March 2007 Archives
Thirteen to go! We've got a couple more weeks here, and I'm slowly getting the required elements I'll need to finish compositing the rest of my shots. At the moment I'm working on a lot of keying bits, like edge detail and color correction. Quite a number of my shots were shot without bluescreen, and this helps twofold. One, the lighting is virtually perfect, and all I need is to the set the environment in to match. Two, it make edge work a little easier. A big drawback however is that because there is no bluescreen, I have to resort to a number of different keying methods for every part of the frame, which changes constantly depending on the background that the foreground is on. Lots of lumakeys and difference keys, and the IBK works in select instances.
The weekend was as busy as the work week, with a number of Pirateers coming in to finish shots. Last week was a record 70 hours of work, which I haven't done in a long time.. That's 70 hours of solid, billable, work. Every day was spent from around 7:40am or so to 9ish pm. Am I tired yet, you ask? Well.. Occasionally, depending on how much sleep I get the night before! 7 1/2 to 8 hours works pretty well, but doesn't leave a whole lot of anything else to do.. Surprisingly, or not, the days just fly by now.
So I've been using Nuke for close to a year, and I'm getting more and more impressed with it. It took a week or so to get the gist of the interface and the way it wires up nodes and images, but now everything is second nature. From the customizable hotkeys to the almost immediate image viewing and insanely nice script management, this package is everything I want it to be. Say for example, you're comping a shot, and need to bring in a couple of color corrects and rotoshapes.. Hitting C a couple of times brings up the Color Correct Node, and Shift-B brings up a Bezier node. Need a 2D Transform? Hit T. By default, the bezier node defaults to enabling all the layers, but I've set up my Nuke startup so when it brings a Bezier node up, it only enables the alpha. I've also set up a little hotkey for F10 that resets the colors, so if I bring in someone elses script that's totally colored to not how I'm used to working, I hit F10, and all the nodes revert to the colors I want! Sweet. Want to change node colors? Select the ones you want and hit Shift-Ctrl-C and the color you desire. Great for highlighting nodes that you want other artists to focus on.
There is a lot of talk with the IBK, the Image Based Keyer, which is unique to Nuke. Think of it as a difference keyer, on steroids. It's very powerful, and while it doesn't work solely on its own, it can definitely get you 95% there. Some UI changes that I've helped contribute to include the new colorpicker in 4.6. While Gary was here at DD, I casually mentioned to him that Flame and Shake both have a color wheel that allows you to see colors on a wheel and pick one freely. He thought that was a great idea, and suggested that I put in a feature request.. So I did. And now it's in there. I use it religiously. You can enable it by going into your Preferences>Panels, and clicking off Use old colorpicker. Another little UI tweak that was recently added to 4.6 was the ability to view positive and inverted mattes while using any node that allows an embedded matte. By default, even if you choose to invert a matte, it doesn't show you in the DAG. A simple addition to the GUI allows you to visually see whether each node if the matte it's using is inverted or not without opening up the node.
There are a couple more GUI tweaks that I hope will get implemented in time for the next public release. And yes, a bunch of paint additions will hopefully be added! Both Apple (Shake) and Discreet (Toxik) have a lot to change or add to if they want to retain or gain some of the highend desktop compositing market, which itself is a small, yet powerful industry. We'll see what they've got at NAB2007.
Some screenshots to keep you salvating for the Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima breakdowns that I'm currently prepping! The resulting posts will be on VFXTalk and here in on DigitalGypsy within the gallery section.
You may have noticed that I've added some del.icio.us linking and Digg goodness here. Just a little bit more interactivity for your browsing pleasure. I'm also trying to figure out how to get comment updating working correctly, so you can subscribe to a post itself, and get an email telling you when a comment you wrote has been answered. RIght now I think it only lets me know when there's a new comment. Previously I was using MTComment on a old version of Movable Type, so hopefully I can get it working again.
The Pirates of the Caribbean trailer is out! We saw it last night on Disney.com, right after it premiered in the commercials between Dancing with the Stars.. No, I didn't watch that. I was busy watching Jack Bauer take down some terrorists. Unfortunately, the Disney trailer on their website was the size of a postage stamp, so a lot of the detail that I wanted to see was missing. It's now up on Yahoo Movies in glorious HD, so make sure you head on over there and check it out! It does require Quicktime 7. After watching it, I noticed one of the shots that I'm currently working on is in the trailer. So there're definitely not final visual effects shown.
Yesterday was also a long day as well. I worked about 13 hours, and managed to get my first two finals of the show. Finally, after about eight weeks, I have some finals. Now, I'm probably going to jinx it, but they still need to go before the production vfx supervisor and his crew before I get a show final. I'll cross my fingers though.
The deadline is fast approaching. I can't believe that we've only got a couple more weeks, and then the show is all over! I don't where the other studios are in the deadlines. Currently the companies finishing up the show are ILM, DD, the Orphanage, Evil Eye, Gentle Giant, and Asylum. I think Pac Title is doing some finishing work, and Proof, like always, is doing the previs. We had a previs artist earlier in the year who they placed next to me, and we got a chance to talk during his several months here. It was quite interesting talking to him about the state of the industry, and where he fit in, in the pipeline. The work he, and the other previs artists in the industry, are doing is vital. They're responsible for creating some of the dynamic shots in all the movies you like to see while keeping the show on budget and efficient. They figure out what sort of moves an actual or virtual camera rig is capable of, so you're not surpised when you get on set. Another group of unsung heroes! He's now off our show, now working with the team on Avatar here in LA.
The great thing, or one of the great things, about working on this show is that occasionally we'll need to shoot some extra elements for certain sequences. The stage and lot has been closed down several times to facilate the extra shooting schedule. We've had some really cool element shoots out there, from ships to smoke to debris. Come March 19th, you'll see a lot of cool work and extra bits that some of the artists did for the trailer. Which reminds me, that's coming out in two days, and like you, I haven't seen it yet, and no, I don't have any shots in the trailer for this film.
The 17 shots that are still on my plate, are, well... still on my plate. No finals, just consistent tweaks. They may get added to or removed, depending on my workload in the future, and how busy I'll be with them and with helping some of the other artists. If you noticed on my gallery page lately that I've listed last years movies (Flags, Letters, and Charlotte's Web) with coming soon dates of early this year.. Well, that's not happening, as you can tell! I've got such a limited amount of time that I haven't had a chance to get the DVDs and start doing some breakdowns. I'm hoping come end of April I'll have something added there and in the Case Studies section of VFXTalk.
This morning I received an email from my pal Dan, over at Blue Sky. The link he pointed me to was this one over at FXGuide, http://www.fxguide.com/article407.html. In it, it describes that Nuke is now part of The Foundry, which, as of this morning, is news to me! I'm sure we'll be hearing about it from the head honchos in charge sometime today. There's a short interview with Foundry Head of R&D Bill Collis about it. Watch this space for more updates today!
It's Saturday already, and here I am, back at work. I've been here for about an hour already, and it's amazing what I can get done while the farm is free! My shots are picking up pretty quickly. I've picked up another couple of shots, and also had some taken off my plate, because, as it stands, I have 17. It was up to 20 at one time, but a couple of my simpler shots were handed off after I prepped them. I'm still running around, helping fellow compers on some of our difficult bluescreens for the show. It's fun, challenging, and rewarding at the same time. It's tough, since each and every bluescreen has to be approached in a different manner, and one method for creating a great key won't work on another shot! Luckily, the tools we have at our disposal in Nuke are extremely useful. The IBK is coming into its own, and while it doesn't work for all the shots thrown at it, it does help in the efficiency of pulling keys.
Niki is away these several weeks, so I've taken over her shots, which I mentioned earlier. Her machine is lying idle here, and it's the one with Flame 9.5 on it. While several of my jobs were rendering, I decided to sit down again with it and play around. One thing I realized that I really miss was its keying ability, specifically the modular keyer. Using that within Flame's batch system proved powerful, but equally daunting! I still, surprisingly, remember most of the hotkeys.
So far I've put in about 55 hours of work this week, not including today, which will probably put it up to around 65 or so. I'm not totally in a crunch yet, but there's just soooo much more work that needs to get done. If I can maintain the 11-12 hour days for the rest of the show, that'd be great. I have an unfortunate feeling that it will increase near crunchtime. I think it's a necessary evil though, as the show is scheduled to be released into theatres May 25th!
If you haven't already, go and check out Chris and Kenn's Mondolithic interview with CTV in Vancouver! It's a quick 4 minute interview, covering their work for various covers of magazines, from Scientific American to Wired, to almost everything in between. We had lunch with them when they were down here for a SciFi & Fantasy convention earlier in the year. They're one of the few former coworkers that we still hang out with outside of work.
As I wait for some of my renders to complete, I thought I'd share what sorts of things happened this week.. Most of it is Pirates related, but there were several bonus items that happened as well! Tuesday evening we had monthlies, which is a gathering of DD folk, and we watch everything accomplished during the month from the entire studio. Lots of great commercial spots, and work in progress from all our films that we're currently working on. To name a few, Transformers and Pirates. It's definitely coming along, and there are some really cool sequences that I can't wait to see completed! We also got a chance to see a significant number of completed Meet The Robinsons shots, in 3D. Not that old school anaglyph stuff, but in polarized light! It was pretty impressive, considering the amount of work that we had to do to create a 3D shot from 2D imagery! Luckily we had some talented supervisors and technical artists that had built a fairly efficient pipeline to accomplish the massive number of shots for the show (over 1600!)
I've been handed a couple more shots to start.. I am unsure as to whether I'll finish them though. I've got a good technique down to complete some of the more complex shots in the sequence that I'm working on, and so I've been prepping them for some of the other artists, possibly. So this Saturday morning I'm in and cleaning up the script, making it pass-able to another artist.
Yesterday, Friday, we had a sneak preview, well, actually, just a review, of some of the effects work that the fx team is doing for our show. It wasn't really a sneak preview, since we're currently working on the effects, but there were definitely some eye pleasing visuals from the team. I remember a couple of years ago when water was the tough item to create, along with fire and smoke. Well, I've gotta say, that those days are long gone. After seeing the work, I"m still amazed that all this stuff comes from the computer. The talent behind all this imagery still continues to amaze me.