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Free Greenscreen and Tracking Plates

VFX Supervisor Scott Squires’ blog “Effects Corner” links to some nice and freely available greenscreen footage from Hollywood Camera Works. I’m probably the last guy to discover these, but nevertheless the plates are a great training resource. Each shot has some notes about possible keying and matchmoving problems.

And by the way, Scott also has some great articles on various areas of VFX like pre-production, workflow and shot breakdowns.

Inside Nature’s Giants

And now for something completely unrelated to visual effects or far-eastern megacities:

I’ve always loved well-made TV documentaries, you know, the ones before it was necessary to do MTV-style editing and swoooosh-booom-bang-sound effects for everything just to keep young viewers from zapping away.

Youtube hosts Channel 4’s excellent series “Inside Nature’s Giants”, where they show real dissections of some of the animal kingdom’s largest species. It’s a bit bloody, but WOW, it’s a million times better than all those Star Trek Holodeck-CGI-stuff that’s usually put into animal documentaries (yes, even this show has it).

Eyeon Generation 2 and File Naming Conventions

Just read about the upcoming release of eyeon’s next version of Generation. I’ve evaluated version 1 last year and while it was a really promising versioning and viewing solution for vfx shots there was one show-stopper for us: Its nifty incremental saving feature was hard-coded to a version number at the end of the file name. Since our pipeline had a more complicated naming scheme we couldn’t just drop Generation into it.

However, this bit from the press release sounds like they’ve made some improvements in that area although I’m not sure if that extends to incremental saves or just searching metadata:

A sophisticated search-function allows artists to define in-house filename conventions as a pattern and search by fields.

In case you want to know how that particular pipeline’s filename convention looked like:

[project]_[shot]_[status]_[version]_[artist name].comp

Yes, squeezing the artist name into the file name is naughty. And it’s just a way to cure symptoms, not to solve the problem. (The problem being lack of metadata about who worked on the most recent version of a packshot in case somebody else has to modify it when the ad agency asks for an updated version a few months down the road).

But it’s the best you can do without using a database or asset management system since it’s easy to use regular expressions on this and in a multi-OS environment it sorts nicely in Explorer / Finder / the console. A better way would have been to store this metadata inside the Fusion composition, and make no mistake, Fusion is indeed flexible enough to do this. But that would have meant circumventing the “Save As…” dialog with a custom script (did that too on a different job) and even then this metadata would have been hidden from view in Explorer.

But enough nerd talk for tonight 🙂

Einleitung / Introduction

Willkommen auf Comp-Fu. Ich bin ein freiberuflicher Compositing Artist aus München und arbeite von Oktober 09 bis Weihnachten in Shanghai. Dieses Blog ist mein Reisetagebuch für euch und auch eine Art Notizbuch für Sachen, die mit Visual Effects zu tun haben. Und doofe Youtube-Videos. Aber keine Katzenfotos.

I’m a freelance compositing artist from Munich/Germany and from October ’09 right until xmas I’ll be working in Shanghai. Comp-Fu is my public diary for sharing travel reports from Shanghai for my German folks at home and will also be a notepad for stuff related to visual effects. No photos of kittens. But probably the odd youtube video. Please scroll down for my latest posts.

Um nur meine Reiseberichte zu lesen ohne meine beruflichen Fachsimpeleien, einfach diesem Link folgen und ein Bookmark setzen. Alle anderen aktuellen Blog-Einträge befinden sich weiter unten.

Keeping my data in sync

When I’m travelling around, I have to sync a few important files and directories across a Mac mini, a notebook running both Windows and Ubuntu and my iPhone. I still haven’t found a solution to keep calendar, contacts and e-mails across all devices because – call me old-fashioned – I refuse to put everything into the hands of a single service that forces me to rely on one vendor (like Apple’s mobile me) or stores everything on one website (like google mail/calendar or any IMAP mail service).

My contacts and calendars are covered by iTunes. They aren’t synched to my Windows/Linux laptop but whenever I’m carrying it around I also have my phone with me so that’s not a big deal.

For e-mail, I’ve been using Opera for ages and I like it. Its not good with IMAP but I can copy my whole mail directory from Windows to Linux to Mac OS and nothing breaks. So after years of using Total Commander to copy stuff between network drives I’ve finally found a service that takes care of all my synching needs.

Dropbox logoIt’s called Dropbox and offers 2 GB of free online storage space that is kept in sync across all three operating systems. I use it for my e-mail directory, my bookkeeping files and handy VFX related files like Fusion macros or scripts. It works perfectly and it is smart enough not to upload huge files again and again if only small parts have changed. Two additional features that might be handy: it will create an online gallery of jpegs that are uploaded to a certain directory and it allows you to share the contents of arbitrary directories with other dropbox users or the public.

Well, that’s enough corporate endorsement for today. But if you feel like opening up a Dropbox account too, kindly use this link which will earn both of us 250 MB of extra space for free 🙂