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Chromanator feature focus: Masking

Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:20pm

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Simon K Jones

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We promised to reveal some more information about Chromanator to make up for the slight delay in the release date, so here we are with some brand new screenshots and a more in-depth look at the interface. If you have any questions or would like to know more, just let us know!

The possibilities of Chromanator

The power of compositing is limitless - it is limited only by the filmmaker's innovation and imagination. It can be used to mix CGI and live action footage, or you can piece together cartoons with it, or make professional company-style presentations, shots can be artificially created from many elements to create the perfect mise-en-scene, actors can be cloned...and these are just the obvious uses.

AlamDV1 and 2 were both quite specific in what they could do - Chromanator, AlamDV3 and DigiGrade are all far less 'defined', offering flexible tools amd powerful features that can adapt to many different styles of filmmaking. Expect to see some pretty radical diversification in the genres and stories that are showcased in the FXhome cinema - we're expecting an explosion of untapped talent.

Feature focus: Masking

Some of you may already be familiar with the technique known as masking. It involves specifying areas of an image to be transparent and is very useful when dealing with any kind of compositing. AlamDV2 has a limited form of masking, whereby you can place pre-defined mask shapes (circles, squares etc) on top of your effects.

Chromanator (and all the new G6 Engine-based products) has a brand new masking system that offers vastly increased functionality across the board. You can draw your masks shapes using the mouse, and animate them point-by-point. This new precision greatly enhances the compositing opportunities, especially if your greenscreen is not of optimum quality. In fact, the masking tools can be used to split up an image into several separate layers, which can sometimes be vital for creating the illusion of depth.

Precise masking
The top four pictures to the right show an example of masking around a hand and arm, a process that would have been extremely difficult without Chromanator's new masking system.

The footage is from an old Hi8 camcorder, which Chromanator has de-interlaced using the split field method, removing the troublesome interlacing artifacts without losing any quality (the video will be re-interlaced when rendered).

Drawing the mask involves either using the mouse and drawing freehand-style, or clicking the points one-by-one (Beginning the mask). The canvas can be zoomed in to aid point placement (Zooming in close). Points can be easily repositioned, added and removed, so you do not need to worry about getting it right first time.

When you complete and 'close' the mask it will turn light blue (Completed mask). You can still adjust the points and alter the curvature of the lines between each point. In this picture the mask shape has been given a slightly curved appearance, as it is wrapping an organic object. If we had been masking the box, we would have kept the mask more angular.

Once you are satisfied with the mask shape, you can switch to the Animate mode using the tabs in the toolbox on the right. The masked area turns red, and you can now animate the mask position and shape using the tweenable keyframe system. As you can see in A few frames later, it is easy to animate the mask to keep pace with moving objects and camera movement.

Difficult greenscreens
As anybody who has used a greenscreen will know, lighting is often a major problem. An ideal greenscreen should be unshadowed and unblemished - as clean a green as possible. However, all is not lost if some of your shots come out worse than planned.

The example seen in the Poor greenscreen! image is a disastrous greenscreen shot. The greenscreen itself is heavily shadowed, the scaffolding obscures a large portion and - perhaps worst of all - the marine that is descending from the ceiling is not even within the bounds of the greenscreen.

However, have no fear: Chromanator can handle it. A simple colour difference key removes most of the greenscreen, leaving the the bulk of the marine against a transparent background. However, that doesn't help with the surrounding areas.

Garbage mattes can be used to remove the areas that the keys do not automatically remove. Masking out the scaffolding to the left is easy, requiring just a basic box shape (Garbage matte #1). The top and right sides of the image are a little trickier, requiring a more intricate mask, which needs to be animated while the marine drops through the frame. Even this is an easy job with Chromanator, requiring only some patience and a few keyframes (Garbage matte #2). The swift animation system prevents jobs like this from becoming laborious, though.

Before you know it, you have a fully keyed image (Fully keyed), ready for compositing! The better your greenscreen, the faster you can finish your shots, but even a difficult greenscreen element like this is a relatively simple job.

For this example, we'll stick to our marine clip, but make it look there are now two! The animation tools enable us to quickly shift the keyed marine to the left and enlarge him a little (Repositioning).

The composite shows the finished shot, ready to be rendered at full quality and exported. In this screenshot, the display on the canvas is slightly lower quality because the program is using its temp files - an optional feature that can help drastically improve performance speed. More on temp files next time!

A relatively tricky compositing job like this can be done quickly and easily with Chromanator. The pictures for this article were put together speedily - with more time taken and fine-tuning, the results could be even better.

That's all for now, folks - we hope you like what you've seen. We'll have some more goodies for you before the end of the week, so be sure to check back!
Gallery
Precise masking

Beginning the mask

Zooming in close

Completed mask

A few frames later
Difficult greenscreens

Poor greenscreen!

Garbage matte #1

Garbage matte #2

Fully keyed

Repositioning

The composite
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:24pm

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Andreas

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Well, great reading as always! really like this part: "However, have no fear: Chromanator can handle it" razz Keep the english as it is now, even me understands every word!

Great news also, nice to see some nice screens from the keying and the masking, looks powerfull! I don't even this there need to be an upgrade! why 2.0 ? this first version prolly be the ultimate keying pack!
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:25pm

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Gibs

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So the rotosplines are Bezier curves?
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:35pm

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ssjaaron

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Man i am so psyked for that hugegrin man i can't wait to use the new masking tool and animateing it aswell. this is going to be sweet.
peace out unsure
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:42pm

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montego

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Man, this looks so cool. Got a question:

I have some footage of a moving person in front of a window, no greenscreen. Can I use Chromanator to "place" a greenscreen in the window area and by using keyframing, fill in the parts of the window with green where the person is not moving in front of it? Not sure I'm stating this so it makes sense... KInd of like using Sollthar's photoshop filmstrip technique where he was able to "bluesccreen" "The Test" without having shot with a bluescreen.

Anyway, can't wait to get my hands on this software.
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:44pm

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4036Douglas

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I suppose you could do that, since it composites. You would have to make a video of pure green, then put it over your footage,and mask it out over the parts with your actors. There is probably another way to do this, but this would probably work.
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:46pm

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Brettsta

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Sorry to anyone who might find this a dumb question, but what are the masks in the first 4 pictures doing to the footage of the hand?
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:47pm

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blaine

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thats better....now Im realy happy.....

Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 10:54pm

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Axeman

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That is some very impressive stuff. I am looking forward to the final release with much anticipation. Excellent workk once again by csb-digital.

montego- you could indeed solve your problem that way, but you could also save yourself some steps. Once you have masked the window in your original, why not just replace it with your final BG, rather than putting in a greenscreen that wuould have to be replaced again?

Brettsta-the mask over the hand would remove the hand from the footage when rendered. I believe they are simply using it as an example of a complex shape which could be masked. Where the hand is, the mask would create transparency, where you could see another layer of video below it. An alternative use would be to reverse the mask, and you could composite just the hand onto another piece of footage (like Thing in the Addams family.)

Last edited Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 1:18am; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 11:00pm

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format-slut

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Well, I changed my mind. Im buying it now.
Posted: Tue, 30th Dec 2003, 11:05pm

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Aculag

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How long did it take from start to finish on the marine composite?
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 2:06am

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Simon K Jones

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I'll go through several of the questions in this one post...

montego wrote:

I have some footage of a moving person in front of a window, no greenscreen. Can I use Chromanator to "place" a greenscreen in the window area and by using keyframing, fill in the parts of the window with green where the person is not moving in front of it?
As has been hinted at elsewhere, you adding a random unnecessary step there. There are many types of compositing, with greenscreen being just one. You do not need to paint everything green before you can use it! Instead just use a garbage matte, as in the example above, and draw it over the windows. The windows will then be transparent, and you can place whatever you want behind/inside them.

Sorry to anyone who might find this a dumb question, but what are the masks in the first 4 pictures doing to the footage of the hand?
It depends how the hand mask is used.

If it is a garbage matte, it will be attached directly to that clip, and make the hand transparent (in the same way that the garbage mattes make the scaffolding go transparent in the marine clip).

The shot in question is from a scifi film I made years ago, and the box is supposed to be glowing from within with a bright light. Placing a bright light on top and around the box is easy, but you don't want it to completely obscure the hand. You could attach the hand mask to the light-box effect, which would mean that whenever the light-box effect passes behind that area of the frame, it goes transparent. This would create the illusion of the light-box being 'behind' the hand.

How long did it take from start to finish on the marine composite?
I didn't time it, so I'm not exactly sure. I'd guess at about 5 minutes to start the program, import the clip, apply the colour difference key, add the garbage mattes and reposition the clip. Of course, animating the right-side garbage matte would take longer, depending on the length of the clip and the complexity of the movement.

Actually, I just timed myself doing it, and it took about 3 minutes. Of course, a lot of it depends on just how perfect you want it to be. But if you need it done quickly, then Chromanator is a fast way of working. smile
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 2:16am

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er-no

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Well, the result of that keying on the marine is beautiful. I cannot believe its managed to do it so well.

The program is beautiful.[/end]
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 3:24am

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Marek

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Babble and Drool.

Ub... dug ma... blah...

*cough* I'm amazed. Those pictures are amazing. I just wish it would be released already... rather you guys release it wink But i know you have been through some rough times lately, having to work through Christmas and all. I've been waiting since May 26th and I hope I can last these final days. biggrin
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 11:41am

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Mantra

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Great stuff!

I can't wait to use Chromanator to help bring some elements of my new project to fruition. Fantastic screen shots, thanks for the update.

Rock on!
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 1:17pm

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Coop

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Looks nice, thanks for a teaser.

Coop
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 2:57pm

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TAP2

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Sure kept your promise to give us extra info on Chromanator, looks great.
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 3:54pm

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anonymous

Question:

How would we put someone in front of an explosion. I understand that whatever a garbage matte is around, that thing becomes transparent. What would you mask in order to achieve this effect?

thanks!

-j
Posted: Wed, 31st Dec 2003, 3:58pm

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Marek

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You'd mask the guy with a garbage matte or key him or something, and then put the explosion as the layerunderneath him. That would make the man appear to be infront of the explosion. Mess with the sizes a little and booya, you have a nice looking explosion with i guy... infront of it...
This can also be done with alamdv2 using the mask tools but it would take a lot more time and patience.
Posted: Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 4:54pm

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averagejoe

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DADDY LIKE-EEE!!!

THis is going to be so much fun to utilize! The comment you made about how the G6 engine apps are not as limited in function and application is a grand understatement. This tool it really going to blow the top off of what we can and will do with our movies! I really cant wait for the release.

I really can't wait to see what the community starts churning out once it is released. Creativity is going to expand and ideas are really going to be better developed! The possibilities are growing and are damned near limitless!

cool
Posted: Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 7:22pm

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SFX-Spaz

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Marek wrote:

You'd mask the guy with a garbage matte or key him or something, and then put the explosion as the layerunderneath him. That would make the man appear to be infront of the explosion. Mess with the sizes a little and booya, you have a nice looking explosion with i guy... infront of it...
This can also be done with alamdv2 using the mask tools but it would take a lot more time and patience.
wouldn't putting a garbage matte on him make HIM transparent, so the explosion would show through him? could you just put a garbage matte around everything BUT the guy?

Thanks!
Posted: Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 7:24pm

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Marek

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well yeah, thats what i mean. Usually there is an inverse option or something to invert the selection, making the background transparent instead of the guy.
Posted: Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 8:30pm

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Axeman

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SFX-Spaz wrote:

wouldn't putting a garbage matte on him make HIM transparent, so the explosion would show through him? could you just put a garbage matte around everything BUT the guy?
It would also depent what layer the garbage matte was associated with. Using the inverted mask as mentioned would probably work best, but if the garbage matte the shape of the guy is associated with the layer containing the explosion,it would cut that shape out of the explosion, allowing the guy to show through.

Last edited Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 11:59pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Thu, 1st Jan 2004, 10:28pm

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Simon K Jones

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Axeman is spot on. smile

However, I'd just like to clarify a couple of terms:

Garbage matte - this is always attached to a specific clip, and relates directly to the keying. It can be made up of several separate masks.

Masks - these are free-roaming, and can be attached to any clip. It shows up on the timeline like a regular clip.