Tag Archives: After Effects

Review: Dell’s Precision T5820 workstation

By Brady Betzel

Multimedia creators are looking for faster, more robust computer systems and seeing an increase in computing power among all brands and products. Whether it’s an iMac Pro with a built-in 5K screen or a Windows-based, Nvidia-powered PC workstation, there are many options to consider. Many of today’s content creation apps are operating-system-agnostic, but that’s not necessarily true of hardware — mainly GPUs. So for those looking at purchasing a new system, I am going to run through one of Dell’s Windows-based offerings: the Dell Precision T5820 workstation.

The most important distinction between a “standard” computer system and a workstation is the enterprise-level quality and durability of internal parts. While you might build or order a custom-built system for less money, you will most likely not get the same back-end assurances that “workstations” bring to the party. Workstations aren’t always the fastest, but they are built with zero downtime and hardware/software functionality in mind. So while non-workstations might use high-quality components, like an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti (a phenomenal graphics card), they aren’t necessarily meant to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On the other hand, the Nvidia Quadro series GPUs are enterprise-level graphics cards that are meant to run constantly with low failure rates. This is just one example, but I think you get the point: Workstations run constantly and are warrantied against breakdowns — typically.

Dell Precision T5820
Dell has a long track record of building everyday computer systems that work. Even more impressive are its next-level workstation computers that not only stand up to constant use and abuse but are also certified with independent software vendors (ISVs). ISV is a designation that suggests Dell has not only tested but supports the end-user’s primary software choices. For instance, in the nonlinear editing software space I found out that Dell had tested the Precision T5820 workstation with Adobe Premiere Pro 13.x in Windows 10 and has certified that the AMD Radeon Pro WX 2100 and 3100 GPUs with 18.Q3.1 drivers are approved.

You can see for yourself here. Dell also has driver suggestions from some recent versions of Avid Media Composer, as well as other software packages. That being said, Dell not only tests but will support hardware configurations in the approved software apps.

Beyond the ISV certifications and the included three-year hardware warranty with on-site/in-home service after remote diagnostics, how does the Dell Precision T5820 perform? Well, it’s fast and well-built.

The specs are as follows:
– Intel Xeon W-2155 3.3GHz, 4.5GHz Turbo, 10-core, 13.75MB cache with hyperthreading
– Windows 10 Pro (four cores plus for workstations — this is an additional cost)
– Precision 5820 Tower with 950W chassis
– Nvidia Quadro P4000, 8GB, four DisplayPorts (5820T)
– 64GB (8x8GB) 2666MHz DDR and four RDIMM ECC
– Intel vPro technology enabled
– Dell Ultra-Speed Drive Duo PCIe SSD x8 Card, 1 M.2 512GB PCIe NVMe class 50 Solid State Drive (boot drive)
– 3.5-inch 2TB 7200rpm SATA hard drive (secondary drive)
– Wireless keyboard and mouse
– 1Gb network interface card
– USB 3.1 G2 PCIe card (two Type C ports, one DisplayPort)
– Three years hardware warranty with onsite/in-home service after remote diagnosis

All of this costs around $5,200 without tax or shipping and not including any sale prices.

The Dell Precision T5820 is the mid-level workstation offering from Dell that finds the balance between affordability, performance and reliability — kind of the “better, Cheaper, faster” concept. It is one of the quietest Dell workstations I have tested. Besides the spinning hard drive that was included on the model I was sent, there aren’t many loud cards or fans that distract me when I turn on the system. Dell is touting the new multichannel thermal design for advanced cooling and acoustics.

The actual 5820 case is about the size of a mid-sized tower system but feels much slimmer. I even cracked open the case to tinker around with the internal components. The inside fans and multichannel cooling are sturdy and even a little hard to remove without some force — not necessarily a bad thing. You can tell that Dell made it so that when something fails, it is a relatively simple replacement. The insides are very modular. The front of the 5820 has an optical drive, some USB ports (including two USB-C ports) and an audio port. If you get fancy, you can order the systems with what Dell calls “Flex Bays” in the front. You can potentially add up to six 2.5-inch or five 3.5-inch drives and front-accessible storage of up to four M.2 or U.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs. The best part about the front Flex Bays is that, if you choose to use M.2 or U.2 media, they are hot-swappable. This is great for editing projects that you want to archive to an M.2 or save to your Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve cache and remove later.

In the back of the workstation, you get audio in/out, one serial port, PS/2, Ethernet and six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A ports. This particular system was outfitted with an optional USB 3.1 Gen 2 10GB/s Type C card with one DisplayPort passthrough. This is used for the Dell UltraSharp 32-inch 4K (UHD) USB-C monitor that I received along with the T5820.

The large Dell UltraSharp 32-inch monitor (U3219Q) offers a slim footprint and a USB-C connection that is very intriguing, but they aren’t giving them away. They cost $879.99 if ordered through Dell.com. With the ultra-minimal Infinity Edge bezel, 400 nits of brightness for HDR content, up to UHD (3840×2160) resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and multiple input/output connections, you can see all of your work in one large IPS panel. For those of you who want to run two computers off one monitor, this Dell UltraSharp has a built-in KVM switch function. Anyone with a MacBook Pro featuring USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports can in theory use one USB-C cable to connect and charge. I say “in theory” only because I don’t have a new MacBook Pro to test it on. But for PCs, you can still use the USB-C as a hub.

The monitor comes equipped with a DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI, four USB 3.0 Type A ports and a USB-C port. Because I use my workstation mainly for video and photo editing, I am always concerned with proper calibration. The U3219Q is purported by Dell to be 99% Adobe sRGB-, 95% DCI-P3- and 99% Rec. 709-accurate, so if you are using Resolve and outputting through a DeckLink, you will be able to get some decent accuracy and even use it for HDR. Over the years, I have really fallen in love with Dell monitors. They don’t break the bank, and they deliver crisp and accurate images, so there is a lot to love. Check out more of this monitor here.

Performance
Working in media creation I jump around between a bunch of apps and plugins, from Media Composer to Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve and even from Adobe After Effects to Maxon’s Cinema 4D. So I need a system that can not only handle CPU-focused apps like After Effects but GPU-weighted apps like Resolve. With the Intel Xeon and Nvidia Quadro components, this system should work just fine. I ran some tests in Premiere Pro, After Effects and Resolve. In fact, I used Puget Systems’ benchmarking tool with Premiere and After Effects projects. You can find one for Premiere here. In addition, I used the classic 3D benchmark Cinebench R20 from Maxon, and even did some of my own benchmarks.

In Premiere, I was able to play 4K H.264 (50MB and 100MB 10-bit) and ProRes files (HQ and 4444) in realtime at full resolution. Red Raw 4K was able to playback in full-quality debayer. But as the Puget Systems’ Premiere Benchmark shows, 8K (as well as heavily effected clips) started to bog the system down. With 4K, the addition of Lumetri color correction slowed down playback and export a little bit — just a few frames under realtime. It was close though. At half quality I was essentially playing in realtime. According to the Puget Systems’ Benchmark, the overall CPU score was much higher than the GPU score. Adobe uses a lot of single core processing. While certain effects, like resizes and blurs, will open up the GPU pipes, I saw the CPU (single-core) kicking in here.

In the Premiere Pro tests, the T5820 really shined bright when working with mezzanine codec-based media like ProRes (HQ and 4444) and even in Red 4K raw media. The T5820 seemed to slow down when multiple layers of effects, such as color correction and blurs, were added on top of each other.

In After Effects, I again used Puget Systems’ benchmark — this time the After Effects-specific version. Overall, the After Effects scoring was a B or B-, which isn’t terrible considering it was up against the prosumer powerhouse Nvidia RTX 2080. (Puget Systems used the 2080 as the 100% score). It seemed the tracking on the Dell T5820 was a 90%, while Render and Preview scores were around 80%. While this is just what it says — a benchmark — it’s a great way to see comparisons between machines like the benchmark standard Intel i9, RTX 2080 GPU, 64GB of memory and much more.

In Resolve 16 Beta 7, I ran multiple tests on the same 4K (UHD), 29.97fps Red Raw media that Puget Systems used in its benchmarks. I created four 10-minute sequences:
Sequence 1: no effects or LUTs
Sequence 2: three layers of Resolve OpenFX Gaussian blurs on adjustment layers in the Edit tab
Sequence 3: five serial nodes of Blur Radius (at 1.0) created in the Color tab
Sequence 4: in the Color tab, spatial noise reduction was set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero (it starts at 0.5).

Sequence 1, without any effects, would play at full debayer quality in real time and export at a few frames above real time, averaging about 33fps. Sequence 2, with Resolve’s OpenFX Gaussian blur applied three times to the entire frame via adjustment layers in the Edit tab, would play back in real time and export at between 21.5fps and 22.5fps. Sequence 3, with five serial nodes of blur radius set at 1.0 in the Blur tab in the Color tab, would play realtime and export at about 23fps. Once I added a sixth serial blur node, the system would no longer lock onto realtime playback. Sequence 4 — with spatial noise reduction set at 25 radius to medium, blur set to 1.0 and sharpening in the Blur tab set to zero in the Color tab — would play back at 1fps to 2fps and export at 6.5fps.

All of these exports were QuickTime-based H.264s exported using the Nvidia encoder (the native encoder would slow it down by 10 frames or so). The settings were UHD resolution; “automatic — best” quality; disabled frame reordering; force sizing to highest quality; force debayer to highest quality and no audio. Once I stacked two layers of raw Red 4K media, I started to drop below realtime playback, even without color correction or effects. I even tried to play back some 8K media, and I would get about 14fps on full-res. Premium debayer, 14 to 16 on half res. Premium 25 on half res. good, and 29.97fps (realtime) on quarter res. good.

Using the recently upgraded Maxon Cinebench R20 benchmark, I found the workstation to be performing adequately around the fourth-place spot. Keep in mind, there are thousands of combinations of results that can be had depending on CPU, GPU, memory and more. These are only sample results that you could verify against your own for 3D artists. The Cinebench R20 results were CPU: 4682, CPU (single-core): 436, and MP ratio: 10.73x. If you Google or check out some threads for Cinebench R20 result comparisons, you will eventually find some results to compare mine against. My results are a B to B+. A much higher-end Intel Xeon or i9 or an AMD Threadripper processor would really punch this system up a weight class.

Summing Up
The Dell Precision T5820 workstation comes with a lot of enterprise-level benefits that simply don’t come with your average consumer system. The components are meant to be run constantly, and Dell has tested its systems against current industry applications using the hardware in these systems to identify the best optimizations and driver packages with these ISVs. Should anything fail, Dell’s three-year warranty (which can be upgraded) will get you up and running fast. Before taxes and shipping, the Dell T5820 I was sent for review would retail for just under $5,200 (maybe even a little more with the DVD drive, recovery USB drive, keyboard and mouse). This is definitely not the system to look at if you are a DIYer or an everyday user who does not need to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But in a corporate environment, where time is money and no one wants to be searching for answers, the Dell T5820 workstation with accompanying three-year ProSupport with next-day on-site service will be worth the $5,200. Furthermore, it’s invaluable that optimization with applications such as the Adobe Creative Suite is built-in, and Dell’s ProSupport team has direct experience working in those professional apps.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

 

Adobe’s new Content-Aware fill in AE is magic, plus other CC updates

By Brady Betzel

NAB is just under a week away, and we are here to share some of Adobe’s latest Creative Cloud offerings. And there are a few updates worth mentioning, such as a freeform project panel in Premiere Pro, AI-driven Auto Ducking for Ambience for Audition and addition of a Twitch extension for Character Animator. But, in my opinion, the Adobe After Effects updates are what this year’s release will be remembered by.


Content Aware: Here is the before and after. Our main image is the mask.

There is a new expression editor in After Effects, so us old pseudo-website designers can now feel at home with highlighting, line numbers and more. There are also performance improvements, such as faster project loading times and new deBayering support for Metal on macOS. But the first prize ribbon goes to the Content-Aware fill for video powered by Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI technology. It’s one of those voodoo features that when you use it, you will be blown away. If you have ever used Mocha Pro by BorisFX then you have had a similar tool known as the “Object Removal” tool. Essentially, you draw around the object you want to remove, such as a camera shadow or boom mic, hit the magic button and your object will be removed with a new background in its place. This will save users hours of manual work.

Freeform Project panel in Premiere.

Here are some details on other new features:

● Freeform Project panel in Premiere Pro— Arrange assets visually and save layouts for shot selects, production tasks, brainstorming story ideas, and assembly edits.
● Rulers and Guides—Work with familiar Adobe design tools inside Premiere Pro, making it easier to align titling, animate effects, and ensure consistency across deliverables.
● Punch and Roll in Audition—The new feature provides efficient production workflows in both Waveform and Multitrack for longform recording, including voiceover and audiobook creators.
● Surprise viewers in Twitch Live-Streaming Triggers with Character Animator Extension—Livestream performances are enhanced where audiences engage with characters in real-time with on-the-fly costume changes, impromptu dance moves, and signature gestures and poses—a new way to interact and even monetize using Bits to trigger actions.
● Auto Ducking for ambient sound in Audition and Premiere Pro — Also powered by Adobe Sensei, Auto Ducking now allows for dynamic adjustments to ambient sounds against spoken dialog. Keyframed adjustments can be manually fine-tuned to retain creative control over a mix.
● Adobe Stock now offers 10 million professional-quality, curated, royalty-free HD and 4K video footage and Motion Graphics templates from leading agencies and independent editors to use for editorial content, establishing shots or filling gaps in a project.
● Premiere Rush, introduced late last year, offers a mobile-to-desktop workflow integrated with Premiere Pro for on-the-go editing and video assembly. Built-in camera functionality in Premiere Rush helps you take pro-quality video on your mobile devices.

The new features for Adobe Creative Cloud are now available with the latest version of Creative Cloud.

Review: Yanobox Nodes 3 — plugins for Premiere, AE, FCPX, Motion

By Brady Betzel

Did you ever see a plugin preview and immediately think, “I need to have that?” Well, Nodes 3 by Yanobox is that plugin for me. Imagine if Video CoPilot’s Element 3D and Red Giant’s Trapcode and Form had a baby — you would probably end up with something like Nodes 3.

Nodes 3 is a MacOS-only plugin for Adobe’s After Effects and Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Motion. I know what you are thinking: Why isn’t this made for Windows? Good question, but I don’t think it will ever be ported over.

Final Cut Pro

What is it? Nodes 3 is a particle, text, .obj and point cloud replicator, as well as overall mind-blower. With just one click in their preset library you can create stunning fantasy user interfaces (FUIs), such as HUDs or the like. From Transformer-like HUDs to visual data representations interconnected with text and bar graphs, Nodes 3 needs to be seen to be believed. Ok, enough gloating and fluff, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

A Closer Look
Nodes 3 features a new replicator, animation module and preset browser. The replicator allows you to not only create your HUD or data representation, but also replicates it onto other 2D and 3D primitive shapes (like circles or rectangles) and animates those replications individually or as a group. One thing I really love is the ability to randomize node and/or line values — Yanobox labels this “Probabilities.” You can immediately throw multiple variations of your work together with a few mouse-clicks instead of lines of scripting.

As I mentioned earlier, Nodes 3 is essentially a mix of Element 3D and Trapcode — it’s part replicator/part particle generator and it works easily with After Effect’s 3D cameras (obviously if you are working inside of After Effects) to affect rotations, scale and orientation. The result is a particle replication that feels organic and fresh instead of static and stale. The Auto-Animations offering allows you to quickly animate up to four parts of a structure you’ve built, with 40 parameter choices under each of the four slots. You can animate the clockwise rotation of an ellipse with a point on it, while also rotating the entire structure in toward the z-axis.

Replicator

The newly updated preset browser allows you to save a composition as a preset and open it from within any other compatible host. This allows you to make something with Nodes 3 inside of After Effects and then work with it inside of Final Cut Pro X. That can be super handy and help streamline VFX work. From importing an .obj file to real video, you can generate point clouds from unlimited objects and literally explode them into hundreds of interconnecting points and lines, all animated randomly. It’s amazing.

If you are seeing this and thinking about using Nodes for data representation, that is one of the more beautiful functions of this plugin. First, check out how to turn seemingly boring bar graphs into mesmerizing creations.

For me Nodes really began to click when they described how each node is defined by an index number. Meaning, each node has even and odd numbers assigned to them, allowing for some computer-science geeky-ness, like skipping even or odd rows and adding animated oscillations for some really engrossing graph work.

When I reviewed Nodes 2 back in 2014, what really gave me a “wow” moment was when they showed a map of the United States along with text for each state and its capital. From there you could animate an After Effect’s 3D camera to reproduce a fly-over but with this futuristic HUD/FUI.

Adobe Premiere

On a motion graphics primal level, this really changed and evolved my way of thinking. Not only did United States graphics not have to be plain maps with animated dotted lines, they could be reimagined with sine-wave-based animations or even gently oscillating data points. Nodes 3 really can turn boring into mesmerizing quickly. The only limiting factor is your mind and some motion graphic design creativity.

To get a relatively quick look into the new replicator options inside of Nodes 3, go to FxFactory Plugins’ YouTube page for great tutorials and demos.

If you get even a tiny bit excited when seeing work from HUD masters like Jayse Hansen or plugins like Element 3D, run over to fxfactory.com and download their plugin app to use Yanobox Nodes 3. You can even get a fully working trial to just test out some of their amazing presets. And if you like what you see, you should definitely hand them $299 for the Nodes 3 plugin.

One slight negative for me — I’m not a huge fan of the FxFactory installer. Not because it messes anything up, but because I have to download a plugin loader for the plugin — double download and potential bloating. Not that I see any slowdown on my system, but it would be nice if I could just download Nodes 3 and nothing else. That is small potatoes though; Nodes 3 is really an interesting and unbridled way to visualize 2D and 3D data quickly.

Oh, and if you are curious, Yanobox has been used on big-name projects from The Avengers to Rise of the Planet of the Apes — HUDs, FUIs and GUIs have been created using Yanobox Nodes.


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: 3D artist Trevor Kerr

NAME: Trevor Kerr (@kerrmotion)

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I am a freelance 3D Generalist.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Most often a generalist like myself will tackle anything from layout to composite and everything in between. Lately, I’ve been focusing on environments and effects to ultimately specialize in one or the other.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I think that it can be surprising how much one person can tackle on their own. I’ve finished some fairly intricate shots for a single artist pipeline.
My latest Star Wars short film was made almost completely by myself in under two months. Of course, working with a team has incredible multidisciplinary benefits as well.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN VFX?
I’ve been in 3D since 2012, and started pursuing visual effects in late 2014.

HOW HAS THE VFX/GRAPHICS INDUSTRY CHANGED IN THE TIME YOU’VE BEEN WORKING? 
One difference of note in day-to-day life, in my short experience is the arrival of the IPR for many render solutions. I think learning 3D without an IPR forces you to think about efficiency which is, in many ways, a good thing. Instant feedback and progressive rendering is a massive time-saver, but I’m curious to see what long-term effects it has on the communal rendering psyche.

DID A PARTICULAR FILM INSPIRE YOU ALONG THIS PATH IN ENTERTAINMENT?
As a child I was most certainly inspired and motivated by Star Wars and Jurassic Park. I was very interested in figuring out how to take the audience on a journey in the same way that these films did.

DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL FOR VFX/GRAPHICS?
I went to school for music and art history, but I ended up taking a job for a studio before I finished my bachelors. My drive to work in entertainment and film always motivated my personal learning and continues to do so every day!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is seeing everything come together. I have a massive appreciation for each step of the process — from concepting and layout to assembly and composite. Seeing the final frames in motion is always a thrill.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I think it’s hard to really nail down a least favorite, per se, because of how double-sided so many aspects of this industry are. A good example of this would be at the start of a job — what looks like an impossible task staring you in the face also doubles as extreme excitement and motivation to get started. To me, the subject is too nuanced to simply say, “This part is no good.”

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
This is a fantastic question, because I really cannot see myself doing anything else. I dabbled in audio engineering for a little while, so maybe something along the way of sound design — but is that so dissimilar from what I do now? It would certainly be something film-related, I’m sure.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Well, I currently have the pleasure of working on a project for League of Legends. I was also recently at Siggraph presenting for both Maxon and Autodesk on my recent Star Wars personal project. Prior to that was a piece for Disney’s Jungle Book and presenting for Maxon at NAB.

possible-mainWHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Well, from an overall execution standpoint, I think I’m most proud of my recent Star Wars personal project. The timeline was a little under two months — so for the timeline I think it is my best work. The layout, shaders and composite could use much more work — but I’m still happy to have learned everything I did along the way.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE DAY TO DAY?
I mostly use Cinema 4D and Houdini for 3D work. My preferred render suite is primarily Arnold, but am also versed in Octane. Compositing is typically handled in Nuke or After Effects. Lately, I’ve been learning Clarisse, as well as specializing further in Houdini.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I hate to pull out some super-cliché answers here, but my girlfriend, my three year old, and love for feature films and the technology we’ve created over the past century to make them. I feel very strongly about good production design and story, especially when it comes to environments.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Well, I try to spend all of my time as efficiently as possible — but every now and then you just have to just do nothing and unwind. I find that going back to the source of my inspiration can help remind me why I got into the work I do when things get hard. Sitting down in my living room and taking in a favorite film of mine will often put me at ease.

Review: Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13, Part 2

By Brady Betzel

In my recent Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13 for After Effects review, Part 1, I touched on updates to Particular, Shine, Lux and Starglow. In this installment, I am going to blaze through the remaining seven plug-ins that make up the Trapcode Suite. Those include Form, Mir, Tao, 3D Stroke, Echospace, Sound Keys and Horizon. While Particular is the most well-known plug-in in the Suite, the following seven all are incredibly useful and can help make you money.

Form 2.1
Trapcode Form 2.1 is best described as a particle system, much like Particular, but with particles that live forever and are used in forms like cubes. If you’ve used Element 3D by Video CoPilot you probably know that you can load objects from Maxon Cinema 4D into your Adobe After Effects projects pretty easily and, for all intents and purposes, quickly. Form allows you to load these 3D OBJ files and alter them inside of After Effects.

When you load the OBJ file, Form applies particles at each vertices point. The more vertices you have in your 3D object, the more detail you will have in your Form. It is really a cool way to create a techy kind of look for a HUD (heads up display) or sweet motion graphics piece that needs that futuristic pointillism type look. The original function of Form was to create particle grids that could be exploded or tightly wound and that would live on forever, as opposed to Particular, which creates particle systems with a birth and a death.

Form

Form 2.1

A simple way to think of how Form works is to imagine the ability to take simple text and transform it into “particles” to create a sandy explosion or turn everyday objects into particles that live forever. From Grids to Strings and Spheres to Sprites, with enough practice you can create some of the most stunning backgrounds or motion graphics wizardry inside of Trapcode Form, all of which is affected by After Effect lights and cameras in 3D space.

I was really surprised at how powerful and smooth Trapcode Form can run. I am running a tablet with an Intel i7 processor and I was able to get very reasonable performance, even with my camera depth-of-field turned on.

Mir 2.0
Trapcode Mir is an extremely useful plug-in for those wanting to create futuristic terrains or modern triangulated environments with tunnels and valleys. Mir is versatile and can go from creating smooth ocean floors to spiky mountain tops to extreme wireframe structures. Some of the newest updates in Mir 2.0 are the ability to add a spiral to the Mir landscape mesh you create (think galaxy); seamless looping under the fractal menu; ability to choose between triangles and quads for your surfaces; the really cool ability to add a second pass wireframe on top of your surface for that futuristic grid look; texture sampling from smooth gradients to solid colors; control of the maximums and minimums under z-range (basically allows for easier peaks and valleys); multi-, smoothridge, multi-smoothridge and regular fractals for differing displacements on your textures; and improved VRAM management for speedy processing.

Mir 2

Mir 2.0

These days GIFs are all the rage, so I am really impressed with the seamless loop option. It might seem ridiculous but if you’ve seen what is popular on social media you will know it’s emojis and GIFs. If you want to prep your seamless loop, check out this quick video from Trapcode creator Peder Norrby (@trapcode_lab).

Simply, you create beginning and end keyframes, find the seamless loop options under the Fractal category, step back one frame from your end loop point, mark your end-of-work area, go to the loop point (which should be one frame past where you marked the end to your work area) and click Set End Keyframe. From there Trapcode Mir will fill in the rest of the details and create your seamless loop ready to be exported as a GIF and blasted on Twitter. It’s really that easy.

If you are looking for an animated GIF export setting, try exporting through Adobe Media Encoder and searching “GIF” in the presets. You will find an “Animated GIF” preset, which I resized to something more appropriate like 1280×720 but that still came out at 49MB — way over the 5MB Twitter upload limit. I tried a few times, first with 50% quality at 640×360, which got me to 13.7MB. I even changed the quality down to 5% in Media Encoder, but I kept getting 13.7MB until I brought the size down to 320×180. That got me just under 4MB, which is perfect! If you do a lot of GIF work, an easy way to compress them is to use http://ezgif.com/optimize and to fiddle with their optimization settings to get under 5MB. It’s quick and it all lives online.

As with all Trapcode Suite plug-ins (or anything for that matter), the only way to get good is to experiment and allow yourself to fail or succeed. This holds true for Mir. I was making garbage one minute and with a couple changes I made some motion graphics that made me see the potential of the plug-in and how I could actually make content that people would be blown away with.

3D Stroke

3D Stroke

3D Stroke
One plug-in that isn’t new but will lead into the next one is Trapcode 3D Stroke. 3D Stroke takes the built-in After Effects plug-in Stroke to a new level. Traditional Stroke is an 8-bit plug-in while Trapcode 3D Stroke can run on the color-burning 32-bits-per-channel mode. If you want to add a stroke along a path that interacts with your comp cameras in 3D space, Trapcode 3D Stroke is what you want. From creating masks of your text and applying a sweet 3D Stroke to them to intricate 3D paths that zoom in between objects with a HDR-like glow, 3D Stroke is one of those tools to have in your After Effects tool box.

When using it I really fell in love with the repeater. Much like Element 3D’s particle arrays, the repeater can create multiple instances of your paths or text paths to create some interesting and infinitely adjustable objects.

Tao
Trapcode Tao is new to the Trapcode Suite of plug-ins. Tao gives us the ability to create 3D geometry along a path, and boy did people immediately fall in love with this tool when it was released. You can find tons of examples and tutorials of Tao from experts like VinhSon Nguyen, better known as @CreativeDojo on Twitter. Check out his tutorial on Vimeo, too. Tao is a tricky beast, and one way I learned about it in-depth was to download Peder Norrby’s project files over at http://www.trapcode.com and dissect them as best I could.

Tao

Tao

If you remember Trapcode 3D Stroke from earlier, you know that it allows us to create awesome glows and strokes along paths in 3D space. Trapcode Tao operates in much the same way as 3D Stroke except that it uses particles like Mir to create organic flowing forms in 3D space that interact with After Effects’ cameras and lights.

Trapcode Tao is about as close as you can get to modeling 3D geometry inside of After Effects at realtime speeds with image-based lighting. The only other way to achieve this is with Video CoPilot’s Element 3D or by using Cinema 4D via Cineware, which is sometimes a painstaking process.

Horizon 1.1
Another product that I was surprised by was Trapcode Horizon 1.1. In the age of virtual reality and 360 video you can never have too many ways to make your own worlds to pan cameras around in. With a quick Spherical Map search on Google, I found all the equi-rectangular maps I could handle. Once inside of After Effects, you need to import and resize your map to your comp size, add a new solid and camera, throw Horizon on top of your solid, under Image Map > Layer, choose the layer name containing your spherical image, and BAM! You have a 360-world. You can then add elements like Trapcode Particular, 3D Stroke or Tao and pan and zoom around to make some pretty great opening titles or even make your own B-Roll!

Echospace

Echospace 1.1

Echospace 1.1
Trapcode Echospace 1.1 is a powerful section in the Trapcode Suite 13 plug-in library. It is one of those plug-ins where you watch the tutorials and wonder why people don’t talk about it more. In simple terms, Echospace replicates layers and creates interdependent parenting links to the original layer, allowing you to create complex repeated element animations and layouts. In essence it feels more like a complex script as opposed to a plug-in.

Let’s say you want to create some offset animation of multiple shape layers in three-dimensional space, Echospace is your tool. It’s a little hard to use and if you don’t Shy the replicated layers and nulls, it will be intimidating. When you create the repeated layers, Echospace automatically sets your layers to Shy if you enable Shy layers in your tool bar. A great Harry Frank (@graymachine) tutorial/Red Giant Live episode can be found on the Red Giant website: http://www.redgiant.com/tutorial/red-giant-tv-live-episode-8-motion-graphics-with-trapcode-echospace.

Sound Keys 1.3
The last plug-in in the massive Trapcode Suite v13 library is Sound Keys 1.3. Sound Keys analyzes audio files and can draw keyframes based on their rhythm. One reason I left this until the end of my review is that you can attach any of the parameters from the other Trapcode Suite 13 plug-ins to the outputs of the Sound Keys 1.3 keyframes via a pick whip. If I just lost you by saying pick whip, snap back into it.

If you learn one thing in the After Effects scripting world, it’s that you can attach one parameter to another by alt+clicking (command+clicking) on the stopwatch of the parameter that you want to be driven by another parameter and dragging the curly-looking icon over the other parameter. So in the Sound Keys case, you can attach the scale of an object to the rhythm of a bass drum.

Soundkeys Color Orientation

Sound Keys 1.3

What I really liked about Sound Keys is that it not only can create a dynamically driven piece of motion graphics, but you can also use the audio meters it draws to visualize the audio. You see this a lot in lyric music videos or YouTube videos that are playing music only but still want a touch of visual flare, and with Sound Keys 1.3 you can change the visual representation of the audio including color, quantization (little dots that you see on audio meters) and size.

Easily isolate an audio frequency with the onscreen controls, find the effect you want to drive by the audio, and pick whip your way to dynamic motion graphic. If I was the graphics designer I wish I was, I would take Sound Keys and something like Particular or Tao and create some stunning work. I bet I could even make some money making some lyric videos… one day.

Summing Up
In the end, the Trapcode Suite v13 is an epic and monumental release. The total cost as a package is $999, and while it is a significantly higher cost than After Effects, let me tell you: it has the ability to make you way more money with some time and effort. Even with just an hour or so a day I feel like my Trapcode game would go to the next level.

For those that have the Trapcode Suite and want to upgrade for $199, there are some huge benefits to the v13 update including Trapcode Tao, GPU performance upgrades across the board, and even things like the second pass wireframe for Mir.

If you are a student, you can grab Trapcode Suite 13 for $499 with a little verification legwork. If you are worried about your system working efficiently with the Trapcode Suite you can check the technical requirements here, but I was working on an Intel i7 tablet with 8GB of memory and Intel Iris 6100 graphics processor. I found everything to be very speedy for the limitations I had. Tao was the only plug-in that wouldn’t display correctly, but rightly so, as you can read the GPU requirements here.

If I was you and had a cool $999 burning a hole in my After Effects wallet I would pick up Trapcode Suite 13 immediately.

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.

Releases & Updates: We are in this ecosystem together

By Sean Mullen

Just a few weeks ago, Adobe released a major new upgrade to its Creative Cloud services. While these updates are welcomed by the community with excitement, there’s also a period of — for lack of better words — stressful chaos as the third-party software and plug-in developers scramble to ensure their products will be compatible.

When Adobe speaks, the community listens. When Adobe does something new, they listen even closer, because when they do something new, it’s usually some amazing a leap forward that only makes our lives easier and our work look that much better. The latest updates to Adobe Creative Cloud are no different.

All of us at Rampant Design are big fans, and Adobe CC is big part of what we do every day. It’s no mistake that our Style Effects complement Adobe CC so well. But we also understand — being part of this VFX community — that while change is great, those changes have impact on the software and plug-in developers who make their living enhancing the Adobe CC workflow. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Adobe After Effects CC

Adobe After Effects CC

The Updates
Here are a couple of top-of-mind things that get us excited. We zeroed in on some of the applications and features within CC that impact us most on a daily basis, and those are the features in Premiere Pro and After Effects.

The Iridas acquisition of a couple of years ago is really showing its value, especially with this update. The Lumetri Color panel is amazing!  You’re getting seriously powerful color tools built right into Premiere Pro. That’s pretty significant. Morph Cut is part voodoo and part rocket science — a very cool tool that smoothes out jump cuts and pauses. There are some notable changes to After Effects too. While the AE Comp Scrollbar is now missing, the uninterrupted preview is a fantastic addition. The new Face Tracker is impressive as well.

The Adobe Ecosystem: Plug-Ins
There is most definitely an ecosystem around Adobe, an entire sub-segment of the post production software industry who make tools to enhance the workflow — the plug-in developers.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe Premiere

In any third-party plug-in environment, you have the host developer (in this case Adobe) and the third party plug-in developer  companies like Red Giant, Video Copilot, Genarts, BorisFX, to name a few. While the host developers keep the third parties informed as much as possible, their main focus is on rolling out a solid product release.

So,inevitably, some things slip through the cracks — mainly their ability to interact with the plug-in developers in a timely way — at least from the plug-in developers perspective. As a result, you’ll notice a slew of newsletters and social network posts from these third parties claiming that their products currently do or do not work with the latest release.

I’m sure the weeks up to and following a major release can be a hectic time for developers. Plug-in engineering isn’t free, so there is a small window within that the current build of any given third-party plug-in will work. Major releases come out every year and dot releases happen quite often.

At Rampant, our situation is a little different. We make tools that enhance the CC workflow, but also the plug-ins themselves. Style Effects aren’t alternative to plug-ins, they are complementary. If we were bakers or chefs, Style Effects would be the spices or finishing touches. If we were carpenters, Style Effects would be the varnish. Style Effects work hand in hand with your favorite plug-ins.

Style Effects are QuickTime-based, so as long as you have QuickTime, these effects will work with any Adobe update. In our reality, artists and editors want instant gratification. Very few of us get the time to play. Most producers want to see something yesterday, and this is why the plug-in and Style Effects ecosystems are so critical. Major new host releases will always be challenging — and stressful — but the end product of all of us working together is what helps all of us create amazing content. We’re proud to be a part of it!

Sean Mullen is the founder/president of Rampant Design Tools. He is an award-winning VFX artist, but he’s also the creator of Rampant Style Effects, UHD visual effects and designs. Style Effects are packaged as QuickTime files, enabling artists to drag and drop them to any editing platform.

 

 

Review: Adobe Video CC 2015 Updates

By Brady Betzel

The big update to the Adobe Video collection is here. It features some heavy hitters in terms of offerings. If you really want to see what the fuss is all about, go and update your Adobe apps, read this write up and get to playing…NOW!

One addition to the line-up that I think is very important to the future of the Creative Cloud ecosphere: Libraries. These aren’t FCP X libraries or LightRoom libraries; the new Creative Cloud libraries are basically a way to share common assets between Adobe apps, including their new iOS app Hue CC — I’ll get to that shortly.

A big gap in Adobe Premiere’s data sharing offerings is the ability to rival Avid’s ISIS collaborative working environment, with sequences being worked on concurrently between teams of editors. However, this is one step in that direction, and I hope they will continue to evolve this concept to eventually work in an internally networked environment where teams of two or 50 can work on the same Premiere, After Effects or Speed Grade projects concurrently. While you can share moving media in libraries, it’s just that…a library, not a way to share projects or sequences.

Adobe Hue's Look Library

Adobe Hue’s Look Library

Hue
Something that really got me to bite on this Adobe update was the addition of the iOS app Hue. Simply put, you take a picture with your iPhone or iPad in the Hue app (which is connected to your Adobe Creative Cloud login via the Libraries), and the app interprets the light and colors and creates a swatch. This swatch can then be applied to footage in Premiere, Premiere clip or After Effects. Imagine if you are witnessing a beautiful sunset in Hawaii with great purples, reds and oranges — take a pic in Hue, choose those colors you like and later on, or immediately, apply it to your footage. This is a great way to take advantage of current technology.

Premiere
In the past, Premiere had been thought of as the NLE in the back of the room, usable but never quite at the level of FCP or Avid. Over the past couple of years that view has changed and the tool has not only gained traction, but, in my opinion, has started to pass the competition… in some aspects. These days I use Premiere as the Swiss Army Knife in my post toolbox. It can open practically every video codec and resolution and decipher many XMLs or AAFs from other NLEs, coloring suites and VFX software packages. Oh and it’s an editor too.

The latest update to Premiere Pro has added some awesome preset “workspaces.” At the top is now a menu that gives you the options for different workspaces such as Editing, Effects and Color. These are basic preset workspaces that actually work quite nice. They open common windows that make sense when working in certain modes like color correction. You can delete, create or even modify existing workspaces if you like. While it’s really just a reimagining of preset workspaces, I think it really helps someone to jump right into using Premiere to its fullest abilities without having to fumble around finding where different windows are.

Premiere Pro's Workspace editing

Premiere Pro’s workspace editing

Up next is Premiere’s addition of pseudo-live scopes and consolidated color tools directly inside of Premiere in the new Color workspace. (After reading this breakdown you may ask yourself, “Will SpeedGrade be around much longer?” I’m really not sure if Adobe imagines Premiere to become more of a Resolve or not, but it seems like a logical progression.)

The new color workspace and tools are referred to as the Lumetri Color panel and Lumetri Scopes. In previous versions of Premiere we had scopes, however they wouldn’t play in realtime, which if we are going to be honest really makes color correction difficult. The newly updated Lumetri Scopes update live while playing a video clip or sequence. I did notice some lag when playing a sequence (I tried both a 1080p and a 4K clip with the same results) — it seems to be a few frames. I went one frame at a time down the timeline and even once I stopped, the scopes continued to update.

For this review by the way, I am working on a Lenovo W550s mobile workstation that contains an Intel i7 2.6GHz processor (two cores, four threads), 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro 620M. It’s not a slow computer but it also isn’t an HP z840, so take from that what you will. Software scopes are nice for a quick reference, but if you are doing constant scope referencing (which you probably should be), you may want to take a look at Scope Box or an external hardware scope.

Some things I would love to see in the future would be to have the ability to zoom in on the vectorscopes and reference under “0” in the RGB Parade, as well as have the ability to dock individual scopes into different windows. If I had the luxury of three monitors, and my system could handle it, I would love to have the scopes docked on the third screen. Those are nit-picky wishes I guess, but Premiere is on its road to glory so why not get all the details sorted out.

Before I leave Premiere, under the new color workspace and inside the color panel are the same curve panels and new Hue/Saturation tool, which can be very handy, as well as a basic color correction tab where you can do things like input your LUT or do some basic exposure correction. Adobe has introduced a newly renovated three-way color corrector, and if combined with a nice color panel like the Tangent Element would operate nicely. (I wasn’t able to test this, but keep an eye on this space for an upcoming Tangent Element panel review.) Inside of the Creative tab is where you can load a look or dial in your own creative grade. Overall, this is a phenomenal addition to the already vast toolset of Premiere.

CharacterAnimator_TimelineTracking

Character Animator
There is a game changing app that Adobe is releasing called Character Animator. At the moment it is a separate app that can track your (and your friends’) facial movements and, in realtime, apply them to a puppets’ facial features with little programming knowledge. It really is as simple as that. You can go much deeper but for this review I will just say it’s amazing and you must try it for yourself to really understand what it can do.

You really get the feeling of how powerful this will be in the future. You turn on your webcam and you are controlling a puppet just by talking. I can’t say enough how amazing this is. Really, just download a trial of it already! I got caught up, playing with it for hours. Even my wife, who leaves the nerdy tech stuff to me, was blown away, and it’s really easy to use. Of course, you can dive in deeper and get super complicated if you want to.

After Effects
A huge update to After Effects in this latest release is the ability to preview while adjusting parameters in the timeline. While I couldn’t get it to continue playing while I was adjusting the parameters, once I stopped adjusting it did continue playing. So it’s not like you can adjust a curve while video continues to roll; it will stop for the time you are adjusting and pick up when you stop adjusting. It is still an awesome and needed feature.

AfterEffects_CreativeCloudLibraries AfterEffects_FaceTracker_DetailedTracking

The new Face Tracker is something I find intriguing. I quickly tried to track a face and was able to get the outside of the face — one eye and the mouth — to adequately track, however, one eye didn’t lock on. It was pretty accurate when it worked, but it didn’t always work. You can quickly see how your workflow will speed up if you have a lot of very tight face blurring or eye color changing to do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good track on faces that weren’t facing towards the screen.

Adobe Media Encoder
I wouldn’t be doing my reviewer duties if I didn’t mention a few of the Adobe Media Encoder updates in this latest release. First off, I love Adobe Media Encoder, it’s fast and has pretty much every option I need. In this release Adobe has added Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus support, QuickTime Channelization and rewrap (think one QuickTime with multiple types of audio layouts, eliminating multiple QuickTime deliveries — this sounds awesome to me!), MXF-wrapped JPEG 2000 format and Time Tuner.

Time Tuner is a weird one for me. While in theory it sounds great, I just don’t see it being used in many broadcast workflows. Time Tuner allows the encoding operator to shorten or lengthen a QuickTime based on time or percentage. Often networks require strict total run times when delivering master show files. For instance, if a network requires the total run time of your show to be 42:10 and the final edit is 42:00 for whatever reason (often indecision), what are you supposed to do if you absolutely can’t cut content to meet your total run time? Well Time Tuner is designed to rescue you… that is, if you don’t care where that time is stretched (or shortened) in your QuickTime. It is limited to plus or minus 10 percent of your total run time, so it isn’t completely crazy.

MediaEncoder Dolby Digital_SurfacePro

The issue I have is that 90 percent of the time the act structure of a show is specific, i.e. the act breaks must be :10 or acts must all start or end on zero frames, meaning you can’t arbitrarily add or remove video without destroying the exact start and stop of content. It’s possible you could luck out, but I wouldn’t gamble on that. On a positive note, I have seen shows that have alternate deliverables (often for international delivery) that don’t have strict time requirements, in addition to not having act breaks. In that instance, this could save your butt if you need an additional :30 of content.

Remember that all the program is doing is essentially speeding up or slowing down your content over the course of the entire QuickTime. If you are incrementing or decrementing only a little, then it will probably not be noticeable. However, if you are pushing the 10 percent stage, it might not be acceptable. I tested this on a 19-second and 14-frame QuickTime that I needed to be at an even 20 seconds. The result looked great — I didn’t visibly notice a difference — however the time it took to encode with Time Tuner was expectedly longer, about 1-2 seconds per frame additional. This will add up over an hour-long piece of content.

Summing Up
The latest updates to the Adobe Creative Cloud video apps are really laying the groundwork for some great advances in production and post production technology. The new Character Animator is simply amazing, even if you and your kids just play around with it for now. I can’t even fully understand the future implications of this tracking technology.

Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro

The latest updates to Premiere are furthering its advancement in the race between the major NLE contenders. Premiere added a feature called Morph Cut to this latest update (think of it as an updated and more advanced version of Avid’s Fluid Morph). If you have an interview shot where the person stumbles over a word and you want to cut it out, Morph Cut tries to stitch together the cut by searching the video for similar frames and/or morphing the footage to try and look seemless — keep in mind the circumstances have to be almost perfect for this to work correctly, and if they aren’t perfect it looks like a mistake or glitch. Features like this remind me that Adobe is listening to their customers and even if the feature isn’t for me personally, they are pushing the boundaries to make great apps that work together beautifully and address many concerns of its users.

After Effects features greatly improved preview functions in addition to Face Tracker, which could come handy in the right circumstances. SpeedGrade, Prelude, Audition and Media Encoder all had various updates but the real advancement is Creative Cloud Libraries. Adobe has gotten their feet wet with true team collaboration by integrating a live library between Adobe apps via the Creative Cloud, allowing access to different assets between apps (and can be contributed to by multiple creative cloud users). Hopefully, there will be a time when this includes large amounts of video in the team-based environment where users can work on the same project simultaneously with proper file locking, much like Avid Media Composer and its ISIS collaboration.

I leave you with these top three highlights: Adobe Premiere’s interface has been updated and improved with the integration of color correction toolsets; Adobe After Effects’ preview engine will now run while you are making adjustments; and Adobe Hue (formerly known as Project Candy) allows for interesting use of real life color palettes by way of an iOS app to be used in Premiere and After Effects through Libraries.

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.

NAB 2015: Adobe, Foundry and revisiting the ‘big picture’

By Adrian Winter

Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to put this entry together, as the days between when NAB wrapped up until now have been very busy. How busy? So busy that I have yet to catch up with Daredevil. THAT’S how busy. I am not starting Episode 10, despite the fact that Episode 9 ended on a really crazy note and I can’t stop thinking about it. Instead, I am taking this time to run through my last day at NAB.

While the exhibit floor on toward the end of the show was significantly less crowded than earlier in the week, there were still some gems to be found that are worth reporting on.

Adobe
Wednesday morning found me at the Adobe booth, taking in demos of the new releases of CC Continue reading

Adobe CC updated: color grading inside of Premiere, more

Adobe will showcase advances to its complete line-up of video technologies and services at the 2015 NAB Show. NAB will mark the first public preview of major updates to Adobe Creative Cloud video tools, including the new Lumetri color panel (which is built on tech from SpeedGrade and Lightroom) in Adobe Premiere Pro CC, allowing for instant color corrections; Morph Cut, which easily removes unwanted pauses and jump cuts for a more polished edit sequence; and new Adobe Character Animator capabilities for Adobe After Effects CC that bring two-dimensional characters to life.

Adobe Character Animator

In addition, the company is previewing Project “Candy,” a mobile CC Capture app, which is the latest addition to its set of Creative Cloud-enabled mobile apps. The app is connected to a user’s Creative Cloud profile so that the user can capture production-quality lighting schemes using a smartphone camera and then apply them to video footage in Premiere Pro CC.

Project Candy

Project Candy

Adobe is also announcing enhancements to Adobe Primetime, including innovations in video delivery, monetization, and personalization to enable new OTT business models for content owners, programmers, and pay-TV providers. The company will also preview a new configuration for Adobe Anywhere, a collaborative workflow platform that enables distributed teams using products such as Premiere Pro CC and Adobe Prelude CC to work together.

Keep an eye on this space for upcoming reviews and more detailed coverage.

Behind the Title: Northern Lights editor Chris Carson

NAME: Chris Carson

COMPANY: New York-based Northern Lights (@nlpedit)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
My feeling as an editor, and clients have told me they feel the same way, is that it’s pretty nice to walk downstairs and chat with the director, colorist or sound designer, even before a job starts. Northern Lights (which includes Bodega, SuperExploder and Mr. Wonderful) handles everything – concepts and strategy, shooting, editing, graphics, music composition. All the parts can work together or separately depending on the job.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Every day is a little different. It could be digging through footage, creating Foley sound effects or Continue reading

Review: GenArts Sapphire 8

The newest version of this suite of plug-ins and presets

By Brady Betzel

Over the past year or so we’ve seen an explosion in the preset and plug-in world, offering users a variety of options regardless of their budget. For example, there is Red Giant’s Universe and Boris FX’s BCC 9 suite — both offer tons of powerful plug-ins and presets that can take any project from mediocre to awesome with a few mouse clicks and some creative thinking.

Red Giant offers a variety of ways to use the program: there is a “light” version of Universe that’s free, or you can pay $10 monthly, $99 yearly or $399 for a lifetime of updates. Boris FX BCC 9 ranges in price from $695 to $1,995, depending on the Continue reading

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

Quick Chat: Leftchannel designs promo for Gateway Film Center

By Randi Altman

When the Columbus, Ohio-based Gateway Film Center needed a new promo to play after all trailers and before their feature and independent films, they called on local motion design studio LeftChannel and its creative director Alberto Scirocco.

Scirocco was brought into the project early on. “We designed it to feature some of the signature architecture of Columbus, treated subtly so that the piece still had universal appeal yet had a particular interest to the local viewers who would recognize the city’s architecture,” he says.

We reached out to Leftchannel‘s Scirocco to find out how they worked with the Film Center to get the promo they had envisioned.

Continue reading

Review: Yanobox Nodes 2

By Brady Betzel

I realize, as most editors do, that to grow means to be constantly learning. Not a day goes by where I am not on the Web looking for the latest and greatest tools and tutorials to expand my creative toolbox.

When scouring Twitter one day I found Eran Stern’s (@sternfx) demo of Yanobox Nodes 2 from FX Factory (@fxfactory) which he used to create a promo for the After Effects World Conference. While the project required an advanced level of After Effects skill and finesse, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been, and Nodes 2 was vital in creating such a spectacular spot.

Here is a link to his breakdown: http://www.sternfx.com/tutorials/140. There are many uses for Nodes 2, and motion graphics creator Jayse Hansen has created some stunning HUD Continue reading

Cool Stuff: Co-Pilot’s Andrew Kramer just might inspire you

While many Adobe After Effects users are eagerly awaiting the November release of Video CoPilot’s Element 3Dv2, creator Andrew Kramer gave a heartfelt keynote speech at last week’s Adobe After Effects World conference in Seattle.

Kramer talks about time management and real priorities, like family, the art of concise tutorials, life and video games. You will laugh, you will learn, you will relate… you will like him.

Check it out… you might just get inspired.

 

 

IBC: Updates to Adobe’s CC coming soon

At the IBC show in Amsterdam, Adobe will be showing soon-to-be-released updates to its Adobe Creative Cloud video desktop apps and Adobe Anywhere for video. These new capabilities build on the company’s integration across video workflows, enabling video pros to create, collaborate and deliver high-quality productions across multiple screens.

Key updates include new media and project management tools in Adobe Premiere Pro CC; a refreshed user-interface across all Adobe video desktop apps; and more streamlined production workflows empowering video professionals to edit more efficiently.

Important new updates will also be added to Adobe Anywhere, which enables large virtual teams of talent to collaborate and efficiently shoot, log, edit, share and finish video productions together.

Adobe also announced new capabilities to Adobe Primetime, a TV delivery and monetization platform for programmers and pay-TV service providers. Adobe is previewing these major updates at IBC 2014, Europe’s largest professional broadcast show held in Amsterdam.  www.adobe.com/go/video.

Details on the updates:
– Support for hardware and standards is accelerated via Adobe Creative Cloud.  Key updates extend native file support, with the addition of AJA RAW. Performance enhancements include accelerated Masking & Tracking and new GPU-optimized playback for better performance when viewing extremely high-res 4K and UltraHD footage from Phantom Cine, Canon RAW and Red R3D files.

– New media and project management features, including Consolidate and Transcode; Search Bins; and Multi-project workflows offer more ease and flexibility, at the project level, so Premiere Pro CC users can complete tasks more efficiently. Adobe Media Encoder now includes Destination publishing with preset options so users can render, deliver and share projects to multiple locations such as FTP sites and their Creative Cloud folder, automating the delivery process. Additionally, Extended Match Source support now includes added support for the QuickTime and DNxHD formats, simplifying the workflow for users who are transcoding or rendering content.

– Streamlined workflows and ongoing refinements make everyday tasks easier and faster inside Adobe CC video apps, including Timeline Views in Adobe Premiere Pro CC; Curve adjustments and Look Hover previews in Adobe SpeedGrade CC; and Rough Cut Dissolves and keyboard shortcuts for tagging in Adobe Prelude CC.

Adobe Anywhere, a workflow platform that allows users of Premiere Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC to work together using centralized media and assets across standard networks, will also be updated.

“The new features in Adobe Premiere Pro CC are amazingly beneficial to my feature film editing workflow,” says feature film editor Vashi Nedomanksy, who cut Sharknado 2 recently. “The ability to open multiple projects all at once without importing assets allows for effortless collaboration in multiple editor projects, while Search Bins add a brand-new layer of organization and custom specificity that help me prioritize my assets. I also love how the latest release unleashes more GPU power so I can dominate any camera codec from 4K to RAW and beyond, natively and in realtime.”

Adobe Anywhere complements Creative Cloud applications and enables collaboration for large organizations working with video, including broadcasters, schools and government agencies. Enhanced support for Adobe After Effects CC enables visual and motion graphic artists to collaborate more effectively so they can spend more time working creatively and less time searching for missing footage and collecting files. Additionally, new options in the Adobe Anywhere app for iPad are added, so users can scrub and review video footage faster.

 

Review: Templater via aescripts + aeplugins

By Brady Betzel

When I first arrived at college 10 years ago, I was all set to be a computer science major. Once I started to program using arrays, I realized quickly that I couldn’t do ones and zeros for the rest of my life. I needed to use my technical skills in harmony with whatever creative skills I thought (and still think) I have.

Eventually, I began to dive into the deep end of web programming and Adobe After Effects expressions to show off and complement my editing and motion graphics work. Luckily for me I remembered just a few if/then and else/if statements from my Java classes.

Lately I’ve been visiting www.aescripts.com daily in my search for interesting and topical post production-related nerdiness. aescripts.com is a site dedicated to After Effects scripts and Continue reading

Work boots get CG reboot thanks to Sullivan Branding

By Claudia Kienzle

With its Rocky Elements work boots about to hit the market, Ohio-based Rocky Outdoor Gear wanted a very visually dynamic product video to demonstrate the many intricacies and features of their new boot collection.

The key distinction is that the Rocky Elements product line is comprised of four trade-specific work boots designed for the unique rigors of working with wood, block, steel or dirt.

Rocky’s goal was to produce a cost-effective cinematic sales video that would dramatically convey how the design and craftsmanship of the four different boot styles benefit workers in those occupational environments.

Looking for ideas, they approached Sullivan Branding — a full-service advertising, marketing Continue reading

Review: MovieType for Element 3D

By Brady Betzel

For the past year, part of my morning “post production news gathering ritual” has been visiting AOTG, postPerspective and motion graphic designer John Dickinson’s Motionworks. Not long ago I saw that Dickinson (@Motionworks) had released a new set of presets and tools to be used with VideoCoPilot’s Element 3D inside of Adobe After Effects. It’s called MovieType for Element 3D.

I love Element 3D, so the idea of having more presets and tools to use made me happy. It has the ability to use near-realtime rendering to create stunning 3D objects like extruded text in seconds and without the need to jump into Cinema 4D. It’s a huge time saver for me when editing, especially when a client wants a “movie-type” title treatment but doesn’t have the time or money to outsource to a full motion graphics team.

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A Closer Look: Red Giant Universe

By Brady Betzel

If you work with visual effects in any way, I urge you to visit www.redgiant.com. Red Giant is known for its visual effects plug-ins like Trapcode, Magic Bullet Looks, Primatte Keyer, as well as more technical software like PluralEyes and Bulletproof.

Red Giant’s latest release of Universe furthers their unyielding support of the filmmaking and motion graphics community. Universe is a collection of broadcast-quality plug-ins that work with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and later; Adobe After Effects CS5.5 and later; Apple FCPX 10.0.9 and later; and Apple Motion 5.0.4 and later. For this review I used Universe inside of After Effects, but this tool will work great in the NLEs as well. In fact you can use the same effect across operating systems.

Universe has two tiers: Free and Premium. The licensing for Premium Universe breaks down Continue reading

Review: Adobe Creative Cloud 2014

By Brady Betzel

When I got the call to review the latest release of Adobe Creative Cloud for postPerspective, I almost jumped out of my skin with excitement. I am a big fan of Adobe tools in addition to how they handle their social media and customer outreach. You can submit a feature request and it seems like Adobe addresses it instantly.

About a year ago I asked another company for features such as higher than 1920×1080 projects and there still is no answer. On Twitter you can see @AdobeAE or @AdobePremiere answer technical, support, or even feature request questions. Long story short, they really seem to care about their products and the people who use them.

For this review I’m focusing on the video and motion graphics side of CC — Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects — but I will lightly touch on some of the other products like Continue reading

NAB: Bill Roberts from Adobe on updates to Creative Cloud

Las Vegas — Adobe’s Bill Roberts took time out during NAB 2014 to come by the postPerspective booth to discuss updates to the Creative Cloud video tools.

One of the updates is the integration of Adobe’s After Effects within Premiere. “One of the things we focused on was how do you keep the editor within the editing context as much as possible and allow them to do more,” he says. One area where editors are being asked to do more is promos — an area where After Effects is called on often.

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NAB: Adobe updating video apps in Creative Cloud

San Jose — Adobe is coming to NAB with updates for all of the video apps within its Creative Cloud. All are targeted at making workflows in television, commercials and films more seamless for pros.

In addition to the updates, during a preNAB press conference, the company shared a big win for its editing tool: Adobe’s Premiere Pro is being used by two-time Academy Award-winning editor Kirk Baxter, ACE. He is cutting David Fincher’s upcoming feature “Gone Girl” with Premiere Pro CC. His two Oscars? Both were one for work on previous Fincher films, The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

In addition to major updates to Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC, Adobe is also showing new features for Adobe Anywhere, the company’s collaborative workflow platform which allows teams using Adobe video apps to work together as they access and manage centralized media and assets across a network.

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Live Text templates

Key updates for Premiere Pro include Live Text templates that let users edit text in After Effects CC compositions directly in Premiere Pro CC; Autosave to Creative Cloud for automated backup of projects; and a new masking and tracking feature that provides accurate masks that follow subjects and blur out faces and logos.

In addition, the new Master Clip effect in Premiere Pro and SpeedGrade changes the effects applied to original clips and ripples down through all instances of the clip.

Updates to After Effects CC include keying effects to provide better results with compressed footage. And Typekit integration with Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC provides users with access to a growing library of fonts worth $30,000, that can be used on the desktop.

New features for Adobe Anywhere, include Hot Backup, which provides realtime back up of projects; Rough Cut Support to start editing rough cuts in Prelude CC and finish sequences in Premiere Pro CC; and After Effects CC media processing for direct integration between Anywhere and After Effects CC.

Main Photo Caption: Adobe’s Masking and Tracking capability in Premiere Pro CC.

Video Copilot’s Element 3D V.1.6.2 for After Effects

By Brady Betzel

For this review of one of most powerful plug-ins available for After Effects, I am testing Video Copilot’s Element 3D V.1.6.2, along with the Pro Shaders material library. If you are a current Element 3D user and haven’t upgraded from Element 3D 1.5 or earlier yet, do it now!

There are many significant additions, such as being able to generate a 3D position null object, replace model option, and even a scene relink option. You will also need After Effects CS3 or higher, including Creative Cloud, on either Mac or Windows. Be sure that you have a compatible system including the graphics card. You can check compatibility at Continue reading

Review: Re:Vision Effects DE:Flicker After Effects plug-in

By Brady Betzel

The commercials that aired during the Olympics coverage showed off some of the latest and greatest camera work and visual effects I’ve seen on the small screen. Some were just breathtaking. I mean who doesn’t love snowboarders doing 1080s at around 5% speed over a 100-foot gap in the snow at night? I know I do. You may have also noticed strobing or Continue reading

De:Flicker for After Effects smoothes high frame rate, timelapse capture footage

San Francisco — Re:Vision Effects is now offering De:Flicker for Adobe After Effects, which is designed to smooth out those annoying flicker and artifacts when shooting high frame rate or timelapse video.

De:Flicker (www.revisionfx.com/products/deflicker) not only fixes flicker from artificial light sources but also fixes flicker on multiple objects, even when those objects flicker at different rates.

De:Flicker also minimizes problems when shooting directly at light sources, causing them to “breathe” and change size when shot at higher frame rates.

De:Flicker will also help transform your timelapse photography so that viewers watch the footage you intended them to watch and not the pops that often accompany timelapse photography.

De:Flicker handles the common problems of color shifts, exposure and other camera setting and lighting inconsistencies that may occur from frame to frame. De:Flicker also tames the problems of clouds casting shadows at different places between frames, and performs well when objects appear or disappear from frame to frame.

Man-made light sources can cause havoc, especially now that cameras and smart phones are being made with the ability to shoot at higher and higher frame rates. Dealing with strobing and light source flicker has been very time consuming until now. Without De:Flicker, fixing the problems usually involves creating mattes followed by hand-adjusting the elements. Fixing a short scene using frame-by-frame color correction and zone corrections could take hours, when it is even possible. De:Flicker handles these problems automatically while retaining image detail.

De:Flicker is a set of three plug-ins: one specially designed for problems within high frame rate footage; one specially designed for timelapse photography; and a third one that analyzes and then stabilizes the color and luminance levels of your footage and can be used before more specific processing with one of the other two plug-ins.

De:Flicker works on any system running After Effects CS5, CS5.5 CS6 and CC, including versions activated by Adobe Cloud.

De:Flicker for Adobe After Effects costs $249.95 – but the company is offering a special introductory price, $199.95, through January 31, 2014.

ProMax’s Platform server adds cross-platform After Effects rendering

Santa Ana, California — ProMax Systems, a manufacturer of shared storage servers and video editing workstations, has added another significant feature set to the Platform shared storage server line. This new functionality allows both Windows and Mac clients running Adobe After Effects to submit render jobs to the Platform.

This capability eliminates running time-consuming renders on workstations, freeing them to get back to creative tasks.  According to ProMax (www.promax.com), the Platform servers are currently the only shared storage systems on the market that offer this cross-platform, After Effects rendering functionality.

Platform’s universal After Effects rendering capabilities will resonate with post facilities and creative agencies of all sizes that use the strengths of both Windows and Mac systems. The Platform AE Render tool not only leverages Platform’s high-performance CPU advantages but it also enables offloading rendering tasks from individual workstations to the Platform server’s powerful GPUs (via Platform’s expandable capability to add GPU cards). The Platform AE Render features are available now, and are included as part of the latest Platform Series models without additional cost.

Using Platform’s own management software, system administrators designate a Platform Space as an Adobe After Effects render location. Mac or Windows users connected to the Platform, with access to that space, can submit their render jobs to that location.  The Platform system watches the designated Platform Space for render submissions and manages the remote submission through the Platform’s After Effects render node software.

Galaxy 61 creates holiday campaign for Price Chopper

Brooklyn — Supermarket Price Chopper once again called on one-stop animation /CGI /editorial and finishing boutique Galaxy 61 to design and execute a campaign that kicked off the holiday season with a pair of spots.

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For the first spot, Price Chopper 4X Gift Card, (http://vimeo.com/80478913) Galaxy 61 (www.galaxy61.com) created a photorealistic silver gift box with Christmas ornaments  tied with a  red ribbon — which unfurls as the box opens. A voiceover announces Price Chopper’s holiday offers, which include 4X the Fuel AdvantEdge discount on every gift card customers buy from a select group of participating retailers, including Gap, Lowe’s, Sears, Kohls, and Toys R Us.

The second :30 spot, (http://vimeo.com/80478912) Holiday Recipes, introduces an interactive element to the campaign, inviting customers to access Price Chopper recipes for the holidays — some featuring special sale prices for the ingredients — all accessible by clicking on the Pinterest logo on Price Chopper’s home page. Three distinct versions of the spot were created.

Holiday_Recipes_02

“The animated gift box created for the opening of 4X Gift Card was the inspiration for the second spot’s iconic recipe box, which then highlights our ever-growing focus on digital/social marketing by featuring holiday Pinterest recipes,” says Price Chopper director of creative services, John Akots,. “The commercial also fits right into the flexible, modular, fast and affordable approach that creative consultant partners Roman Mayer and Murray Skurnik, (Galaxy 61 owner) Doug Johnson and I have developed over the years.”

“Crafting comedic, live-action mood driven spot content for a retailer is standard fare,” says Johnson. “The challenge with Price Chopper lies in designing and executing the segments of the spots that advertise the weekly sales and special offers, while maintaining agency-level quality that draws in viewers and drives them to the store. Price Chopper spots are unlike any other food retailer’s commercials. First, you have to understand the language and all the details that need to be communicated. Only then can you deliver on the tight deadlines and the customized high quality work required for their promotions.

Holiday_Recipes_01 “Working with a client on an ongoing basis also allows us to think ahead, and design assets so that they are re-usable, which is key for a retailer like Price Chopper,” says Johnson. “I always make a point to wrangle something creatively satisfying out of every project, no matter how simple it is — and bring the full scope of my experience as an animator, designed, and FX artist to each spot.”

Akots helms each spot, collaborating closely with Galaxy 61’s  Johnson, as well as Roman Mayer and Murray Skurnik, who also bring extensive supermarket experience to the table from storyboards, to scripts to creative direction.

“The original board for the 4X Gift Card spot was a bit frenetic, so we did a lot of adjusting during the editorial process. The retail partners provided the artwork for the gift cards, and were very specific about how the cards were to be presented,” says Johnson. “Each card had to be the exact same size, and appear for precisely the same amount of time.”

4xGiftCards_04

The key to meeting the technical challenges of these spots, according to Galaxy 61, was to keep things simple and render the elements quickly and efficiently. Johnson deviated from his usual practice of rendering out every conceivable layer of information in 3D via Maya (reflections, refractions, shadows, masks, etc.) and then creating the final look by compositing them together in After Effects. While that approach affords more flexibility at the last minute it results in much longer render times on both ends. Instead he created most of the FX “in-camera,” which required minimal treatment — mostly color correction and animated transitions — at the compositing stage, saving time and money.

“While effective, the ‘in-camera’ approach posed another challenge, as the client was used to getting that first look at a proof within a day of starting,” says Johnson.

Galaxy called on Mac Pros running Windows 7, 64-bit, Maya 2011, After Effects CS6, Photoshop CS6.

Artist David Lewandowski has some fun with ‘Late For Meeting’

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LOS ANGELES — David Lewandowski is an LA-based, director and animation artist, whose work includes the animated graphics and opening title sequence for Tron:Legacy, as well as the animated graphics for Oblivion.

He also recently created many of the animations and visual effects on the surreal Tiny Tortures video, starring Elijah Wood.

In late October, Lewandowski released the short film Late for Meeting (http://www.dlew.me/late-for-meeting), which is a companion piece to his 2011 short film Going to the Store (http://dlew.me/going-to-the-store).

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Review: Maxon Cinema 4D Studio Release 15

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Bumin Murray editor Brady Betzel calls this newest version “a beast of a release.”

As we breached the 21 Century, I began my career in post production. I attended California Lutheran University in the little California suburb of Thousand Oaks. I was eager to learn every piece of software, all the tools, and every piece of theory I could get my hands on.

At first I was a Computer Science major, where I quickly learned I did not want to create arrays the rest of my life. However, I did see the power of graphics in a computer science from a graphics course where I learned how hard it was to program a teapot with color and shading using Java. My interests suddenly perked and I realized I wanted to create using the coding, not be the one coding, and become a video editor.

As I was learning all about the difference between scanlines, hard drive platters, After Effects and Photoshop – I found a software program called Maxon Cinema 4D. So I began learning Cinema 4D in school where at the time (2001 – 2004) BodyPaint 3D had made its inaugural debut just one year earlier, Thinking Particles were released, and soon the MoGraph module would be introduced. This was all within the timeframe of Releases 7 through 9.

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