Category Archives: motion graphics

Review: Maxon Cinema 4D R19 — an editor’s perspective

By Brady Betzel

It’s time for my yearly review of Maxon’s Cinema 4D. Currently in Release 19, Cinema 4D comes with a good amount of under-the-hood updates. I am an editor, first and foremost, so while I dabble in Cinema 4D, I am not an expert. There are a few things in the latest release, however, that directly correlate to editors like me.

Maxon offers five versions of Cinema 4D, not including BodyPaint 3D. There is the Cinema 4D Lite, which comes free with Adobe After Effects. It is really an amazing tool for discovering the world of 3D without having to invest a bunch of money. But, if you want all the goodies that come packed into Cinema 4D you will have to pay the piper and purchase one of the other four versions. The other versions include Prime, Broadcast, Visualize and Studio.

Cinema 4D Prime is the first version that includes features like lighting, cameras and animation. Cinema 4D Broadcast includes all of Cinema 4D Prime’s features as well as the beloved MoGraph tools and the Broadcast Library, which offers pre-built objects and cameras that will work with motion graphics. Cinema 4D Visualize includes Cinema 4D Prime features as well, but is geared more toward architects and designers. It includes Sketch and Toon, as well as an architecturally focused library of objects and presets. Cinema 4D Studio includes everything in the other versions plus unlimited Team Render nodes, a hair system, a motion/object tracker and much more. If you want to see a side-by-side comparison you can check out Maxon’s website.

What’s New
As usual, there are a bunch of new updates to Cinema 4D Release 19, but I am going to focus on my top three, which relate to the workflows and processes I might use as an editor: New Media Core, Scene Reconstruction and the Spherical Camera. Obviously, there are a lot more updates — including the incredible new OpenGL Previews and the cross-platform ProRender, which adds the ability to use AMD or Nvidia graphics cards — but to keep this review under 30 pages I am focusing on the three that directly impact my work.

New Media Core
Buckle up! You can now import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D. So, yes, you can import animated GIFs into Cinema 4D Release 19, but that is just one tiny aspect of this update. The really big addition is the QuickTime-free support of MP4 videos. Now MP4s can be imported and used as textures, as well as exported with different compression settings, directly from within Cinema 4D’s  interface — all of this without the need to have QuickTime installed. What is cool about this is that you no longer need to export image-based file sequences to get your movie inside of Cinema 4D. The only slowdown will be how long it takes Cinema 4D R19 to cache your MP4 so that you will have realtime playback… if possible.

In my experience, it doesn’t take that much time, but that will be dependent on your system performance. While this is a big under-the-hood type of update, it is great for those quick exports of a scene for approval. No need to take your export into Adobe Media Encoder, or something else, to squeeze out an MP4.

Scene Reconstruction
First off, for any new Cinema 4D users out there, Scene Reconstruction is convoluted and a little thick to wade through. However, if you work with footage and want to add motion graphics work to a scene, you will want to learn this. You can check out this Cineversity.com video for an eight-minute overview.

Cinema 4D’s Scene Reconstruction works by tracking your footage to generate point clouds, and then after you go back and enable Scene Reconstruction, it creates a mesh from the resulting scene calculation that Cinema 4D computes. In the end, depending on how compatible your footage is with Scene Detection (i.e. contrasting textures and good lighting will help) you will get a camera view with matching scene vertices that are then fully animatable. I, unfortunately, do not have enough time to recreate a set or scene inside of Cinema 4D R19, however, it feels like Maxon is getting very close to fully automated scene reconstruction, which would be very, very interesting.

I’ve seen a lot of ideas from pros on Twitter and YouTube that really blow my mind, like 3D scanning with a prosumer camera to recreate objects inside of Cinema 4D. Scene Reconstruction could be a game-changing update, especially if it becomes more automated as it would allow base users like me to recreate a set in Cinema 4D without having to physically rebuild a set. A pretty incredible motion graphics-compositing future is really starting to emerge from Cinema 4D.

In addition, the Motion Tracker has received some updates, including manual tracking on R, G, B, or custom channel — viewed as Tracker View — and the tracker can now work with a circular tracking pattern.

Spherical Camera
Finally, the last update, which seems incredible, is the new Spherical Camera. It’s probably because I have been testing and using a lot more 360 video, but the ability to render your scene using a Spherical Camera is here. You can now create a scene, add a camera and enable Spherical mapping, including equirectangular, cubic string, cubic cross or even Facebook’s 360 video 3×2 cubic format. In addition, there is now support for Stereo VR as well as dome projection.

Other Updates
In addition to the three top updates I’ve covered, there are numerous others updates that are just as important, if not more so to those who use Cinema 4D in other ways. In my opinion, the rendering updates take the cake. Also, as mentioned before, there is support for both Nvidia and AMD GPUs, multi-GPU support, incredible viewport enhancements with Physical Rendering and interactive Preview Renders in the viewport.

Under MoGraph, there is an improved Voronoi Fracture system (ability to destroy an object quickly) including improved performance for high polygon counts and detailing to give the fracture a more realistic look. There is also a New Sound Effector to allow for interactive MoGraph creation to the beat of the music. One final note: the new Modern Modelling Kernel has been introduced. The new kernel gives more ability to things like polygon reduction and levels of detail.

In the end, Cinema 4D Release 19 is a huge under-the-hood update that will please legacy users but will also attract new users with AMD-based GPUs. Moreover, Maxon seems to be slowly morphing Cinema 4D into a total 2D and 3D modeling and motion graphics powerhouse, much like the way Blackmagic’s Resolve is for colorists, video editors, VFX creators and audio mixers.

Summing Up
With updates like Scene Recreation and improved motion tracking, Maxon gives users like me the ability to work way above their pay grade to composite 3D objects onto our 2D footage. If any of this sounds interesting to you and you are a paying Adobe Creative Cloud user, download and open up Cinema 4D Lite along with After Effects, then run over to Cineversity and brush up on the basics. Cinema 4D Release 19 is an immensely powerful 3D application that is blurring the boundaries between 3D and 2D compositing. With Cinema 4D Release 19’s large library of objects, preset scenes and lighting setups you can be experimenting in no time, and I didn’t even touch on the modeling and sculpting power!


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Quick Chat: FOM’s Adam Espinoza on DirecTV graphics campaign

By Randi Altman

Denver-based creative brand firm Friends of Mine (FOM) recently completed a graphics package for DirecTV Latin America that they had been working on for almost a year. The campaign, which first aired at the start of the 2017/2018 soccer season in August, has been airing on DirecTV’s Latin American network since then.

In addition to providing the graphics packages that ran on DirecTV Sports throughout the European Football League seasons (in Spain, England and France), FOM is currently creating graphics that will promote the World Cup games, set to take place between June 14 and July 15 in Russia.

Adam Espinoza

We reached out to FOM’s co-founder and creative director, Adam Espinoza, to find out more.

How early did you get involved in the piece? How much input did you have?
We were invited to the RFP process two months before the season started. We fully developed the look and concept from their written creative brief and objectives. We had complete input on the direction and execution.

What was it the client wanted to accomplish, and what did you suggest? 
The client wanted to convey the excitement of soccer throughout the season. There were two objectives: highlight the exclusive benefits of DirectTV for its subscribers while at the same time showing footage of goals and celebrations from the best players and teams in the world. We suggested the idea of intersections and digital energy.

Why did you think the visuals you created told the story the client needed? 
The digital energy graphics created a kinetic movement inherent in the sport while connecting the players around the league. The intersections concept helped to integrate the world of soccer seamlessly with DirecTV’s message.

What exactly did you provide services-wise on the piece? 
Conceptual design, art direction, 2D and 3D animation and video editing
.

What gear/tools did you use for each of those services? 
Our secret sauce along with Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Illustrator.

What was the most challenging part of the process?
Evolving the look from month to month throughout the season and building to the climatic finals, while still staying true to the original concept.

What’s was your favorite part of the process?
Being able to fine tune a concept over such a stretch of time.

DG 7.9.18

Behind the Title: Julia Siemón

NAME: Julia Siemón

COMPANY: New York City-based GIMIK/Julia Siemón

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We strive to achieve beauty through design with a primary focus on 3D motion content creation. We help clients solve creative challenges and constantly evolve by staying ahead of technology trends. I am currently working on developing content using Oculus VR.
.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
A Creative (Designer, Animator and Director)

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Everything. I wear many hats at my job, whether it is art direction, character animation or pitching. Being a creative means you have to be able to adapt to the needs of the project and pick up where someone else left off.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Budgets. Having to always be mindful of budget and time. Also snacks. My snack game is the best in town.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Constantly discovering new ways to achieve our creative goals. Whether it’s through the use of a new technology or inspiration. Randomly seeing my work on TV, a subway or on Instagram is also pretty awesome.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Dealing with finances, writing up invoices and collecting. Having to “hound” clients to collect is never fun, but unfortunately frequently comes with the territory.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
I find my most productive times for creating are between 10am and 2pm, and from 5pm to 7pm. I would love to nap between 3-4pm. I think that would expand my productive time to 9pm. Just that one-hour nap would do wonders. I guess my favorite time of day is when I get to climb back into bed.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, so I would either teach full time and/or design video games. If it wasn’t design related, I would work with plants, helping people set up and manage gardens in their backyards to produce enough fresh vegetables and herbs for their families. Or I’d run a travel blog.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
At age three, I drew a baby pram with one continuous stroke. From that moment on my mother knew I was to become an artist, so my art education began early on. However, I always gravitated towards new technology. By combining my visual talent with new media I was able to find a career path that is always surprising and rewarding.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Over the summer I worked with creative production studio Hey Beautiful Jerk on three Yahoo Fantasy Football spots. It is the type of project I love working — it included a mixture of the absurd and comic elements where the client goes for something out of their comfort zone and I get to play with Maxon Cinema 4D.

The spots each included a purple hue over everything to tie in the Yahoo brand color. I worked on several backgrounds and most of the character animation. While I did various backdrops and animations for all three spots, my favorite is called Glory Year. For this piece I created, textured and animated the floating brains and the futuristic city. I had a very limited time to create a The Fifth Element-inspired cityscape in Cinema 4D, and relied heavily on ready made models I found online, combining and adjusting them to get the desired look. I also added a sky highway to help illustrate the future. A lot of work for a half a second.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? WHAT SOFTWARE DID YOU RELY ON?
I would have to say the CCTV-9 IDs I did with branding and design studio Trollbäck+Company a few years back. We did six IDs for the CCTV9 documentary channel promoting their new cube logo. I designed and animated CCTV ID Electronica, which was meant to reflect the energy of Chinese cities. The spots won an international BDA award that year. Cinema 4D was the perfect tool for this project; it allowed me to explore multiple creative directions fast and easy. I relied heavily on the Mograph module in Cinema 4D to give the CCTV cube the vibrancy and spirit of a Chinese metropolis.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My camera, Google maps/satellites and my Wacom tablet.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? IF SO, WHAT KIND?
It varies greatly depending on my mood. I listen to anything from Leonard Cohen and Imogen Heap to Tool and Smashing Pumpkins, with a bit of Zedd/Deadmau5 thrown in.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’ve been running a mini farm out in New Jersey for four years now; it helps me to clear my mind and stay close to nature and our roots as an agrarian society. I’ve also gotten into food preservation. Both have been very therapeutic. However, when the stress is too great even for dehydrated kale chips and apples I try to take time off to travel.


Foundry intros Mari 4.0

Foundry’s Mari 4.0 is the latest version of the company’s digital 3D painting and texturing tool. Foundry launches Mari 4.0 with a host of advanced features, making the tool easier to use and faster to learn. Mari 4.0 comes equipped with more flexible and configurable exporting, simpler navigation, and a raft of improved workflows.

Key benefits of Mari 4.0 include:
Quicker start-up and export: Mari 4.0 allows artists to get projects up-and-running faster with a new startup mechanism that automatically performs the steps previously completed manually by the user. Shaders are automatically built, with channels connected to them as defined by the channel presets in the startup dialog. The user also now gets the choice of initial lighting and shading setup. The new Export Manager configures the batch exporting of Channels and Bake Point Nodes. Artists can create and manage multiple export targets from the same source, as well as perform format conversions during export. This allows for far more control and flexibility when passing Mari’s texture maps down the pipeline.

Better navigation: A new Palettes Toolbar containing all Mari’s palettes offers easy access and visibility to everything Mari can do. It’s now easier to expand a Palette to fullscreen by hitting the spacebar while your mouse is hovered over it. Tools of a similar function have been grouped under a single button in the Tools toolbar, taking up less space and allowing the user to better focus on the Canvas. Various Palettes have been merged together, removing duplication and simplifying the UI, making Mari both easier to learn and use.

Improved UI: The Colors Palette is now scalable for better precision, and the component sliders have been improved to show the resulting color at each point along the control. Users can now fine tune their procedural operations with precision keyboard stepping functionality brought into Mari’s numeric controls.

The HUD has been redesigned so it no longer draws over the paint subject, allowing the user to better focus on their painting and work more effectively. Basic Node Graph mode has been removed: Advanced is now the default. For everyone learning Mari, the Non-Commercial version now has full Node Graph access.

Enhanced workflows: A number of key workflow improvements have been brought to Mari 4.0. A drag-and-drop fill mechanism allows users to fill paint across their selections in a far more intuitive manner, reducing time and increasing efficiency. The Brush Editor has been merged into the Tool Properties Palette, with the brush being used now clearly displayed. It’s now easy to browse and load sets of texture files into Mari, with a new Palette for browsing texture sets. The Layers Palette is now more intuitive when working with Group layers, allowing users to achieve the setups they desire with less steps. And users now have a shader in Mari that previews and works with the channels that match their final 3D program/shader: The Principled BRDF, based on the 2012 paper from Brent Burley of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Core: Having upgraded to OpenSubdiv 3.1.x and introduced the features into the UI, users are able to better match the behavior of mesh subdivision that they get in software renderers. Mari’s user preference files are now saved with the application version embedded in the file names —meaning artists can work between different versions of Mari without the danger of corrupting their UI or preferences. Many preferences have had their groups, labels and tooltips modified to be easier to understand. All third-party libraries have been upgraded to match those specified by the VFX Reference Platform 2017.
Mari 4.0 is available now.


Review: Red Giant Trapcode Suite 14

By Brady Betzel

Every year we get multiple updates to Red Giant’s Adobe After Effects plug-in behemoth, Trapcode Suite. The 14th update to the Trapcode suite is small but powerful and brings significant updates to Version 3 of Trapcode as well as Form (Trapcode Form 3 is a particle system generator much like Particular, but instead of the particles living and dying they stay alive forever as grids, 3D objects and other organic shapes). If you have the Trapcode Suite from a previous purchase the update will cost $199, and if you are new the suite costs $999, or $499 with an academic discount.

Particular 3 UI

There are three updates to the Suite that warrant the $199 upgrade fee: Trapcode 3, Form 3 and Tao 1.2 update. However, you still get the rest of the products with the Trapcode Suite 14: Mir 2.1, Shine 2.0, Lux 1.4, 3D Stroke 2.6, Echospace 1.1, Starglow 1.7, Sound Keys 1.1 and Horizon 1.1

First up is the Tao 1.2 update. Trapcode Tao allows you to create 3D geometric patterns along a path in After Effects. If you do a quick YouTube search of Tao you will find some amazing examples of what it can do. In the Tao 1.2 update Red Giant has added a Depth-of-Field tool to create realistic bokeh effects on your Tao objects. It’s a simple but insanely powerful update that really gives your Tao creations a sense of realism and beauty. To enable the new Depth-of-Field, wander over to the Rendering twirl-down menu under Tao and either select “off” or “Camera Settings.” It’s pretty simple. From there it is up to your After Effects camera skills and Tao artistry.

Trapcode Particular 3
Trapcode Particular is one of Red Giant’s flagship plugins and it’s easy to see why. Particular allows you to create complex particle animations within After Effects. From fire to smoke to star trails, it can pretty much do whatever your mind can come up with, and Version 3 has some powerful updates, including the overhauled Trapcode Particular Designer.

The updated designer window is very reminiscent of the Magic Bullet Designer window, easy and natural to use. Here you design your particle system, including the look, speed and overall lifespan of your system. While you can also adjust all of these parameters in the Effects Window dialog, the Designer gives an immediate visual representation of your particle systems that you can drag around and see how it interacts with movement. In addition you can see any presets that you want to use or create.

Particular 3

In Particular 3, you can now use OBJ objects as emitters. An OBJ is essentially a 3D object. You can use the OBJ’s faces, vertices, edges, and the volume inside the object to create your particle system.

The largest and most important update to the entire Trapcode Suite 14 is found within Particular 3, and it is the ability to add up to eight particle systems per instance of Particular. What does that mean? Well, your particle systems will now interact in a way that you can add details such as dust or a bright core that can carry over properties from other particle systems in the same same instance, adding the ability to create way more intricate systems than before.

Personally, the newly updated Designer is what allows me to dial in these details easily without trying to twirl down tons of menus in the Effect Editor window. A specific use of this is that you want to duplicate your system and inherit the properties, but change the blend mode and/or colors, simply you click the drop down arrow under system and click “duplicate.” Another great update within the multiple particle system update is the ability to create and load “multi-system” presets quickly and easily.

Now, with all of these particle systems mashed together you probably are wondering, “How in the world will my system be able to handle all of these when it’s hard to even playback a system in the older Trapcode Suite?” Well, lucky for us Trapcode Particular 3 is now OpenGL — GPU-accelerated and allowing for sometimes 4x speed increases. To access these options in the Designer window, click the cogwheel on the lower edge of the window towards the middle. You will find the option to render using the CPU or the GPU. There are some limitations to the GPU acceleration. For instance, when using mixed blend modes you might not be able to use certain GPU acceleration types — it will not reflect the proper blend mode that you selected. Another limitation can be with Sprites that are QuickTime movies; you may have to use the CPU mode.

Last but not least, Particular 3’s AUX system (a particle system within the main particle system) has been re-designed. You can now choose custom Sprites as well as keyframe many parameters that could not be keyframed before.

Form 3 UI

Trapcode Form 3
For clarification, Trapcode Particular can create particle emitters that emit particles that have a life, so basically they are born and they die. Trapcode Form is a particle system that does not have a life — it is not born and it does not die. Some practical examples can be a ribbon like background or a starfield. These particle systems can be made from 3D models and even be dynamically driven by an audio track. And much like Particular’s updated Designer, Form 3 has an updated designer that will help you build you particle array quickly and easily. Once done inside the Designer you can hop out and adjust parameters in the Effects Panel. If you want to use pre-built objects or images as your particles you can load those as Sprites or Textured Polygons and animate their movement.

Another really handy update in Trapcode Form 3 is the addition of the Graphing System. This allows you to animate controls like color, size, opacity and dispersion over time.

Just like Particular, Form reacts to After Effect’s cameras and lights, completely immersing them into any scene that you’ve built. For someone like me, who loves After Effects and the beauty of creations from Form and Particular but who doesn’t necessarily have the time to create from scratch, there is a library of over 70 pre-built elements. Finally, Form has added a new rendering option called Shadowlet rendering which adds light falloff to your particle grid or array.

Form 3

Summing Up
In the end, the Trapcode Suite 14 has significantly updated Trapcode Particular 3 with multiple particle systems, Trapcode Form 3 with a beautiful new Designer, and Trapcode Tao with Depth-of-Field, all for an upgrade price of $199. Some Trapcode Particular users have been asking for the ability to build and manipulate multiple particle systems together, and Red Giant has answered their wishes.

If you’ve never used the Trapcode Suite you should also check out the rest of the mega-bundle which includes apps like Shine, 3D Stroke, Starglow, MIr, Lux, Sound Keys, Horizon and Echospace here. And if you want to get more in-depth rundowns of each of these programs check out Harry Frank’s (@graymachine) and Chad Perkin’s tutorials on the Red Giant News website. Then immediately follow @trapcode_lab and @RedGiantNews on Twitter.

If you want to find out more about the other tools in the Trapcode Suite check out my previous two-part review of Suite 13 here on postPerspective: https://postperspective.com/review-red-giants-trapcode-suite-13-part-1 and https://postperspective.com/review-red-giant-trapcode-suite-13-part-2.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.


Behind the Title: Undefined Creative founder/CD Maria Rapetskaya

NAME: Maria Rapetskaya

COMPANY: Undefined Creative

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Undefined Creative is a Brooklyn-based media production agency specializing in motion graphics.

Our portfolio spans television, digital marketing, social media and live events, making us the perfect studio for big brands, agencies and networks looking to establish holistic creative partnerships. We deliver premium-grade motion media, at fair and transparent prices, on time, on budget, on the mark and with a personal touch.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Founder/Creative Director

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
There are two sides to my job: the entrepreneur and the creative. The “entrepreneur” is the founder part, and that makes me responsible for nearly everything, even if only in a supervising or approval role.

I am responsible for the majority of business development. I set the company vision and work on the strategy to get there. I work in tandem with my executive producer on marketing. I oversee finances and operations, and do a good deal of maintaining client relationships.

The “creative” part of my job is being the creative director of a boutique. This encompasses setting the aesthetic direction of the studio in general and each project in particular. Communication with clients about all aspects of a project, and guiding the creative along the production process and — since we are a boutique — a good deal of hands-on production. I love that last part, since I never wanted to get away entirely from actually DOING what I love.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Being both an entrepreneur and a creative director is primarily about managing people. I have to manage our clients by setting realistic expectations without creating negative sentiments, or guiding them effectively through the process so that they understand and appreciate the creative decisions and directions we’re taking.

I also have to manage my team, making sure that everyone understands, for example, that there are objective and subjective comments when it comes to my critiques. The objective comments are not a judgment on anyone’s aesthetic, but a way to develop the best solution for the problem at hand. If I fail to do any of these, all I wind up with is miserable clients and miserable co-workers. So, in essence, the success of this studio depends in a large part on my ability to communicate accurately, efficiently, courteously and emphatically.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Getting unsolicited happy feedback from our clients. We’ve gotten such amazing notes following project delivery. It’s part of our company mission to never forget that our clients are people, so knowing that we made them look good, that their experience of working with us was enjoyable… that they’re less stressed out because they know we’ll take good care of them. All these things really inspire and encourage all of us here.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Experiencing a project I was really excited about become drudgery. It happens and it happens everywhere, to all creatives. There’s usually a combination of factors that contribute to this, like deadlines getting pushed up suddenly and significantly, or a lot of voices in the approval process pulling in completely different directions that are incompatible. I’ve learned over the course of my career to keep a healthy distance from my work, and that helps me manage my reactions, stay focused and motivated. But I’m still human, and even if I don’t get bummed, it’s hard to see the occasional disappointment in the team when this kind of stuff happens.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Whatever I can squeeze in before 9am. Zero distractions, plenty of caffeine.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d do something that combines people, travel, teaching/mentoring and health/wellness.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was always into, and good at, art. So once I recognized that the only high school classes I was super-excited about were my art classes, I knew I could do this for a living. I come from a creative family of people who love to work for themselves, so even starting a company of my own wasn’t a big surprise. However, with respect to the specific discipline I chose being animation and motion graphics that was pretty random. I picked animation as a college major by default, on the advice and encouragement of an older friend who was graduating from the animation department when I was a freshman. And I didn’t discover motion graphics until about a year after I graduated.

The NHL Awards

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
This summer, we branded the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas, creating all of the live-event animations for multiple screens on the show stage. We re-branded the Maury Show for the seventh time, creating new graphics packages for on-air, marketing and social media. We did a couple of cool broadcast promo spots for A&E. We worked on an animation for the US Navy and Men’s Health that described some fun facts about sailors (did you know the fitness test includes two minutes of pushups?)

Most recently, we created a graphics package for the United Nations Equator Prize to play on stage during their 2017 Awards Ceremony.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I don’t think it’s an individual project, but rather our commitment to doing work pro bono for social causes. We’ve created 10-plus (I am actually losing track of how many) awareness videos since 2010, as well as a number of other projects for organizations and missions we care about.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone, although I am now very conscious of when and how much I’m on it. My analog alarm clock that ensures my iPhone can stay out of the bedroom. My MacBook Air, which lets me get away from my desk even if I’m still working.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
None, if I can help it. I don’t have much love for social media, and if not for needing it to run a business, I would gladly disconnect all together. I do appreciate LinkedIn as a business community, but I try to not get sucked in.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Funny you ask. In my twenties, I listened to music while working… loudly and all day long. Now, I just love silence when I work. Helps me focus.

THIS IS A HIGH STRESS JOB WITH DEADLINES AND CLIENT EXPECTATIONS. WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’ve been a professional creative for nearly 20 years, and coming up with fresh ideas on demand and all the time isn’t easy. Neither is running a company, which is a Ferris wheel ride of gaining clients, losing clients, getting jobs, not getting jobs. People depend on me to pay their bills. My job can be either exhilarating or exhausting, and which it will be depends on my ability to stay creative, productive and encouraged.

If I don’t take care of my mind and body properly, consistently and thoroughly, I’ll burn out. So I take control of my time. I don’t work after hours unless it’s actually necessary. I meditate every day. I try to get a workout in daily. I disconnect whenever I can. I stay off my smartphone when possible. I don’t have a TV — in fact, I rarely watch anything once I’m done working. Staring at a screen all day for work makes it far less enticing to stare at one for leisure. I love what I do, but I take time off to travel whenever I can, and I never guilt myself for wanting a life outside of work


Red Giant Universe 2.2 gets 11 new transitions, supports Media Composer

Red Giant is now offering Universe 2.2, which features 11 new transition tools — 76 transitions and effects in total — for editors and motion graphics artists. In addition to brand new transitions, Red Giant has made updates to two existing plugins and added support for Avid Media Composer. The Universe toolset, and more, can be seen in action in the brand new short film Hewlogram, written and directed by Red Giant’s Aharon Rabinowitz, and starring David Hewlett from the Stargate: Atlantis series.

The latest update to Red Giant’s collection of GPU-accelerated plugins, Universe 2.2’s transitions range from Retrograde, which creates an authentic film strip transition using real scans from 16mm and 8mm film to a Channel Surf transition that creates the effect of changing channels on an old CRT TV.

This release brings the complete set of Universe tools to Avid Media Composer, which means that all 76 Red Giant Universe effects and transitions now run in eight host applications, including: Adobe Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Apple Final Cut Pro X, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and more.

Retrograde

Brand-new transition effects in Red Giant Universe 2.2 include:
• VHS Transition: A transition that mimics the effect that occurs when a VCR has been used to record over pre-existing footage.
• Retrograde Transition: A transition that that uses real scans of 16mm and 8mm film to create an authentic film strip transition.
• Carousel Transition: A transition that mimics advancing to the next slide in an old slide projector.
• Flicker Cut: A transition that rapidly cuts between two clips or a solid color, and which can invert the clips or add fades.
• Camera Shake Transition: A transition that mimics camera shake while it transitions between clips.
• Channel Surf: A transition that mimics the distortion you’d get by changing the channel on a cathode ray tube TV.
• Channel Blur: A transition that blurs each of the RGB channels separately for a unique chromatic effect.
• Linear Wipe: A classic linear wipe with the addition of wipe mirroring, as well as an inner/outer stroke with glow on the wipe border.
• Shape Wipe: A transition that uses an ellipse, rectangle or star shape to move between 2 pieces of footage. Includes control over points, size, stroke and fill.
• Color Mosaic: A Transition that overlays a variety of colors in a mosaic pattern as it transitions between 2 clips.
• Clock Wipe: A classic radial wipe transition with feathering and the option for a dual clock wipe.

Updates to existing effects in Universe 2.2 include:
• VHS: This update includes new VHS noise samples, VHS style text, timecode and function icons (like play, fast-forward, rewind), updated presets, and updated defaults for better results upon application.
• Retrograde: This update includes a small but valuable addition that allows Retrograde to use the original aspect ratio of your footage for the effect.

Existing Universe customers can download the new tools directly by launching Red Giant Link. Universe is available as an annual subscription ($99/year) or as a monthly subscription ($20/month). Red Giant Universe is available in Red Giant’s Volume Program, the flexible and affordable solution for customers who need five or more floating licenses.


Sonnet’s portable eGPU accelerates computer graphics

Sonnet has introduced a Thunderbolt-connected external GPU (eGPU) device called the eGFX Breakaway Puck, which is a portable, high-performance, all-in-one eGPU for Thunderbolt 3 computers. The Puck offers accelerated graphics and provides multi-display connectivity thanks to AMD’s Eyefinity technology. Users employing a Puck will experience boosted GPU acceleration when using professional video apps.

Sonnet is offering two Puck models: the eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 560 and eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 570. Each Puck model is 6 inches wide by 5.1 inches deep by 2 inches tall. Both feature one Thunderbolt 3 port, three DisplayPorts and one HDMI port to support up to four 4K displays in multi-monitor mode.

The Puck connects to a computer with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable and provides up to 45W of power to charge the computer. On the desktop, the Puck has a minimal footprint. With an optional VESA mounting bracket kit, the Puck can be attached to the back of a display or the arm of a multi-monitor stand, leaving a zero footprint on the desktop. The kit also includes a 0.5-meter cable to help reduce cable clutter.

The eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 560 sells for $449., and the eGFX Breakaway Puck Radeon RX 570 costs $599. The optional PuckCuff VESA Mounting Bracket Kit has an MSRP of $59. All models are immediately available.

 


Quick Chat: Creating graphics package for UN’s Equator Prize ceremony

Undefined Creative (UC) was recently commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to produce a fresh package of event graphics for its Equator Prize 2017 Award Ceremony. This project is the latest in a series of motion design-centered work collaborations between the creative studio and the UN, a relationship that began when UC donated their skills to the Equator Prize in 2010.

The Equator Prize recognizes local and indigenous community initiatives from across the planet that are advancing innovative on-the-ground solutions to climate, environment and poverty challenges. Award categories honor achievement and local innovation in the thematic areas of oceans, forests, grasslands and wildlife protection.

For this year’s ceremony, UNDP wanted a complete refresh that gave the on-stage motion graphics a current vibe while incorporating the key icons behind its sustainable development goals (SDGs). Consisting of a “Countdown to Ceremony” screensaver, an opening sequence, 15 winner slates, three category slates and 11 presenter slates, the package had to align visually with a presentation from National Geographic Society, which was part of the evening’s program.

To bring it all together, UC drew from the SDG color palettes and relied on subject matter knowledge of both the UNDP and National Geographic in establishing the ceremony graphics’ overall look and feel. With only still photos available for the Equator Prize winners, UC created motion and depth by strategically intertwining the best shots with moving graphics and strategically selected stock footage. Naturally moving flora and fauna livened up the photography, added visual diversity and contributed creating a unique aesthetic.

We reached out to Undefined Creative’s founder/creative director Maria Rapetskaya to find out more:

How early did you get involved in the project, and was the client open to input?
We got the call a couple of months before the event. The original show had been used multiple times since we created it in 2010, so the client was definitely looking for input on how we could refresh or even rebrand.

Any particular challenges for this one?
For non-commercial organizations, budgets and messaging are equally sensitive topics. We have to be conscious of costs, and also very aware of Do’s and Don’t’s when it comes to assets and use. Our creative discussions took place over several calls, laying out options and ideas at different budget tiers — anything from simply updating the existing package to creating something entirely different. In case of the latter, parameters had to be established right away for how different “different” could be.

For example, it was agreed that we should stick with photography provided by the 2017 award winners. However, our proposal to include stock for flora and fauna was agreed on by all involved. Which SDG icons would be used and how, what partner and UN organizational branding should be featured prominently as design inspiration, how this would integrate with content being produced for UNDP/Equator Prize by Nat Geo… all of these questions had to be addressed before we started any real ideation in order for the creative to stay on brand, on message, on budget and on time.

What tools did you use on the project?
We relied on Adobe CC, in particular, After Effects, which is our staple software. In this particular project, we also relied heavily on stock from multiple vendors. Pond5 have a robust and cost-effective collection of video elements we were seeking.

Why is this project important to you?
The majority of our clients are for-profit commercial entities, and while that’s wonderful, there’s always a different feeling of reward when we have the chance to do something for the good of humanity at large, however minuscule our contribution is. The winners are coming from such different corners of the globe — at times, very remote. They’re incredibly excited to be honored, on stage, in New York City, and we can only imagine what it feels like to see their faces, the faces of their colleagues and friends, the names of their projects, up on this screen in front of a large, live audience. This particular event brings us a lot closer to what we’re creating, on a really empathetic, human level.

Updating the long-running Ford F-150 campaign

Giving a decade-long very successful campaign a bit of a goose presents unique challenges, including maintaining tone and creative continuity while bringing a fresh perspective. To help with the launch of the new 2018 Ford F-150, Big Block director Paul Trillo brought all of his tools to the table, offering an innovative spin to the campaign.

Big Block worked closely with agency GTB, from development to previz, live-action, design, editorial, all the way through color and finish.

Trillo wanted to maintain the tone and voice of the original campaign while adding a distinct technical style and energy. Dynamic camera movement and quick editing helped bring new vitality to the “Built Ford Tough” concept.

Technically challenging camera moves help guide the audience through distinct moments. While previous spots relied largely on motion graphics, Trillo’s used custom camera rigs on real locations.

Typography remained a core of the spots, all underscored by an array of stop-motion, hyperlapse, dolly zooms, drone footage, camera flips, motion control and match frames.

We reached out to Big Block’s Paul and VFX supervisor John Cherniack to find out more…

How early did Big Block get involved in this F-150 campaign?
We worked with Detroit agency GTB starting in May 2017.

How much creative input did you have on the campaign? In terms of both original concept and execution?
Trillo: What was so original about this pitch was that they gave us a blank canvas and VO script to work with, and that’s it. I was building off a campaign that had been running for nearly 10 years and I knew what the creatives were looking for in terms of some sort of kinetic, constantly transitioning energy. However, it was essentially up to me to design each moment of the spot and how we get from A to B to C.

Typically, car commercials can be pretty prescriptive and sensitive to how the car is depicted. This campaign functions a lot differently than your typical car commercial. There was a laundry list of techniques, concepts, tricks and toys I’ve wanted to implement, so we seized the opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at this. Then, by breaking down the script and pairing it with the different tricks I wanted to try out, I sort of formed the piece. It was through the development of the scripts, boards and animatics that certain ideas fell to the wayside and the best rose to the top.

Cherniack: Paul had some great ideas from the very beginning, and the whole team got to help contribute to the brainstorming. We took the best ideas and started to put them all together in a previz to see which ones would stitch together seamlessly.

Paul, Justin Trask (production designer) and I all spent a very long together going through each board and shot, determining which elements we could build, and what we would make in CG. As much as we wanted to build a giant gantry to raise the bar, some elements were cost-prohibitive. This is where we were able to get creative on what we would be able to achieve between practical and CG elements.

How much creative input did you have on set?
Trillo: The only creative decisions we were let to make on set were coming up with creative solutions for logistical challenges. We’d done all the pre-production work, mapping out the camera moves and transitions down to the frame, so the heavy lifting was finished. Of course, you always look to make it better on set and find the right energy in the moment, but that’s all icing.

Cherniack: By the time we started shooting, we had gone through a good amount of planning, and I had a good feeling about everything that Paul was trying to achieve. One area that we both worked together on set was to get the most creative shot, while also maintaining our plans for combining the shots in post.

What challenges did you face?
Trillo: I think I have a sort of addictive personality when it comes to logistical and creative challenges. Before this thing was fully locked in, before we had any storyboards or a single location, I knew what I had written out was going to be super challenging if not impossible. Especially because I wanted to shot as much as we could practically. However, what you write down on a piece of paper and what you animate in a 3D environment doesn’t always align with the physics of the real world. Each shot provided its own unique challenge, whether it’s an art department build or deciding which type of camera rig to use to move the camera in an unusual way. Fortunately, I had a top-notch crew both in camera (DP Dan Mindel) and production design (Justin Trask) that there were always a couple ways to solve each problem.

Cherniack: In order to have all of the measurements, HDRI, set surveys and reference photography, I had to always be on the move, while being close enough should any VFX questions come up. Doing this in 110+ degree heat, in the quarry, during three of the hottest days of the summer was quite a challenge. We also had very little control of lake currents, and had to modify the way we shot the boat scene in Brainiac on the fly. We had a great crew who was able to change directions quickly.

What was your favorite part of working on this campaign? What aspect are you most proud of?
Trillo: It was pretty spectacular to see each of these pieces evolve from chicken scratch into a fully-realized image. There was little creative compromise in that entire process. But I have to say I think I’m proudest of dropping 400lbs of french fries out of a shipping container.

Any major differences between automotive campaigns and ads for other industries?
The main difference is there aren’t any rules here. The only thing you need to keep in mind when doing this campaign is stay true to the F-150’s brand and ethos. As long as you remain true to the spirit, there are no other guidelines to follow in terms of how a car commercial needs to function. What appeals to me about this campaign is it combines a few of my interests of design, technical camera work and a dash of humor.

What tools did you use?
Cherniack: We used the software Maya, 3ds Max, Nuke, Flame, PFTrack for post-production.