Where’s yo’ head at?

nullI’ve been restricted to quarters due to Man Flu recently, and have kept some rather odd company, in the form of the boxed DVD set of ‘Visual Effects for Directors’.

Over 7 intensive DVDs, the Hollywood Camera Work team takes you through the basics and the not so basics of working with 3d software, compositing, match moving, a deep dive into chromakey (from painting a studio to planning shots in a small cyc studio), and dealing with simulations that overlay your movies – explosions, collisions, hard/soft body interaction, particles.

All this is from the point of view of an Indie film maker with an HVX200 or something similar, non-esoteric 3d and compositing software running on desktop computers, and a big vision.

It’s not a course in how to use 3d or compositing software, though it pulls no punches on giving you very detailed information. Rather, it’s to gain an understanding of the process to enable the director or producer to fully comprehend the unfolding workflow when ‘we’ll comp that in post’, and how to plan a chomakey shot that tracks round a subject so they can be inserted into a CGI scene.

Like the other product in HCW’s stable – “High End Blocking & Staging”, this is not an easy watch. You’ll be ‘drinking from the firehose’ so to speak. Info comes thick and fast, and you’ll benefit from repeated watching. There’s over 10 hours of stuff in there, spread over 7 DVDs, and there’s no time for tourists. Buckle up, take notes, and there’s coursework for you to test yourself on hosted at the HCW website.

These courses are sometimes called a ‘film school in a box’, and that’s a pretty good description. It’s 25 years since I’ve sweated through intense lectures and come up gasping for air. But then I find that sort of thing an enjoyable experience….

It’s not going to be suitable for every videographer. It’s aimed squarely at indie film production of the high-tech type (Blocking & Staging is much more general and recommended for all ‘film makers’). The price, $329, is a bargain for what you’re getting. A wise investment. But since I bought my set, HCW are now offering you an option to download images of the DVDs, and they will post you a box and some labels.

Why? Because I had to pay VAT and import duty on my set, suffering delays and surcharges along the way. This way, you download the DVD images, and burn your own disks – the official labels are valued at $3 so do not attract surcharges and duty.

Besides which, this is the sort of thing that’s great to dip in and out of on a small screen as well as the home setup. There is SO much information, it needs repeated viewings to allow all that great knowledge to become part of your own mental toolset. It may not be as instant as Neo’s upload – “I know kung fu…” – but you’ll empathise with with the intensity of the upload experience.


Zmatte is dead, long live DVmatte Pro!

For those with long memories of the UK FCP User Group, you may recall my rants about chromakey and DV. How in theory it should not be done, but in reality it can be done with external plug-ins.

Two offerings lead the field in terms of quality and affordability.

I chose Zmatte over DVmatte Pro a long time ago because, while DVmatte Pro was actually better in the long run, it was too slow and fiddly for the extra 20% of quality you got, and I quickly found out that clients didn’t notice.

So I championed Zmatte. Four clicks and you’d be pretty much there.

Then in September 2007, as a member of the Pixel Corps, I tried version 3 of DVmatte Pro.

The interface has been slimmed and yet it’s more powerful.

The speed is astonishing – due to the fact that rather than burdening your Mac’s main processor with arty stuff, it uses your Graphics Processor to do the work, which is exactly what it was designed for. ‘Hardware Accelerated’ is always an exciting term for graphics geeks.

It does the usual magic of using the ‘shredded’ colour information in DV and HDV and supplementing that with extra detail information gleaned from the brightness (luminance) part of the image.

It now does all the graceful things we like in good chromakeys such as edge wrapping. Still not as gracefully as Zmatte, but the quality is superb and the speed…

… DVmatte Pro is bloody quick. You can actually watch a live preview. You can actually watch a live preview of HDV material being keyed on a MacBook Pro. An 8 minute edit of talking heads against green renders ‘better than hardware’ in about 40 minutes on such a machine – from 1080p EX1 footage. That’s fast.
You will need to watch the on-line tutorials as there are some things to understand, but if you’re needing to do chromakey with FCP from DV, HDV or XDCAM-HD, you really should check out DVmatte Pro.

Online: http://www.dvgarage.com/prod/prod.php?prod=dvmattep3