Mir, Cool New Plug-in to Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite
The Trapcode Suite is one of Red Giant’s most useful plug-in collections; it’s found in the arsenal of motion designers all over the world. Within it, you’ll find such apps as Trapcode Particular, a powerful three dimensional particle system for After Effects. The plug-in not only delivers smoke, explosions and fireworks, but also much more unusual and artistic results.
The list of other excellent, useful plug-ins in the Suite includes Shine, Form, Lux, Starglow, Horizon, Echospace, 3D Stroke and Soundkeys.
Red Giant recently added Mir to the line-up. This compelling plug-in, which should be a hit with the motion graphics crowd, creates a polygon mesh that you can distort with fractal noise, but you can also bend it, twist it, apply texture maps to it and integrate it all with After Effects lights and cameras. Mir also allows you to create intricate, flowing and smoothly shaded objects, organic elements and abstract landscapes. And it renders fast. Blazing fast, thanks to its OpenGL support. Therefore, you’ll want the latest graphics card with lots of video RAM.
Mir looks like it will open a lot of new possibilities for motion graphics creation inside of After Effects. So If you’re involved with motion design, be sure to head over to the Red Giant website and check it out.
Imagineer Systems’ Mocha 3.1 Shows at SIGGRAPH
Mocha, by UK-based Imagineer Systems, is a powerful app that performs advanced rotoscoping, planar motion tracking, and visual effects. Used throughout the industry on many high profile motion pictures and television commercials, Adobe bundles a version of it with After Effects (called Mocha for AE).
Regular users will want to consider upgrading to the pro version, which offers a lot more functionality.
Version 3 of Mocha Pro offered up a lot of new enhancements, including better control of layers, a new transform tool which makes the manipulation of splines a lot easier, a linking tool which lets you constrain one shape to another and a new dope sheet which allows you to easily work with keyframes on a convenient timeline interface. Version 3 also added a useful 3D camera solver.
At this year’s SIGGRAPH, underway this week in Los Angeles, Imagineer is rolling out Mocha 3.1. Although it’s just a point upgrade, you’ll find significant new tools for lens distorted footage, Python scripting, RED support and even some new rotoscoping tools.
Lightwave Version 11.5 Showcased at SIGGRAPH
NewTek Lightwave has been around for a while. The 3D modeling, animation and rendering package debuted as a standalone app in 1994, after originally debuting as part of the Video Toaster suite in 1990.
Released earlier this year, Version 11 offered new features including instancing, allowing you to create massive duplications of objects in a scene with very little system overhead while keeping render times down. Bullet, the fast, production proven Open Source physics engine, was also part of the new release. When combined with Lightwave’s Fracture tool (also new in 11), it allowed you to create realistic looking collapsing structures or explosions.
Flocking, also new in Lightwave 11, allowed you to create crowds of creatures or other objects and control things like neighbor avoidance, target alignments and cohesive attractions for flocks of birds, schools of fish, insect swarms, wildebeest herds or spaceship attacks.
Other important features included a new unified rendering sampler, Shadow Catcher material for easy compositing into background plates, a new iridescence shader which changes color when viewed from different angles (seen on things like car paint and pearlescent sea shells), and the integration of the industry standard Python programming language which allows you to extend Lightwave with your own custom developed tools.
But wait, there’s more. Lightwave 11 also included GoZ, an interchange technology from Pixologic. It allows apps to send model and texture data directly to and from its ZBrush paint app for highly detailed sculpting on base meshes created in Lightwave.
Version 11.5 of Lightwave introduces a number of other useful features such as better ways to unwrap a model’s UVs, making it easier to create complex UV maps, a Place Mesh tool that allows you to create intricate meshes anywhere on a model’s surface, an interactive slice tool and Heat Shrink tool for conforming geometry which is useful for adding clothes to characters. The new flocking functions include behaviors that allow flocks to chase other flocks or have flocking agents seek out and chase the closest prey.
NewTek added even more good stuff in Lightwave 11.5. Here are a few other things I noticed: a new instant rigging system called Genoma, improvements to FiberFX 9, which is used to create hair and fur), improvements to instancing, and enhancements to Bullet Bullet so that meshes are also now reactive to bone deformations and wind forces can also be added for rippling effects. Check out the video posted on the Lightwave Facebook page for a quick overview.
Latest Version Avid DS Solves Problems, Makes Deadlines for Ironik Design and Post
Times Square Arts, the public arts program of the Times Square Alliance, hired the Avon, Connecticut-based company for this ongoing project. The goal? To change variously formatted artists’ videos into a set of deliverables on Sony HDCAM SR to billboard owners throughout the Square. The video goes out to multiple screens each evening from 11:57 PM until midnight, turning the usual jumble of screens throughout the square into a single venue reflecting the artists’ vision. Each month a new artist or group of artists are featured.
“We first did this in March, with 1080p looping video portraits from artist Robert Wilson,” says Stall, who can trace his DS skills to the release of the very first DS 1 in 1997. “Wilson presented us not with standard 16 x 9 formatted video but one with a nonstandard vertical format. That was just the beginning of the different sorts of video we had to deal with.”
Working within DS is a huge timesaver says Stall, since “it’s an editor, a compositor, and it has great graphic tools. We don’t have to farm anything out or go to a different app such as Maya, which just makes everything much easier to deliver.”
Stall’s company recently upgraded his two DS suites to the latest Version 11. Those stations join a Media Composer/Symphony suite.
Stall spots DS for its flexibility in handling I/O. “One of the concerns was that we had to format for each of the different screens within Time Square, some 50 different ones. We began by scouting the size of each screen and its resolution. Some screens were vertical. We were faced with all different sizes of resolution and formats to deliver.”
Working with QuickTime (QT) animation and QT video from the artists, Stall formats the material into a single reference file, edits and tweaks as necessary, then outputs to Sony’s SR format. “DS is designed to handle various file formats well,” says Stall. “When we delivered the first material, we were told that everything was formatted totally correct. Now that we’ve done this a number of times, we are set up for all the various output resolutions we need to deliver. DS’s pan and scan capabilities are really nice and especially useful here since we are dealing with screens that run from 530 x 320 pixels to some 4K.”
Stall can move everything around on the new resolution independent canvas in V11. “Rather than having to start a new project for each screen (format required for delivery), we can do composite on a timeline, work with blending modes and clips right in the timeline.”
Working in RGB 444 with DS 11’s Artist Color panel, Stall fine-tunes as needed, dialing in color and luminance. “It’s a real timesaver especially since (the panel) is so customizable. DS makes the most of the external controller panel, which gives me finer control and responsiveness over all.”
Stall also like V11’s ability to work with 16 audio channels simultaneously. “This is huge. SR clients come in now and we don’t have to do two passes for the audio anymore.” Stall also likes the new support for AJA Kona 3 and its K3-Box. (Avid DS 11 also supports the newer AJA Kona 3G card and its K3G-Box.)
Ironik’s project roster includes a mix of sporting events, independent film productions, live performances, and a wide range of other clients.
“We’ve grown with DS over the years, which made sense since it was the only really long-form HD product for quite some time,” says Stall. “Some say that DS is long in the tooth, but I’ll go up against anybody with how quickly I can work. It’s a great off-line editor as well. We have a lot of interns that are on Final Cut Pro but once they use DS they don’t want to go back.”
“If I had one workstation to build a studio around, it would be DS 11,” says Stall. “It’s a versatile, cost-effective solution when you’re not a Broadway Video or Postworks.”