General Specialist

2008-07-22

Even More Great VFX Courses

I've been on a long vacation, so I haven't had a chance to write about the new term. I won't bore regular readers who already know how much I can recommend fxphd.

Here's a complete list of available courses. The term started on July 14 2008, but you can join later and have access to all the classes you've signed up for.

If you want to know more about fxphd, take a look at the fxphd Tour Movie. There's also a great FAQ.

I think I'll choose AFX302 - After Effects Masters, C4D202 - Cinema4D and After Effects in Production and DRK301 - VFX and Indie Films.

Oh, if you enter humlan in the Referring Member field on the signup page, I'll get an extra class, which would be really nice. Thanks in advance!

- Jonas

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2008-04-09

Don't Miss the New Term at fxphd.com

Regular readers know I'm a big fan of fxphd.com and that you can't get any more current and professional training even for ten times the price. I've been a member from the start, and the things I've picked up from the past seven terms come in useful every day in my work.

I'm hoping to shoot a documentary in the fall, and can with confidence say "I really think we should rent a Red One for this shoot" based on that I know I have both fxphd's training and forum discussions to lean on for figuring out the workflow. Priceless...

Last term Tim Clapham held a great course on motion graphics in After Effects, and this term he's in charge of a Cinema 4D course. And the creator of 250 HD effects shots in 5 months holds an After Effects course.

I really enjoyed the Photography for VFX course last term which is repeated this term, and I am happy to see a SynthEyes course that I will definitely take.

Here's a complete list of available courses. The term starts on April 14 2008, but you can join later and have access to all the classes you've signed up for.

If you want to know more about fxphd, take a look at the fxphd Tour Movie. There's also a great FAQ and the Orientation Week movie (torrent link) that covers all the upcoming classes.

Oh, if you enter humlan in the Referring Member field on the signup page, I'll get an extra class, which would be really nice. Thanks in advance!

- Jonas

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2007-10-11

Cinema 4D Resources

After years as a casual and frustrated user of Maya and 3ds max, I finally realized that being good at a "lower-end" software is way better than being a newbie of a prestigious vfx tool like Maya. The price, the cross-platform availability and the reported integration with AE made me turn to Cinema 4D.

I thought I'd share some resources I've found while trying to dig deeper into Cinema 4D, so here's a list of stuff I've bookmarked lately:

Ko Maruyama shows the flicker tool which is part of the free CSTools.

Lynda.com's basic training to get you up to speed on Cinema 4D.

Cineversity.com: Maxon's own online training.

JHT's C4D tutorials and great planet textures.

C4DTextures.com: Free textures and shaders.

Water drops on a surface.

C4D at 3DLinks.com.

http://www.c4d-links.de/

Tim "Hypa.tv" Claphams' C4D images, animations and tutorials.

C4DCafe.com's MoGraph introduction

Update:
the c4d base

C4D Portal

Please post your own tips in a comment!

- Jonas

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2007-10-02

Best VFX, Graphics and Animation Training Starts New Term

So you think you already know everything you need to do your work? Think again...

fxphd.com has been a big success and when it now enters the fifth term of training, there's even more cutting-edge courses for anyone in the video / animation / graphics / broadcasting / film business. I've been a member from the start, and believe me; you won't get as much value for your money anywhere else!

As an example: last term we got an hours worth of vfx breakdown of the Pirates of the Caribbean by the legendary John Knoll himself. Priceless...

You can join anytime during the term (it starts on October 8th) and this time around you can get both advanced courses by After Effects gurus such as Mark Christiansen (blog / book) and Stu Maschwitz (blog / book) as well as exclusive training in the RED production and workflow.
Here's a complete list of available courses.

If you want to know more about fxphd, take a look at the fxphd Tour Movie

UPDATE: Here's a torrent link to the brand new Orientation Week movie that covers all the upcoming classes.

Oh, if you enter humlan in the Referring Member field on the signup page, I'll get an extra class, which would be really nice. Thanks in advance!

One last tip: don't miss the HD versions of the excellent fxguidetv from the same guys that bring you fxphd!

- Jonas

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2007-08-07

DPI in Video: Totally Useless



DPI = dots per inch is only relevant when you output digital images to an output device, such as a printer (or a display,) since DPI is a measure of how many of pixels the output device will show on a line that is one inch long.

That means that the DPI measurement is totally useless as long as you aren't printing. Video and things like DVD menus have a fixed size in pixels (called resolution) and DPI has no relevance. As long as you create the document with the correct size in pixels, you can set the DPI to 1 or 3,000, it doesn't make any difference.

To demonstrate this, open Photoshop with any picture and choose the command "Image Size..." from the "Image" menu and uncheck "Resample Image". You can then easily see that if you change the "Resolution" in pixels/inch, the actual pixel dimensions aren't altered, only the printed width and height are changed!

If you want to measure the DPI of a DVD menu, you must play the DVD and measure with a ruler on the TV set itself. You'll get a much higher DPI resolution on a small portable player than on a big hunkin' 60-inch plasma display, since you you are pushing the same amount of pixels to displays of different sizes.

The pixel resolution in square pixels (which is the preferred format when working in for example Photoshop) for NTSC Widescreen is 864x486 pixels, for NTSC 4:3 it's 720x540, for PAL Widescreen 1,024x576 and for PAL 4:3 it's 768x576. Don't forget the action-safe and title-safe either!

PS: The correct term is actually PPI (pixels/inch) for displays. The term "dots" comes from the raster dots that are traditionally used in printing presses.

PS. The only time the DPI/PPI is relevant is when importing/exporting graphics, like this Flash bug.

- Jonas

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2007-06-21

How to Remove Speckles and Dust in Scanned Images using Photoshop

Here's a quick tip I discovered today while cleaning up a lot of scanned images. It's a 30 second video tutorial on how to find dirt, dust and scratches that's hard to find when you're trying to remove the background.

How to Remove Speckles and Dust in Scanned Images using Photoshop (opens in a new window)

- Jonas

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2007-04-13

The Best Graphics Training Available Enters Term 4

If you only give yourself one thing this year, here's my advice: sign up for the new term of fxphd, the highest-level graphics training available online. Term 4 is just about to start (even though you can sign up later) with a bunch of interesting classes lined up. Not only do you get great classes, you also get real-world footage to work with (like 1080P motion control passes of miniatures shot by the DoP of "Superman Returns") that you can use on your showreel.



I've been a member since term 1, and even though I haven't been able to follow all the classes (the day only has 24 hours) my collection of classes is safely backup up on several drives, as I plan on keeping them for reference for a long time. I've even put them all on my iPod so I can learn something new every day.

Trust me, this is the best $300 you'll ever spend!



Complete Term Course Listing
  • AFX221 - After Effects Design and More
  • BKD204 - Background Fundamentals
  • DRW201 - Character Drawing and Development
  • FCP211 - Intermediate Final Cut Pro II
  • FLM101 - Introduction to Flame
  • FLM201 - Introduction to Expressions
  • MAX101 - 3DS Max for Compositors
  • MAX201 - Advanced Rendering and Mental Ray
  • MYA203 - Intermediate Maya III
  • PNT201 - Matte Painting Production Techniques
  • PSD203 - Photoshop CS3
  • SHK101 - Introduction to Shake
  • SHK201 - Intermediate Shake I
  • RTO201 - Rotoscoping Techniques
  • TOX101 - Introduction to Toxik I
  • TOX102 - Introduction to Toxik II
When you sign up, please enter "humlan" in your sign-up form under "Referring Member," which will give me access to an extra class (hmm, should I take the "Silhouette Roto" class or the "Matte Painting" class?)




fxphd tour movie

Podcast that discusses the different classes

- Jonas

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2006-11-12

Avoiding the "After Effects error: could not create image buffer"

Here's a few tips on how to avoid the dreaded image buffer error. But first a little background on why it happens...

Unlike many other compositing and 3D programs, After Effects doesn't use a scanline renderer. Instead it renders each layer and then stacks it on top of the previously rendered layers. While this gives great performance for layers that can be cached and use several times without re-rendering, it can spell disaster when you are trying to work with bigger sources and output resolutions.

While you can use Shake to zoom in on a giant 30.000 by 30.000 pixel image on an old machine, doing the same thing in After Effects takes a bit of imagination, plus a knowledge of how to tweak AE's memory settings. Basically, it comes down to the memory being to fragmented for AE to be able to hold the entire frame/layer in one contiguous piece of RAM. Here's how you avoid that from happening:

1. Set Your Preferences Correctly
Start out by making sure you have set After Effects to use the optimal settings. These should always be your default values, and you should reset them according to these settings once you have gotten around the image buffer errors!
Maximum Memory Usage: 120%
Maximum RAM Cache Size: 60%
Enable Disk Cache: On
Maximum Disk Cache Size: At least 2 GB (I use 8-12 GB, typically)
Prevent DLL Address Space Fragmentation: On

The Maximum Memory Usage tells AE how much of the total amount of installed RAM it can use as a maximum. Why 120% Maximum Memory Usage you might ask, why not 100% or even a sensible 95%? Well, since running slow sure beats running out of memory, that's why! If you set it over 100%, AE will use the harddisk as virtual memory (slow but sometimes necessary.)

The Maximum RAM Cache Size is the amount of RAM (set in "Maximum Memory Usage") that After Effects uses to load sources, render effects and composites into, plus to store already rendered frames in. The setting of 60% is a moderate one that over time has proven to work optimally for most projects. Lowering this value will slow down your rendering and previewing speed, but it is sometimes necessary in order to render large layers/comps.

The Disk Cache is where AE can off-load already rendered images/frames/layers/comps onto your harddrive instead of throwing them away when you are running short on RAM. Note that AE will only use the Disk Cache if it is faster to read a frame from the Disk Cache than it is to re-render it.
If possible, put the Disk Cache on a fast harddrive, preferably not the same as your operating system or your source material (the above screen shot was taken on my laptop, where you seldom have the luxury of three drives.)

If you're on Windows, make sure you check Prevent DLL Address Space Fragmentation, as AE will then try to keep more of the memory in larger chunks. It should be left on, unless it is causing an extremely rare crash (the reason it is not enabled by default.)

Make sure you turn off multi-processing in After Effects CS3 (and Nucleo / Nucleo Pro if you have that plugin.)

As a final step, avoid OpenGL previews, instead use Adaptive Resolution.

OK, with these settings, try to see if you can preview/render the problematic comp. If not, continue with the next step...


2. Lower the Number of Undos
Every operation that AE has to be able to Undo takes up valuable memory space. Try to Purge Undos from the Edit menu. If that doesn't help, go into the Preferences and lower the number of Undos to just a few, or even just one step. (Remember to set it back to somewhere between 20 and 32 when you've gotten the renders done.)

Still having trouble? Then let's try the next remedy...


3. Lower the Image Cache: Maximum RAM Cache Size
Even though the Image Cache will speed up renders (by avoiding having to re-render stuff) it leaves less memory to be used for other things, which can lead to the fragmentation of the memory.
Here's how Michael Natkin of the Adobe After Effects team explains it:
"Yep, it is counterintuitive, isn't it! Here's the reason. Just like a
hard drive, your address space can get fragmented. So if you have the cache percentage set high, AE will try to use a lot of RAM and though you may have enough left for the next image buffer, it may be so fragmented that there is no place to put it. So by lowering the cache percentage, you reduce the fragmentation and paradoxically are able to fit that frame.
Lower the Image Cache bit by bit, until the error goes away. If you have it as low as it will go (10%,) there's only one option left...


4. Chop Up Your Sources
Split the source image up into several layers (somewhere around 2.048 by 2.048 pixels each) in Photoshop, then import the PSD file as Composition Cropped Layers. Press your Caps Lock key on the keyboard (to prevent AE from trying to render a preview) and then change the preview mode to Wireframe. Open up the composition, select all layers and change their mode to Alpha Add. Finally copy all layers and paste them into a comp with the size of your final output.


It has worked for me with 16-bit images over 24.000 by 24.000 pixels.

- Jonas

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2006-11-07

The Home of 87 After Effects Plugins

I'm no biker, but I believe the Hell's Angels term hang-around would describe me pretty accurately. I enjoy the company of people who know more than I do, in a way making me a geek hang-around.

Friday was a blast, as I got to spend the day with David "Dave" McGavran, programmer on the After Effects team. I demo'ed a couple of projects while we figured out why the navigation in AE 7.0 seems so slow. Dave whipped out his MacBook and quickly looked in the actual source code for the reason why scrolling and moving around in the timeline doesn't have interupts that cancel an ongoing preview rendering. Look for an improvement to this in an upcoming release! :-)

After lunch we headed north to the town of Uppsala where we spent the afternoon and evening at Cycore Systems with Jens Enqvist and Nils Schneider, creators of 87 of the plugins that are shipped with After Effects, including classics such as Fractal Noise.


This might just possibly be the worst picture I've ever taken, so as an excuse here's a link to some excellent sample projects for the bundled CC effects. While you're there, pick up a demo of the indispensable Cycore FX HD package.

Thanks for an unforgettable day!

PS. Did you know that CC Sphere actually does raytracing? Amazing...

- Jonas

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2006-10-30

Greenscreen and Bluescreen Checklist

Shooting for greenscreen or bluescreen? Here's a list of hard-earned experiences from the shoots where I've been vfx supervisor. I don't claim to be a chroma expert, so please post a comment if you have more tips to add to the list!

UPDATE: I've added some info on depth-of-field and motion blur as point number 2.

1. Keep it Blurry in Camera
Turn off all in-camera sharpening! This might make your director of photography (DOP) nervous and it will certainly make it harder for her/him to focus. On Sony cameras, there's usually two settings that need to be turned off: Detail and Skin Detail.

By default, all cameras apply a sharpening filter as a post-process before each frame is committed to tape/disk/memory card. While this makes the image look better, it is makes it so much more difficult to get a good and clean edge between your foreground and your chroma screen. Digital sharpening works by finding adjacent pixels of different lightness values and then increasing the difference, in effect crating a border with much higher contrast. Notice also how the in-camera sharpening brings out noise and imperfections in the chroma screen.

So shoot without sharpening and add it in post instead!



2. Keep it Sharp on Stage
While you don't want the camera to add artificial sharpening, you still want to keep everything in the foreground as sharp and correctly focused as you can. If the chroma screen is blurred in the background will only help to make it more evenly lit and textured, but you want to avoid having to key out blurred foreground, trying to separate it from the chroma.

If the blur comes from a too slow shutter speed or by too narrow depth-of-field, you'll have to tweak the keyer and possible sacrifice other parts just to manage the fuzzy edges. A blurred edge between foreground and background means that you will have to compromise between the edge and despilling settings, and quite possibly have to keyframe these settings to compensate for different levels of blur on different parts of the clip.

Instead, add motion blur in post by using optical flow technologies such as ReelSmart Motion Blur and add depth-of-field by layering chroma clips and post-blurring them.



3. Resolution and Framing
You want to shoot with as high resolution as you can afford, to make sure you keep your options open when you get to postproduction. Even if your finishing in SD, try to capture in HD or even 16 mm or 35 mm film. The more detail you can capture, the cleaner key you'll be able to pull. You can always scale down, but you can't get back image data that you haven't captured...

Keep a constant lookout for how the DOP frames the action. Since you'll be working with the shots in post, you can disregard the safe areas that are normally cut off by monitors and TV sets - that's 10% more image data to use!

I've found that I often have to keep pushing for tighter framing of each and every shot. To make sure that you and the DOP sees the entire image, set the camera viewfinder and the preview monitors so they are underscanned.

Even if you're shooting for a 16:9 production, you'll most likely want the set the camera for 4:3 aspect ratio, unless your shooting something that will fill the entire frame horizontally. Otherwise you'll be sacrificing horizontal resolution, making for rougher key edges.

Another way to squeeze the maximum amount of resolution from your cameras is to tilt them 90 degrees for shots of standing people.



Here's an example of three Sony Digibeta cameras with two of them tilted 90 degrees to capture standing people at maximum resolution.




4. Blue or Green?
What you are trying to achieve is to provide your keyer with a color channel that is as distinct as possible. Since human skin tones and lips tend to be red, that leaves blue and green. So which one to choose? That depends on a couple of things...

Green chroma screens have become more and more popular in recent years, largely because green provides a brighter color channel that tends to have less noise than the blue channel. The relative brightness of green makes it a bad choice for shooting blonde hair though, which is a lot easier to key against blue backgrounds.

The bluescreen has some distinct advantages. When you can't avoid a lot of spill (for example when you have to put the foreground very close to the chroma material) you can take advantage of the fact that we tend to find blue casts less disturbing than people walking around looking sea-sick with green faces. Also, when shooting for something that will be composited on to outdoor backgrounds and water, a slight blueish cast won't be a problem.

So if you are shooting a blonde with jeans, you'll have to settle for a compromise!



5. Don't Depend on the Crews' Imagination
Good storyboards that can be shown to the entire crew, both before the shoot (so that they can bring the correct gear) and during the shoot. Depending on the complexity of the shot you might need animatics, but at least bring sketches or printouts.

Talk to the crew so that they understand how stuff will be used in
post. For example, I have had instances where cameramen have cut off
talents' feet even though I've tried to explain that we needed the
whole body.



6. Don't Depend on the Talent's Imagination
If talents are supposed to look at things that will be added in post, make sure they have something (that can be keyed out later) to look at and interact with during the shoot.




7. Get Good Clothes
Make sure you avoid greens, browns and khaki for greenscreen shoots and jeans and other blue clothes for bluescreens. This cannot be allowed to be something you decide on location, it must be planned beforehand.



8. Get Good Props
Make sure you can dull-down shiny stuff so that they don't reflect the chroma color.

The choice of a shiny metal briefcase in the example above is a particularly bad one, considering it had to be rotoscoped in all the shots. The ear-ring was taken care of with an Inside Mask in Keylight.



9. Match the Lighting As If Your Sleep Depends On It
There's no substitute for good lighting and gaffers that can match foreground and background. You can fix almost anything in post-production, be relighting is among the hardest and least successful things you want to spend your nights with. There's nothing that screams fake as much as wrong lighting!



10. Preview Directly On Set
You can't underestimate the value of being able to compare a roughly keyed-out foreground against the background that it will be composited against. Not only is the immediate feedback important for the talent, it is also invaluable when it comes to matching the lighting and perspectives.

If you can't use a real-time keyer with a feed from the camera, like in the image above, at least bring a laptop and a digital still camera and do a quick key until the lighting matches perfectly.



11. Go Easy on the Tracking Markers
If you use tracking markers, make sure you have sufficient number in each shot, without having too many that you will have to paint-out in post. Try using markers with almost the same color as the screen, for example by using chroma tape, so that you can remove them by a second keying-pass.

The extensive number of markers in the example above comes from the fact that they were to be used for a tight head-shot during a 30 minute interview where the subject didn't want anyone except the interviewer and the DOP present. Therefore we had to make sure we had at least some markers visible at all times.



12. Avoid Unnecessary Spill
Keep the foreground as far away from the chroma screens as possible, since you'll have less spill to deal with. Make sure that all parts of the floor that might reflect chroma color onto the foreground are covered by non-reflective material such as black cloth.

It's up to you to keep each setup as far away from the chroma screen as possible, as people seem to be attracted to the big wall of color. It is your job to check that the entire foreground has chroma behind it during the entire take, which is why rehearsal is so important since it gives you the chance to spot potential problems which will force a setup adjustment.



13. Keep It Clean
Strive to keep the chromascreen as spotless as possible, and stop people from walking on it unnecessarily.



14. Get to Know Chroma Sampling and Codecs
Since chroma keying works on the principle of isolating one color, you would think that it was extremely important to get as much color data from the camera as possible. This is unfortunately not the case in many circumstances, especially when it comes to video. I won't get to geeky here, but you need to understand how digital video is stored.

The human eye is much more sensitive to the luminance/lightness of what we see, than to the color of the world around us. That's why all (but a few super-high-end cameras and formats) immediately throw away at least half of the color information that is captured. This is bad news for keying, since the less color information you have, the harder it is to accurately isolate a color.







If at all possible, you want to capture a 4:4:4 image without any color compression, and then keep that color resolution intact by using an appropriate codec at least until you have passed the keying stage. You should also strive to retain the more than 8 bits per channel of data that many systems capture, such as the 10-bit color depth of DigiBeta.

Trying to key of DV footage is even harder, since the DV codec only stores a quarter of the color data, using a 4:1:1 compression. If you have no choice but to key from DV footage, try to blur the U and V channels before pulling a key, or use a keyer that does this automatically, such as dvMatte from dvGarage.

Here's an example of the low horizontal color resolution of DV footage:




15. Frames Rather than Fields
Try to shoot progressive rather than interlaced, to avoid having to de-interlace the footage. If possible; shoot double the frame rate with progressive if you need to go to interlaced later. Avoiding interlacing not only gives you a cleaner edge and saves time on de-interlacing, but it also provides you twice the spatial resolution which might come in handy if you have to up-res in post.

Interlacing is an evil compression technique that severly limits your options, and you should always try to avoid it, instead adding it at final output.



16. BYOC: Bring Your Own Camera
Take lots of reference shots of locations, the lighting setup and other stuff that will help when you crawl back into your dark post-dungeon. You can never have too many reference shots!



Final Words
Avoid the temptation to think that problems on set can be "fixed in post." Everything that can be done in front of the camera should be done on set. Make sure the time allocated for postproduction is used to enhance the final outcome instead of fixing mistakes done when shooting.

Also, be prepared to pull several keys and to use garbage mattes and core mattes. Remember; you are trying to extract the edges, everything else can be mattes/roto'ed!

- Jonas

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2006-09-08

Tutorial: How to Preview the Size of Text and Graphics for Broadcast and Film

Do you want to preview how big the text and graphics will look on a TV while still working on your computer? Here's how!

1. Create a document with the same height in pixels as your output format. Most software nowadays have presets that also includes the so called safe areas that shows you how much of the standard TV image is masked by the TV.
2. Make sure you are viewing the document at 100% in your graphics program of choice.
3. Then use a common ruler to measure on the screen according to the table below.
4. Multiply this distance by 2 for film shown at movie theatres/cinemas, 4 for standard TV (SD) and by 6 for HD TV, and place your eyes at this distance.






TV system

Document heightMeasure this on your screen
Standard definition PAL and SECAM:576 pixels518 pixels inside the "safe area"
Standard definition NTSC:540 (square) pixels486 pixels inside the "safe area"
HD TV 720p / 720i:720 pixels720 pixels (all pixels are shown on the HD TV)
HD TV 1080p / 1080i:1080 pixels1080 pixels (all pixels are shown on the HD TV)


Example: You've created a document for NTSC and want to preview how big your text will look.
Zoom your document to 100% magnification. Grab a ruler and place it on your monitor. Measure the distance inside the safe area. In this case it turns out to be 10 inches, so therefore you should put your eyes at 60 inches away from your computer monitor.

Here's the theory behind this method:
European viewers tend to sit approx. 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) or six times the picture height from their standard 32” widescreen TV. This distance can be described as 6H.


When the viewer upgrades to a new HD TV, the perceived picture will be bigger (unless the viewer redecorates the living room, tears down a wall and moves the sofa further away from the set.)


The viewer will therefore sit four times the picture height (4H) away from the HD TV, no matter what HD TV format is used (720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p.)


At the movies / cinemas the viewing distance is of course very dependant on if you sit up front or in the back, but the general rule is that the viewing distance is around 2H.

Stay tuned for a tutorial on how much you must increase/decrease the size of your text and graphics when you go from a SD to an HD TV production.

Thanks to Lars Haglund and Gunnar Kihlander at SVT for the concept!

- Jonas

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2006-07-02

AE Preset: Scaling a Motion Path

If you've set up an After Effects animation with lot's of position keyframes, you probably know that you can move the entire animation around by parenting the moving object to a null, and then move the null. But if you suddenly want to scale the animation path without scaling the moving object itself, you're in for a hard time. After watching Aharon Rabinowitz's very complicated method of getting around the problem of not being able to scale a motion path, I thought to myself; "there must be an easier way" and decided to use this as an excuse to dip my toe in the pool of expressions. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Aaron spends so much time on all his great AE tutorials and AE podcasts! Here's an After Effects 7.0 Animation Preset that you can apply to a layer with an animation, and then just scale the animation to your heart's content. If you want to rotate the animation, just parent it to a null, and rotate the null! Download preset Scale MotionPaths (ZIP-file, 1 KB) Of course there's a way to both scale and rotate without the help of a null. I asked the expressions-guru Dan Ebberts who instantly whipped up this preset that will let you do both: Download preset Scale and Rotate MotionPaths (ZIP-file, 1 KB)
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2006-06-29

More Free AE Projects from Dean Velez

One of the great benefits of working with After Effects is the number of people the freely share their knowledge, and one of the most generous is Dean Velez who frequently post batches of AE projects for free download.

Even if you don't have use for his latest Water Effects projects, they're an excellent learning tool when you disect them and see how you can combine effects and features to make something from nothing!

Free After Effects Projects from The Anvel

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2006-06-22

AE Presets: Smooth Vertical Scrolls for TV

UPDATE: The presets now come in both PAL and NTSC variants, and include a flicker-reducing filter that adjusts itself to the chosen speed.

Working at a TV station, I see so many jumpy titles that were created in After Effects. This comes from the fact that interlaced video gives a sort of venetian blinds effect to your content, making vertical scrolls flicker if you don't scroll at certain fixed speeds.

In version 6.5, it was easy to tell people to set two keyframes and then just move the last keyframe so that the pixels/sec velocity read-out was an even double of the framerate. This was a useful feature that was actually removed when the Graph Editor was introduced in version 7.0, since you can't see this value until you release the keyframe.

When I got the question the last time I couldn't find where to enter the value anymore, making me feel kinda stupid. In a vain attempt to look like I was on top of things, I came up with the simple and unsofisticated solution of three Animation Presets for the three common scrolling speeds.

The layer that you apply the preset to will start to scroll upwards from its original position as soon as it appears in the timeline. The nice thing is that you can just drag it around to set the starting position, without having to modify any code.

//Smooth SD vertical scrolls by Jonas Hummelstrand
// Version 1.3, http://generalspecialist.com/
// Can be applied to a non-square NTSC comps or to both square and
// non-square PAL comps.

// Change the value of "intPixelsPerSecond" below based on the speed you want:
// Normal scrolls are 100 for PAL and 119.88 for NTSC
// Fast scrolls are 200 for PAL and 239.76 for NTSC
// American Idol scroll speeds are 300 for PAL and 359.64 for NTSC

intPixelsPerSecond = 100;

y=position[1]-((time-inPoint)*intPixelsPerSecond);
[position[0],y]

Here's a ZIP file with the three PAL and three NTSC speeds pre-configured.

Thanks to Nathan Shipley for the error-correction.

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2006-06-20

Terrestial 720p50 HDTV on a PC

To celebrate that Sweden hasn't lost a game to England in almost 40 years, here's a guide to watching the World Cup HDTV broadcasts on a Windows machine. The guide was written by my good collegue wizzerd*at*wizzerd*dot*com and is published here with his kind permission.



Background
Beginning on June 9th 2006, SVT and TV4 in Sweden will broadcast the World Cup in HD 720p via Satellite and Terrestrial (for select areas). To be able to watch these broadcasts you will need equipment that can decode the H.264 (MPEG4) stream.

Recently, several different software codecs for H.264 have become available for PC´s. There is a method (described below) to be able to watch the broadcasts with a PC that has a digital TV card (DVB-T).


IMPORTANT

  • This will only work if you have a good digital reception in Stockholm, Gotland, Västerås or Uppsala.
  • The hardware requirements are tough, you will need a lot of processor power if you want a smooth picture.
  • These instructions may also work if you have a Satellite card in your PC & a dish pointed at THOR, but we have not tested.
  • These instructions are just a guide, no guarantee or support is offered if you run into problems.

Requirements Hardware

As MPEG4 H.264 is highly compressed, it requires a lot of processor power to decode the stream in real time.

Minimum System
  • Pentium 4 - 3.0 Ghz Dual Core
  • Graphic card PCI Express with 256MB (Nvidia 6600 / ATI X1600XT or better)
  • Sound card that supports Dolby 5.1 (recommended, not required)
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Digital TV card (DVB-T). These cards have been tested and work:
    • Hauppauge Win-TV HVR1300 Hybrid DVB-T & Analog PCI
    • TerraTec Cinergy Hybrid T USB XS USB2.0
Software
Installation
  1. Install the TV Card.
  2. Install the H.264 codec (PowerDVD, CoreAVC, or other).
  3. Install DVBViewer Main.
  4. Unpack The DVBViewer public beta. You can either unpack into the DVBViewer main directory, or a separate directory.
  5. Unpack the DVBViewer Filter zip file into the DVBViewer/Filters directory.
  6. In Explorer, browse to the DVBViewer/Filters directory and double click on the Register_DVBSource.bat file.
  7. You should now get a message saying that PushSource.ax registered correctly.
The installation is now complete, all that is left is configure DVBViewer.

Configuration
Set up the TV card
  1. Run the beta version of DVBViewer.
  2. Choose Settings / Options.
  3. In the left column, select Hardware.
  4. Select each device in turn and make sure that Do not use is selected, except for the TV Card (DVB-T), where you select:
    • Tuner Type: Terrestrial (this probably works for Satellite, but we have not tested this.)
    • State: preferred
  5. Apply


Set up DirectX Options
Note: Deselect Auto and select devices where possible.


Extended

Scan for Channels

  1. Select Channel / Channel Scan.
  2. Select Terrestrisch ;o)
  3. Click on Scan Range.


Once the scanning is complete, just select the channel HD-kanalen under SVT & TV4.
Now just break out the popcorn and enjoy the World Cup in HDTV (720p).

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2006-06-12

Quick Islamic 3D Move


I love it when people share techniques they come up with when playing around. Here's a neat little recipe for a kaleidoscopic effect with a 3D move in After Effects by Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming.

Organica Islam Tutorial

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2006-06-06

Primed and Ready: Learn the Basics of Digital Video

It never ceases to surprise me how many artists find that issues of resolutions, framerates and compression are complete mysteries. I spent five hours early this morning (on my day off) fixing renders that someone had managed to mess up, so in the interest of not having to do that again, here are three short primers from Adobe on stuff that we'll have a quiz on next week! :-)

Compression Primer sums up the basics of audio and video compression.

SD digital video primer: An introduction to DV production, post-production, and delivery sums up the basics of a standard definition workflow.

HD digital video primer: Understanding and using high-definition video sums up the basics of a high definition workflow.

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2006-06-01

The Basics of Digital Video

I constantly try to explain the fundamentals of video to anyone who doesn't cover their ears, and I think I've found a soulmate. :-)
videogrunt is the video podcast that illustrates the basic terms and technologies of digital video
I haven't had time to watch any of the three episodes yet, but it sure looks promising.
mainpage

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2006-05-30

Using more than 2GB of RAM in After Effects

If you are as RAM-frustrated as I am (I'm running a 750 frames long 2K render in 16-bit in the background right now) you'll be happy to know that you can bump up After Effects RAM-usage over the Windows XP limit of 2 GB by changing a simple command in a text file.

How to set this up is so poorly described in the AE manual that I've actually filed it as a bug. It only says:
See the Microsoft website for details.
I spent 30 minutes searching until I finally found out how to do this, which I thought I'd share with you:



The limit under Windows XP is 3 GB of RAM (that is per instance of AE, so you can easily start more than one if you have Windows XPx64, but plain XP only supports a total of 4 GB of RAM for the whole system.)
On Mac OS X AE can use up to 3.5 GB of RAM, and on 64-bit Windows XP each instance of After Effects can use up to 4GB of RAM with no special configuration.

Here's more background information for the geeky:
RAM, Virtual Memory, Pagefile and all that stuff
The /3GB switch

UPDATE: The process for Windows Vista is now described in a comment on the LiveDocs site.

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2006-05-23

FX PHD Classes Start Today


As I'm a big fan of the fxguide podcast I was quick to sign up for the promising online training at fxphd. The first class started today, and it covered multi-cam "bullet-time" effects.

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