Tuesday, April 05, 2011

March BOSFCPUG + Boston DSLR Meetup Report

Last weeks combined BOSFCPUG & Boston DSLR meetup at E. P Levine’s in Waltham started with free pizza [courtesy AJA]. Levine's is a great meeting location - they have a nice big studio for us to meet in - though I really think we need a diagram to explain where you can park.

Dan Berube. Holding in his hands, he claimed, the Canon 5D Mark III

Dan Berube opened the meeting by demoing what he claimed was the Canon 5D Mark III* and also introducing our hosts for the event from E.P. Levine. [UPDATE: For the asterisk impaired, Dan want's it to be clear that it wasn't the 5D Mark III -Ed]

Main Presentation - Yan Shvalb: Time Remapping in FCP and Motion and Timelapse Workflow (plus more!)
This talk may have been billed as a discussion of time-lapse workflow, but was really an introduction to compositing using different applications. Yan Shvalb of began his talk by showing a sample reel and then explained how he did several of the effects shots in the reel. All of them combined multiple sources - time-lapse sequences, live video, or stills - to create dramatic visuals.

I counted about 70 people in this picture

In the first example, an artist was shown sketching a model. The artist was recorded as a time-lapse and composited with regular video of the model. This created a more pleasing final result because while the artist was jumping about in the timelapse, the model appeared “normal” and fluid.
I want you to not think about the tools, but really think about being an artist. You want to have as many tools available as possible. Yes I know Shake, it’s a great compositing tool, but I use Photoshop, I use Motion, I use After Effects. Whatever tool makes sense, that’s the tool you use.
-Yan Shvalb
Yan demonstrated using a travelling matte in Apple Motion, reminding the Final Cut Studio users that it’s included in the package, and that while Final Cut is a great editor, you want to get out of Final Cut as soon as possible when you’re doing visual effects.

He then moved to Adobe After Effects for a quick demo of that program and it's amazing Roto Brush. This is a great time saver over Motion he said, if the shape is changing, because Motion doesn’t have an automated Rotoscope tool. He did say that the Motion Tracker in Motion is “a bit more accurate” than the one in After Effects.
You’re a filmmaker, and it’s your job to tell a great story.
-Yan Shvalb
The Roto Brush in After Effects – if you haven’t seen it – really is amazing, and is great for moving and changing shapes, but it’s not good for hair.
In this industry, the quicker you can turn something around, the more money you can make.
-Yan Shvalb
He next used Adobe Photoshop to overlay a still image over a video sequence. Photoshop is quite happy to work with video, though he did note that After Effects is much faster at rendering video than Photoshop.

If you’re doing hard core compositing, he recommends looking at Nuke by The Foundary. He described it as 'hard core,' partly because you need a PhD just to figure it out! One of the things he likes about it is that it’s node based, just like his other favorite compositing tool; Shake. Nuke is a 3D compositing tool; Shake is just a 2D compositing tool.
Shake is perfect the way it is. It’s the perfect 2D compositing tool.
-Yan Shvalb
For the last part of the demo he walked through creating an effect in ShakeShake is a VFX tool that Apple bought a couple of years ago and then they took features from it and merged them into Final Cut and iMovie. Shake is no longer available, but you might be able to find it on eBay or at a reseller for about $500 [Or maybe Amazon: Apple Shake 4.1 Visual Effects (Mac)].

Shake is node based, which is a way of working Yan thinks is much more powerful than layers - the method used in After Effects - because it’s easier to change how objects interact with each other after you've built up a complex effect.

He may be right, but whenever I see nodes being demoed, it always looks rather overwhelming.

Yan Shvalb (left)

Yan stressed that it’s really important to plan your effects, and the shots that make up the effects. Planning – for example, figuring out where shadows are in the shot – can make what appears to be a difficult compositing effect, quick and easy to do.

He recommended two books: The Art and Science of Digital Compositing, Second Edition: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphicsand Walter Mirch's In the Blink of an Eye.

When asked about Premiere vs Final Cut Pro he said he uses everything and recommends using the tools that are right for you. While he prefers Final Cut, if he needs to edit something very quickly, he will use Premiere because of the support for compressed workflows.
If I have the luxury of cutting the way I like to cut, would I use Premiere? No, because I like Final Cut.
Plus, that compressed work flow only works for me if I’m doing straight cuts. If I’m doing anything to it; if I want to grade it, if I want to do any kind of composites, that compressed workflow is out the window.
-Yan Shvalb
Stuart Cummings demoes the AG-AF100

Panasonic AG-AF100
Following Yan, Stuart Cummings from Watermark Productions talked about the Panasonic AG-AF100. There were two AF100's set up with various accessories, including the Voitlander 25mm lens, which, though it’s not a macro, focuses to 6 inches and has an aperture of .95. Also covered were the AJA Ki Pro Mini, battery systems, rigs and a camera mounting kit from New Hampshire based Westside AV.

Show Your Shorts
The evening concluded with: Show Your Shorts; attendees had been invited to submit their short videos:

Chris Loughran: The Oscar Winning Boston Movie. [see NotesOnVideo: Chris Loughran, Cinematographer, Editor | shooting with the Panasonic AG-AF100]

Art Bell: Time: An Experiment. Art's movie showed the effect you can get by slowing regular video clips way down using Optical Image Flow in Motion. Using a Canon 7D, the video was shot with a high shutter speed; 1/600 or 1/200 at 60fps. Then it was brought into Motion and slowed down to between 5 and 15 % using Optical Image Flow. That was rendered out, then imported into a 24p timeline in Final Cut and then slowed down another 33%.

Most of the clips were quite impressive - a clip of someone exhaling smoke from a cigar springs to mind - but occasionally there were "dirty edges," for example around the tips of one of the birds in flight.

Yan suggested avoiding intersecting motion; "if you have single direction motion it’s great, but if it’s on top of motion going in another direction, you get a warp. To avoid that, you can separate the elements and retime them separately....or just avoid intersecting motion."

Andy Bell: In and Out of the Eye. A "very low-budget" multi-camera shoot. He shot the same performance three nights in a row with a Canon T2i, then produced a three-camera edit using Final Cut Pro.

Jake Thomas: Ask Your Doctor About Meat: A spec video produced for PETA by Ollie Hallowell Productions and shot on a Canon 7D. A very funny video. You can watch it on YouTubeAsk Your Doctor About Meat

Max Esposito: Untitled.  An intro to an uncompleted longer-form video about his collegiate Track and Field team. Max described it as "edited in the style of a sportswear commerical, I tried to capture the emotions an athlete experiences moments before competing." Shot using a Canon 60D and the 5D, and edited with Final Cut Pro.

The piece starts out in monochrome, and then the red's of the athletes uniforms become more vivid. At the same time, the music and the pacing of the editing - all showing the moments leading up to the start of a race - produce a very compelling visual experience. Unfortunately, the piece isn't currently online.

He said that at first he didn’t edit it to the sound while he spent days trying to find the right song. When he finally found it, he went back and re-edited it to match.

Rick Macomber: This is Flour Bakery. This piece will be covered in a later post, but you can see it now on Vimeo: This is Flour Bakery

Rich Moos: Russian Tiger Summit: A Plea to Save the Last of the World's Wild Tigers. This video was shot with the Sony EX1 and the Canon 5D Mark II. Rich noted that the 5D allowed them to shoot in places that they might not have been able to with the EX1. YouTube: Russian Tiger Summit

* It wasn't.


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