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The Future of Visual Effects Education

How to get a good education in VFX

Haz reflects on his experience of education institutions which teach VFX courses and explains why some people interested in a career in the VFX industry may be better off not attending University

I’ve visited a lot of education institutions: colleges, universities – which teach Visual Effects courses where I’ve given guest lectures or “recruitment talks” to students about the Visual Effects industry. I’ve realised that more and more places are offering VFX courses to their students.

I’m not going to talk about specific establishments here but instead I’m going to talk about my general experiences.


Observations from my Visits

Many of the faculties I visited were not the well-established universities renowned for providing Visual Effects courses, and yet these less high profile facilities were often kitted out with the latest hardware, beautifully designed work areas, Red Epic Cameras, Green screen studios and even motion capture!

Often this was as a result of government funding, but I realised as I was shown round may of these places that most of these resources were not being used or were empty. Typically I would be told that they get used by the lecturers or occasionally by some of the high caliber students who take a particular interest in Visual Effects.

When I looked at some of the curriculums and course content of the places I visited, I was surprised to find that the level of knowledge wasn’t what I expected. There seemed to me to be a lack of industry-standard learning and my feeling was that students weren’t getting value for money with their course fees.

Read More…


Adobe After Effects CC


Prior to NAB 2013, we had the chance to visit Adobe Headquarters in San Jose and get an overview of the new Creative Cloud, including After Effects CC, (check it out here:  http://bit.ly/12MCxlw). At NAB, we were treated to

a private meeting with Steve Forde, Sr. Product Manager for After Effects CC, who gave us an up close and personal look at what we can expect in the latest version.

Refine Edge – Next Level RotoScoping

Forde breaks down just how easy it is to cut out complicated backgrounds at blazing speed.

It’s clear the team at Adobe has put in some serious time developing Refine Edge, as the once painfully long and arduous task of rotoscoping is reduced to a few seconds. Check out the video to watch him change a mountainous background to wooded plains without affecting the foreground action at all.

Maxon’s Cinema 4D Lite

Just like the Cycore plug-ins such as CC Light Sweep (which comes standard with After Effects), the new Maxon Cineware is a fully functional, limited version of Cinema 4D. This allows you to animate 3D objects using Maxon’s technology without ever leaving After Effects. Check out the video for a full demo of just how well this seamless integration works.

Creative Cloud

By now, your probably aware that Adobe is moving away from a box product to being a purely subscription process. I’ve actually been using the subscription service myself for the past year, and I can tell you as a long time Adobe user (Since 97), CS6 Creative Cloud has been the most pleasurable software experience I’ve had. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, the updates for all of the products of the suite come at lighting speed. In the past, you paid for Adobe’s production suite outright, and they then had your money for what may be two years or more.

Once you received the software and load it, their involvement was essentially over until the next release. However, because of the “subscription” aspect of  Creative Cloud, the burden is upon Adobe. Now, swift reaction to problems and bugs (as well as a steady stream of feature enhancements) are necessary if they hope to retain their customer base. As they now know too well, if the customer isn’t happy, they can just cancel their subscription and take their business elsewhere. In my opinion, it’s a much more honest business model that keeps Adobe working for the ones who matter most: the customer.

One License For 2 Machines (different platforms, no problem!)

Secondly, with one license you can load the programs of the Creative Cloud on two machines. This is nothing new, but with Creative Cloud they can be two machines of different platforms. My tower at the office is a PC. However, I use a Macbook Pro on the road, and with one subscription, both machines are loaded with whatever apps I choose.  This is incredibly awesome if you consider that in the past, one must choose either PC or Mac with most software licenses.

Access to Every App Adobe Makes

I’ve heard many people say they don’t want to pay the $49.00 for the Creative Cloud because they don’t want to pay for software they’ll never use. To this I say fair enough, but consider the freedom you have to explore all of the great programs Adobe offers at your leisure. Since moving to the Creative Cloud last year, I’ve been able to get my feet wet in Dreamweaver, Illustrator and others —  a luxury I just wouldn’t have been able to afford or justify with just Production Premium.  With video becoming the vernacular of the day, and an increasing demand for video and web integration, I think it behooves oneself to keep evolving their skillset just as technology and distribution also evolve.  I guess I look at it as an opportunity to grow and enhance my skill set for tomorrow while getting the tools I need for today.

However, if you’re still convinced you’ll only need After Effects, and you don’t want pay for anything additional, then just get After Effects at $20 per month – a mere $240 per year.

Look for more information on After Effects, go to their website at:  http://www.adobe.com/products/aftereffects/features.html

Boston’s First Heat Wave 2013 – Boris FX

For more information about Boris FX, or to get your copy today, please call (310) 922-1631 or

Boris FX – Advanced Avid FX 6 with Kevin McAuliffe

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Creation Real Time Renderer

Posted Sun Jul 14, 2013
Renderer News
Creation Real Time Renderer

Fabric Engine announced Creation RTR, an interactive viewport renderer that brings high-end game engine rendering technology to domains such as VFX production and pre-production, without introducing the limitations that have prevented wide-spread use of these game engines (primarily the need to pre-process and pre-compile data, which introduces destructive, one-directional pipelines).
– See more at: http://www.maxunderground.com/archives/19293_creation_real_time_renderer_for_max.html#sthash.Y6AGdkLz.dpuf

The Creation RTR provides a framework that enables the development of advanced rendering techniques. Fabric Engine set out to render several orders of magnitude more geometry and lights than is possible in standard 3D applications. Studios must work with massive data sets and artists need to visualize this data in real-time. The Creation RTR supports many thousands of lights, as well as handling things like transparency automatically, post-effects and HDR lighting. The renderer features a scalable architecture for the efficient management of large numbers of objects, efficiently handling the allocation of CPU and GPU resources.

The renderer can be used as an alternative, high-performance viewport for 3DS Max – the multi-threaded performance and OpenGL technology means that it can support hundreds of lights, soft shadows, motion blur, AA, DOF within the Max viewport to provide previz and lookdev tools. In addition, it can use the Max tools to drive heavyweight assets within the viewport – this means that animators can work on a higher quality version of assets, reducing wasted iterations.

According to Fabric Engine “rendering will improve over the coming months” as they’ll be “adding support for proper sorted transparencies, motion blur, depth of field, and reflections”.

The Max RTR is expected to be released sometime this Fall. Those interested can join the Creation discussion list to keep an eye out for early testing opportunities.

More information on Fabric Engine’s website. – See more at: http://www.maxunderground.com/archives/19293_creation_real_time_renderer_for_max.html#sthash.Y6AGdkLz.dpuf

Creation Real Time Renderer



Fabric Engine announced Creation RTR, an interactive viewport renderer that brings high-end game engine rendering technology to domains such as VFX production and pre-production, without introducing the limitations that have prevented wide-spread use of these game engines (primarily the need to pre-process and pre-compile data, which introduces destructive, one-directional pipelines).

– See more at: http://www.maxunderground.com/archives/19293_creation_real_time_renderer_for_max.html#sthash.Y6AGdkLz.dpuf

Eye Candy Filters Collection Updated for Adobe Creative Cloud

The venerable collection of effects now works with Photoshop CC and can store presets in Creative Cloud.

Alien Skin Software has been developing plugins since 1994, and over the years has created a range that caters to the needs of both graphic designers and photographers, with the current lineup including Blow Up, Exposure, Bokeh, Snap Art, Alt Photo, Photo Bundle and Image Doctor. The 32 filters in Eye Candy, along with more than 1,000 one-click settings and 100 controls, are designed to render realistic effects that are difficult or impossible to achieve in Photoshop alone.

While special effects filters for Photoshop are typically suited just for creating novel, unrealistic results, Eye Candy effects such as Animal Fur, Smoke and Reptile Skin are said to be rendered in great detail down to individual hairs, turbulent wisps and irregular bumps. Eye Candy supports 16-bit/channel images and CMYK mode, as well as taking advantage of multi-core CPUs and working with the 64-bit version of Photoshop. It provides multiple techniques for non-destructive editing in Photoshop, including Smart Filter support and rendering effects on a duplicate of the original layer.

Version 7 added Lightning, Electrify and Cloud effects, as well as a new interface that speeds visual effect browsing. The latest update, available free to registered users, adds Photoshop CC compatibility as well as the ability to store effects presets in Creative Cloud or other cloud-based storage, such as Dropbox.

Eye Candy 7 for Mac and Windows works with Adobe Photoshop CS5 or later and compatible applications, and can be purchased on the Alien Skin Software site for $199. A trial version is also available for download.

Kappa Studios switches to Adobe workflow to create Cartoon Network’s Annoying Orange series

By Meagan Keane | July 12, 2013

In November 2011, Cartoon Network announced it was bringing the web series, Annoying Orange, to its programming lineup. The show, which debuted a year ago, is a television adaptation of the amazingly popular web series. Produced by 14th Hour Productions, Annoying Orange is a very offbeat, quirky animated comedy series. Kappa Studios, located in Burbank CA, switched from Avid to an Adobe workflow, including Adobe Premiere Pro, to tackle all the visual effects, compositing, off-line, initial on-line pre builds, and audio for this show. Kappa President Paul Long sat down with us to talk about working on this technically complicated, multi-dimensional, and fast-paced show.

Adobe: Can you tell us a little more about the TV series?
Long: Annoying Orange stars a playful yet mouthy orange that pesters an apple and other fruit characters with puns and jokes. Its offbeat humor and style has drawn more than one billion hits on YouTube at last count. Dane Boedigheimer, creator of the web series, co-created the television series with Tom Sheppard (Emmy Award-winning writer for Pinky and the Brain). Conrad Vernon (director of Madagascar 3 and Monsters vs. Aliens) serves as executive producer for the series along with Gary Binkow and Dan Weinstein. Boedigheimer is the voice of Orange as well as several other characters. Joining him are seasoned talents Felicia Day (Clash of the Titans), Harland Williams (Dumb and Dumber), Phil LaMarr (Family Guy), and cameo appearances by William Shatner, James Caan, and others. Leading the Kappa digital compositing team is Patrick Murphy (Harry Potter, Clash of the Titans, Avatar, Superman Returns).

Adobe: Why was Kappa chosen to cover all the diverse roles on the project?
Long: The producers chose Kappa because we could give them more value and control by being a full-service, post-production facility featuring complete picture and sound packages, VFX, Dolby-certified dubbing stage, digital file management, close-caption transcription, RED camera department, and a CGI graphics department. In addition to being able to deliver a high-quality finished product, doing everything under one roof helps us create the show inexpensively. We’re even doing all of the foreign language translations.

Adobe: Can you describe your workflow for our readers?
Long: We start with a combination of live-action RED camera footage, graphics, and animation. The scenes are edited, composited, and color-corrected at Kappa. We also handle voice talent recording and mixing.

The post pipeline for this unique show started getting complex almost right away. The number of assets mounted quickly, because there are several fruit characters besides Orange, and they appear in offices, fields, spaceships—you name it. What’s also unique is that the actors don’t just perform their lines to match up with the animation like in other animated series. Instead, we have a “mouthcam” that shoots the actors’ performances—capturing their poses, the way they move their mouths, and their facial expressions, in addition to their voice performance. The mouths are cut out and added to part of the extensive base of assets. Then the offline editors have to create a rough animatic of all the layouts, voice and actor performances, camera blocking, motion effects, and so on to see how things are coming together.

Adobe: What led you to weave Adobe video production software into the process?
Long: Pretty much everyone in the industry knows that we offer an end to end solution for post and edit on all platforms, but we’re known as a big Avid DS/Avid shop, so our widespread incorporation of Adobe software may come as a surprise to some. At first, our plan was to use a combination of Avid for editing and eyeon Fusion for compositing. Then, we realized we had to start delivering shows right away, and the post workflow is so complex that each episode takes us about 31 days, and we’re talking long days, plus weekends. We needed an easier, more interoperable way to manage tons of assets and help the whole team make creative decisions earlier in the production process and Adobe provides a comprehensive video toolset and end-to-end workflow to help us accomplish these goals.

Adobe: Which Adobe solutions are you using on the show?
Long: We’re using almost the entire Adobe video workflow. Adobe Bridge is where we keep all our assets—fruits, backgrounds, chunks of dialog, cuts from the mouthcam—it handles them all and lets us keep track of them and find them easily. We also use the tagging and scheduling capabilities in Adobe Story Plus to help organize our VFX workflow. We’re using Adobe After Effects and Photoshop for retouching, VFX, and animation. Then, the beauty is that we can create the offline creative edit in Adobe Premiere Pro by building a layered animation that shows the timing and template. The Premiere Pro timeline is actually pretty amazing, because we can pull all the things we need together to assemble the final clips and render them out—just by throwing them on the timeline. Everything is rendered in Premiere Pro on the spot in real time and ready for team review so we can make quick, last minute changes. Once the extended crew is happy with the offline in Premiere Pro, we do the final renders in After Effects, and then do the final conform and color correction on the Avid DS.

Adobe: What are the advantages of working with Premiere Pro over Avid?
Long: Looking back, realistically, I don’t see how we could have done it the way we were first considering with Avid. There were so many assets, no time to transcode, and the need to quickly integrate with other programs. Premiere Pro gives us the ability to work natively and integrate seamlessly with other tools in the suite. If we had tried to do this with Avid there would have been 19 other steps. We recognized that you have to have the right tool for the job, and in this case Premiere Pro was just the right answer.

Adobe: What about overall performance?
Long: At one point, we ran 17,000 frames at a time when we were monitoring and doing the tape layoff to HD SDI for final editing. Due to our AJA Kona cards and Mercury Transmit in Premiere Pro, we didn’t drop a frame. And everything worked quickly (and we’re talking about handling north of 100 layers in Photoshop, for example). We used powerful NVIDIA Quadro cards across our workflow and even used the Tesla Compute GPU to create a superior post-production editing environment. NVIDIA GPUs made a significant difference for us in terms of speeding performance across all of the Adobe video-production tools so we could get more done in less time. It’s an incredibly fluid workflow that makes a very time- and quality-sensitive project possible.

Adobe: It sounds like you adopted Adobe video tools at a time when you were in a bit of a crunch—what was that like?
Long: We were in a pretty pressurized situation, with the need to get a lot of episodes done quickly. First, we were able to utilize the keyboard shortcuts feature in Premiere Pro to automatically set editors’ keyboards to Final Cut or Avid mapping, whichever program the editor was most accustomed to. This alone was a huge help. The integration of After Effects and Photoshop—products we know well—with Premiere Pro also made the workflow seamless. After Effects handles the complex visual effects beautifully and the ability to work natively in Premiere Pro is critical; if we had to wait to transcode everything it would be ridiculously time consuming.

Adobe: Is there anything else that has helped you make this show a success?
Long: Another tool in our arsenal is Sapphire from GenArts. We’ve been longtime users of this special effects software, and it’s used on just about every show we work on. It was natural that we would find uses for it on this show even though it is not what you would call an effects intensive show, despite the fact that every shot is a composite. Sapphire has so many features it’s literally like a Swiss army knife. We are used to seeing its very dynamic and flashy transitions but it functions as a valuable aid as a repair tool, if there isn’t time to re-composite because of a looming deadline.

Adobe: All in all, how many episodes have you completed in how many months?
Long: We finished 30 episodes in six months. It has genuinely been an epic project with tremendous results and we are picked up for season two! Rest assured, even though an all-Adobe workflow was a new endeavor for Kappa Studios, Adobe software is in our future now. And, the people at Adobe really went the extra mile to make sure we had the resources and expertise to make the project a success.

Aspen Ideas: Is Design Too Dangerous to Teach?

Aspen Ideas: Is Design Too Dangerous to Teach?

Mickey M.

President and CEO at MAYA Design, Inc

I’ll be recharging my brain, exploring far-reaching ideas about education, design literacy, leadership, and civil society over the next few days at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

My focus will be on understanding how these deep and subtle topics fit together, and how we cope with the emergent consequences of our actions, in the coming age of connectivity and complexity—when trillions of computing devices are connected to each other, and to us.

Given that I’m humbled to be staying on a campus designed by Herbert Bayer of Bauhaus fame, I think it might be fitting to start my first post at the intersection of design and education.

The questions I’d like to pose are simple, “Should we just leave design to designers?” and “Is human-centered design important enough to teach people as a basic literacy?

Let’s try a dramatic thought experiment.

Imagine we set up a research study at our labs to answer these questions. But instead of working with kids or people like me and you, we exposed the worst that our society has to offer—extremists, terrorists, zealots—to the practice of human-centered design. Couple that with the transformational power of the Internet of Everything—or the Industrial Internet or however you prefer to call the era of pervasive computing—and what do you suppose the outcomes would be?

Below are a few of our hypothetical researcher’s journal entries as he explores these questions:

08:30 AM April 1, 2018, Research Campus Number 5

Day 16

NOTE: We will be using the full capabilities of the Double-Helix simulation environment and will be running the clock at significantly faster than real time. Our goal is to simulate a year in a week, a week in a day, so that we can adequately study the emergent patterns of our experimental scenario.

Read more…



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5 Myths About Adobe Creative Cloud – from Terry White’s Tech Blog

As I begin to wind down the Adobe Create New Tour, I couldn’t help but notice that no matter what city I went to, the story was the same. While people generally knew about Adobe’s Creative Cloud, they often had misconceptions about it. I started each presentation explaining what Creative Cloud was and what it wasn’t. Since not every one can attend a Create Now event Live, I thought I’d debunk the Top 5 Myths about Creative Cloud that I hear the most.

#1 “I don’t want to run my Applications in a web browser!”

When people hear “cloud” they get visions of running applications in a web browser. While that may be the case with other cloud offerings, it’s not the case with Creative Cloud. Creative Cloud members download and install their Apps as Adobe customers always have. The Apps like Photoshop , Illustrator, InDesign and even the new app Muse runs from your Hard Drive, not from the cloud.

#2 ” I don’t want to have to be connected to the internet just to use Photoshop.”

Once we get past the fact that you download the Apps and install them on your hard drive, people still sometimes think that they need to be connected to the internet to actually run the Apps because they are Creative Cloud Apps. Again, this is not true. Your Apps not only install on your hard drive, but they also can very much run offline. You computer does have to connect to the internet once a month to verify that your membership is still current, but that’s it. Once that check has happened you can disconnect and run all of your Creative Cloud apps OFF-line.

Update as of 5/6/2013: You will need to be online when you install and license your software. If you have an annual membership, you’ll be asked to connect to the web to validate your software licenses every 30 days. However, you’ll be able to use products for 99 days even if you’re offline.

#3 “I can’t share files to my clients or colleagues unless they’re Creative Cloud members.”

With your Creative Cloud membership you get 20GBs of cloud storage. You can use this storage to sync files between your devices and access them via the Touch Apps like Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas. If you place files in your Creative Cloud folder on your hard drive those files will not only be accessible when you’re offline, but you can also log into creative.adobe.com and share them. Once you decide to share a file you can email a link to your colleagues or clients and they will be able to view your file in their web browser even if they’ve never heard of Creative Cloud or the Adobe applications you used to create them. They don’t have to create an account or register for anything. See my video on how to share files with Creative Cloud here.


# 4 “If I decide to leave Creative Cloud I won’t be able to access the files I’ve created.”

When you create files with the various Creative Apps from Adobe, the files are yours. Adobe doesn’t take any ownership or copyright of those files. If you decide to no longer be a Creative Cloud member then you won’t have access to your Creative Cloud applications anymore, but if you’ve got previous CS App versions, you’ll be able to open your files provided that you’ve saved them down to compatible formats with your older applications or other 3rd party Applications. If you ever decided to re-join Creative Cloud you’ll have access to the latest Creative Apps again and you’ll be able to continue working on YOUR files.

# 5 “If I go with Creative Cloud I’m going to always be forced to run the newest versions of the software.”

With Adobe Creative Cloud you will always have access to the latest Adobe Creative Applications, but you are not forced to upgrade. You can continue to run which ever versions of the software that you want until YOU are ready to upgrade. This is crucial for workflows that involve working with clients or vendors that may not be on the latest versions of the software.

Update as of 5/6/2013: Creative Cloud paid members have access to a select set of archived versions of the desktop apps. Starting with CS6, select older versions of the desktop creative apps will be archived and available for download. Archived versions are provided “as is” and are not updated to work with the latest hardware and software platforms.

Bonus Myth “If I have a Mac and a PC I’ll have to join Creative Cloud twice!”

Actually not only is this not true, but it’s one of the best benefits of Creative Cloud. With Creative Cloud you’re allowed to install the software on up to TWO of your computers. Just like you are able to do with the Creative Suite applications. However, unlike Creative Suite, Creative Cloud allows you to download and install either the Mac or Windows versions for each computer. This is great for people that have say a Windows PC at work, but a Mac at home.

 Bonus Myth “I don’t like monthly payments and you won’t let me pay for a year all at once!”

Yes, you can buy a year of Creative Cloud at once and even lock in your price by doing so right here orhere for student/teachers.

Bonus Myth “I don’t need all of the tools in Creative Cloud! I only use Photoshop and $50 a month is too much for just Photoshop.”

You can do a Single App membership to the individual application of your choice for less. There’s even a lower price for CS3-CS6 users. See the plans here.

Get the Facts!

Those were the top 5 myths that I hear all the time, but there are several more misconceptions about Creative Cloud. If you have questions, I encourage you to check out this extensive FAQ. I’d be willing to bet that your question has been answered there.

Original Post from Terry White’s Tech Blog  http://terrywhite.com/