Monday, December 19, 2011

Advice Series 02

"Computers are a black hole into which we throw time." - Dennis Hlynsky.

There's a number of ways to interpret this. The main point I've taken away is if you don't have to do something in a computer you should avoid the computer. If you can shoot an element or use a clever editorial trick in lieu of a complex morph, then do it. VFX asks a lot of people and many times we miss the forest for the trees, feeling it necessary to show everything, because we can. Think about how much time you will spend with a computer and think of alternate ways to accomplish the same goal.

Advice Series: 01

"Remember to blink." - Ryan Lesser.

Ryan told this to my 1st CG class back in 1998, and while I learned a lot from Ryan, nothing comes back more than that phrase. Staring at computer screens encourages a lack of blinking in humans and after a while your eyes will dry out. So remember to blink.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Grab Individual Channels out of an EXR

Pretty easy actually, if somewhat hidden:

In the gateway, double click on the "Multi" icon and it'll crack open your EXR and allow you to just grab the passes you want.

My new favorite pass: the point depth pass--it's like having three depth passes.

Also of note: Ctrl Up and Ctrl Down will flick through your EXR layers in a Gateway Import.  Also works for Actions with multiple outputs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Matte Edge is Wonderful

I've already covered the greatness of matte edge for it's ability to soften linear gradients and also add grain into them.

Today I was building my own light wrap setup when I noticed that I need to use far fewer steps now. In MatteEdge, change edges to "Advanced" and in there you can setup up a zero width edge and adjust the gradient for both inner and outer edges. It's very nice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top 5 Nodes November

5. Action Gmasks. There's still some bugs in them (I had one that refused to create any more keyframes last night, and when you manipulate the verts off-axis, say on a plane rotated 80 on the Y, they get gummy) but they've got a lot of promise and allow you to do some pretty clever things when combined with a camera track. Admittedly, you can do this with old gmasks, which are also 3d, but having everything live inside of Action makes 3d gmasking much more viable.

4. Matte Edge. I think I overuse this guy a bit, but it's so so useful.

3. Sapphire MatteBlur. No other node will do a blur inside a matte as nicely as this guy. I keep waiting for the day when i can not use it, but that day is not here, so it gets on the list.

2. Point Cloud. It's a damn shame this feature only works with flame generated camera tracks, because it is beyond useful. Hold Shift and drag an axis manipulator over it to snap the axis to the point cloud, or parent an axis and define how the point cloud places the axis. A very smart and very useful feature. Needs to be opened up so any axes can be converted into one.

1. Color Warper. A bug in the CC's curves sent me back to the warper and I remembered that it's curve function (which works on NURBS instead of bezier curves) has a live histogram that will warp as you push values around. Awesome.

Hotkey Wednesday!

Hotkey I just found: Alt + Left/Right arrow: jump to next keyframe. Great for roto.

Shot +2/3/4 in Action: Front/Side/Top view. Wonderful for 3d.

SPACE +F4: working camera. Again, great for 3d, camera tracks etc.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A very useful expression

how to negate a scale:


or, for the cavalier:

very handy for non-proportional scales that need to be re-proportionalized (e.g. front/matte sources that scale an image to the edges)

Friday, August 19, 2011

W is for aWesome

The W or "duplicate" function in Action and Batch is awesome. I didn't know until three minutes ago that you could use it in Batch. Doesn't work on complicated nodes like action, but it will dupe 2d transforms, color corrects and logic ops.

All it does is make two nodes identical, so if you change one of them, the other changes too. It doesn't matter which way the green arrow is pointing, but you can't have a duplicate slave drive another duplicate--all the green arrows have to come from one source.

Beyond the general awesomness of this (when i have more time I'll post examples of why this is a handy feature) you can also set up one node like you like, then W-duplicate all the others, then sever the connections so you can modify each one off of the original.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Manipulating Front Source Nodes in the Result View

My friend just presented me with a problem that is now SOLVED!

How to manipulate an axis or bicubic distortion on your front source node without having to go into the source view node, which isn't all that helpful when you're looking to do a minor tweak to a comp.

So here's what you do:

Add your image, and add a source node.
Change the source node to "bicubic" and turn the "shape" channel button off (it doesn't seem to work with the shape channel on)

Add a layer of the same resolution that is black for both matte and fill and make that a bicubic too. "Dupilicate" link--the green line--the black (which will be transparent with the matte on) bicubic to the front source bicubic, and link it's axis to the front source axis.

Again, make sure "shape" animation is off on your bicubics.

Now you can manipulate the axis and bezier handles of your bicubic and have them in turn drive your transformations and distortions of the front source.

Nifty! (and extra handy on smoke on mac where you can't just do what' i'd generally recommend and precomp the effin thing)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some tips from my broadcast days

When in doubt about what IRE to color correct to I default to 110. Your reds will be legal always (red can't ever get up to even 100 IRE), however yellows and cyans can be murder. On the bright side, sucking large amounts of saturation out of the highlights often has little to no visible effect.

If you don't have a vectorscope that shows you the IRE levels you can use the not-that-secret flame spark "Broadcast" which is found in /usr/discreet/(flame version)/sparks

you can set the IRE you want it to clamp and it'll be downright evil with anything above that setting. Since you dont' want that, you put a color correct node between the clip and the spark and a differenceMatte node with the CC as one input and the spark as the other. Set the difference gain way up (1000 should be fine) and set the difference node as the context (hold the + key and tap the node). Always go into the spark, even if you change no settings. I've seen it not take effect till you 'wake it up' in that way. At this point, go back to your CC and look at your difference matte. Drop the saturation in the highlights and possibly bring the gain on them down until you've got no difference in the two images and viola! broadcast legal color.

There's some other cool things in the /usr/discreet/(flame version/ directory. I use the basic 3d primitives from the "models" directory all the time, and there's pre-made gmask shapes and other useful sparks.