Tag Archives: Adobe After Effects

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.”

 

Review: Maxon’s Cinema 4D R17

By Brady Betzel

Over the years, I have seen Maxon take Cinema 4D from something that only lived on the periphery of my workflow to an active tool alongside apps such as Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere and Avid’s Media Composer/Symphony.

What I have seen happenis the simplification of workflow and capabilities within Cinema 4D’s releases. This brings us to the latest Cinema 4D release: Cinema 4D R17. This release not only builds on the previous R16 release, like improved Motion Tracking and Shaders, but Maxon continues to add new functionality with things like the Take System, Color Chooser or the Variation Shader.

Variation Shader

Because I work in television, I previously thought that I only needed Cinema 4D when creating titles — I couldn’t quite get that gravitas that I was looking for in apps like Media Composer’s Title Tool, After Effects or even Photoshop (i.e. raytracing or great reflections and ambient occlusion that Cinema 4D always conveyed to me). These days I am searching out tutorials and examples of new concepts and getting close to committing to designing one thing a day, much like @beeple or @gsg3d’s daily renders.

Doing a daily render is a great way to get really good at a tool like Cinema 4D. It feels like Maxon is shaping a tool that, much like After Effects, is becoming usable to almost anyone that can get their hands on it — which is a lot of people, especially if you subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud with After Effects, because Cinema 4D Lite/Cineware is included.

Since I am no EJ Hassenfratz (@eyedesyn), I won’t be covering the minute details of Cinema 4D R17, but I do want to write about a few of my favorite updates in hopes that you’ll get excited and jump into the sculpting, modeling or compositing world inside of Cinema 4D R17.

The Take System
If you’ve ever had to render out multiple versions of the same scene, you will want to pay attention to the new Take System in Cinema 4D R17. Typically, you build many projects with duplicated scenes to create different versions of the same scene. Maybe you are modeling a kitchen and want to create five different animations, each with their own materials for the cabinet faces as well as unique camera moves. Thanks to Cinema 4D R17’s Take System you can create different takes within the same project saving tons of time and file size.

Take System

Under the Objects tab you will see a new Takes tab. From there you will generate new takes, enable Auto Take (much like auto keyframing, it saves each unique take’s actions) and perform other take specific functions like overrides. The Take System uses a hierarchical structure that allows for child takes to take the properties of its parents. At the top is the main take, and any changes made there affect all of its children underneath.

Say you want your kitchen to have the same floor but different cabinet face materials. You would first create your scene as you want it to look in the overall sense, then in the Take menu you would add takes for each version you want, name it appropriately for easy navigation later, enable Auto Take, change any attributes to that specific take, save and render!

In the Render Settings under Save > File… you can choose from the drop-down menu how you want your takes named upon export. There are a bunch of presets in there that will get you started. Technically, Maxon refers to this update as Variable Path and File Names, or “Tokens.”

This is a gigantic addition to Cinema 4D’s powerful toolset that should breathe a sigh of relief into anyone who has had to export multiple versions of the same scene. Now instead of multiple projects you can save all of your versions in one place.

Pen and Spline Tools
One of the hardest things to wrap my head around when I was diving into the world of 3D was how someone actually draws in 3D space. What the hell is a Z-Axis anyways? I barely know x and y! Well, after Googling what a Z-Axis is, you will also understand that technically, with a modern-day computing set-up, you can’t literally draw in 3D space without some special hardware.

pen tool

However, in Cinema 4D you can draw on one plane (i.e., Front View), then place that shape inside of a Lathe and bam! — you have drawn in 3D space complete with x,y and z dimensions. So while that is a super-basic example, the new Pen Tool and Spline Tool options allow for someone with little to no 3D experience to jump into Cinema 4D R17 and immediately get modeling.

For an example, if you grab the Pen tool and draw some sort of geometry and then want to cut a hole in it, you can now grab a new circle, place it where you want it to intersect the beautiful object you just drew, highlight the object you want to use as the object that will do the cutting (if you use the Spline Subtract), then hold Control on Windows and Command Mac and click on the object you want to cut from. Then go into the Pen/Spline menu and click Spline Subtract, Spline Union, Spline And, Spline Or or Spline Intersect. You now have a new permanent way to alter your geometry in a much more efficient way. Try it yourself; it’s a lot easier than reading about it.

I used this to create some — I’ll call them unique — shapes and was able to make intersection cuts easily and painlessly.

I also like the Spline Smooth tools. You’ve drawn your spline but want to add some flare —click on the Spline Smooth tools and under the options check off exactly what you want to do to your spline with your brush (think of Spline Smooth like the Liquify tool in Photoshop where you can bulge, flatten or even spiral your work). Under the options you can choose Smooth, Flatten, Random, Pull, Spiral, Inflate and Project. The Spiral function is a great way to give some unique wave-like looks to your geometry

Color Chooser
Another update to Cinema 4D R17 that I really love is the updated Color Chooser. While in theory it’s a small update, it’s a huge update for me. I really like to use different color harmonies when doing anything related to color and color correction. In Cinema 4D R17 you can choose from RGB, HSV or Kelvin color modes. In RGB there are presets to help guide you in making harmonious color choices with presets for Monochromatic, Analogous, Complementary, Tetrad, Semi-ComplemenColor Choosertary and Equiangular color choices. If you don’t have much experience in color theory it might be a good time to run to your local library and find a book; it will really help you make conscious and appropriate color choices when you need to.

Besides the updated color theory based layouts, you can import your own image and create a custom color swatch that can be saved. In addition, a personal favorite is the Color Mixer. You can choose two colors and use a slider to find a mix of the two colors you chose. A lot of great experimentation can happen here.

Lens Distortion
When compositing objects, text or whatever you can think of into a scene it can get frustrating when dealing with footage that has extreme lens curvature. In Cinema 4D R17 you can easily create a Lens Profile that can then be applied as either a shader or a post effect to your final render.

To do this you need to build a Lens Profile by going to the Tools menu and clicking Lens Distortion, then load the image you want to use as reference. From there you need to tell Cinema 4D R17 what it should consider a straight line — like a sidewalk, which in theory should be horizontally straight, or a light pole, which should be vertically straight

Lens Distortion

To do this you need to click Add N-Point Line and line it up against your “straight” object, you can add multiple points as necessary to create changes in line angle, choose a lens distortion model that you think should be close to your lens type (3D Standard Classic is a good one to start with), click Auto Solve and then save your profile to apply when you render your scene. To load the profile on render find your Render Settings > Effects > Lens Distortion and load it from there.

Book Generator
I love that Maxon includes some shiny bells and whistles to their updates. Whether it is a staircase from R16 or Grow Grass, etc, I always love updates that make me say, “Wow that’s cool.” Whether or not I use it a lot is another story.

In Cinema 4D R17, the Book Generator is the “wow” factor for me. Obviously it has a very niche use but it’s still really cool. In your content browser just search for Book Generator and throw it on your scene. To make the books land on a shelf you need to first create the shelves, make them editable, then click “Add Selection as One Group” or “Add Selection as Separate Groups” if you want to control them individually. Afterwards under the Book Generator object you can click on the Selection, which are the actual books. Under User Data you can customize things like overall book size, type of books or magazine, randomness, textures and bookends, and even make the books lean on each other if they are spaced out.

book generator

It’s pretty sweet once you understand how it works. If you want different pre-made textures for your magazines or books you can search for “book” in the Content Browser. They have many different kinds of textures including one for the inside pages.

Summing Up
I detailed just a few great updates to Maxon’s Cinema 4D R17, but there are tons more. The awesome ability to import SketchUp files directly into Cinema 4D R17 is very handy and keyframe handling updates and the possibilities from the Variation Shader make Cinema 4D R17 full of endless possibilities.

If you aren’t ready to drop the $3,695 on the Cinema 4D R17 Studio edition, $2,295 on the Visualize edition, $1,695 on the Broadcast edition or $995 on the Prime edition, make sure you check out the version that comes with Adobe After Effects CC (Cineware/Cinema 4D Light). While it won’t be as robust as the other versions, it will give you a taste of what is possible and may even spark your imagination to try something new like modeling! Check out the different versions here: http://www.maxon.net/products/general-information/general-information/product-comparison.html.

Keep in mind that if you are new to the world of 3D modeling or Cinema 4D and want to find some great learning resources you should check out Sean Frangella on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/seanfrangella @seanfrangellawww.greyscalegorilla.com/blog, Cineversity: and www.motionworks.net @motionworks. Cineversity even used my alma mater, California Lutheran University in their tutorials!

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

Top 3: My picks from Adobe’s Creative Cloud update

By Brady Betzel

Adobe’s resolve to update its Creative Cloud apps on a regular basis has remained strong. The latest updates, released on December 1, really hammer home Adobe’s commitment to make editing video, creating visual effects and color correcting on a tablet a reality, but it doesn’t end there. They have made their software stronger across the board, whether you are using a tablet, mobile workstation or desktop.

After Effects and Stacked Panels

I know everyone is going to have their own favorites, but here are my top three from the latest release:

1. Stacked Panels
In both After Effects and Premiere you will notice the ability to arrange your menus in Stacked Panels. I installed the latest updates on a Sony VAIO tablet and these Stacked Panels were awesome!

It’s really a nice way to have all of your tools on screen without having them take up too much real estate. In addition, Adobe has improved touch-screen interaction with the improved ability to pinch and zoom different parts of the interface, like increasing the size of a thumbnail with a pinch-to-zoom.

In Premiere, to find the Stacked Panels you need to find the drop down menu in the project panel, locate Panel Group Settings and then choose Stacked Panel Group and Solo Panels in Stack, if you want to only view one at a time. I highly recommend using the Stacked Panels if you are using a touchscreen, like a tablet or some of the newer mobile workstations out there in the world. Even if you aren’t, I really think it works well.

Premiere Pro and Optical Flow

Premiere Pro and Optical Flow

2. Optical Flow Time Remapping
Most editors are probably thinking, “Avid has had this for years and years and years, just like Avid had Fluid Morph years before Adobe introduced Morph Cut.” While I thought the exact same thing, I really love that Adobe’s version is powered by the GPU. This really beefs up the speed of the latest HP z840 with Nvidia Quadro or GTX 980 Ti graphics cards and all their CUDA cores. Be warned though, Optical Flow (much like Morph Cut) works only in certain situations.

If you’ve ever used Twixtor or Fluid Motion in Media Composer, you know that sometimes there is a lot of work that goes into making those effects work. It’s not always the right solution to time remapping footage, especially if you are working on content that will air on broadcast television — even though Optical Flow may look great, some content will fail certain networks’ quality control because of the weird Jello-looking artifacting that can occur.

After Effects and the Lumetri Color Panel

3. Lumetri Color inside of After Effects
While you might already have a favorite coloring app or plug-in to use, having the ability to take clips from Premiere to After Effects, while carrying over the color correction you made inside of the Lumetri panels, is key. In addition, you can use the Lumetri effect inside of After Effects (located under the Utility category) to quickly color your clips inside of After Effects.

Overall, this round of updates seemed to be par for the course, nothing completely revolutionary but definitely useful and wanted. Personally, I don’t think that adding HDR capabilities should have taken precedence over some other updates, such as collaboration improvements (think Avid Media Composer and Avid’s Shared Storage solution, ISIS), general stability improvements, media management, etc. But Adobe is holding true to their word and bringing some of the latest and greatest improvements to their users… and causing users (and manufacturers) of other tools to take notice.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.

Vidcheck heading to NAB with ‘Vidapps’ for After Effects, Premiere

Video processed with Adobe After Effects or Premiere Pro will soon be able to take advantage of Vidcheck’s intelligent “Vidapps-Video” plug-in to correct RGB gamut and YUV levels within the NLE.

Uk-based Vidcheck, which makes automated quality control software with patented intelligent video and audio correction, will be at NAB this year showing the latest version of its Vidchecker and Vidfixer product suites. These have been extended to include a range of video applications (Vidapps) for Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, enabling users to check and automatically correct video and audio errors without leaving the Adobe environment.

This means that users of Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro can correct illegal video levels to broadcast safe parameters using Vidcheck’s patented algorithms which correct the video without clamping it. (Clamping being an antiquated means of achieving broadcast safe content that can cause undesirable degradations of the resulting picture).

Vidcheck’s Vidapps-Video provides checking and correction as part of the edit process and is designed to be used as the last stage of post production, immediately before the media is rendered. This approach means the user can be confident that the rendered media will fully comply with the specified requirements before it leaves the Adobe environment.

As part of using Vidapps, an XML report can be generated and saved as a record that QC corrections were done and, if required, be forwarded to the client for the media file. The report can also be ‘skinned’ with the logo and colors of the post house/video editor to make it highly specific and identifiable to them.

Additional Vidapps plug-ins are currently available for audio and photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) checking, and others are in development for introduction later in 2015.

Vidcheck’s core Vidchecker and Vidfixer AQC products are scalable from low-cost versions for post production to sophisticated Vidchecker/Vidfixer Grid systems suitable for larger enterprises. In addition to watch folder automation, Vidcheck’s API has been integrated into many MAM and workflow engine solutions across the industry for seamless addition of complex AQC into any workflow.

Making ‘Being Evel’: James Durée walks us through post

Compositing played a huge role in this documentary film.

By Randi Altman

Those of us of a certain age will likely remember being glued to the TV as a child watching Evel Knievel jump his motorcycle over cars and canyons. It felt like the world held its collective breath, hoping that something horrible didn’t happen… or maybe wondering what it would be like if something did.

Well, Johnny Knoxville, of Jackass and Bad Grandpa fame, was one of those kids, as witnessed by, well, his career. Knoxville and Oscar-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge (Saving Face) combined to make Being Evel, a documentary on the daredevil’s life and career. Produced by Knoxville’s Dickhouse Productions (yup, that’s right) and HeLo, it premiered at Sundance this year.

Continue reading