Visu­al­iz­ing In­de­scrib­able Mon­sters

Animation Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Todd Sheri­dan Perry

The team at Frame­store faced some un­usual chal­lenges as they cre­ated the mon­sters for HBO’s ac­claimed new se­ries Love­craft Coun­try.

Razer Blade 15 Stu­dio Edi­tion

Of all of the newer lap­top/mo­bile work­sta­tions that have re­cently come out with the lat­est RTX card, the Razer Blade 15 Stu­dio Edi­tion is the new­est and vis­ually the sex­i­est, in my opin­ion. The new model has an an­odized fin­ish on top of a body milled from a block of alu­minum (which I found a lit­tle sharp on the edge) and an il­lu­mi­nated color key­board which could be just glitzy glamor, but I found it prac­ti­cal to map spe­cific col­ors to keys, sim­i­lar to the Avid key­boards of long ago (I’m sure they are still around).

But to move be­yond the slick ex­te­rior: The first as­set is the 4K touch dis­play that ex­tends to nearly the edge with a min­i­mal bezel, with a 100% DCi-P3 color gamut — which is the stan­dard that the Amer­i­can film in­dus­try has set for movie pro­jec­tors. This means that you can be rea­son­ably sure that what you see is what should be com­ing out when it’s pro­jected. And for a lap­top like this, that is ex­tremely im­por­tant. Be­cause, while the Razer Blade Stu­dio Edi­tion runs the lat­est ver­sion of GTA very well, that is not what it’s made for. It’s de­signed to be a work­horse for cre­ativ­ity. Since this is an an­i­ma­tion-cen­tric pub­li­ca­tion, and I’m an an­i­ma­tor, I’m go­ing to say it was de­signed for us (even though that as­suredly is only par­tially true).

To fur­ther prove my point, the dis­play and ac­cel­er­a­tion is driven by a Quadro RTX 5000 with Max-Q (mean­ing it is de­signed to fit within a very thin pro­file). The sys­tem I’m re­view­ing has a dis­play card with 16GB of RAM, which is pretty ro­bust. The RTX se­ries of Nvidia cards is specif­i­cally de­signed for ray-trac­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion. Any soft­ware us­ing the GPU has by now been up­dated to uti­lize this tech­nol­ogy to speed up cal­cu­la­tions. And for our pur­poses, this weighs heav­ily in 3D ren­der­ing from GPU ac­cel­er­ated ren­der­ers like V-Ray, Arnold, Red­shift, Ren­derMan — you name it. But it also is im­por­tant for real-time ren­der­ing in things like Un­real En­gine. And with real-time tech­nol­ogy jump­ing into light­speed af­ter the suc­cess of The Man­dalo­rian, this kind of tech­nol­ogy is no longer sim­ply an op­tion — it’s a ne­ces­sity. So, if you have that in your 15” Razer Blade … I’ll let you fill in the con­clu­sion.

But, I di­gress! The Razer Blade has a lot of power packed in­side of it, which means that it gen­er­ates a lot of heat. The designers have mit­i­gated that by us­ing a cop­per va­por cham­ber that va­por­izes deion­ized wa­ter and trans­fers the heat away from the com­po­nents (a.k.a. science things), through its dual fans and out the bot­tom. Great for the hard­ware, bad for your legs.

The souped-up model I was re­view­ing comes in at nearly $5K with the RTX, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, which is a healthy in­vest­ment. But if you are on set pro­vid­ing real-time ren­der­ing for di­rec­tors to look at, it might just be worth it. Web­site: Razer.com

Price: Starts at $4,299.99

Foundry’s Flix 6.3

Flix is Foundry’s on­line sto­ry­board and an­i­matic tool geared to­wards story de­vel­op­ment and pre-pro­duc­tion on film, TV, gam­ing and an­i­ma­tion projects — or what­ever medium hap­pens to be in­vented in the fu­ture. Story is story, right? But how is it dif­fer­ent from, say, draw­ing sto­ry­boards and cut­ting them to­gether in some­thing like Avid, Pre­miere or Toon Boom’s Sto­ry­board­Pro?

The an­swer is that Flix acts as a cen­tral col­lab­o­ra­tion hub be­tween team mem­bers and soft­ware. The key be­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion — and, more crit­i­cally in these pan­demic times, re­mote col­lab­o­ra­tion. Flix is es­sen­tially lo­cated in the cloud with a server up and run­ning for your ac­count. You can set up your own server, but for this re­view, I’ll be talk­ing about the Foundry’s cloud ser­vice. All of the peo­ple on the cre­ative team have their own lo­gins and per­mis­sions. And as peo­ple make changes to the project, every­thing is tracked within the data­base and stored as re­vi­sions.

This is a lit­tle ab­stract, so let’s get into some de­tail. I have a project that has been sto­ry­boarded — prob­a­bly through a dig­i­tal source like Pho­to­shop or Sto­ry­board Pro, but it could be scanned from ac­tual pen­cil-on-pa­per draw­ings (gasp!). I can im­port all these draw­ings into Flix, which stores them on the server. Flix brings them in as a set du­ra­tion, and you can view the se­quence of sto­ry­boards as an an­i­matic.

But that’s not so in­ter­est­ing out of the box. So, you can ex­port the se­quence into Avid, Pre­miere or Sto­ry­board Pro, and the ed­i­tor can fine-tune the cut, re­ar­range frames, add ef­fects, add sound, etc., and then push it back to Flix so that ev­ery­one on the team can see it and weigh in.

The di­rec­tor can go in and use an­no­ta­tion tools to mark up the frames in­di­cat­ing changes. Those are seen by the il­lus­tra­tors on the team who can open up the frame as a lay­ered Pho­to­shop file, which is dy­nam­i­cally linked to Flix, make the changes and push it back to Flix, where it up­dates — and re­tains ac­cess to the pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the frame. Every­thing is non-de­struc­tive so noth­ing is lost.

This is a 30,000-foot view of what Flix is about, but it was re­quired to quickly dis­cuss ver­sion 6.3, which was re­leased this past spring and has had a few it­er­a­tions since. Some of the larger changes aren’t sexy, but they are im­por­tant: Im­port speeds for im­ages have in­creased by more than 2x since v6.2 — which is cru­cial when you have hun­dreds of boards. Also, Flix can now run over HTTPS, which means your data is en­crypted and safe. But Foundry has also added some func­tion­al­ity to the di­a­logue field, which will travel with Avid ex­ports and be dis­played as a SubCap.

I found Flix’s in­ter­face clean and in­tu­itive (al­though I would like to see a pret­tier UX in the Pho­to­shop plu­gin). The work­flow is clear and re­spon­sive. I was able to ex­port and im­port out of both Pho­to­shop and Pre­miere with­out prob­lem. Even though I don’t gen­er­ate as much ma­te­rial as a whole team, it was read­ily ap­par­ent that on larger projects, the track­ing of ver­sions and changes that Flix man­ages un­der the hood is es­sen­tial, and lets you fo­cus on the cre­ative rather than the ad­min­is­tra­tive.

Web­site: foundry.com/prod­ucts/flix

Price: Avail­able on en­quiry

Sil­hou­ette Paint for Nuke

Ear­lier this year, I re­viewed a num­ber of re­cent tools from Boris FX, one of which was their paint and roto tool Si­hou­et­teFX, which is also a full com­posit­ing tool. A few months later, they re­leased Sil­hou­ette Paint, which can be launched from within the host com­pos­i­tor of your choice: Af­ter Ef­fects, Fu­sion, Flame and Nuke to name a few. But for this, I was us­ing the ver­sion within Foundry’s Nuke 12.2. It’s a Sil­hou­ette Light ver­sion that is geared to­ward paint and roto while leav­ing out the more ad­vanced stuff that the stand­alone ver­sion has.

Here is the ge­nius of this ground­break­ing work­flow: Boris FX had re­leased a plu­gin for Mocha Pro that works in a sim­i­lar way. The beauty of it all is that you are in­cor­po­rat­ing the tools into a dy­namic, non-de­struc­tive way that doesn’t stall or dis­rupt the work­flow. You see, in the past, you would ex­port a se­quence of files from the com­pos­i­tor, quite pos­si­bly af­ter you’ve done a num­ber of pro­cesses, and then im­port that se­quence into Sil­hou­ette for paint­ing. Then, you would ex­port the re­sult to a new se­quence, that you then im­port back into the com­pos­i­tor. And off you go, back to the com­posit­ing work. This can add up to a huge amount of ren­der­ing time, and a lot of drive space.

So within Nuke, you can bring in a Sil­hou­ette Paint node into your flow, and launch the in­ter­face from within Nuke. You do all of your paint work and exit back out to Nuke, and the paint cal­cu­lates un­der the hood from Sil­hou­ette, feed­ing the painted footage to the rest of the Nuke script. I tested it out on some pretty heinous paint­work on a 500-frame shot and didn’t no­tice any sig­nif­i­cant slow­down in the work­flow. While you could save out a pre-ren­dered se­quence, I felt it was un­nec­es­sary, as cal­cu­la­tions within Sil­hou­ette were re­spon­sive enough. If I no­ticed some­thing that I had missed, I could sim­ply go back into Sil­hou­ette through Nuke, make the changes, and it would prop­a­gate through the rest of the comp.

What is also in­ter­est­ing and crit­i­cal, is that the data is ac­tu­ally cross-plat­form, so the paint file can be shared be­tween Af­ter Ef­fects, Nuke, Pre­miere, Fu­sion, etc.— all while main­tain­ing OCIO or ACES color pro­files. You could even open it up in a stand­alone Sil­hou­et­teFX if you needed to use some of the more ad­vanced tools.

Bonus up­date: Sil­hou­et­teFX has a crazy cloning fea­ture that al­lows it to blend be­tween two dif­fer­ent clone sources at the same time! So if you are paint­ing some­thing out that is dark on one side and bright on the other, you can in­ter­po­late be­tween the two. This was a life-chang­ing quick tip that I picked up from Boris FX guru Mary Po­plin. Thank you!

Web­site: Bor­isfx.com/prod­ucts/sil­hou­ette-paint An­nual Sub­scrip­tion Only ◆

Todd Sheri­dan Perry is an award-win­ning vfx su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist whose cred­its in­clude Black Pan­ther, Avengers: Age of Ul­tron and The Christ­mas Chron­i­cles. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­vfx.com.

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