General Specialist


Shallow Depth of Field, Here I Come

Just a quick picture of this monster. I haven't calibrated it yet, but with a Sony HC3 (HDV 1080i), a RedRock Micro M2 adapter, a Canon EF-lens mount plus the Canon 70-200mm 1:4 L lens, and a DeckLink Intensity card for 4:2:2 HDMI capture to Premiere Pro, this setup will be able to provide a pretty decent picture.

The camera is on loan, I'm thinking of getting the yet unreleased Canon HV20 which is a 1080p25 camera, if it supports 4:2:2 HDMI capture.

I'm not sure what I'll shoot yet, but any ideas are welcome...

- Jonas

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BBC Motion Gallery Updated

I'm a big fan of BBC's stock footage. In fact, the most expensive Swedish documentary ever could have saved a lot of money if they had bought all the shots of cute frogs and mean lumberjacks from BBC Motion Gallery instead.

- Jonas

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Camera Mapping in After Effects

Stu Maschwitz has just posted an entry to a user-generated-ad contest, created entirely in After Effects and Premiere Pro. Unfortunately the compression doesn't do the spot justice, but an interesting fact is that the aircraft carrier is actually a still photograph mapped onto a 2D solid inside After Effects.

Stu's posted about the behind-the-scenes techniques over at his excellent blog, so do him a favor and vote for the spot by giving it a high rating since that's how the winner is decided.

- Jonas



Video Codec Advice

I've been posting a lot at Adobe Forums: After Effects lately, after I unexpectedly was asked to become an Adobe Community Expert. I just thought I'd share a reply I just made to a question about how to avoid quality reduction while rendering and moving video between applications. Perhaps I'll make a small table listing the codec options and their advantages/disadvantages, if you post a couple of nice comments! :-)

Both AVIs and QuickTimes can be "uncompressed" but the file sizes are huge! In the case of AVIs, the only advantage is that "uncompressed" is the old AVI format that supports an alpha channel.

Better is to use lossless codecs such as QuickTime Animation: Best and QuickTime PNG: Best which have so called "RLE" compression just like ZIP files, which has no quality-loss whatsoever, but still manages to shrink the file sizes considerably. Both these codecs also support alpha channel, but only QT PNG supports 16-bit.

There are several third-party QuickTimes codecs such as the BlackMagic Design's codec that also have similiar options, but they need to be installed separately on every machine.

For really small but almost lossless renderings, I normally use QuickTime PhotoJPEG: Best which is a standard 8-bit QT codec that has been around for a long time. At 100% quality very few pixel values are changed at all, making it virtually lossless.

The other alternative is to render to file sequences such as TIFF, SGI or TGA. This has several advantages, but unfortunately file sizes is not one of them. However, they are great for multi-machine renderings and if you need to re-render parts of your video it's easy just to replace just those frames. Also, it's easier to split up large renderings across DVDs, CDs and portable disks since you don't have to split up a huge video file, you can just copy all the frames that fit on to every disk. Network transfer speeds are lower for file sequences because every file has more over-head and many network protocols start out by only sending small chunks and only increase the packet size if the initial transfer was OK. Remember that if you have sound, you'll need to render that separately to an audio file if you use file sequences.

One file sequence format to avoid (unfortunately) is PNG since it has cross-plattform and cross-application problems with gamma-shifting. The options in the PNG file format let applications enter gamma values into the file, which are only read by some other apps, resulting in shifts, so you should unfortunately avoid PNG sequences.
- Jonas

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Floating in 32-bit Space (where no one can hear you scream)

Update: I've added a bunch of links contributed by Ben Grossman.

Sure, you might have been able to use 32-bit/HDR/float in After Effects 6.5 by using Stu Maschwitz's plugin eLin, but if you're anything like me, you never got around to it.

It wasn't until the 32-bit mode in the AE 7.0 beta that I finally took the plunge and "saw the light."

Here are a few starting points that explain the workflow in AE 7.0 Pro:

These tutorial movies for the (now unnecessary) eLin plugin will also give you an aha-thaaaat's-what-it's-good-for moment even though they discuss a lot of LUT layers that are no longer used since that functionality is now handled by AE internally.

- Jonas



Export from After Effects to 3ds max

Despite its name, the new version 2.0 of MAX2AE actually goes both ways, letting you start your designs in After Effects and at a later stage import the AE cameras and lights into 3ds max for further work, and then re-import into AE again.

As someone who has sort of left 3ds max for Cinema 4D just to get better integration with After Effects, this little nifty plugin sheds new light on 3ds max. If only I could get the damn Autodesk network license to work...

MAX2AE 2.0

- Jonas

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Free Plugin for Relighting 3D Inside After Effects

Do you hate to go back and forth between your 3D app and After Effects, just to tweak the lighting so that it will match your composite? If you render out a quick normal map, you can easily and quickly move and change the lighting of your 3D renders.

Now there's a free alternative to the commercial ZBornToy and WalkerFX Channel Lighting. Stefan Minning has kindly released a set of plugins for free, called Normality & Reality, so check them out.

They're Windows only for now, the OS X version is apparently waiting for the Universal release of After Effects.

- Jonas

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