consisted of 2D hand-drawn animations created in Photoshop and 3D animated elements made with Mason Cinema 4D.

“Once we had the timing, size and placement of the main pack locked, I looked at which shapes would make sense to bring into a 3D space,” says Greenwood. “For example, the pink ribbons and cars from the ‘DJ’ illustration worked well as 3D objects, and we had time to add touches of detail within these elements.”

The characters on the packs themselves were animated with After Effects and applied as textures within the pack artwork. “The flying books and bookcases were rendered with Sketch and Toon in Cinema 4D, and I like to take advantage of that software’s dynamics simulation system when I want a natural feel to objects falling onto surfaces. The shapes in the end mnemonic are also rendered with Sketch and Toon and they provide a ‘wipe’ to get us to the end lock-up,” says Greenwood.

The final step during the production was to add a few frame-by-frame 2D animations (the splashes or car exhaust trail, for example) but Nice Shoes Creative Studio waited until everything was signed off before they added these final details.

“The nature of the illustrations allowed me to try a few different approaches and as long as everything was rendered flat or had minimal shading, I could combine different 2D and 3D techniques,” he concludes.

Frame.io 2.0 offers 100 new features, improvements for collaboration

Frame.io, developers of the video review and collaboration platform for content creators, has unveiled Frame.io 2.0 , an upgrade offering over 100 new features and improvements. This new version features new client Review Pages, which expands content review and sharing. In addition, the new release offers deeper workflow integration with Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer, plus a completely re-engineered player.

“Frame.io 2 is based on everything we’ve learned from our customers over the past two years and includes our most-requested features,” says Emery Wells, CEO of Frame.io.

Just as internal teams can collaborate using Frame.io’s comprehensive annotation and feedback tools, clients can now provide detailed feedback on projects with Review Pages, which is designed to make the sharing experience simple, with no log-in required.

Review Pages give clients the same commenting ability as collaborators, without exposing them to the full Frame.io interface. Settings are highly configurable to meet specific customer needs, including workflow controls (approvals), security (password protection, setting expiration date) and communication (including a personalized message for the client).

The Review Pages workflow simplifies the exchange of ideas, consolidating feedback in a succinct manner. For those using Adobe Premiere or After Effects, those thoughts flow directly into the timeline, where you can immediately take action and upload a new version. Client Review Pages are also now available in the Frame.io iOS app, allowing collaboration via iPhones and iPads.

Exporting and importing comments and annotations into Final Cut Pro X and Media Composer has gotten easier with the upgraded, free desktop companion app, which allows users to open downloaded comment files and bring them into the editor as markers. There is now no need to toggle between Frame.io and the NLE.

Users can also now copy and paste comments from one version to another. The information is exportable in a variety of formats, whether that’s a PDF containing a thumbnail, timecode, comment, annotation and completion status that can be shared and reviewed with the team or as a .csv or .xml file containing tons of additional data for further processing.

Also new to Frame.io 2.0 is a SMPTE-compliant source timecode display that works with both non-drop and drop-frame timecode. Users can now download proxies straight from Frame.io.

The Frame.io 2.0 player page now offers better navigation, efficiency and accountability. New “comment heads” allow artists to visually see who left a comment and where so they can quickly find and prioritize feedback on any given project. Users can also preview the next comment, saving them time when one comment affects another.

The new looping feature, targeting motion and VFX artists, lets users watch the same short clip on loop. You can even select a range within a clip to really dive in deep. Frame.io 2.0’s asset slider makes it easy to navigate between assets from the player page.

The new Frame.io 2.0 dashboard has been redesigned for speed and simplicity. Users can manage collaborators for any given project from the new collaborator panel, where adding an entire team to a project takes one click. A simple search in the project search bar makes it easy to bring up a project. The breadcrumb navigation bar tracks every move deeper into a sub-sub-subfolder, helping artists stay oriented when getting lost in their work. The new list view option with mini-scrub gives users the birds-eye view of everything happening in Frame.io 2.0.

Copying and moving assets between projects takes up no additional storage, even when users make thousands of copies of a clip or project. Frame.io 2.0 also now offers the ability to publish direct to Vimeo, with full control over publishing options, so pros can create the description and set privacy permissions, right then and there.

Behind the Title: Artist/Creative Director Barton Damer

NAME: Barton Damer

COMPANY: Dallas-based  Already Been Chewed

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
AlreadyBeenChewed is a boutique studio that I founded in 2010. We have created a variety of design, motion graphics and 3D animated content for iconic brands, including Nike, Vans, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Marvel Comics. Check out our motion reel.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Owner/Founding Artist/Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
My job is to set the vibe for the types of projects, clients and style of work we create. I’m typically developing the creative, working with our chief strategy officer to land projects and then directing the team to execute the creative for the project.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
When you launch out on your own, it’s surprising how much non-creative work there is to do. It’s no longer good enough to be great at what you do (being an artist). Now you have to be excellent with communication skills, people skills, business, organization, marketing, sales and leadership skills. It’s surprising how much you have to juggle in the course of a single day and still hit deadlines.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Developing a solution that will not only meet the clients needs but also push us forward as a studio is always exciting. My favorite part of any job is making sure it looks amazing. That’s my passion. The way it animates is secondary. If it doesn’t look good to begin with, it won’t look better just because you start animating it.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Dealing with clients that stress me out for various reasons —whether it’s because they are scope creeping or not realizing that they signed a contract… or not paying a bill. Fortunately, I have a team of great people that help relieve that stress for me, but it can still be stressful knowing that they are fighting those battles for the company. We get a lot of clients who will sign a contract without even realizing what they agreed to. It’s always stressful when you have to remind them what they signed.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Night time! That’s when the freaks come out! I do my best creative at night. No doubt!

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Real estate investing/fixing up/flipping. I like all aspects of designing, including interior design. I’ve designed and renovated three different studio spaces for Already Been Chewed over the last seven years.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I blew out my ACL and tore my meniscus while skateboarding. I wanted to stay involved with my friends that I skated with knowing that surgery and rehab would have me off the board for at least a full year. During that time, I began filming and editing skate videos of my friends. I quickly discovered that the logging and capturing of footage was my least favorite part, but I loved adding graphics and motion graphics to the skate videos. I then began to learn Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D.

At this time I was already a full-time graphic designer, but didn’t even really know what motion graphics were. I had been working professionally for about five or six years before making the switch from print design to animation. That was after dabbling in Flash animations and discovering I didn’t want to do code websites (this was around 2003-2004).

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently worked with Nike on various activations for the Super Bowl, March Madness and got to create motion graphics for storefronts as part of the Equality Campaign they launched during Black History Month. It was cool to see our work in the flagship Niketown NYC store while visiting New York a few weeks ago.

We are currently working on a variety of projects for Nike, Malibu Boats, Training Mask, Marvel and DC Comics licensed product releases, as well as investing heavily in GPUs and creating 360 animated videos for VR content.

HOW DID THE NIKE EQUALITY MOTION GRAPHICS CAMPAIGN COME TO FRUITION?
Nike had been working on a variety of animated concepts to bring the campaign to life for storefronts. They had a library of animation styles that had already been done that they felt were not working. Our job was to come up with something that would benefit the campaign style.

We recreated 16 athlete portraits in 3D so that we could cast light and shadows across their faces to slowly reveal them from black and also created a seamless video loop transitioning between the athlete portraits and various quotes about equality.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE MOTION GRAPHICS SCOPE OF THE NIKE EQUALITY CAMPAIGN, AND THE SOFTWARE USED?
The video we created was used in various Nike flagship stores — Niketown NYC, Soho and LA, to name a few. We reformatted the video to work in a variety of sizes. We were able to see the videos at Niketown NYC where it was on the front of the window displays. It was also used on large LED walls on the interior as well as a four-story vertical screen in store.

We created the portrait technique on all 16 athletes using Cinema 4D and Octane. The remainder of the video was animated in After Effects.

The portraits were sculpted in Cinema 4D and we used camera projection to accurately project real photos of the athletes onto the 3D portrait. This allowed us to keep 100 percent accuracy of the photos Nike provided, but be able to re-light and cast shadows accordingly to reveal the faces up from black.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s a tough one. Usually, it’s whatever the latest project is. We’re blessed to be working on some really fun projects. That being said… working on Vans 50th Anniversary campaign for the Era shoe is pretty epic! Especially since I am a long time skateboarder.

Our work was used globally on everything from POP displays to storefronts to interactive Website takeover and 3D animated spots for broadcast. It was amazing to see it being used across so many mediums.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
A computer, my iPhone and speakers!

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m very active on Instagram and Facebook. I chose to say “no” to Snapchat in hopes that it will go away so that I don’t have to worry about one more thing (he laughs), and twitter is pretty much dead for me these days. I log in once a month and see if I have any notifications. I also use Behance and LinkedIn a lot, and Dribbble once in a blue moon.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? IF SO, WHAT KIND?
My 25-year-old self would cyber bully me for saying this but soft Drake is “Too Good” these days. Loving Travis Scott and Migos among a long list of others.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
First I bought a swimming pool to help me get away from the computer/emails and swim laps with the kids. That worked for a while, but then I bought a convertible BMW to try to ease the tension and enjoy the wind through my hair. Once that wore off and the stress came back, I bought a puppy. Then I started doing yoga. A year later I bought another puppy.

Quick Chat: Emery Wells discusses Frame.io for Adobe After Effects

By Randi Altman

Frame.io is a cloud-based video collaboration tool that was designed to combine the varied ways pros review and approve projects — think Dropbox, Vimeo or email. Frame.io allows you to create projects and add collaborators and files to share in realtime.

They are now offering integration with Adobe’s After Effects that includes features like realtime comments and annotations that sync to your comp, the ability to import comments and annotations into your comp as live shape layers, and uploads of project files and bins.

To find out more, I reached out to Frame.io’s co-founder/CEO Emery Wells.

You just launched a panel for Adobe After Effects. Why was this the next product you guys targeted?
We launched our first Adobe integration with Premiere Pro this past NAB. It was a huge amount of work to rebuild all the Frame.io collaboration features for the Adobe Extension architecture, but it was worth the effort. The response from the Premiere integration was one of the best and biggest we received. After Effects is Premiere’s best friend. It’s the workhorse of the post industry. From complex motion graphics and visual effects to simple comps and title sequences, After Effects is one the key tools video pros rely on so we knew we had to extend all of the capabilities into AE.

Can you discuss the benefits users get from this panel?
Workflow is often one of the biggest frustrations any post pro faces. You really just want to focus on making cool stuff, but inevitably that requires wrangling renders, uploading files everywhere, collecting feedback and generally just doing a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Frame.io for Adobe After Effects allows you to focus on the work you do well in the tool you use to do it. When you need to get feedback from someone, just upload your comp to Frame.io from within AE. Those people will immediately get a notification via email or their phone and they can start leaving feedback immediately. That feedback then flows right back into your comp where you’re doing the work.

We just cut out all the inefficient steps in between. What it really provides, more than anything else, is rapid iteration. The absolute best work only comes through that creative iteration. We never nail something on our first try. It’s the 10th try, the 50th try. Being able to try things quickly and get feedback quickly not only saves time and money, but will actually produce better work.

Will there be more Adobe collaboration offerings to come?
The way we built the panel for Premiere and After Effects actually uses the entire Frame.io web application codebase. It essentially just has a different skin on it so it feels native to Adobe apps. What that essentially means is all the updates we do to the core web application get inherited by Premiere and After Effects, so there will be many more features to come.

Not long ago Frame.io got a huge infusion of cash thanks to some heavy-hitter investors. How has this changed the way you guys work?
It’s allowing us to move faster and in parallel. We’ve now shipped four really unique products in about a year and half. The core web app, the Apple Design award-winning iOS app, the full experiences that live inside Premiere and AE, and our desktop companion app that integrated with Final Cut Pro X. All these products require considerable resources to maintain and push forward, so the capital infusion will allow us to continue building a complete ecosystem of apps that all work together to solve the most essential creative collaboration challenges.

What’s next for Frame.io?
The integrations are a really key part of our strategy, and you’ll see more of them moving forward. We want to embed Frame.io as deeply as we can in the creative apps so it just becomes a seamless part of your experience.

Check out this video for more:

Review: The HP Z1G3 All-in-One workstation

By Brady Betzel

I’ll admit it. I’ve always been impressed with HP’s All-in-One workstations — from their z840 to their zBook mobile workstation and now their HP Z1G3. Yes, I know, the HP line of workstations are not cheap. In fact, you can save quite a bit of money building your own system, but you will probably have tons of headaches unless you are very confident in your computer-building skills. And if you don’t mind standing in the return line at the Fry’s Electronics.

HP spends tons of time and money on ISV certifications for their workstations. ISV certification stands for Independent Software Vendor certification. In plain English it means that HP spends a lot of time and money making sure the hardware inside of your workstation works with the software you use. For an industry pro that means apps like Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects, Avid Media Composer, Autodesk products like 3DS Max and many others.

For this review,  I tested apps like Avid Media Composer, FilmLight’s Baselight for Media Composer color correction plug-in, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Media Encoder and Adobe After Effects, as well as Blackmagic’s Resolve 12.5.2, which chewed through basic color correction. In terms of testing time, I typically keep a review computer system for a couple of months, but with this workstation I really wanted to test it as thoroughly as possible — I’ve had the workstation for three months and counting, and I’ve been running the system through all the appropriate paces.

I always love to review workstations like the HP Z1G3 because of the raw power they possess. While HP sent me one of the top-of-the-line Z1G3 configurations, which retails for a list price of $3,486, they have a pretty reasonable starting price at $1,349. From Intel i3, i5 and i7 configurations all the way up to the all mighty Intel Xeon — the HP Z1G3 can be customized to fit into your workflow whether you just need to check your email or color correct video from your GoPro.

Here are the specs that make up the HP Z1G3 All-in-One workstation I received:

● 23.6-inch UHD/4K non-glare and non-touch display (3840×2160)
● Intel Xeon E3-1270 v5 CPU, 3.6GHz (4 Cores / 8 Threads)
● 64GB DDR4 SODIMM 2133 GHz (4 x 16GB)
● Nvidia Quadro M2000M graphics (4GB)
● Two Z Turbo drives (512GB, PCIe M.2)
● Wireless keyboard and mouse
● Two Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 ports
● USB charging port
● Media card reader
● DisplayPort out

As I mentioned earlier, I tested the Z1G3 with many different apps, but recently I’ve been diving deeper into color correction, and luckily for my testing this fits right in. A few of the most strenuous real-world tests for computer systems is running 3D modeling apps like Maxon Cinema 4D and color correction suites like Resolve. Of course, apps like After Effects are great tests as well, but adding nodes on nodes on nodes in Resolve will really tax your CPU, as well as your GPU.

One thing that can really set apart high-end systems like the Z1G3 is the delay when using a precision color correction panel like Tangent’s Elements or Ripple. Sometimes you will move one of the color wheel balls and a half a second later the color wheel moves on screen. I tried adding a few clips and nodes on the timeline and when using the panels, I noticed no discernible delay (at least more than what I would expect). While this isn’t a scientific test, it is crucial for folks looking to plug in external devices.

For more scientific tests I stuck to apps like Cinebench from Maxon, AJA’s System Test and Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test. In Cinebench, the Z1G3 ranked at the top of the list when compared to similar systems. In AJA’s System Test I tested the read/write speed of the hp-z1g3-aja-system-test-copynon-OS drive (basically the editing or cache drive). It sustained around 1520MB/s read and 1490MB/s write. I say around because I couldn’t get the AJA app to display the entire read/write numbers because of the high-resolution/zoom in Windows, I tried scaling it down to 1920×1080 but no luck. In Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test, I was running at 1560MB/s read and 1497.3MB/s write. The drive that I ran this test on is HP’s version of the M.2 PCIe SSD powered by Samsung, more affectionately known by HP as a Z-Turbo drive. The only thing better at the moment would be a bunch of these drives arranged in a RAID-0 configuration. Luckily, you can do that through the Thunderbolt 3 port with some spare SSDs you have lying around.

Almost daily I ran Premiere Pro CC, Media Encoder and Resolve Studio 12.5.2. I was really happy with the performance in Premiere. When working with QuickTimes in inter-frame codecs like H.264 and AVC-HD (non-edit friendly codecs), I was able to work without too much stuttering in the timeline. When I used intra-frame codecs like ProRes HQ from a Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera, Premiere worked great. I even jumped into Adobe’s Lumetri color tools while using Tangent’s Ripple external color correction panel and it worked with little discernable delay. I did notice that Premiere had a little more delay when using the external color correction panel than Media Composer and Resolve, but that seemed to be more of a software problem rather than a workstation problem.

One of my favorite parts about using a system with an Nvidia graphics card, especially a Quadro card like the M2000M, is the ability to encode multiple versions of a file at once. Once I was done editing some timelapses in Premiere, I exported using Media Encoder. I would apply three presets I made: one square 600×600 H.264 for Instagram, one 3840×2160 H.264 for YouTube and an Animated GIF at 480×360 for Twitter. Once I told Media Encoder to encode, it ran all three exports concurrently — a really awesome feature. With the Nvidia Quadro card installed, it really sped along the export.

Media Composer
Another app I wanted to test was Media Composer 8.6.3. Overall Media Composer ran great except for the high-resolution display. As I’ve said in previous reviews, this isn’t really the fault of HP, but more of the software manufacturers who haven’t updated their interfaces to adapt to the latest UHD displays. I had filmed a little hike I took with my five-year-old. I gave him a GoPro while I had my own. Once we got the footage back home, I imported it into Media Composer, grouped the footage and edited it using the multi-cam edit workflow.

Simply put, the multi-camera split was on the left and the clip I had in the sequence was playing simultaneously on the right. Before I grouped the footage into a multi-group, I transcoded the H.264s into DNxHD 175 an intra-frame, edit-friendly codec. The transcode was nearly realtime, so it took 60 minutes to transcode a 60-minute H.264 — which is not bad. In the end, I was able to edit the two-camera multi-group at 1920×1080 resolution with only minor hiccups. Occasionally, I would get caught in fast forward for a few extra seconds when J-K-L editing, but nothing that made me want to throw my keyboard or mouse against the wall.

Once done editing, I installed the FilmLight color correction plug-in for Media Composer. I had a really awesome experience coloring using Baselight in Media Composer on the Z1G3. I didn’t have any slowdowns, and the relationship between using the color correction panel and Baselight was smooth.

Resolve
The last app I tested with HP’s Z1G3 All-in-One Workstation was Blackmagic’s Resolve 12.5.2. Much like my other tests, I concentrated on color correction with the Tangent Ripple and Element-Vs iOS app. I had four or five nodes going in the color correction page before I started to see a slow down. I was using the native H.264 and ProRes HQ files from the cameras, so I didn’t make it easy for Resolve, but it still worked. Once I added a little sharpening to my clips, the HP Z1G3 really started to kick into gear. I heard the faint hum of fans, which up until this point hadn’t kicked in. This is also where the system started to slow down and become sluggish.

Summing Up
The Z1G3 is one of my favorite workstations, period. A while ago, I reviewed the previous All-in-One workstation from HP, the Z1G2, and at the time it was my favorite. One of my few complaints was that, while it was easy to fix, it was very heavy and bulky. When I opened the Z1G3 box, I immediately noticed how much lighter and streamlined the design was. It almost felt like they took away 50 percent of the bulk, which is something I really appreciate. I can tell that one of the main focuses with the Z1G3 was minimizing its footprint and weight, while increasing the power. HP really knocked it out of the park.

One of the only things that I wish was different on the Z1G3 I tested was the graphics card. While the Nvidia Quadro M2000M is a great graphics card, it is a “mobile” version of a Quadro, which has 128 fewer CUDA cores and 26GB/s less bandwidth than its desktop equivalent the M2000. I would love the option of a full-sized Quadro and instead of the mobile version but I also understand the power consumption will go up as well as the form factor, so maybe I give HP a pass here.

In the end, I know everyone reading this review is saying to themselves, “I love my iMac so why would I want the HP Z1G3?” If you are a die-hard Apple user, or you just saw the new Microsoft Surface Studio announcement, then it might be a hard sell, but I love both Windows- and Mac OS-based systems, and the Z1G3 is awesome. What’s even more awesome is that it is easily upgradeable. I took off the back cover, and with simple switch I could have added a 2.5-inch hard drive or two in under a minute. If you are looking for a new powerful workstation and want one that not only stands up to Resolve and Premiere Pro CC, the HP Z1G3 is for you.


Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Review: Red Giant’s Universe 2

By Brady Betzel

Throughout 2016, we have seen some interesting acquisitions in the world of post production software and hardware — Razer bought THX, Blackmagic bought Ultimatte and Fairlight and Boris FX bought GenArts, to name a few. We’ve also seen a tremendous consolidation of jobs. Editors are now being tasked as final audio mixers, final motion graphics creators, final colorists and much more.

Personally, I love doing more than just editing, so knowing tools like Adobe After Effects and DaVinci Resolve, in addition to Avid Media Composer, has really helped me become not only an editor but someone who can jump into After Effects or Resolve and do good work.

hudUnfortunately, for some people it is the nature of the post beast to know everything. Plug-ins play a gigantic part in balancing my workload, available time and the quality of the final product. If I didn’t have plug-ins like Imagineer’s Mocha Pro, Boris’s Continuum Complete, GenArt’s Sapphire and Red Giant’s Universe 2, I would be forced to turn down work because the time it would take to create a finished piece would outweigh the fee I would be able to charge a client.

A while back, I reviewed Red Giant’s Universe when it was in version 1, (check it out here). In the beginning Universe allowed for lifetime, annual and free memberships. It seems the belt has tightened a little for Red Giant as Universe 2 is now $99 a year, $20 a month or a 14-day free trial. No permanent free version or lifetime memberships are offered (if you downloaded the free Universe before June 28, you will still be able to access those free plug-ins in the Legacy group). Moreover, they have doubled the monthly fee from $10 to $20 — definitely trying to get everyone on to the annual subscription train.

Personally, I think this resulted from too much focus on the broad Universe, trying to jam in as many plug-ins/transitions/effects as possible and not working on specific plug-ins within Universe. I actually like the renewed focus of Red Giant toward a richer toolset as opposed to a full toolset.

Digging In
Okay, enough of my anecdotal narrative and on to some technical awesomeness. Red Giant’s Universe 2 is a vast plug-in collection that is compatible with Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6-CC 2015.3; Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.9 and later; Apple Motion 5.0.7 and later; Vegas 12 and 13; DaVinci Resolve 11.1 and later; and HitFilm 3 and 4 Pro. You must have a compatible GPU installed as Universe does not have a CPU fallback plan for unsupported machines. Basically you must have 2GB or higher GPU, and don’t forget about Intel as their graphic support has improved a lot lately. For more info on OS compatibility and specific GPU requirements, check out Red Giant’s compatibility page.

Universe 2 is loaded with great plug-ins that, once you dig in, you will want to use all the time. For instance, I really like the ease of use of Universe’s RGB Separation and Chromatic Glow. If you want a full rundown of each and every effect you should download the Universe 2 trial and check this out. In this review I am only going to go over some of the newly added plug-ins — HUD Components,  Line, Logo Motion and Color Stripe — but remember there are a ton more.

I will be bouncing around different apps like Premiere Pro and After Effects. Initially I wanted to see how well Universe 2 worked inside of Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12.5.2. Resolve gave me a little trouble at first; it began by crashing once I clicked on OpenFX in the Color page. I rebooted completely and got the error message that the OpenFX had been disabled. I did a little research (and by research I mean I typed ”Disabled OpenFX Resolve” into Google), and  stumbled on a post on Blackmagic’s Forum that suggested deleting “C:\ProgramData\Blackmagic Design\Davinci Resolve\Support\OFXPluginCache.xml” might fix it. Once I deleted that and rebooted Resolve, I clicked on the OpenFX tab in the Color Page, waited 10 minutes, and it started working. From that point on it loaded fast. So, barring the Resolve installation hiccup, there were no problems installing in Premiere and After Effects.

Once installed, you will notice that Universe has a few folders inside of your plug-in’s drop down: Universe Blur, Universe Distort, Universe Generators, Universe Glow, Universe Legacy, Universe Motion Graphics, Universe Stylize and Universe Utilities. You may recognize some of these if you have used an earlier version of Universe, but something you will not recognize is that each Universe plug-in now has a “uni.” prefix.

I am still not sure whether I like this or hate this. On one hand it’s easy to search for if you know exactly what you want in apps like Premiere. On the other hand it runs counterintuitive to what I am used to as a grouchy old editor. In the end, I decided to run my tests in After Effects and Premiere. Resolve is great, but for tracking a HUD in 3D space I was more comfortable in After Effects.

HUD Components
First up is HUD Components, located under the Universe Motion Graphics folder and labeled: “uni.HUD Components.” What used to take many Video CoPilot tutorials and many inspirational views of HUD/UI master Jayse Hansen’s (@jayse_) work, now takes me minutes thanks to the new HUD components. Obviously, to make anything on the level of a master like Jayse Hansen will take hundreds of hours and thousands of attempts, but still — with Red Giant HUD Components you can make those sci-fi in-helmet elements quickly.

When you apply HUD Components to a solid layer in After Effects you can immediately see the start of your HUD. To see what the composite over my footage would look like, I went to change the blend mode to Add, which is listed under “Composite Settings.” From there you can see some awesome pre-built looks under the Choose a Preset button. The pre-built elements are all good starting points, but I would definitely dive further into customizing, maybe layer multiple HUDs over each other with different Blend Modes, for example.

Diving further into HUD Components, there are four separate “Elements” that you can customize, each with different images, animations, colors, clone types, and much more. One thing to remember is that when it comes to transformation settings and order of operations work from the top down. For instance, if you change the rotation on element one, it will affect each element under it, which is kind of handy if you ask me. Once you get the hang of how HUD Components works, it is really easy to make some unique UI components. I really like to use the uni.Point Zoom effect (listed under Universe Glow in the Effects & Presets); it gives you a sort of projector-like effect with your HUD component.

There are so many ways to use and apply HUD Components in everyday work, from building dynamic lower thirds with all of the animatable arcs, clones and rotations to building sci-fi elements, applying Holomatrix to it and even Glitch to create awesome motion graphics elements with multiple levels of detail and color. I did try using HUD Components in Resolve when tracking a 3D object but couldn’t quite get the look I wanted, so I ditched it and used After Effects.

Line
Second up is the Line plug-in. While drawing lines along a path in After Effects isn’t necessarily hard, it’s kind of annoying — think having to make custom map graphics to and from different places daily. Line takes the hard work out of making line effects to and from different points. This plug-in also contains the prefix uni. and is located under Universe Motion Graphics labeled uni.Line.

This plug-in is very simple to use and animate. I quickly found a map, applied uni.Line, placed my beginning and end points, animated the line using two keyframes under “Draw On” and bam! I had an instant travel-vlog style graphic that showed me going from California to Australia in under three minutes (yes, I know three minutes seems a little fast to travel to Australia but that’s really how long it took, render and all). Under the Effect Controls you can find preset looks, beginning and ending shape options like circles or arrows, line types, segmented lines and curve types. You can even move the peak of the curve under bezier style option.

Logo Motion
Third is Logo Motion, located under Universe Motion Graphics titled uni.LogoMotion. In a nutshell you can take a pre-built logo (or anything for that matter), pre-compose it, throw the uni.LogoMotion effect on top, apply a preset reveal, tweak your logo animation, dynamically adjust the length of your pre-comp — which directly affects the logo’s wipe on and off — and, finally, render.

This is another plug-in that makes my life as an editor who dabbles in motion graphics really easy. Red Giant even included some lower third animation presets that help create dynamic lower third movements. You can select from some of the pre-built looks, add some motion while the logo is “idle,” adjust things like rotation, opacity and blur under the start and end properties, and even add motion blur. The new preset browser in Universe 2 really helps with plug-ins like Logo Motion where you can audition animations easily before applying them. You can quickly add some life to any logo or object with one or two clicks; if you want to get detailed you can dial in the idle animation and/or transition settings.

Color Stripe
Fourth is Color Stripe, a transition that uses color layers to wipe across and reveal another layer. This one is a pretty niche case use, but is still worth mentioning. In After Effects. transitions are generally a little cumbersome. I found the Universe 2 transitions infinitely easier to use in NLEs like Adobe Premiere. From the always-popular swish pan to exposure blur, there are some transitions you might use once or some you might use a bunch. Color Stripe is a transition that you probably won’t want to use too often, but when you do need it, it will be right at your fingertips. You can choose from different color schemes like analogous, tetradic, or even create a custom scheme to match your project.

In the end, Universe 2 has some effects that are essential once you begin using them, like uni.Unmult, uni.RGB Separation and the awesome uni.Chromatic Glow. The new ones are great too, I really like the ease of use of uni.HUD Components. Since these effects are GPU accelerated you might be surprised at how fast and fluid they work in your project without slowdowns. For anyone who likes apps like After Effects, but can’t afford to spend hours dialing in the perfect UI interface and HUD, Universe 2 is perfect for you. Check out all of the latest Red Giant Universe 2 tools here.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Updates to Adobe Creative Cloud include project sharing, more

By Brady Betzel

Adobe has announced team project sharing!! You read that right — the next Adobe Creative Cloud update, to be released later this year, will have the one thing I’ve always said kept Adobe from punching into Avid’s NLE stake with episodic TV and film editors.

While “one thing” is a bit of hyperbole, Team Projects will be much more than just simple sharing within Adobe Premiere Pro. Team Projects, in its initial stage, will also work with Adobe After Effects, but not with Adobe Audition… at least not in the initial release. Technically speaking, sharing projects within Creative Cloud seems like it will follow a check-in/check-out workflow, allowing you to approve another person’s updates to override yours or vice-versa.

During a virtual press demo, I was shown how the Team Projects will work. I asked if it would work “offline,” meaning without Internet connection. Adobe’s representative said that Team Projects will work with intermittent Internet disconnections, but not fully offline. I asked this because many companies do not allow their NLEs or their storage to be attached to any Internet-facing network connections. So if this is important to you, you may need to do a little more research once we actually can get our hands on this release.

My next question was if Team Projects was a paid service. The Adobe rep said they are not talking the business side of this update yet. I took this as an immediate yes, which is fine, but officially they have no comment on pricing or payment structure, or if it will even cost extra at all.

Immediately after I asked my last question, I realized that this will definitely tie in with the Creative Cloud service, which likely means a monthly fee. Then I wondered where exactly will my projects live? In the cloud? I know the media can live locally on something like an Avid ISIS or Nexis, but will the projects be shared over the Internet? Will we be able to share individual sequences and/or bins or just entire projects? There are so many questions and so many possibilities in my mind, it really could change the multiple editor NLE paradigm if Adobe can manage it properly. No pressure Adobe.

Other Updates
Some other Premiere Pro updates include: improved caption and subtitling tools; updated Lumetri Color tools, including much needed improvement to the HSL secondaries color picker; automatic recognition of VR/360 video and what type of mapping it needs; improved virtual reality workflow; destination publishing will now include Behance (No Instagram export option?); improved Live Text Templates, including a simplified workflow that allows you to share Live Text Templates with other users (will even sync Fonts if they aren’t present from Typekit) and without need for an After Effects License; native DNxHD and DNxHR QuickTime export support, audio effects from Adobe Audition, Global FX mute to toggle on and off all video effects in a sequence; and, best of all, a visual keyboard to map shortcuts! Finally, another prayer for Premiere Pro has been answered. Unfortunately, After Effects users will have to wait for a visual keyboard for shortcut assignment (bummer).

After Effects has some amazing updates in addition to Project Sharing, including a new 3D render engine! Wow! I know this has been an issue for anybody trying to do 3D inside of After Effects via Cineware. Most people will purchase VideoCopilot’s Element 3D to get around this, but for those that want to work directly with Maxon’s Cinema 4D, this may be the update that alleviates some of your 3D disdain via Cineware. They even made mention that you do not need a GPU for this to work well. Oh, how I would love for this to come to fruition. Finally, there’s a new video preview architecture for faster playback that will hopefully allow for a much more fluid and dynamic playback experience.

After Effects C4D RenderAdobe Character Animator has some updates too. If you haven’t played with Character Animator you need to download it now and just watch the simple tutorials that come with the app — you will be amazed, or at least your kids will be. If you haven’t seen how the Simpson’s used Character Animator, you should check it out with a YouTube search. It is pretty sweet. In terms of incoming updates, there will be faster and easier puppet creation, improved round trip workflow between Photoshop and Illustrator, and the ability to use grouped keyboard triggers.

Summing Up
In the end, the future is still looking up for the Adobe Creative Cloud video products, like Premiere Pro and After Effects. If there is one thing to jump out of your skin over in the forthcoming update it is Team Projects. If Team Projects works and works well, the NLE tide may be shifting. That is a big if though because there have been some issues with previous updates — like media management within Premiere Pro — that have yet to be completely ironed out.

Like I said, if Adobe does this right it will be game-changing for them in the shared editing environment. In my opinion, Adobe is beginning to get its head above water in the video department. I would love to see these latest updates come in guns blazing and working. From the demo I saw it looks promising, but really there is only one way to find out: hands-on experience.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Review: Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite 13, Part 1

By Brady Betzel

Have you ever watched a commercial on YouTube and thought, how in the world do these companies have the budget for the VFX and motion graphics work featured? Well, many don’t, but they do have access to talented artists with access to affordable tools that bring pricey looks. Most motion graphics creators have a toolbox full of goodies that help them build great-looking products. Whether it’s preset transitions, graphic overlays or plugins — there are ways to incorporate high-production value without the million-dollar price tag.

Particular

One of those tools that many Adobe After Effects motion graphics artists have in their toolbox is Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite, which is currently in version 13. While it isn’t cheap, if you are focused on that style of motion graphics, it can definitely pay for itself after just a few jobs. Inside the suite are magical plug-ins like the famous Trapcode Particular, Trapcode Form, Trapcode Mir, Trapcode Tao, Trapcode Shine, Trapcode Lux, Trapcode 3D Stroke, Trapcode Echospace, Trapcode Starglow, Trapcode Sound Keys and Trapcode Horizon. Holy cow, that is a lot.

The complete Trapcode Suite 13 works with After Effects (CS6 through CC 2015 officially, including the latest 2015.3 update, just make sure to download the update installer from Red Giant since it might not appear in your Red Giant Link updater), as well as a couple like Shine, 3D Stroke and Starglow that will also work in Adobe Premiere (the same version compatibility as After Effects). A good resource to get your feet wet is on the Red Giant tutorial page where you can find a lot of info and in-depth tutorials from the likes of the master Harry Frank (@graymachine) and Chad Perkins (@chad_perkins).

That being said, if you have no idea what the Trapcode Suite entails, buckle up. It is one of the most useful but intricate plug-ins you will see with a $999 price tag to match ($199 if you are upgrading). Of course, you can pick and choose the product you want, such as Shine for $99 or even Particular for $399, but the entire suite is worth the investment.

Particular

Particular

As an editor, I spend the majority of my time inside of a nonlinear editor like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer/Symphony — probably 80 percent if I had to estimate, the other 20 percent is divided between color correction solutions and VFX/graphics packages like After Effects, Blackmagic Resolve, and others. Because I don’t get a lot of time to play around creatively, I really need to know the suite I am working in and be as efficient as possible. For instance, products like Mocha Pro, Keylight in After Effects and Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite 13 are enhancers that help me be as efficient as I can be as an editor without sacrificing quality for time.

In the latest Trapcode Suite 13 update, Trapcode Particular 2.5 seems to have been updated the most while Trapcode Tao is a new addition to the suite, and the rest were given modest enhancements as well. I will try to touch on each of the products so this will be a two-part review.

Particular
Trapcode Particular is one of the plug-ins that most After Effects nerds/aficionados/experts have encountered. If you have been a little wary and intimidated of Particular because of its complexity, now is the time to dive into using Red Giant’s incredible particle building system. In the 2.5 update, Red Giant added the Effects Builder, which seems to resemble the Magic Bullet Looks builder a little, and I love that. Like I said earlier I don’t typically have eight hours to creatively throw darts at a particle system in hopes of creating a solar system fly-through.

Luckily, the new Effect Builder allows you to easily create your particle system and be emitting (or exploding) in minutes. While it isn’t “easy,” per se, to create a particle system like those featured on Trapcode creator Peder Norrby’s (@trapcode_lab) website, the Effects Builder, along with some tutorial watching (mixed with some patience and love) will send you down a Trapcode rabbit hole that will allow you to create some of the most stunning artwork I’ve seen created in After Effects. Don’t give up if you find it overwhelming, because this is one of those plug-ins that will make you money if you can grasp it. One thing I did notice was the Effects Builder interface was tiny and did not scale with the resolution I was using on my system (2560×1440), but After Effects appeared fine.

If you are an experienced user of Trapcode Particular you should be happier with the updated graphing system that lets you set size and opacity over the life of your particle by directly drawing points on your graph, smoothing, deleting and even randomizing. I really loved using this graph. I immediately saw results that mimic using color curves against an RGB Parade and Waveform on a color scope. Particular has also bumped its particle count up from 20 to 30 million, which will matter to someone creating fireworks back plates for the Fourth of July, I’m sure.

Shine

Shine

Shine
Second on my Trapcode Suite 13 hit list is Trapcode Shine, which might not be the most obviously glamorous update to many people, but still has its merits. The largest update is the ability to attach Shine to After Effects light sources easily. Before you would have to do some fancy footwork that most editors don’t have the time or interest in doing, but as long as your light is named “Shine,” with proper spelling and capitalization, your light now controls the light rays produced by the Shine plug-in.

One thing that most After Effects users know to be a staple is the use of Fractal Noise. Whether you are trying to replicate light rays with realistic and organic effects or a fancy text reveal where you use a Fractal Noise mask as your transition, Fractal Noise is a must use effect. Trapcode Shine has Fractal Noise built into the plug-in now, including the use of 3D fractal noise to create a type of parallax within your light ray work. Simply, parallax is the way the foreground moves in relation to the background. Think of a camera on a slider as it moves from left to right your foreground might stay in relatively same position while the background moves much more — this is your parallax.

One thing that you will always use when applying Fractal Noise is animating the Evolution to add realism. Plus, adding the script “*time” to multiply the evolution factor is an easy way to move the fractal noise along its path. Shine has an “Evolution Speed” under the Fractal Noise heading that allows you to easily adjust the evolution without any scripting (I love this!). Being able to quickly add fractal noise into your light rays really improves my efficiency when a client asks for “that fancy text with those light rays poking through,” but wants to pay exactly zero dollars and zero cents.

Lux and Starglow
Trapcode Lux and Starglow are some other light-focused plug-ins that can add that subtle or dramatic detail to your work setting you apart from the rest of the general motion graphics population. Lux is a fast and easy way to add volumetric drama to point and spotlights. Much like the other plug-inStarglows, you need to apply Lux to a new solid, adjust the specific parameters for the spot or point lights in your composition and, my favorite part, tell Lux if you want to apply to lights named anything, “Lux,” “Front” or “Back.”

Simply, instead of just seeing the emanating light from an After Effects light source, you will now see the physical light source when Lux is added. Lux really shows its power when you need to add a light source to something like an after burner on a jet or the tip of a comet-like fireball. Adding physical light points so easily really opened up my way of thinking. It’s a relatively small feature, but it’s similar to knowing how to do something, but also knowing it takes four hours to accomplish it, so because of diminishing returns you just move along. Now I can do that same thing in little to no time and add that finishing touch easily. This makes me more money and makes the client more confident.

Trapcode Starglow is a small-yet-powerful plug-in that gives life-like glow to bright objects. Think of the star or cross-hatch streaks that can appear on stars or street lights in TV shows and movies. Included in all of the Trapcode Suite are presets, and Starglow is no different with 49 presets, each containing various ray length, color, ray direction and more — all of which are the starting points I like to use when figuring out just what type of Starglow I want to go with.

So far, I’ve covered four of 11 plug-ins contained in the Trapcode Suite 13, all of which are amazing and full of ideas that will undoubtedly elevate your work to a higher level. Something I have noticed over the last few years is a lot of amazing work that comes from those using After Effects; most of it, though, has the scent of a preset and/or tutorial that someone watched, duplicated and exported for their display. One tip that will overstep that ordinary look is to double- and triple-stack effects (in particular the same effect) to add varying levels of depth, color and detail that you couldn’t get with just one instance of a plug-in.

In Part 2 of my Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13 Review, I will tackle the rest of this behemoth plug-in set: Trapcode Form, Trapcode Mir, Trapcode Tao, Trapcode 3D Stroke, Trapcode Echospace, Trapcode Sound Keys, and Trapcode Horizon.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

Brickyard VFX creates a chocolate world for Ghirardelli

Brickyard VFX’s Santa Monica studio worked with production company Mercy Brothers and ad agency FCB West on a new two-spot Ghirardelli campaign. Brickyard provided complete creative solutions for the campaign from start to finish, including production, edit, motion design, VFX, and finishing.

Chocolate Carving brings viewers into a completely chocolate world with detailed animated drawings that come to life in chocolate, carving out iconic San Francisco hallmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car and, of course, Ghirardelli Square. Brickyard motion designer Anton Thallner created the illustrations of each element in Adobe After Effects, which CG supervisor/creative director David Blumenfeld then animated in Autodesk Maya to appear as if they were embossed within a 3D chocolate canvas.

Chocolate Carving

“They presented us with a carved chocolate tour of San Francisco with Ghirardelli Square as the destination.  We created the visual palate, ” explains Brickyard managing partner Steve Michaels. “Anton Thallner designed the chocolate story and created all the iconic elements of San Francisco, while David Blumenfeld turned Anton’s line animation into chocolate carved images and timed the piece to tell the story.

As far as the TimeLapse spot, the agency afforded Brickyard a great amount of creative freedom. “We decided to bring Chachi Ramirez of Mercy Brothers in to direct the spot and take on the construction of the entire Ghirardelli Square,” explains Michaels. “They presented the concept of a Ghirardelli fan so enamored with the product that he creates an homage to the factory entirely using only the mini chocolates. The design and execution was a labor of love between the forces of Brickyard VFX, Mercy Brothers and Bix Pix Entertainment.”