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I’ve been hemming and hawing for the last couple of years since Blackmagic Design acquired the compositing tool Digital Fusion and rebranded it as Fusion. I’ve concluded that I’ve been waiting on this because, outside of the mind-blowing announcement that there would be a free version and a professional version for under $1,000, there actually weren’t many advances to discuss.
This was my error, because Fusion does not and has not gotten the recognition it deserves, and I should have been a voice — albeit a small voice — to help along what is, in fact, an incredibly powerful compositing system.
I started compositing with Eyeon’s Digital Fusion at Imageworks way back in 1997 — yeah, back when Nuke was still proprietary under the roof of a visual effects house in Venice Beach named Digital Domain. I adopted Fusion for my own little effects boutique for years. I also used it while at Blur Studios and Uncharted Territory — both of which still use it in their productions. And they’ve done some pretty darn high-profile stuff. Not to mention that VFX guru Douglas Trumbull ( 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) has made it his compositor of choice as he continues to push the technological boundaries with stereo and high frame rates.
For a relatively unknown product, it still has a pedigree.
So, why hasn’t it grown in leaps and bounds after Blackmagic acquired it? Well, Blackmagic has been hard at work tackling a problem that has kept the Fusion community so small: It was limited to Windows. And now, as of Fusion 8, the platform has expanded to live on OSX — as both free and studio versions. And, hot on its tails, there is word of a Linux version (as a studio version). Fusion for OSX opened up the user base to the motion-design houses that like their Macs. But I feel it will be the Linux version that opens the doors to the wide world of features films, whose VFX studios almost exclusively run on Linux.
I will keep you all apprised of further developments from here on out. But let’s start the discussion by saying that if you are a blossoming compositor or a small one-man show doing freelance work, Fusion is definitely a way to dive into robust node-based compositing. The
PremierePro got a nice little boost with its latest update, which was announced at NAB this year, but just recently went live.
The increased use of Ultra High Definition footage like 4K and 6K compounded with the more frequent use of laptops and mobile devices by editors require us to be a bit more diligent with our media management. So, Adobe has thrown in a process for easily ingesting footage: copying, transcoding and proxifying (is that a word?) footage all at the same time. When you drag footage from the Media Browser into you project, your ingest settings are enacted and Media Encoder begins to work in the background to prepare the different representations of the footage. Better yet, the ingestion can take place — get this — while you are editing. You have immediate access to the full resolution footage, and you can begin work while the proxies and such cook away. When ingestion is done, you can swap to your other version at will. Also, you can save your settings as easily accessible presets, and you can even set a watermark for proxies.
The Lumetri color system has received some newer features that refine the ability to control and manipulate color with secondary HSL controls. You can isolate particular color ranges in your shots, and then shift the hues within that range. This provides a really intense level of control over the colors in your scene. Frankly, it’s getting more and more like SpeedGrade isn’t even needed in the Adobe suite — yeah, you colorists out there, I said it — as ignorant as that probably is.
And another larger feature, amongst a laundry list of features and fixes, is incorporating 360-degree virtual-reality footage and editing with it. Like the team over at Mocha Pro, looking into VR is looking into the future with so many unpredictable pitfalls that I don’t even like to think about it. But as long as we’re here, let’s do it anyway. Because editing VR footage is a new beast. But Adobe has provided tools for cutting the new footage together — in fact, you can change your viewer so that you can see what the result will look like — watching the cut footage in a view that you can spin around in. Mettle tools are available to work within Premiere for manipulating and converting the 360-degree footage. And, as if that isn’t enough to wrap your head around, there are tools to view or separate VR stereoscopic footage. Yeah. Crazy, right? Anyway, keep your eyes on this technology. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but we’re all learning about it together.
I’m generally a visual effects and animation person, doing things for films and stuff, so, outside of cinematics and promos for E3 and such, I haven’t really dipped my toe into the game industry or the tools that support it. But, I suppose it’s been long enough that I need to face the fact that our technology is merging as games become faster and higher fidelity, the same technology that drives that also benefits the artist in the post-production world.
My first mini-review and installation is for a thing called NeoFur. Well, technically, NeoFur is my second game installation — because I had to install Unreal first. Then I could get to the NeoFur.
NeoFur perked up my ears because I know how intensive hair and fur is when we have to calculate it for Rocket Raccoon or Shere Khan or Richard Parker (maybe those are the same cats). So to see something calculating fur in real time is something worthy of attention.
NeoFur is easy to install, easy to learn and easy to use. Knowing how hair works in VFX isn’t a bad thing either. The methods are very similar, but with the Unreal engine driving things, the development and tweaking are in real-time. Anyone familiar with any 3D programs will slide right in and start making things. The interface feels like developing materials or shaders — driving parameters with maps or sliders. But additionally you can use meshes to determine the volume of a hair structure, and with control splines control the groom.
The physics engine dynamically and fluidly moves the hair and reacts to changes as you work with it. The character can even cycle through animation to show you how the hair will work in motion. And many of the NeoFur parameters are open to Unreal’s Blueprint, so you can get custom reactions driven by what might be happening in the interactive platform.
Now, the fidelity is nowhere near feature film simmed and rendered hair. So don’t expect to throw millions of hairs through Unreal and maintain responsiveness. But that’s not the purpose of NeoFur. You are developing simulations that work in game situations, and with that comes a certain structure and economy. And within those restrictions, NeoFur performs incredibly.
NeoFur is absolutely within the budget of people who just want to play around ($19), or a small developer making an indie game ($99), or if you are a larger game company ($349 — or custom packages). Todd Sheridan Perry is a visual-effects supervisor and digital artist who has worked on features including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
no pact with the Devil required. The smartest investment would be to score a Limited Edition copy of Cinelicious and Hat & Beard’s book, Belladonna of Sadness: A Companion to the 1973 Cult Japanese Anime Film, which comes packaged with the Blu-ray and goodies and lets you really pore over this enchanting, unexpected mind-bender that is both way ahead of its time and a unique window on its age.
[Release date: July 12] and broken hearts), the DVD includes “The Making of Only Yesterday,” “Behind the Scenes with the Voice Cast,” interview with the dub team, and trailers and TV spots. The Blu-ray version ($34.98) also has exclusive feature-length storyboards. Tissues and nostalgia-suppressant not included.
[Release date: July 5] the human spirit.
The DVD and Blu-ray ($34.98) releases include “The Making of Boy & the World” featurette, music video by Brazilian rapper Emicida and theatrical trailer. Enough to tide you over while you wait for Abreu’s next stroke of innovation.
[Release date: July 5]