Tag Archives: Maxon Cinema 4D

ESPN’s NBA coverage gets a rebrand

The bi-coastal studio Big Block recently collaborated with ESPN to develop, design and animate a rebrand package that promotes their NBA coverage. With nearly a year of design development, the studio’s role expanded beyond a simple production partner, with Big Block executive creative director Curtis Doss and managing director Kenny Solomon leading the charge.

The package, which features a rich palette of textures and fluid elegance, was designed to reflect the style of the NBA. Additionally, Big Block embedded what they call “visual touchstones” to put the spotlight on the stars of the show — the NBA players, the NBA teams and the redesigned NBA and ESPN co-branded logo.

Big Block and ESPN’s creative teams — which included senior coordinating producer for the NBA on ESPN Tim Corrigan — collaborated closely on the logos. The NBA’s was reconfigured and simplified, allowing it to combine with ESPN’s as well as support the iconic silhouette of Jerry West as the centerpiece of the new creation.

Next, the team worked on taking the unique branding and colors of each NBA team and using them as focal points within the broadcasts. Team logos were assembled and rendered and given textures and fast-moving action, providing the broadcast with a high-end look that Big Block and ESPN feel match the face of the league itself.

Big Block provided ESPN with a complete toolkit for the integration of live game footage with team logos, supers, buttons and transitions, as well as team and player-based information like player comparisons and starting lineups. The materials were designed to be visually cohesive between ESPN’s pre-show, game and post-show broadcasts, with Big Block crafting high-end solutions to keep the sophisticated look and feel consistent across the board.

When asked if working with such iconic logos added some challenges to the project, Doss said, “It definitely adds pressure anytime your combining multiple brands, however it was not the first time ESPN and NBA have collaborated, obviously. I will say that there were needs unique to each brand that we absolutely had to consider. This did take us down many paths during the design process, but we feel that the result is a very strong marriage of the two icons that both benefit from a brand perspective.”

In terms of tools, the studio called on Adobe’s Creative Suite and Maxon Cinema 4D. Final renders were done in Cinema 4D’s Physical Render.

AMD’s Radeon Pro WX series graphics cards shipping this month

AMD is getting ready to ship the Radeon Pro WX Series of graphics cards, the company’s new workstation graphics solutions targeting creatives pros. The Radeon Pro WX Series are AMD’s answer to the rise of realtime game engines in professional settings, the emergence of virtual reality, the popularity of new low-overhead APIs (such as DirectX 12 and Vulkan) and the rise of open-source tools and applications.

The Radeon Pro WX Series takes advantage of the Polaris architecture-based GPUs featuring fourth-generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) technology and engineered on the 14nm FinFET process. The cards have future-proof monitor support, are able to run a 5K HDR display via DisplayPort 1.4, include state-of-the-art multimedia IP with support for HEVC encoding and decoding and TrueAudio Next for VR, and feature cool and quiet operation with an emphasis on energy efficiency. Each retail Radeon Pro WX graphics card comes with 24/7, VIP customer support, a three-year limited warranty and now features a free, optional seven-year extended limited warranty upon product and customer registration.

Available November 10 for $799, the Radeon Pro WX 7100 graphics card offers 5.7 TFLOPS of single precision floating point performance in a single slot, and is designed for professional VR content creators. Equipped with 8GB GDDR5 memory and 36 compute units (2304 Stream Processors) the Radeon Pro WX 7100 is targeting high-quality visualization workloads.

Also available on November 10, for $399, the Radeon Pro WX 4100 graphics cards targets CAD professionals. The Pro WX 4100 breaks the 2 TFLOPS single precision compute performance barrier. With 4GB of GDDR5 memory and 16 compute units (1024 stream processors), users can drive four 4K monitors or a single 5K monitor at 60Hz, a feature which competing low-profile CAD focused cards in its class can’t touch.radeon

Available November 18 for $499, the Radeon Pro WX 5100 graphics card (pictured right) offers 3.9 TFLOPS of single precision compute performance while using just 75 watts of power. The Radeon Pro WX 5100 graphics card features 8GB of GDDR5 memory and 28 compute units (1792 stream processors) suited for high-resolution realtime visualization for industries such as automotive and architecture.

In addition, AMD recently introduced Radeon Pro Software Enterprise drivers, designed to combine AMD’s next-gen graphics with the specific needs of pro enterprise users. Radeon Pro Software Enterprise drivers offer predictable software release dates, with updates issued on the fourth Thursday of each calendar quarter, and feature prioritized support with AMD working with customers, ISVs and OEMs. The drivers are certified in numerous workstation applications covering the leading professional use cases.

AMD says it’s also committed to furthering open source software for content creators. Following news that later this year AMD plans to open source its physically-based rendering engine Radeon ProRender, the company recently announced that a future release of Maxon’s Cinema 4D application for 3D modeling, animation and rendering will support Radeon ProRender. Radeon ProRender plug-ins are available today for many popular 3D content creation apps, including Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, and as beta plug-ins for Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks and Rhino. Radeon ProRender works across Windows, MacOS and Linux and supports AMD GPUs, CPUs and APUs as well as those of other vendors.

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.

SIGGRAPH: Maxon Cinema 4D updates to R18

By Brady Betzel

During SIGGRAPH 2016, Maxon announced an update to its Cinema 4D to R18. The new release is scheduled to ship this September. While I am planning on doing a full review of R18 once it becomes available, I got a preview of the update from Maxon US president/CEO Paul Babb and Maxon Cineversity tutorialist-staple and VP of operations for Maxon US Rick Barrett. Once you hear Barrett’s voice you will know who I am talking about; he’s definitely given a lot of us some great tips and awesome entry into working in Cinema 4D.

My three favorite updates based off my preview are: the Voronoi Fracture Object, Object Motion Tracking and Thin Film Shader (and a bonus the OpenGL viewport display previews Reflections, Ambient Occlusion and Displacement Mapping).

Voronoi Fracture Object works in conjunction with dynamics and allows you to quickly break through a wall or even procedurally slice and dice vegetables as Babb and Barrett showed using spline or polygon shapes.

Building on Cinema 4D’s existing Motion Tracking, Object Motion Tracking allows the user to track models and other 3D-based objects into real-world footage with less back and forth round-tripping in Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D via Cineware. In Maxon’s example, they used puff balls purchased from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store as track points, measured the physical distance between them, tracked the objects in Cinema 4D R18, entered the distance between the puff balls and boom! A sweet Transformer-like helmet was tracked with the actor’s head movement needing only minor adjustments.

While there are many other big updates, I was oddly entranced by the Thin Film Shader. If you ever have trouble building materials with that oil slick type of glisten or a bubble with the rainbow-like translucence, Cinema 4D R18 is your friend.

I can’t wait to see some of the presentations that Cinema 4D and the team from GreyScaleGorilla.com have in store, along with other 3D artists. Check out their lineup, and follow them on Twitter @gsg3d. With so many updates like the enhancements to the OpenGL viewport, it will be a long wait until Cinema 4D R18 is released to the public. Check out www.maxon.com for their updated website, Cineversity’s Cinema 4D R18 highlights video, and follow them on Twitter @maxon3d.

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.

Maxon upgrades Cinema 4D to Release 17

Maxon’s Cinema 4D has undergone a major upgrade via its Release 17. Central to Cinema 4D R17 is the new Take System, which provides complete and flexible scene handling to manage render layers and animation variations. Also included are new lens distortion tools for improved motion tracking and completely reworked spline tools for greater efficiency when manipulating points, lines, tangents, arcs and more.

Maxon‘s Take System offers new functionality beyond a render layer system, allowing artists to create numerous independent takes of a scene and change almost any parameter for intuitive variations — all saved in a single scene file to eliminate file management hassles and wasted disk space. The ability to maintain complete versioning and variation control also saves valuable production time.

With lens distortion support, users can generate a distortion profile for any image (e.g., for curved and plunging lines when integrating 3D elements into videos or photos), remove distortion for tracking and scene creation, reapply distortion at render time and save lens settings for future use.

The new spline tools give artists added control for manipulating points, lines, tangents and arcs more intuitively. Users can also leverage Boolean operators like “intersect,” “subtract,” “union,” “and” and “or” for an even faster workflow.

Other updates include a new graph view that highlights problem track points in a graph and lets users easily remove them from the calculation for improved efficiency; dozens of new features to sculpt with precision and ease; and enhancements to the animation workflow that allow artists to animate faster and with more precision.

Cinema_4D_R17_Visualize_Application_Screenshot_18 copy

Rounding out the upgrade is a pair of integrations. R17 now integrates with Side Effect’s Houdini Engine so that users can load Houdini Digital Assets (HDA) into Cinema 4D and manipulate them like standard Cinema 4D generators. Also, tighter integration with 3D modeling program SketchUp lets creative professionals quickly populate scenes by accessing free, ready-to-use objects created and made available by the SketchUp user community.

Quick Chat: Scarab’s Robyn Haddow talks ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’

Robyn Haddow is a motion graphics and playback artist with Vancouver-based Scarab Digital as well as an active freelancer. At Scarab, she is presently providing Fantasy User Interface (FUI) and animation designs for the series The Flash and Arrow for the CW as well as for Proof, a new medical drama debuting soon on TNT.

The Flash is known for his distinctive powers. What kinds of animations and graphics are you providing to create his unique look?
Yes, the Flash has very distinctive powers! The Flash’s tech comes from a team of scientists based out of the “Cortex,” which is his lair. One of the scientists is the character of Cisco Ramon, who builds a lot of the tech for Flash. Our job is to create all the tech that comes out the Cortex. We developed the look of the Cortex early on for the pilot; a cyan and blue tone palette with hints of yellow and white for a nice complimentary color accent. The screens are generally comprised of many different schematics of buildings, machine diagnostics, calculations, wireframes of gadgets and all kinds of maps of various locations in Central City.

FlashScarabDigital-03
The Flash

Once you are given story points from the production team how much creative freedom do you have?
We have almost total creative freedom. We worked hard to establish the look of the Cortex (where most of our screens take place) for the pilot and in turn earned a lot of trust from the production designer.

Can you tell us about your design/animation workflow?
My workflow begins by reading the scenes in the script I am building screens for. After I have correctly understood all the story points, I jump into Illustrator to begin to block out my shots. I take screen grabs of 3D assets I have that I would like to incorporate and begin to rough out my composition with them. I start by blocking out the main elements on my screen and then concentrate on building out the different sections piece by piece.

Once I have a layout I am happy with, I bring in tools such as Adobe After Effects to get my elements working in here. I then jump into Maxon Cinema 4D to work on shading my 3D assets and create the look I am going for in the model. Once happy with the look, I block out my 3D animation, generally as a single asset that I will import into After Effects. I jump back into After Effects to block out my main animation and also focus on smaller detailed elements and animations.

I have a very tight production deadline — typically I am given only a day to work on a screen, but sometimes I am required to generate two or three. Using efficient tools is critical in helping me to maximize my time as best I can.

ArrowScarabDigital-01 ArrowScarabDigital-03
Arrow

What are the challenges of creating sophisticated VFX in the fast turnaround time of television?
Great question. Time is the biggest one! Typically I will have a day to complete a build for a scene, and as I mentioned this can include two or three builds. This is a personal challenge because I like to include a lot of detail in my work. I hit the design and animation in broad strokes and with whatever time remains I get to go back and add in extra little bits. As I continue to build up my workflow I am constantly working to improve on-time management, thus giving me more time for all the extra little bits I like to add.

Another challenge is handling the 3D assets that we receive from post. Often times the models are very dense meshes and it can be tricky to optimize them in order to work best for my purposes.

More from The Flash

More from The Flash

Is there a scene — or show — that are you particularly proud of, and why?
Hmm… The season went by so fast for all the shows, so this is a tricky question! I suppose I can narrow it down to sets. I am really proud of the look of the Cortex in The Flash as I led the design on that as well as the look of the Palmer Tech set in Arrow. I am a big nerd for super hero suits so any screen that includes ATOM’s Exosuit from Arrow or the Flash’s suit is definitely up there with some of my fav builds.

Who are some of your personal sci-fi inspirations?
I am a huge fan of work done by Jayse Hansen. His work is so well thought out, detailed and polished! I also look up to his abilities in design and animation as well as the speed in which he can create. I was first introduced to the world of screen graphics by stumbling upon some of Mark Coleran’s work. And, of course, I am in love with everything put out there by Territory Studio.

Quick Chat: Ghost Town Media’s Brandon Parvini

By Randi Altman

Los Angeles-based  Ghost Town Media was founded in 2006 by a few like-minded independent designers, animators and content creatives. They knew to succeed in a very saturated market, they had to become a creative think-tank of sorts. They like to get involved early and with as many people on the production as possible. Looking at things from all angles gives them a creative advantage.

We decided to dig in a bit deeper with Brandon Parvini, creative director/lead designer at Ghost Town (@gtmvfx).

Tell us a bit more about Ghost Town Media
We’re a small VFX and design house made up of a fairly multifaceted group. We are all linked by Continue reading

RuckSackNY creates anti-texting/driving PSA in time for Thanksgiving

Turkey-walk

New York — Manhattan based RuckSackNY has completed a Public Service Announcement in response to the growing number of texting-related car accidents.

RuckSackNY (www.rucksackny.com) created the 30-second spot, Why Did the Turkey Cross the Road?, with the aim of educating the audience about the dangers surrounding texting while driving or walking. See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQlJ-RXtGGc

Fred and Natasha Ruckel, the creative directors working on the texting PSA, spend a significant amount of time driving between the city and various shoot locations, encountering, like many of us, drivers swerving and veering precariously, sometimes at high speed, while scrolling through their text messages.

“It scares me to be on the road at times”, noted Fred Ruckel, “Because a car could just slam right into you.” Fred’s wife and business partner, Natasha, finds the situation stressful, but would lament, “There’s nothing you can do about it, don’t let it get to you.”

After a few near misses, Fred decided that there had to be something that he could do about it. “I wanted make a Public Service Announcement video to help raise awareness.”

Continue reading