Posts in Category "Adobe Production Studio"

Changeup

I’m finally back home in San Francisco for awhile and have adjusted to one time zone for the first time in a really long time. The past few months traveling the globe and spreading the word about Production Premium CS3 have been both exhilarating and exhausting. I’ve gotten to meet so many of you in so many parts of the world I’d never expected to find myself in and see the incredible work being done with the tools we make here at the Adobe factory.

For the next few months you won’t be seeing much of me out on the road, but you will be seeing a lot more content from me online (with a 6-week hiaitus thrown in there when my baby arrives later this summer). My colleague Jason will be grounded as well as he is in the same boat (impending Fatherhood) so you’ll be seeing some of our talented Adobe colleagues like Karl Soulé presenting at the types of events you’d normally find me or Jason at.

But enough about the minutia of my professional life. In the spirit of changes and transitions, I’d like to show you how to create an animated DVD menu transition using Encore and After Effects. One of the things that makes Encore unique is its tight integration with AE, so the process here is rather simple.

What I’ll do is create a transition so that when the user clicks the “Play Movie” button on the DVD menu, the menu will animate away to black and then the movie will begin.

I’m going to use one of the menus in Encore’s Library as the example here, so you can follow along if you wish.

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The Library has loads of royalty-free content like menus, buttons, and design elements that can be easily modified, so you can do something quick like I’m doing here, or use the elements in the Library to save time when doing custom menu design. In this case we just want to see the template menus, so click on the first button on that row of buttons in the middle of the panel. That toggles the Library’s display to show only menus. By default, it shows you the menus in the General category, but you can search within any of the categories by pulling down the menu at the top of the Library Panel.

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Making sure you have the General category selected, scroll down and locate the Entertainment Menu. Double-click it and you will see it appear in the Project Panel. To load your new menu in the Menu Viewer, double-click it in the Project Panel.

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At this point you can customize the menu by, for example, changing the text by using the Text Tool along with the Character and Paragraph Panels (as I’ve done) or sending the menu to Photoshop for modification by right-mouse clicking (or cmd-clicking) the menu and selecting Edit Menu in Photoshop. But for now, let’s just take what we’ve got and create the transition. Go to the Menu menu (this always cracks me up – there’s a menu called “Menu) and select Create After Effects Composition.

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You’ll get a dialog prompting you to save your menu as a PSD which will then open up in After Effects. I recommend you save this PSD as well as the AE project you’re about to save, in the same folder as your Encore project in order to keep everything together.

After Effects will launch and create a new project for you, with a single composition that contains all the layers of your menu. Go ahead and save it.

Double-click the Comp to open it in the Composition Viewer.

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Yes, this is After Effects and not Encore — the interfaces are nearly identical . . .

At this point there are unlimited creative options as this is a standard After Effects composition. For now, we’ll do a simple transition to black using the Burn Film effect, which simulates what happens when motion picture film gets stuck in the gate and burns away. In order to have the effect apply to the all the layers in our menu, we’re going to Pre-Compose them.

Select all the layers in your Timeline, then select Layer > Pre-compose

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In the Pre-compose dialog, accept the default setting “Move all attributes into the new Composition” and click OK.

Now, apply the Burn Film effect by selecting Effect > Stylize > CC Burn Film.

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The main parameter in this effect is Burn. Click-and-drag on the value for Burn in the Effect Controls to see how it effects the menu.

One thing about this effect is that once it “burns away” the image, it reveals whatever is beneath, which is in this case nothing. In order to make this look like an actual frame of film burning away, we want white to be revealed. So let’s create a new solid layer by selecting Layer > New > Solid.

In the Solid Settings dialog, click the Make Comp Size button, and make the color white, then click OK. Then, in your Timeline, drag the new White Solid layer below the Pre-comp layer.

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There we go. Now for the finishing touches. Let’s have the image start to burn away from the area of the Play button by moving the center of the effect. Select the Pre-comp layer, then go back to the Effect Controls. Click on the name of the Effect CC Burn Film, and you will see a cross-hatch appear in the center of your Comp. Drag it to the middle of the Play button.

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Now it’s time to animate the transition. Three seconds should be about right, so select Composition > Composition Settings and in the Duration field select all the timecode and type in 300, which represents 3 seconds and 0 frames.

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When you’re done, click OK. Next, set an initial keyframe for the Burn parameter by clicking on its stopwatch in the Effect Controls, and then set its value back to 0.

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Move the Current Time Inditator (CTI) in your timeline to 2 seconds (0;00;02;00) and change the Burn setting in the Effect Controls to 100.

Select Composition > Preview > RAM Preview and see what you’ve got.

The last step will be to have the transition fade to black at the end, so make sure your CTI is back at 2 seconds and select the White Solid layer. Hit the letter T key on your keyboard to reveal its Opacity settings, and then click on the Stopwatch for Opacity to set a keyframe.

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Move the CTI to the end of the timeline and change the Opacity setting to 0. RAM Preview and here’s what you should have (click to play back):

Now, let’s get this baby over to Encore. All you need to do is click and drag the Comp from the AE Project Panel to the Encore Project Panel. This can be done by arranging the apps side-by-side, or by using the cmd-tab or alt-tab keyboard shortcuts to toggle between applications.

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You can also go to Encore’s File menu and select Adobe Dynamic Link > Import After Effects Composition, then drive to your AE project and select the comp.

Finally, let’s weave the transition into the navigation of the DVD. For this next step you’ll need to import a piece of video and put it in a timeline, and this will be our “Main Movie”. Go to your flowchart and click-and drag from the Play button in the Menu to the Main Movie timeline.

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Then set the transition for the Play button by going to the Properties Panel and clicking the Transition tab. Click on the Pickwhip (the little swirl) and drag it to the After Effects comp in your Encore Project Panel.

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You’ll see a Transition icon appear in the Flowchart, in the link from the Play button to the Main Movie timeline. To preview your navigation, right-mouse-click on the Menu and select Preview From Here. Click the Play button and watch the magic happen.

Other ways of incorporating animated transitions into your menus is to do them from one menu to the next (e.g. to transition from the Main Menu to the Scene Selection menu). With some imagination, this can be one of the most creative and fun parts of DVD creation.

Hey, would you rather see these tutorials as a podcast as opposed to written in my blog here? Please send me comments and let me know . . .

AE to DVD

If you work with After Effects, sooner or later you’re going to have to get your beautiful AE composition onto a DVD (and if you don’t then what the heck are you waiting for???). I had to do this myself the other day and used an incredibly simple workflow in Production Studio that involved AE and Encore DVD to create an auto-playing DVD without any menus (a DVD that, when inserted into a set-top player or computer, starts playing automatically).

First, create a new project in Encore DVD. The first thing you’ll be asked is your Television standard. If you’re in North or South America (except Argentina & Brasil), Japan, the Philippines, South Korea or Taiwan it’s NTSC. For everyone else it’s PAL.

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Next, bring your After Effects comp into Encore DVD using the Dynamic Link feature. You can either drag the comp from the AE Project Panel into the Encore DVD Project Panel, or select File > Adobe Dynamic Link > Import After Effects Composition.

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If you use this menu selection, you’ll need to drive to the location of your AE project, then select the comp that you want to open in Encore DVD.

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Next, you’ll tell Encore DVD what MPEG-2 encoding settings to use. All video gets encoded to MPEG-2 for DVD and you want to use encoding settings that will make your video look its best. Start by selecting your Dynamically-Linked AE comp in the Encore DVD project panel. Then go to the File menu and select Transcode > Transcode Settings > NTSC DV High quality 7Mb VBR 2 Pass. This is a great preset for most AE work (and if you’re working in PAL you’ll see the PAL presets in that menu instead).

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If you know about encoding you can also select Edit Project Transcode Presets and create your own custom encoding settings. What the preset above means is that it will encode your video to MPEG-2 at a bitrate of 7 megabits per second, doing a 2-pass Variable Bit Rate encode. This is always a great place to start with MPEG-2 encoding settings.

Okay, now you’ll need to put your AE comp into an Encore timeline. With the Dynamically-Linked comp still selected in your Encore project panel, click on the New Item button (looks like a little page at the bottom of the project panel) and select Timeline.

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Your video (and audio if there is any in the AE comp) will now be in a timeline. Now it’s time to tell your DVD what to do after it finishes playing your AE comp. In most cases you’ll want it to stop, or maybe you’ll want the playback to loop instead. Either way, go to the Properties panel (in the upper-right hand corner of Encore’s UI) and in the End Action pulldown select either “Stop” to stop playback or “Link Back to Here” to loop playback.

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Now, click on the Disc panel, which should be nested behind the Project panel.

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You need to tell the DVD what to do if the viewer clicks the “Title” button on the DVD. Go back to the Properties panel (which now shows the properties for the disc) and in the Title Button pulldown select the first chapter of your timeline.

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Last but not least, it’s time to burn the disc. In the Disc panel click the Build DVD button and the Build DVD panel opens.

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In this panel you can give your disc a name, specify how many copies you want, then click the Build button to burn your DVD. Encore will take care of all the AE rendering and MPEG-2 transcoding behind the scenes.

Of course there is always more than one way to skin a cat. You can also Dynamically-Link your AE comp into Premiere Pro, put it in a timeline, select Window >DVD Layout, and output your DVD from there. One good reason to do it in Encore DVD, though, is if you’re thinking about adding menus or custom navigation somewhere down the line. You can use the project I just walked you through as a foundation to build on, quite easily I might add.

Legal Matters

If you started in video after the mid-90’s there’s a good chance you never used a tape-to-tape, linear, A/B Roll system or a flatbed (I’ve used the former but not the latter, which gives my wife bragging rights in that department). Today, for most people, the definition of “post production hardware” is a computer and maybe some bits and pieces plugged into it, but in the old days you needed a roomful of expensive and complicated gear to get anything done.

Software like Adobe’s DV Rack simulates a lot of the gear you’d find in an old-school edit suite like a broadcast monitor and waveform/vectorscopes.

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The first thing you learned in old-school editing school was how to read those scopes –they’re key to making sure your video is broadcast legal. You’ll also find them in Premiere Pro by opening your Reference Monitor (from the Program Monitor’s flyout menu) and selecting the scope you want from its flyout menu (the flyout menu is the little round button with the triangle inside it that’s in the upper-right corner of every panel in Adobe’s video & audio tools).

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The YC Waveform Monitor and the Vectorscope in Premiere Pro.

The basic idea is that TV screens, unlike computer screens, display an image comprised of Luma (brighness) and Chroma (color). The three channels that make up a video signal are Y (Luma) Cr (Chroma Red) and Cb (Chroma Blue), also referred to as YUV. Broadcast legal for NTSC video is within the range 7.5 IRE and 100 IRE on the waveform monitor (IRE stands for “Institute of Radio Engineers” for those of you keeping score).

7.5 IRE is black, and 100 IRE is white, and everything else needs to fall in between in order for video to be “broadcast legal” (exception is in Japan where they use NTSC with 0 IRE black). You can see the IRE scale on the right hand side of the YC Waveform Monitor in the image above.

If your video isn’t broadcast legal it will not be aired, and even if it will never be broadcast it will cause many TV sets to produce an annoying “buzz” in the audio.

Now you may be thinking “my videos aren’t for broadcast, they’re not even for a TV set, and I don’t need to worry about this.” Well, one reason you should care is that video looks completely different on a computer screen than it does on a TV screen and if your video is going to be viewed on a computer monitor (e.g. on the web) or a handheld device (e.g. iPod) you should color correct it. Computers display images in terms of RGB or Red (R) Green (G) and Blue (B) so if you want your video to look its best you’ll need to compensate.

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In computer land, 0 RGB is black and 255 RGB is white. The problem is that when you convert video black (7.5 IRE) to computer black it actually translates as 16 RGB, not 0 RGB where it should be. Likewise, video white (100 IRE) translates to 235 RGB, not 255. So what you wind up with is less contrast, and blacks & whites that aren’t true. Color correcting your video can fix this and here’s a quick and easy way to do it:

If you’re editing in Premiere Pro, once you’re finished and done apply the Levels effect to your entire sequence. Start by nesting your sequence in a new sequence by clicking the New Item button and selecting Sequence

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Accept the default settings in the New Sequence dialog, then drag your existing sequence from the Project Panel into the Video 1 track in your new sequence (this basically flattens all the layers in your original sequence so you can apply the Levels effect to the whole thing at once).

In the Effects panel, type “Levels” in the Contains field, and drag the Levels effect onto your nested sequence in Video 1. Open the Effect Controls panel and twirl down the controls for Levels

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Since your video has levels of 16 black and 235 white, change the settings for (RGB) Black Input Level to 16 and (RGB) White Input Level to 235. See the difference?

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Your blacks & whites are now where they should be, and you’ve regained the full contrast range in your video.

In After Effects, the same thing can be done by creating an Adjustment Layer, dragging it to the top of the layer stack in the Timeline, and applying the Levels effect to it (using the same settings above).

Remember, if you have graphics, photos, or other elements in your Premiere Pro edit or After Effects comp, you’ll have to take that into account when applying the Levels effect – but for many cases this is a great way to make video look its best on a non-TV viewing medium.

Mac To The Future

I’ve been a Mac user since 1988, when I bought my first Mac Plus with a whopping 1 megabyte of RAM and a 20 megabyte external hard drive the size & weight of a couple of bricks. The Mac was, more or less, the only platform I used until a few years ago when I worked at Anystream who develops only for Windows.

I love using Premiere Pro and Encore on Windows (as well as the rest of Production Studio), but I’ve always had a fondness for the Mac OS. This is why I’m personally excited, on so many levels, to be able to show you this:

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We announced today that Adobe Production Studio is coming to the Mac. That’s Premiere Pro on the Mac above, and we’ll also have Encore and the rest of Production Studio available for the Mac when we release the next version (that’s expected to ship in mid-2007).

All the features in the Windows version will also be in the Mac version (including some new ones, but it’s still too early to talk about that . . .). True cross-platform, baby. It’s the first time Premiere Pro and Encore have ever been on the Mac (of course the original Premiere had its beginnings on the Mac, but that was a completely different app than Premiere Pro) and the tight integration between all the apps in Production Studio, with features like Dynamic Link which let you drag & drop your After Effects compositions into Premiere Pro and Encore without rendering, can now be enjoyed by Mac & Windows users alike.

You gonna be at Macworld next week? Stop by the Adobe exhibit and see the first ever demos of Production Studio on the Mac, being given by the venerable Dave Helmly.

I’ll be at Macworld as well, so if you see me make me buy you a beer or something. I live here in SF and know some pretty good places to get thrown out of…

The Mask of Shame

When the “Cops” style shows were at their peak of popularity, flipping through the TV channels was like it is with poker tournaments today — you couldn’t get away from ‘em. Quite often a few of the faces involved in whatever scuffle was being shown would be blurred out “to protect the innocent” (or, more likely, to protect the broadcaster from getting their pants sued off for the lack of a signed “talent release”).

Well, thank goodness that fad has mostly died out (although the poker tournaments are still with us like a bad hangover on a red-eye home from Vegas). But there are still situations where editors need to obscure something (or someone) in a shot, and there are a few different ways to do it. How it gets done depends on if your subject is moving.

I’ll start with an example that answers a question posted in a comment here a few weeks ago (BTW, for those of you posting comments, I need to personally approve the comment before it shows up on the blog, and due to the massive volume of “comment spam” I get on a daily basis I’m only able to sort through and find the real, non-spam comments every week or so – that’s why it can take so long to see your comment appear). The writer of said comment had a project where he was shooting a computer screen with a spreadsheet on it and he wanted to blur some “sensitive” parts out. I assume this was shot locked-down with a tripod (if not, it should be) so this would be a non-moving subject. We can take care of this one in Premiere Pro.

I’m going to use a different visual example, a locked-down shot of a car with a licence plate I want to get rid of. You need to start with a clip that’s already cut into a timeline. Locate that clip on your timeline, click to select it, then select Edit>Copy. Move the Current Time Indicator (CTI) to the first frame of your clip, and select the video track above it by clicking on the track’s name (it will turn highlighted indicating that it’s selected). Select Edit>Paste, and you’ll have a duplicate copy of your clip sitting right above the original.

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Go to your Effects Panel, and in the Contains field type “Gaussian Blur”. Locate the Gaussian Blur effect, then click & drag it to the duplicate copy of your clip on the timeline. Then, go to the Effect Controls Panel and twirl down the controls for Gaussian Blur. Change the Bluriness value to 30 (or whatever value sufficiently obscures your shot).

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Now, it’s time to crop this layer so only the area we want blurred out is blurred out, and the un-blurred original copy of the clip is visible below. Go back to your Effects Panel and type “Crop” in the Contains field. Drag the Crop effect to the duplicate clip in the timeline, and then in the Effect Controls click the name of the Crop effect to select it. This will reveal the direct-manipulation Crop controls in the Program Monitor (it’s the outline around the frame with the boxes at each corner). Drag the corners of the Crop controls to isolate only the area you want blurred out.

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And that’s all there is to it, as long as you have a locked-down shot with a non-moving subject. If you are dealing with motion, though, it’s time to go over to After Effects. You can select your clip in the Premiere Pro timeline, select Edit>Copy, then Edit>Paste it right into an After Effects timeline.

Over in After Effects, I’m going to use a shot with some actors walking around and blur one of their faces out. The way I’m going to have the blur follow the face as it moves around the frame is by using the Motion Tracker. If you’re using the Standard version of AE then you don’t have the Motion Tracker – so if you need to do this sort of thing you should upgrade to AE Professional.

First, create an Adjustment Layer above the video layer in your AE timeline by selecting Layer>New>Adjustment Layer. Then, go to your Effects & Presets Panel and type “Gaussian Blur” in the Contains field, and drag the Gaussian Blur effect to the Adjustment Layer. Select the Adjustment Layer, go to the Effect Controls, and change Blurriness to 30.

Then, go to the Toolbar and select the Elliptical Mask Tool by holding your mouse button down on the Rectangular Mask Tool and selecting the Elliptical Mask once the pop-up appears.

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Make sure your CTI is at the first frame of your timeline, then in the Composition Viewer draw a mask around the face you want to obscure.

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To soften the edges of the masked blur, click on the Adjustment Layer in the timeline, hit the letter “F” key on your keyboard to reveal it’s Mask Feather property, then change the Mask Feather value to 8 or so.

Now you’ll need to move the Anchor Point of your layer to the center of your mask (because that’s where we’ll need the motion to be centered). Click on the Adjustment Layer in the timeline once again, then select the Pan Behind tool (it’s the one just to the left of the Elliptical Mask Took). Click-and-drag the Anchor Point of the layer, which by default is dead-center in your Comp, to the center of the mask.

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Then, deselect the Pan Behind tool by hitting the letter “V” key on your keyboard.

Okay, now it’s time to motion track our actor’s face, then apply the tracking data to the masked Adjustment Layer so it follows the actor as she moves through the shot. Call up the Motion Tracking workspace by selecting it from the Workspace pulldown menu in the upper-right corner of the interface. Select the video layer in your timeline, then, in the Tracker Controls panel, click the Track Motion button. The Layer panel opens (should be nested with the Composition Viewer) showing the video and a Track Point. Drag the Track Point on to the nose of the actor (or whatever point is appropriate).

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It’s worth mentioning here that you’ll have different tracking challenges based on the footage you’re working with, and you’ll want to try and find something to track that has a good amount of contrast. If your track point moves out of view – e.g. the subject turns their head away – you can always track your shot in sections.

Making sure your CTI is at the first frame of the timeline, click the Analyze Forward button in the Tracker Controls – the button that looks like a “Play” button.

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The Motion Tracker plays through the shot and tracks your subject. If it isn’t tracking well on your footage, try adjusting the sizes of the inner and outer boxes of the tracker, or clicking on the Options button and checking “Track Fields”. More info on tweaking the AE Motion Tracker for optimal results can be found in AE’s help system by selecting Help>After Effects Help.

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Once you have an accurate track, click the Apply button in the Tracker Controls to apply the tracking data to the masked Adjustment Layer (you may need to click the Edit Target button in the Tracker Controls first to make sure that the Adjustment Layer is selected as the target). Click OK in the dialog that appears and your masked blur now follows the motion track.

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If you need to get your finished shot back into Premiere Pro, simply use the Dynamic Link feature – drag the Composition from your AE Project Panel and hover it over Premiere Pro on your Windows Taskbar, then drop it into the Premiere Pro Project Panel.

Motion Tracking is a major timesaver for tasks like this (imagine having to manually keyframe that mask over a really long shot) as well as any situation where you want to have an effect or a layer or any other part of your composition follow a moving object within footage. It can also be used to replace entire elements, such as an ad on a moving bus or the contents of a computer screen, by using the Perspective Corner Pin tracker. It’s definitely worth learning how to use, and you’ll be able to say “we’ll fix it in post” with a much higher degree of confidence.

Snacks of Learnings

I had to learn how to come up with headings like that during my first venture in book authoring a few years ago, before I joined Adobe. Doesn’t look like I learned much, does it? Grammatical ineptitude aside, it’s an unusual challenge to have to come up with interesting headings, especially when you need to write 125 of them in a matter of weeks. That was my challenge when I wrote said book, as it consisted of a few hundred different tips & tricks, each requiring a “clever-ish” heading. And that was besides the content of the tips & tricks themselves, which ranged from 1/3 page to 2 pages long. Definitely a challenging book to write, but the positive feedback I got from readers (largely due to the book’s “easy-to-digest” format) made it worth the effort.

One of the great things about a tips & tricks book is that you can pick it up anytime and glean a couple of nuggets without having to get into anything heavy. I got e-mails from readers of my aforementioned book saying they enjoyed being able to pull it out on the train ride to work, during downtime in the edit room, and . . . well . . . in another room located down the hall from the edit room. While “deep dive” tutorials (such as my series from Total Training, oh yeah, it’s plugs-o-rama today) are great when you’re starting out, a tips & tricks book can help bring your skills to the next level once you’ve got some basic proficiency.

Behold, my friends, the first such book for Adobe Production Studio, which I found sitting on my desk this morning upon returning from the long holiday weekend. Adobe Digital Video How-To’s, 100 Essential Techniques with Adobe Production Studio by
Jan Ozer offers up a wide variety of tips & techniques covering the individual apps within Production Studio as well as the workflows of using the apps together.

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Jan covers many ways to work more efficiently, like creating custom project presets & UI workspaces, and using the various monitors & scopes in Premiere Pro to accurately color correct. He clearly explains technical issues like interlacing and encoding for the web, as well as craft-related topics like 3 and 4-point editing. It’s a great collection of knowledge for anyone using Production Studio, in easily digestible bite-sized bits and pieces, written by one of the top authors in the field.

Having written this sort of book I understand what an endeavor it is to come up with such a large collection of tips in the first place — and then the work of writing them all in a consistent, easy-to-understand way (along with creating the screen captures – yep, we authors have to do that ourselves). So I’m really thankful to Jan for putting in the months of work that went into this book — a much-welcome addition to the wide variety of training resources available for Adobe tools.

Seriously . . .

Just returned from a few weeks of filming in several geographically disparate locations (and thus feeding my ever-increasing sense of an airline cabin being my “home away from home”). One of the things I love about my job is that despite the fact that I do Marketing I still get to produce stuff, and this time I got to shoot with some of the new tools that recently came into the Adobe fold. On October 19, when I was on said shoot, we announced that we’d acquired a software company called Serious Magic (read the full press release here). Their two products of main interest to me, and probably most of you, are DV Rack and Ultra. I haven’t had the chance to use Ultra yet, it’s a keying and virtual set technology, but I did use DV Rack extensively the past few weeks both on location and in the studio.

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Using DV Rack to monitor camera signal and capture direct to hard disc.

DV Rack has software versions of the scopes & meters that you’d have in a studio (e.g. Waveform and Vectorscopes) and by taking the signal from your camera via FireWire into your computer, you can easily adjust your camera’s iris, white balance, etc to get the best possible quality by reading the scopes & meters or using a wizard-like calibration tool. This is good stuff, since it helps improve the quality of what you’re shooting.

DV Rack is also a direct-to-disc DVR (Digital Video Recorder) that captures direct from your camera to hard-drive making for an inexpensive and powerful tapeless workflow. It can capture DV, HDV, DVCPro50 and DVCProHD. On the studio shoot in the photo above, I captured DVCProHD live from an HVX200, which I then opened in After Effects to make sure we had a clean chroma-key. When we were on location, I used DV Rack to grab shots using the video tap from our main camera for use in Premiere Pro (no that wasn’t a typo — a “video tap” is a signal that comes straight off a film or video camera for on-set monitoring, and in this case simultaneous capture).

And (if you hadn’t already noticed in the photo) I did this running Windows XP on my MacBook Pro. Bleeding edge, yessirree. Tapeless workflow, yeeehaaaa!!! I foresee bricks from videotape manufacturers flying through my office window any day now.

You wanna try? Free trial downloads are here.

Speaking of things flying through windows, I want to share one more nugget from the filming. I’m a huge advocate (and practitioner) of guerilla filmmaking, but this looked more to me like a suicide mission.

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Our friend from the local crew is about to fly down that zipline at an incredible speed, while holding that camera steady. No budget for a helicopter? No problem! No brakes on that thing? No problem! Were we carrying serious insurance coverage? You betcha!

Okay, so continuing on with the “news of significance that I haven’t blogged about until now” tip, the Soundbooth Public Beta went live 2 weeks ago — you can download that for free from Adobe Labs right here. Our thinking behind Soundbooth is that video & Flash pros need to work with audio, but don’t necessarily need a full-featured audio app like Audition (which is indeed full-featured and powerful, but comes with a bit of a learning curve). We wanted to put all the audio tools a video or Flash person would need right at the top level of the interface – tools for doing things like basic editing, music & sound effect creation, level normalization, noise reduction, etc. My next posting will be a detailed one on Soundbooth, but in the meantime you should download the beta, read the “getting started” doc, and get movin’.

And finally, we won an Emmy Award yesterday (like how I put that at the bottom of today’s post to show what a blasé New Yorker I am?). Yep, that’s right, we just won the Emmy Award for Streaming Media Architectures and Components for our Flash Video technology. Now the fight begins over whose desk the statue will live on!

Just Got Booted

I’m still giggling as I write this, as I installed Production Studio on my brand new 17″ MacBook Pro this morning. No, we didn’t come out with a Mac version, I’m running it on Windows XP with Apple’s Boot Camp Public Beta.

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Premiere Pro on this hardware? Believe it!

Well, this machine is theoretically the same as an Intel-based machine you’d run WinXP on anyway, so theoretically Production Studio should work (I draw your attention to the words theoretically and should as I’ve yet to do extensive testing). So far it’s working the same as it does on my Dell XPS, with the one exception that the graphics card in the MacBook doesn’t support high-fidelity OpenGL in AE7. That’s OK, I can deal with that one for now.

I just finished capturing 30 minutes of DV footage via the MacBook’s native Firewire port into Premiere Pro with DV scene detection and it worked flawlessly. Also tried a 4-angle multicamera edit in Premiere Pro (using DV footage) and it worked great.

So I’ve got some more testing to do. Stay tuned for results, so far it looks really promising. I’ve spoken with so many Mac users that want to be able to run Premiere Pro, Encore, and Audition — the components of Production Studio that are currently Windows only. With an Intel-based Mac and a copy of WinXP Pro (around $299) this could be the way. I’ll be posting my findings over the next couple days. If you decide to try this yourself, please let me know how its working, and please remember that this is in Beta and is in no way guaranteed to work and could potentially even mess your system up so until more results are in back up all important data!!! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

The basic procedure is that you download the Boot Camp Public Beta, make sure your Mac OS & Firmware are up-to-date (instructions are included with the download on how to do this), and run the Boot Camp Assistant which helps you create an NTFS or FAT partition on your hard drive, burns a CD with all the drivers WinXP will need to run on your Mac hardware, then prompts you to install your WinXP installer disc. After WinXP is installed, you install the drivers from the burned CD and you’re done. When you start the machine, holding down the option key brings up a screen where you can select which OS you want the system to boot with.

On a different note, last week was FITC Hollywood, the Canadian Flash festival’s first event in the epicentre of entertainment (I had to just go back and retype “epicentre” 4 times because Word kept automatically changing it back from the Canadian to the US spelling. I guess it doesn’t like my subtle humour . . . jeez, just had to go back and retype “humour” 4 times . . .) For some reason I always wind up speaking at Flash conferences in a less-than-optimal state – this time it was the day after my birthday, and getting up at 4:30am to fly to Burbank didn’t help either. But I needn’t have worred since the attendees were in much worse shape than I — the party the night before having claimed several victims (I’ve gotta hang out with the Flash crowd more often). Thanks to all who attended my session on 3d in After Effects – for more learnings here’s a link to a great tutorial by Aharon Rabinowitz on Creative Cow on effectively using the Z-scale property on a 3D layer.

I’ll be in NYC next week for some “non-disclosable” business – and while there will be reveling in watching Mets playoff games on TV with other Mets fans for a change (it’s lonely here in SF). But tonight I go to the Oakland Coleseum to watch the ALCS (thanks Mark) and hope for an A’s, Mets World Series that I can try and scam tickets to on both coasts.

[updated on 11/6/06]

Well, as we all know by now I was on BOTH losing ends of that equation . . .

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“San Francisco Bob” vs. “New York Bob”

2 playoff games on 2 coasts in 1 week. Met fans still kick butt more than anyone (and if you were sitting in row “U” of the upper deck at Shea like I was then you have to be a real Met fan, the view of the game is so freaking bad).

Son of Ben Kurns

Quicker than I could scarf down a slice of deep dish in Chicago earlier this week, I got a comment from Steve K. on my last posting, imploring me to show how to do the Ben Kurns Effect (a.k.a. Pan & Scan, Pan & Zoom, Ken Burns Effect) in After Effects. Steve’s been the Product Manager of AE for years now, and it amazes me that he still never misses any opportunity to promote it. Besides, I love showing cool stuff in AE so I figured I’d take it a step further and show y’all how to do a 3-D Pan & Scan in AE. This has become a pretty popular technique, lots of doc-style shows and films are using it. The first film I saw that used this at length (and by “at length” I mean for the entire duration of the film) was The Kid Stays In The Picture. Almost the entire movie was photographs busted up into layers in Photoshop, then animated in 3D in After Effects.

When done correctly, this is a much more dynamic and interesting way of panning & scanning. The third-dimension adds tremendous depth (literally and figuratively) to what could be just another stab at “being like Ben Kurns.” Oh Ben, why did you step in front of that subway train all those years ago, why?

So, start off by opening your photo in Photoshop. Remember that you want your photo to be as high-res as possible, especially if you’re planning to zoom-in in great detail.

Then, you need to break apart the key elements of your photo into individual layers. In the case of my example, below, I need to separate myself, the airplane, and the background. To start off, create a selection around the foreground element (usually a person) by using the Magic Wand, Marquee, and Lasso tools (Photoshop 101 techniques).

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Once you have your foreground element selected, cut & paste it into a new layer. What you’ll wind up with is the foreground by itself, and the background with a big gaping hole in it.

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Next, use the Clone tool (a.k.a. the Rubber Stamp tool) to fill in the hole in the background. In my example, it was pretty easy to fill in the sky, but a bit more challenging to “recreate” the airplane since my body covers a good deal of it.

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Now it’s time to repeat the first two steps — this time selecting the airplane in the same manner as before, and cutting & pasting it into its own layer.

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Then, once again, use the Clone tool to fill in the blank areas in the background.

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So what you’ll wind up with is a Photoshop file with each of the key elements on its own layer.

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Now we’re ready to bring our Photoshop file into After Effects. Switch over to AE and select File>Import>File. Select your Photoshop file, but before clicking the Open button, make sure you have “Import As: Composition” selected in the pulldown menu in the lower-left corner of the Import File dialog. This will bring the Photoshop file into After Effects with all its layers intact. If you were to select “Import As: Footage” it would flatten the layers and then there’d be no point to doing anything in 3D.

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You’ll see a new Composition in the Project Panel, along with a folder containing the individual Photoshop layers. Double-click the Comp to open it, then change the comp settings to your desired format & resolution by selecting Composition>Composition Settings.

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Pull down the Preset menu and select your format (I’m using NTSC DV for this example), and at the bottom of the Composition Settings dialog enter your desired duration. 5 seconds is a good place to start (00;00;05;00).

Next, you need make your layers 3D by checking in their 3D Layer checkboxes.

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Then, add a Camera to your timeline by selecting Layer>New>Camera. The Camera Settings dialog appears.

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Pull down the Preset menu, and select 35mm. This will simulate a 35mm film camera lens – applying different lenses will give you much different results so after you complete this tutorial go back and experiment with the different lenses to see what’s possible.

Next, we’ll stagger our Photoshop layers in Z-space (depth). This will give them the effect of being in 3-dimensional space. Select all 3 layers on your timeline, then hit the letter P on your keyboard, which will solo the Position property. Each layer has 3 coordinate values: X (horizontal), Y (vertical), and Z (depth) – although you won’t see the values labeled as such. Adjust the Z position of layers 1 and 2 to bring them closer to the camera – in my example I moved Layer 1 (me) to -600 and Layer 2 (the airplane) to -300. Negative values bring the objects forward in Z-space, while positive values move them further away.

I’ve moved the camera to the side in the screencap below to give you a sense of how the layers look staggered in Z-space.

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Now it’s time to animate the Camera to create the 3D Pan & Scan. Click on the little triangle to the left of Camera 1 in your timeline to twirl down its properties. Click on Transform, then click on the stopwatch icons for Point of Interest and Position to set an initial keyframe for these properties. Position represents the actual position of the Camera in 3D space (thus the X, Y, and Z values) and the Point of Interest is what the Camera is pointing at. We’ll animate both of these properties.

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Now, scrub on the X, Y, and Z values for Position to move the Camera to its starting point. Then, scrub on the values for Point of Interest to get your Camera pointing in the direction you want. Once you’re happy with the starting position, hit the End key on your keyboard, which will bring the Current Time Indicator to the last frame of your timeline (you can also drag the CTI all the way to the right). Then, modify the Position and Point of Interest to position the Camera in its ending position.

In my example, I’m starting zoomed-out with the Camera down and to the left, and over the course of 5 seconds I’ll animate it up, to the right, and move it forward to zoom-in.

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After Effects will animate the Camera between the start and end keyframes. To see your animation, select Composition>Preview>RAM Preview.

You’ll notice that the Camera starts & stops on a dime – not very natural or elegant looking. Typically a real camera will ease out of its initial position, then gently ease in to its final position. Drag across the initial keyframes for the Camera’s Point of Interest and Position, then right-mouse-click and select Keyframe Assistant>Easy Ease Out (you can also select this via the Aniimation menu).

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Repeat for the ending keyframes, but this time select Easy Ease In. RAM Preview again to see the difference.

OK, now we’ve got a nice, interesting, 3-dimensional pan & scan, but as Steve K mentioned in his comment, you have way more control of your animation in AE than you do in Premiere Pro. The Graph Editor (which we introduced in AE7) gives you an incredible variety of ways to tweek your keyframes – open it by clicking on the Graph Editor button on your timeline.

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You can click directly on the keyframes in the Graph Editor to modify how the Camera animates – try pulling on the Bezier handles to change the curve of the Position and see how you can get a different feel by adjusting how the Camera moves out of its initial position and into its final position.

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This whole technique I’ve just taught you is used pretty heavily in motion design these days, not just for panning & scanning photos – you see it all the time in TV commercials & promos. You can take it a step further by adding lights (Layer>New>Light) and adjusting the Camera’s depth-of-field, enabling shadows, etc. Hitting the letter “A” key twice on a 3D layer in the timeline reveals its Material Options where you can make these kinds of adjustments.

Well, that’s an intro to panning & scanning in 3-D using After Effects and Photoshop. Of course, you can also do this in 2-D without breaking the layers apart, and then it’s more-or-less the same as doing it in Premiere Pro (although AE does give you much more control with the Graph Editor).

Now I’m gonna go get me a slice of deep dish. Oh, wait, I flew back home to SF yesterday. Don’t know where I am anymore . . .

The Ben Kurns Effect

There’s nothing more boring than something just sitting there on a movie or TV screen doing nothing. Think test pattern here – boy, I remember being a 5 year old, sitting in front of the TV at 6 in the morning waiting for that test pattern to go away and for Davey & Goliath or New Zoo Review to come on (if you watched D&G as a kid and haven’t seen Moral Orel on Adult Swim yet, you neeeeeed to go see it right now, don’t ask questions just do it).

Documentary filmmakers have long known this, because they often have more archival photography available on a subject than film or video footage. They use a technique called “pan & scan” (also known as “pan & zoom”) to do camera moves on still images to make them more interesting to the viewer. You’ll often see this referred to as the “Ken Burns Effect,” as his documentaries (the one on Jazz, in particular) use this technique extensively. But it’s been going on for way longer than Mr. Burns has been around. We used to do this with camera stands, which you still find in the odd studio here & there – basically a flat, well-lit surface where you lay the photo with a video camera mounted on a pole, pointing down to the photo. The signal from the camera runs to a tape deck, and the camera is either panned & zoomed manually or mechanically, depending on the sophistication of the particular camera stand. Some of them are pretty tricked-out, with the ability to control the camera’s position & zoom with precision via remote control.

Hardly anybody uses camera stands anymore – it’s much easier to scan the photo and do the pan & scan in software. You get more precision, can experiment more easily, and you don’t have to purchase & maintain the camera stand itself. Of course, if you’ve got a digital photo then this is the only way to go.

You can pan & scan high-resolution photos in both After Effects & Premiere Pro while maintaining their full resolution. This means you can zoom in on details without having the image get all pixilated and cruddy. If you’re editing a piece that involves using stills, then it’s better to do the pan & scan in Premiere Pro. The steps are basically the same whether you do it there or in AE.

First of all, import your photo using the standard File>Import command. Premiere Pro imports photos at a duration of 5 seconds, but you can change this.

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The project panel tells me that my photo is 2592 X 1944, which will let me zoom in very close at full resolution.

If you’d like your image to run for a longer or shorter duration, right-mouse click on your image file in the Project Panel, select Speed/Duration, and enter your desired duration.

Then, cut the image into your sequence in the same way you would a video clip. Once it’s in your timeline, click it and then open the Effect Controls Panel (usually docked behind the Source Monitor), and click on the triangle to the left of “Motion” to twirl down the Motion properties.

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If you don’t see the Current Time Indicator on the right side of the Effect Controls, click the white button with the 2 left-facing triangles to reveal it.

For this example, we’ll start out zoomed in real close, then zoom out to reveal the entire image. If you want to start zoomed out you can do the next steps in reverse, but before you do anything you need to make sure that the Anchor Point is set on the object you want to zoom out from or zoom in to. When you click on the word “Motion” in the Effect Controls, the Anchor Point (the little circle with the “X” in the middle) appears on the center of your image. To move it over your “object of focus”, click & drag on the Anchor Point values in the Effect Controls until the Anchor Point is centered over your object (or face, or whatever).

Now you’re ready to animate. We’ll begin with a basic camera move, and then you can modify to your taste. Let’s have the image start out still for 1 second, then zoom out over the course of 2 seconds. Move the Current Time Indicator (CTI) in the Effect Controls Panel ahead by 1 second (use the timecode in the lower-left corner as a guide). Then, set initial keyframes for Position, Scale, and Rotation by clicking on the stopwatches to the left of their names. Double-click the Rotation value and set it to -40 degrees, or something similar. This is the starting position of your camera move.

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Next, move the CTI ahead by 2 seconds. Set Rotation back to 0, and click-and-drag on the Position and Scale values to “zoom out” to your final camera position. Premiere Pro automatically adds new keyframes at the current CTI position.

Go ahead and roll back in your timeline to the shot right before your panned & scanned image and play back to see how your camera move works in the context of the timing & pacing of your edit. You might want to adjust the duration of the camera move, which can be done simply by moving the keyframes, or you might want a more fluid camera motion. By default, Premiere Pro creates a camera move that starts & stops on a dime – in other words it’s not particularly elegant. Now, if you’re cutting an MTV-style piece with really fast pacing, this might be what you want, but in most cases you’ll want the camera to ease out of its initial position and ease in to a smooth landing. Start by clicking-and-dragging across the initial 3 keyframes to select them all. Then, right-mouse-click on any of them and from the pop-up menu select Temporal Interpolation>Ease Out.

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Repeat for the ending keyframes, this time selecting Ease In. Roll back and play your adjusted camera move.

At this point you can treat your image as you would any video clip – e.g. you can add effects and transitions if you wish. With some photos, you might notice a certain degree of “interlace flicker” as the image pans & scans. If that’s the case, increase the amount the Anti-flicker Filter in the Effect Controls and that should make it look much nicer.