There are many interesting news coming from NAB 2014. the biggest hit for me is that Autodesk revealed their high-end compositing&finishing products. And there is also new Nuke from the Foundry, called Nuke Studio. Autodesk’s decisions regarding the future of their over-priced Flame line products are particularly interesting to me. It seems that Autodesk is so keen to continue with Flame on Linux with ultra high price tag. Though the exact price is not known since Autodesk resellers have the ability to price them differently. Couple of years ago I heard the price was 130.000 USD for a flame suit. But with Flame 2015, the price is said be a little bit cheaper. Nonetheless how amazing it is that Autodesk is still resisting to the idea of the democratization of high-end technologies. Though I had thought, like many other people in the industry, that with Smoke on Mac, Autodesk was finally moving forward and the Flame on mac was on the way. But apparently Autodesk went to the other way. What’s more interesting is that Autodesk now broke the compatibility between Smoke on Mac and Flame 2015 – which means Flame freelancers couldn’t work on Flame based projects independently. Though There’s a brand new Flame assist running on Mac, but you have to have a Flame license to use it. So it’s very clear that Autodesk does not want freelancers to access Flame environment.
It’s really interesting that desktop video industry couldn’t kill the niche TVC post production market. Adobe’s products should have surpassed Flame/Inferno by now, according to the innovator’s dilemma theory. But they didn’t. Flame is still alive. There’re many reasons. But the main reasons are, I believe, Adobe’s products are the most user unfriendly, and Flame is the most user friendly, Adobe After Effects, for instance, is the slowest application, Flame is on the other hand almost real time. So Flame artists have not quitted using Flame yet. Though there are right things Adobe does. The mercury engine is one of them. I switched from FCP 10 to Premiere Pro CC and couldn’t be hapier. PP is not the same as the old sluggish buggy Premiere anymore. Speedgrade is also cool. Its tracking capabilities are inferior compared to Lustre but I still like using it. The problem, really, is After Effects. But it’s the only desktop solution for the wild world of TVC. Though Premiere Pro – After Effects – Speedgrade combo is still not really a Flame equivalent. As for Nuke, it is not designed to be a tool for commercial works. Its workflow is shot based. Its node based architecture is brilliant but you don’t have enough time to dive into super complex node trees in commercial works anyway. The new Nuke Studio is obviously an answer to Autodesk’s Flame, but I still think that Flame is superior in terms of ease of use, speed, the quality of off the shelf tools.
Anyway, I will continue on sharing my thoughts about new Smoke 2015 soon.
I’ve always been interested in classical animation and found it to be the most enjoyable form of visual arts to produce. It really feels like magic. A couple of weeks ago I created a piece of animation with my old samsung ativ pro windows 8 tablet. It has a wacom stylus and when I first tested the pen, I was really amazed at its responsiveness, it almost felt like wacom cintiq! Though as soon as I opened up Photoshop the pen behaved sluggishly. Note that the tablet has one of the most powerful cpus for a tablet – i5 3317 but apparently not powerful enough for photoshop. Nevertheless the stylus does a great job on relatively light apps. I have reviewed my Samsung Ativ smart pro and compared it with my mid 2012 macbook air in the earlier posts so for more info please check it out.
Anyway let’s get back to my animation. I used the PAP:pro which has been available for free for long time. This software is just amazing and it’s really sad that it is now an abandonware so will not be developed further. Thanks god that it’s working well with my tablet!
Okay here’s my little animation. It’s a simple kinetic typography.
I used After Effects, too. But It’s more for the stylizing and polishing of the look.
Here’s a quick attempt to render a car scene with Mental Ray. I used Mental Ray’s own car paint shader and the end result is something acceptable to me at this point. I will continue working on the mia car paint and see what I will get with that.
Compositing is done with After effects. Note that the seamless BG is created with AE from scratch. By the way I highly recommend Brent Tyler’s Camera Shake script. I used it to automate the handheld shooting effect in the first shot.
The pitch correction technique has generally been used to correct vocal performances, for years. But it can also be quite a creative tool if you think about it. Though in popular music all we have heard is “the cher effect” as an example of the creative usage. But when I first listened to Alan Parsons’ album “A Valid Path” in 2004, I thought that experimenting with this tool could produce such a pleasing sounding music. Alan Parsons is a brilliant producer.
Have a listen:
Today I discovered an Australian producer via soundcloud, who, I think, is amazing at using this pitch correction technique, too.
CG studio lighting and environment is relatively easier to set up. What you need is a warm key light and cold fill light to show off the talent/product and throw some additional props/lights for the reflection/highlight design. Though it takes some time to really master studio lighting. I’ve known some useful information about lighting in cinematography, thanks to the book Painting with lights by John Alton – the first ever book on the art of lighting. But lighting a product in a studio environment is something little different. And It seems that I will do more and more these stuff in the future.
I highly recommend this book. When you read this, you will know the history of lighting.
Anyway here’s a simple work I’ve done couple of weeks ago. Created and rendered with Maya/Mental Ray, composited with After Effects. Notice that I also used Trapcode Particular for the particle effects. I love the particular, because it’s so easy to create some complex looking things with this amazing plug in. I also created the audio with Ableton Live. Hope you will like it.
Here’s a reletively simple work of mine. Though making a CG coke can look like a real coke can is a bit tricky. Carefully adjusted reflection maps and some water drop particles on the mesh could definetely help. But I must admit that I had some hard time getting the look of the can right with mental ray’s mia material.
Compositing was done with the Foundry Nuke. As a side note, I am quite satisfied with the lens flare effect I created with Nuke. At that time I didn’t have VideoCopilot’s optical flares so I had to create it manually.
Mip fg shooter shader has been around for quite a while. It helps to eliminate GI flickering so you finally have a flicker free GI solution without using the brute force final gather method in mental ray. Note that GI flickering is not mental ray specific. All interpolated GI equations can bring some flickering issues no matter what renderer you use, mental ray, Vray etc. Vray has an exact GI solution – path tracing though. But that GI method has its own problems like noise and high rendering times. The interpolated methods are still considerably faster and can produce sharper images which is why I still like mental ray.
Using fg shooter shader in Maya is though a bit tricky. (After all using mental ray and producing good looking images with it is a black art even though hardcore mental ray users always blame Autodesk for the mental ray integration.) The problem is: Because focal distance and aspect ratio information is passed via the scale attributes of the camera transform matrix to the mip_fgshooter shader, it can be somewhat difficult to use inside of Maya.
It’s quoted from a wonderful web site called elemental ray. And they offer a mel script for the problem. I have been using this script for a while and I should say that It works like a charm. I highly suggest it. (I would like to share my totally personal opinion on mental ray some time later since I am actually quite critical with it.)
Anyway here is the link from which you can download the script:
I recently came across a new Maya plug-in that seems to make Maya so unbelievably powerful that even veteran Houdini users should check it out. It’s called Creation Splice and created by the team behind the Softimage ICE as far as I know. The thing about it is that it has its own scripting language “Kernel” that allows you to write scripts performing as fast as a multi-threaded compiled C++ code -which is where Python sucks so badly.- I can imagine how useful it can be when prototyping a new deformer, realtime interaction!
Here’s a video that demonstrates how powerful it is:
It’s still beta though. I think It will be a huge game changer when the full version is released.
Here’s a TVC project I worked on as a freelancer a few months ago. Although the deadline was extremely tight, I believe that we -the production team- have done a great job. Even the client was surprised with the result since we had couple of days to finish the entire project. And as a generalist I was involving with several aspects of the production: Look development, shading&lighting, rigging characters and compositing the entire film…
I used my old Maya/Mentalray and The Foundry Nuke exclusively in this project.
Couple of weeks ago I decided to shoot random footages with my old galaxy s3 and then compose some music on them with my new audio rig – Ableton Live 9 intro and Korg LC wavestation. Finally I have finished my first movie clip. It looks and sounds a little dark but I like it in general. I also like how the virtual wavestation sounds. It might be too clean compared to the original but it still sounds super cool. And my new favorite toy is MDE-X effects suite nowadays. It’s quite useful and also super cheap.
Anyway here’s the movie. The audio is not polished or mastered. There’s only a brickwall limiter on the master bus so that it won’t clip digitally.