Tech Re­views

Animation Magazine - - Front Page - By Todd Sheri­dan Perry

Cre­ation Ef­fects, 3 DCoat 4.8 and the HP Z2 Mini G4 Work­sta­tion.

Cre­ation Ef­fects

A grow­ing trend in vis­ual ef­fects these days is buy­ing pre-pack­aged recipes for soft­ware that you can then crack open and ma­nip­u­late to make your own recipe. It is huge in the mo­tion de­sign world where Af­ter Ef­fects set­ups are avail­able for HUD dis­plays, or fancy tran­si­tions, or dig­i­tal gack to go on mon­i­tors.

One of the lead­ing out­fits of­fer­ing Af­ter Ef­fects tem­plates is Cre­ation Ef­fects — and by out­fit, mean one guy. Noel Pow­ell is a one­man show who has spent years pro­vid­ing con­tent to stock sites such as Shut­ter­stock and Pond5. How­ever, he’s saved the best for his own site — Cre­ation Ef­fects.

Cre­ation Ef­fects is a col­lec­tions of pre­sets that can be pur­chased in­di­vid­u­ally or in bun­dles which will get you looks and results that might oth­er­wise take quite a bit of time to reach. So whether you need ti­tles, or a non-pho­to­re­al­is­tic look, or an old-timey look, there is a nice se­lec­tion to choose from.

Among my fa­vorites is the Film Look pre­sets, frankly be­cause I like film. Some­times one doesn’t have the re­sources to go out and find a busted 8mm cam­era, much less the film stock to go in the cam­era, much less a place to de­velop the AE ad­just­ment col­lec­tions cer­tain men­tion file cam­era. is types the filled that of film Any­way, lay­ers of ef­fects these with that ef­fects. that ad­justable the went only to pre­set at­tain Did have into use I built-in third-party only use the AE plug-ins? stan­dards. ef­fects Well, and they no

such The a comps way that are you or­ga­nized can ei­ther in start com­po­nents. with a whole You look feed or grab your footage into the layer at the bot­tom of the comp, and the ad­just­ment lay­ers con­trib­ute to the look. And when that look is a tad too ag­gres­sive, you can dial it down to taste. Or you can strip the comp down to noth­ing and build it up from scratch. The project is or­ga­nized into types of ef­fects, and when you go into the pre­view comp, your footage is al­ready in there, lo­cated un­der a many dif­fer­ent styles of that ef­fect (blur, for in­stance). All the lay­ers are tog­gled off by de­fault, so you can go through and au­di­tion the dif­fer­ent looks. Then, when you find one to your lik­ing, you sim­ply copy and paste that layer into your master build. Noel has even in­cluded a text layer at the top of the comp for in­struc­tions on how to use it.

If you don’t want to use the comp pre­sets, the col­lec­tions come with stock pieces of footage (that drive the pre­sets), that you can use all of their own.

Each one of the col­lec­tions is de­signed in this way. Noel has taken the time to keep things clean, tidy and sim­ple so you don’t get lost within the comps, and the method­ol­ogy re­mains clear. The other pri­mary col­lec­tions that I’m fond of are the VHS look, the Glitch, and Art. And while there may be other plug­ins to go to for sim­i­lar results, you can’t re­ally beat $79.

You sup­port the big com­pa­nies by us­ing Af­ter Ef­fects and the like. But you should sup­port the lit­tle guys, too, be­cause they can make your job a lot eas­ier! Web­site: cre­ation­ef­fects.com Price: Down­load for $29 to $99 per ef­fect

3 DCoat 4.8

My past ex­pe­ri­ence with 3Dcoat has been ing 3Dcoat some­thing tools. us­ing for I it like brought re­duc­tion for Sub­stance the a pow­er­ful model and Pain­ter then from re­topo back for Zbrush paint­ing. and out into UV- to But that was be­cause of my own ig­no­rance, and a bias to­ward the tools I’m most familiar with. (And who isn’t guilty of that?) Now, as I in­ves­ti­gate the lat­est ver­sion of 3Dcoat, I’m be­gin­ning to see how much I’ve been miss­ing. To add ic­ing to this cake of ig­no­rance — I’m a year be­hind on this par­tic­u­lar re­lease! Be­yond the tools familiar to me (re­topo and UV), there are voxel/ptex/uv paint­ing and tex­tur­ing tools work­ing within a Phys­i­cally Based Ren­derer (PBR) - a la Sub­stance Pain­ter. 3Dcoat also of­fers dig­i­tal sculpt­ing tools with dy­namic tes­sel­la­tion - à la Zbrush and Sculp­tris. In the lat­est (as of a year ago) ver­sion 4.8,

Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vfx su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on many ac­claimed fea­tures such as Black Pan­ther, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­vfx.com.

3Dcoat which fea­tures cal­cu­late has like nor­mals, bol­stered tex­tures cur­va­ture, based its Smart on etc., other Ma­te­ri­als, by baked mak­ing those ma­te­rial at­tached to the layer you ap­ply to. But more ex­cit­ing is re­sam­pling al­go­rithms to in­crease res­o­lu­tion on your tex­tures, up to 16K, and the ma­te­ri­als along with them.

There isn’t a low-poly mod­el­ing sys­tem in 3Dcoat per se, but in the re­topo “room” — each mod­ule is re­ferred to as a room — they’ve added in poly prim­i­tives as a start­ing point.

How­ever, some­thing that I believe el­e­vates 3Dcoat into a more “le­git” or­bit is a bridge to Ren­der­man to ren­der-painted and sculpted mod­els within the 3Dcoat en­vi­ron­ment it­self (granted, you need Ren­der­man, too). There are plenty of ren­der­ers to choose from, so why Ren­der­man? From what I un­der­stand, a poll of 3Dcoat users was taken to find out which they would choose. Imag­ine that .. .ask­ing the users what they want! And that was the re­sult. A way to pre­view your out­put in the pro­duc­tion ren­der en­gine that in­spired ev­ery­thing else. I sus­pect there will be sup­port for other ren­der­ers in the fu­ture.

The 3Dcoat toolset is im­pres­sive. I could nit­pick about the UX, but I could do that about Zbrush as well — all day! But what makes this tool more en­tic­ing is not just the func­tion­al­ity (which it has lots of) and not about the price tag (which at $99 for am­a­teur and $379 for pro is near in­con­se­quen­tial), but rather, it’s about the peo­ple be­hind it. 3Dcoat was cre­ated by Kiev-based Andrew Sh­pa­gin 10-ish years ago and his com­pany has grown to “dozens” of spe­cial­ists, but I sus­pect the guy in the driver seat is pri­mar­ily Andrew. If you look at the dev cy­cles for 4.8 over the past year, they are short, fre­quent and ag­gres­sive. At­tack­ing bugs and mak­ing things more ef­fi­cient — even in the in­ter­mit­tent times be­tween an­nounced re­leases. This is quite im­pres­sive for such a small team. So even if you just use one of the rooms for your work­flow, the tools are there for you, and you are also sup­port­ing the devel­op­ers pro­vid­ing the tools in a very per­sonal and di­rect way. Just help them help you! Web­site: 3Dcoat.com Price: $99 (am­a­teur), $379 (pro­fes­sional), $49 (Sd­cprint­ing), $568 (float­ing)

HP Z2 Mini G4 Work­sta­tion

Work­sta­tions are big, heavy, bulky things — at least the ones with enough power to do what we do. Of course, they get hot. To counter the heat, they have fans and air flow con­sid­er­a­tions. They also take up room un­der or on top of your desk. We have lap­tops now that are su­per pow­er­ful and su­per com­pact, and can get ex­pen­sive for the oomph that you can fit in them But, can we have a work­sta­tion that is some­where be­tween? You might bring up a Mac Mini, but that’s not re­ally built for heavy lift­ing, and hasn’t been up­dated in nearly half a decade. So, HP re­leased their an­swer: the Z2 MINI G4 Work­sta­tion. The Z2 G4 isn’t com­pletely new, we had a G3 model be­fore. What the G4 brings are Cof­fee Lake 8th Gen In­tel procs — up to six cores. It tops at 64 GB of RAM, and it can hold an NVIDIA P600/P1000 or an AMD Radeon Pro WX4150. You can go with a cou­ple 2.5” SATA drives and an HP Z Turbo Drive for lots of, and fast stor­age. There are plenty of ports for I/O in­clud­ing Dual 1GBE LANS, Dual USB 3.1 Type-c, a Thun­der­bolt 3.0, and four USB 3.0 ports with one charg­ing port.

The form is small enough to sit on edge in a 5U space within a 42U rack, and thin enough to fit seven of them side by side on the same tray. As some­one who trav­els for dif­fer­ent projects, I like that I don’t have haul around my Z820 to a dif­fer­ent coun­try or state to be able to work. The Z2 fits nicely, even on a tiny desk. Plus, it’s prac­ti­cally silent — for the most part. I did man­age to get the fans work­ing over­time with a V-ray ren­der or con­vert­ing some 8K RED footage to a Prores QT.

One thing I would like to see in the fu­ture is sup­port for ex­ter­nal GPU en­clo­sures so I can boost up my GPU ac­cel­er­a­tion with beefier cards. With GPU ren­der­ers like Red­shift, deep learn­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion and now real-time ray trac­ing, it would be fan­tas­tic to not be hin­dered.

The price out of the gate is $799, which will get you some­thing for Pho­to­shop­pery and an­i­ma­tion. But you’ll want to supe it up if you are plan­ning for 3D/com­posit­ing/fx/etc.

All in all, the work­sta­tion has a very small phys­i­cal foot­print and de­liv­ers lots of power in­side that tiny space. The up­side against a lap­top? It’s less ex­pen­sive for the power. The down­side? You still need a mon­i­tor/key­board/ pointer. Yup, I like it a lot! Web­site: www8.hp.com/us/en/work­sta­tions/ z2mini Price: $799

by Todd Sheri­dan Perry

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