Learn Lightroom 2.0

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 launched today, and Adobe TV is your free ticket to a tour of what’s new.

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Check out these 3 videos, presented by the venerable Julieanne Kost (host of The Complete Picture on Adobe TV), to learn all about a bevy of new features and improvements including enhancements to the Library Module, non-destructive localized color-corrections, tighter integration with Photoshop, and updates to the Print, Slideshow, and Web modules. It’s the best way to learn about this exciting update to an already solid tool for photographers.

You can also take Lightroom 2.0 for a free 30-day test drive, just click the “Try” link to the right of any of the Learn Lightroom 2.0 videos and you’ll be taken directly to the free trial download page.

Big thanks to our friends over at Software Cinema for producing these great videos.

A TV Addict’s Candy Store

As a kid, I spent a lot of time in front of the TV. A LOT of time. Then I grew up and married a woman who grew up in a house without a TV. When our son was born last year, we started talking about how we were going to deal with the “TV or no TV for the kids” issue.

Then we moved to a new house and decided not to get cable or satellite service — leaving me to get my TV fix solely from online offerings. Heck, 99% of what I’m interested in is available online anyhow (primarly baseball games and new episodes of The Simpsons). Can a recovering TV addict survive without a “traditional” TV set in the house?

When I tell my friends & colleagues that I don’t have a TV anymore, I get funny looks. After all, I founded and run Adobe TV and spent many years working in the TV and video fields. I think I have one of the best jobs in the world right now — I get to run an online TV network that educates and inspires users of Adobe software. I get to be involved in every aspect of the process of planning, producing, and delivering loads of great content. And none of it is going on “traditional” TV.

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But I do miss some aspects of my previous job @ Adobe, especially the parts involving direct communication with all of youse guys. So I decided to resurrect my blog as a means of telling you what’s up at Adobe TV. We typically publish between 2-6 new videos every weekday — a considerable amount of content (to put it in perspective, we launched Adobe TV on April 9 with 210 videos — and today we’ve got over 440). So I’m going to be writing about new videos we have coming online, and will also be throwing in some tidbits on how we use our own technologies to put it all together.

And if you haven’t watched Adobe TV yet, what the heck are you waiting for?

Adobe TV is On The Air

Well, I’ve been quiet for so long because I couldn’t tell you what I was working on. Today I can.

The project that I founded and run @ Adobe launched tonight at 9pm Pacific. Adobe TV

Just go there. tv.adobe.com

You’ll understand it – I don’t need to explain.

More soon about how we put it all together

Why I Do What I Do (Pt. 1)

OK, I’ll admit the following may seem a bit self-indulgent, but taking a cue from one of the big-shots here at Adobe who recently began a large team meeting by giving us a presentation on his personal history (and how it relates to why he’s chosen his particular career), I thought I’d pause for a minute and consider the same thing myself. How did I get into this field anyway? Why do I do what I do? It’s a good thing for everyone to stop and take stock of these things now and then, and I think it’s a good lead-in to explaining to you why I have the passion for the work I do today.

So if you’re looking for the “tutorial of the day” you should probably skip this post, otherwise, please do read on.

My fascination with television began when I was 7 years old. My father had decided to become a serial Game Show contestant (and by that I don’t mean he was a contestant on a “Serial Game Show”, but that he was a contestant on a few different game shows) –anyhow– on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1974 I got to attend a live taping at ABC’s studio on West 54th Street in Manhattan, to watch my dad compete on the then-popular program The Big Showdown.

Having already spent the lion’s share of my first 7 years front of the TV set, it was a huge thrill to spend an afternoon in an actual TV studio. I got such a huge charge out of the whole experience that I decided right then and there that I would work in the television business when I grew up. The fact that my dad won $7,000 that day probably didn’t hurt either.

My repeated pleas to mom about turning our living room into a game show set didn’t pan out so well.

Fast forward to 1984 and high-school-age Bob was watching cable TV at a friend’s house in Manhattan (we didn’t have it in the Bronx yet). He put on a show on channel “D” . . . well, you could hardly call it a “show” as it consisted of 2 knuckleheads around the same age as us horsing around in a TV studio. My friend though it was hilarious, and I thought it to be the stupidest thing I’d ever seen on a television screen — but I was able to see past the crappiness of this particular show and realize that one could rent such a studio and put on a show and actually have an audience.

I had read about Public Access before but had never actually seen it. With a phone call to Manhattan Cable’s Public Access coordinator, and a fake Manhattan address in hand, I secured a half-hour slot on Thursdays at 5:30pm on Channel “C”, and found the cheapest studio deal in town at a place called Metro Access — a fully equipped Black & White TV Studio, with a live feed into the Manhattan Cable master control, for 30 bucks an hour (incidentally, this was the same studio that the infamous Robin Byrd Show originated from).

I wasn’t aiming to just spend the weekly half-hour just horsing around as that seemed pretty lame. I wanted to “Produce” something – get talented people involved and make a real program. Since I was then a student at the famous School of Performing Arts (the school that the movie & TV series “Fame” were based on) I had loads of friends who could help me create something really entertaining. And so the “Darren Behr Show” was born. I don’t want to get in to who Darren Behr is, or why the show was named after him since he was never actually on it, but we did some pretty interesting stuff in our weekly half-hour, “cablecast” live on Channel C. I produced and directed the show (and funded it with the proceeds from my after-school messenger job) with several of my talented classmates working as the cast & crew (including Chastity Bono, daughter of Sonny & Cher).

What made the whole experience so amazing in was that there was this platform (Public Access) which in a place as large as Manhattan pretty much guaranteed you an audience. Remember, there still weren’t that many channels to choose from back in 1984.

Along came the time to start thinking about college, and my first thought was to study TV Production. But I was a Music major at Performing Arts (I’m a bass player), and was also thinking about that as a course of study. The decision was actually made for me when I discovered that you needed excellent grades to get into the really good TV Production programs. So off to Music Conservatory I went.

I didn’t really do anything at all with TV or video for awhile, as the short supply of bass players kept me pretty busy for the next 13 years (I had a pretty successful career as a professional musician). But in 1996 I decided to leave the music business behind (for reasons I don’t want to get into right now) and had to figure out what to do next.

I did have to make a living, and I did have some graphic design chops from my days of laying-out my college newspaper on the then state-of-the-art Macintosh Plus with it’s whopping 1 Megabyte of RAM and 20 Megabyte external hard-drive the size of a shoebox. And so I was able to B.S. my way into a temp job designing Power Point slides at the big Wall Street firm Smith Barney. Not a “career move”, for sure, but a relatively painless way to pay the bills.

I’d been there a few months when one day the head of the video department walked in and asked if anyone knew a program called After Effects as he needed to have some animations created for a video he was producing. As was my habit in those days, I said “yes” right away (despite not having a shred of an idea what After Effects was, nor any experience in animation) and immediately hi-tailed it to a large Manhattan bookstore to buy a copy of After Effects Classroom In A Book for AE 3.0.

Being a musician and having an astute sense of pacing, tempo, and time, I picked up the concepts of motion graphics and animation pretty quickly (I would learn later on that this is a common thread with many AE wizards). Being already adept at Photoshop made the interface and concepts in AE pretty familiar (as my friend Dean Velez likes to say “if you’re a Photoshop user you already know 50% of After Effects). I also understood video workflow from my days of producing a live TV show every week back in high school. It seemed that I’d hit on something that could be an actual career for me.

Soon after that, I landed a full-time job in Smith Barney’s in-house video department. I taught myself how to edit video using the (then rare and expensive) Avid systems, and helped launch the company’s in-house TV network “NextGen TV”, which was the first of its kind on Wall Street.

But creating corporate videos for a Wall Street firm can be . . . well . . . kinda dry, so I started branching out.

Tomorrow . . . on to making some “legit” TV and globetrotting in in hi-tech startup land.

Bo(o)b Tube

If you’ve read my blog in the past (and by past I mean WAY in the past, since this is my first posting since July) you’ll notice that it has a new name. Well, I’ve taken on a new role at Adobe and it’s still to early to talk about what it is (hi-tech is such fun that way). The name of the blog might tip you off to what general area I’m working in, but for now I’m keeping my mouth shut.

The combination of my new gig, which has me working out of an office 5 days a week for the first time in YEARS, and this little project pictured below, has kept me far, far away from the blogosphere. I’m really happy to be back.

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That’s my son Theo, who’s the biggest joy of my life, ever, and also the source of some of those lines on my face. The sleep deprivation is kind of like being jet-lagged all the time (which I’m pretty used to anyway).

So it’s a “Web TV” blog now, eh? Well, my philosophy is that production methods should be the same whether you’re going the traditional route of video distribution or you’re planning to chuck something up on YouTube. Because something is “for the web” doesn’t mean you should cut corners on production values. In fact, the way you rise above the fray is to have better looking content than everyone else. So as far as production techniques go I’m still going to be focusing on that alot.

The encoding, distribution, and playback pieces of the web TV puzzle can be confounding to those of you that come from a traditional video background, so I’m going to be focusing on that as well. These areas of technology are still in a great deal of flux — the fact that the 4 major TV networks in the USA have completely contradictory strategies for their online video presence is a good testament to this. This article from Forbes.com features interviews with the heads of the online divisions of ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX so you can read it all for yourself. There’s still a long way to go..

But I’m a true believer of being in the right place at the right time, and the fact that Adobe is the only company with a complete capture-to-consumption workflow for web video puts me (and you) in a pretty good place to do some amazing things with this technology. We just announced a long-term strategic partnership with the BBC which will now be using Flash Video as it’s online distribution format, as well as Premiere Pro and CS3 Production Premium as their main post-production toolset (which they’ve been using since earlier this year). The Adobe Media Player went into public beta earlier this month (click the link and download it from Adobe Labs today!). And there are so many things coming down the pike that I’m finding the “perfect storm” is swelling on a daily basis right here in my own backyard at 601 Townsend Street. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride.

This Ship Has Sailed

And what a beautiful ship it is . . .

After many long months of work by our incredibly talented and dedicated engineering teams CS3 Production Premium is now shipping!

To celebrate, let’s make some fireworks. It’s almost July 4 anyhow.

Start off by creating a new composition in After Effects, in whatever resolution you wish to work in (File > New Composition). In the Composition Settings dialog, set the Duration to 4 seconds (0;00;04;00).

Create a new solid layer in your Comp by selecting Layer > New > Solid. In the Solid Settings dialog, click Make Comp Size and then click OK.

Go to the Effects menu and select Simulation > CC Particle Systems II. RAM Preview and you’ll see some sparks.

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We’re actually not gonna have to do all that much to make this look real pretty. What we’ve got now is a constant stream of sparks. Let’s set some keyframes for the Birth Rate of these particles to give us a single “pop”. Drag the Current Time Indicator (CTI) in your timeline the beginning of the comp and then set an initial keyframe for Birth Rate by clicking on the stopwatch to the left of its name in the Effect Controls Panel.

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Set the Birth Rate to 40, then move the CTI ahead 5 frames and set the Birth Rate to 0. RAM Preview again and you’ll now see that “pop” but we still have some work to do in order to make this more convincing.

Twirl open the controls for Physics and set Gravity to 0.2 (which will keep the particles from falling away so quickly) and set Resistance to 10 (which will keep them from traveling too far away from their point of origination, also known as the Producer).

Then twirl open the controls for Particle and set Max Opacity to 50%

Now let’s duplicate what we’ve done a few times to create a short sequence. First, trim back the tail end of the Solid layer to make it 2 seconds long by clicking and dragging the right-hand edge of the clip to the left until it lines up with the 2 second mark on the timeline.

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Duplicate the layer by selecting Edit > Duplicate, and then change the position of the Producer by first selecting the CC Particle Systems II effect in the Effect Controls Panel, and then clicking-and-dragging the Producer in the Composition Viewer to a new location.

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The Producer is a small circle with a cross inside it.

Repeat the above step 3 more times until you have 5 copies of the layer, each with its Producer in a different location.

Now to have these fire off in a sequence, select all 5 of the layers then go to the Animation menu and select Keyframe Assistant > Sequence Layers.

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In the Sequence Layers dialog, make sure Overlap is checked. When one layer fires, we want the next one to fire 10 frames later, so this is basically a math problem which depends on your frame rate:

If you’re working in 30fps enter a duration of 1:20 (0;00;01;20)
If you’re working in 25fps enter a duration of 1:15 (0;00;01;15)
If you’re working in 24fps enter a duration of 1:14 (0;00;01;14)

Click OK, RAM Preview, and then sit back and watch the show.

To customize further, try changing the colors of the particles as well as playing with the different Physics parameters. Happy 4th of July everyone, and here’s to the most exciting release of video tools in Adobe’s history!

Photo 2 Life

The Puppet Tool, which is one of my favorite new features in After Effects CS3, is bound to bring out the Frankenstein (or at least Frankenberry) in most people. It’s the easiest way to create animated characters from still images, and I’m going to be showing you how it works using a production still from our “Aquo” shoot up in Whistler, BC.

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These little birds were just about everywhere, and I thought it would be funny to have this one peck the heck out of that bike tire. The first step here is to separate the “character” (in this case the bird) from the background using Photoshop. I used the Quick Selection tool to select the bird (you can see the selection in the image above), removed it from the background, and then used the Clone Tool to clean up the background plate (Photoshop 101 stuff.)

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The bird, the background, and the cleaned-up plate.

Next, import the Photoshop file into After Effects, making sure to select “Import As Composition” in the import dialog. Once it’s imported, double-click it to load it up, then select the Puppet Pin Tool, which is that new push-pin looking thing on the right side of the After Effects toolbar.

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The next step is to place pins on the character based on how you want it to move — the fewer pins you use the better the results are likely to be. First select the layer in your timeline, then select the Puppet Pin Tool, and click on the image to place the pins. For my bird, I put one on his head, foot, tail, and back.

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To animate the pins, you can twirl down the controls for the Puppet Tool in your timeline and set keyframes, but the easier way is to motion sketch. Just hold down the Cmd (Mac) or Ctrl (Win) key and when you place your curser over a pin it turns into a stopwatch.

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Clicking and dragging records your mouse movements in realtime, and you see an outline of your character as you draw. It’s really easy to record an animation this way. You can do multiple passes, to animate as many pins as you want, and you see the ones you’ve recorded play back as you record new ones so you can easily synchronize motion.

I started out by doing a pass just wiggling the tail, and then I did a pass of his head pecking away at the tire. I then animated the scale of the scene to zoom in over time. Here’s what I got:

Now this is a really simple example, you can go in much deeper with this tool. Holding down the Puppet Pin Tool in the toolbar reveals the Puppet Overlap Tool and the Puppet Starch Tool.

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The Overlap Tool controls which parts of the character cross in front of or behind of the others, and the Starch Tool pretty much does what it says it does – it keeps unwanted warping from occurring. You click on the character to apply either of these tools.

Just a reminder for those of you that haven’t downloaded it yet, After Effects CS3 is in Public Beta over at Adobe Labs, so you can start using it right now until we ship it in a few weeks.

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 . . .

Howdy Dooit?

If anyone’s seen my camera, please let me know, I seem to have lost it. I’m not joking –it’s a Canon Power Shot that’s been scratched up really badly from getting knocked around in my travels. I turned my office upside down yesterday looking for it, and in the process came across a disc with some photos from the CS3 demo asset shoot with UVPH that we did in NYC late last year.

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So let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on in that photo above. Our actor friend is standing on a treadmill that one of the UVPH guys found on the street. They took the control panel off, and that’s what the guy kneeling on the floor is playing around with. They also painted the treadmill Chromakey Green to match the psyche which is painted the same color. The whole idea is to key all that stuff out so we wind up with a shot of the actor running in “mid air”.

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A few takes with the right framing is all we needed. We did lots of scenes like this with several actors, all doing various activities. Have a look.

Pretty neat, huh? Here’s how we shot the rock climber:

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Some stuff painted green and some imagination is all you need.

A short note – I was interviewed this week for an NBC TV program called Tech Now. It will air this weekend in the following cities and times: Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on KNTV San Jose/San Francisco; Saturday at 5 p.m. on KNSD San Diego; Throughout the week on WNBC Digital (4.4) New York (which is available on most cable systems there).

You can also watch the podcast here no matter where you live.

I’ll be in a story about the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, talking about how anyone can do “Star Wars type effects” themselves using After Effects.

Instant Dimentionality

Yep, I’m making up words again. That’s jetlag talking. But through the jetlag I’m going to try and show you how to create a 3d model from a photograph using some new integration we’ve done with Photoshop CS3 Extended and After Effects CS3.

A lot of what we do here at the “factory” is try and take things that would take you hours or even days to do and give you ways to do them in a matter of minutes. Sometimes that takes looking within and seeing what bits of this app could be used to help someone working in that app. The “secret sauce” in this case is something called Vanishing Point Exchange (vpe).

You might be familiar with a feature of Photoshop called Vanishing Point, which is typically used when working with still images to define the perspective of a scene or object. What vpe does is let you take the geometry data generated by Vanishing Point and make use of it in other applications. In Creative Suite 3, you can now export the vpe to After Effects where before your very eyes a 3d scene is automatically created, something that would’ve taken huge buckets of time in the past.

I’m going to be starting with a photo I just snapped here in my SF office:

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Thrilling, isn’t it? No, really, we do have a very beautiful office here – it’s just that I wanted to start with something simple for this tutorial – something with good, clear corner perspective.

You need to have Photoshop CS3 Extended to export the vpe, but you can still follow along with the next step, which is to create your planes in Vanishing Point, if you’re using the Standard edition.

With the photo open in Photoshop, select Filter > Vanishing Point. You will start by defining a plane in the photo, and you want to look for the easiest one to define. In my photo, it is the wall on the right side. It’s a matter of clicking on the 4 corners, lining up each edge with the edge of the plane you’re defining, and you’re done. If your plane is red, Photoshop is telling you it can’t get a read on your plane, so try again ‘til you get it (just use the hard edges in your photo as your guide). Once you’ve got a good plane it’ll look like this:

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If you look at my cursor, on the right, you can see I am dragging to the right to extend the plane just past the edge of the photo – that’s about where you want to be. You can adjust the first plane after you’ve drawn it, and do take advantage of that capability because it is imperative to get this first plane right. If you don’t the whole rest of this will be messed up.

The second most important thing is to get the second plane right. For this I’ll use the left-hand wall. Create a new plane by holding down Cmd (Mac) / Ctrl (Win) on the left-hand control point on the original plane, and drag a new plane to the left (if your second plane is in a different direction than adjust that instruction accordingly). It is important to add your additional planes in this matter, as the planes need to be connected in order for this to work.

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If the plane doesn’t line up right, you’ll need to rotate it. Hover your curser over the same control point you were just using, and hold down Opt (Mac) / Alt (Win) – your curser turns into a little bendy arrow. Use it to adjust the angle of your second plane – a task you can also accomplish in the “Angle” widget at the top of the Vanishing Point UI.

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Continue adding and adjusting planes, repeating those steps, until you’ve got your planes all defined. If I weren’t in such a hurry to write this, I would’ve also refined this by adding planes to those brown columns on the left-hand wall, which would add more realism, but you can go ahead and do that on your own time ;-)

Here’s what I wound up with:

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Now it’s time for that “secret sauce”. Go up to your fly-out menu (that little triangle-in-a-circle that you see in all Adobe apps) and select Export for After Effects CS3 (.vpe)

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Create a new folder somewhere on your hard drive, because Photoshop is going to spit out a bunch of .png image files (one for each plane you drew) and a .vpe which holds all the geometry data. Go ahead and save. Then close out of Vanishing Point and save your PSD, you’re done there.

Now, switch over to After Effects CS3 and select File > Import > Vanishing Point (.vpe)

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You’ll see a bunch of new stuff in your Project Panel, including a new Composition. Double-click the Composition and you’ll see that AE has built for you a 3D scene based on the vpe. It has arranged all the exported planes (each of them an individual layer in the .png format) in 3d space.

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Select your Orbit Camera tool (letter “C” on your keyboard) and rotate your scene to see the 3d glory. I did a quick animation on my camera and got this:

You can also see that there was a bunch of white space where my Vanishing Point planes extended past the edge of my photo. That’s fixed easily by selecting the layer in the AE Project Panel, then selecting Edit > Edit Original which opens that layer in Photoshop.

vpe_09.jpg

Then it’s generally time to use the Clone Tool, Healing Brush, or whatever tool suits the need. In my case I used the Clone Tool to “fill in the blanks” (here it is “in progress”).

vpe_10.jpg

Here it is, cleaned up a bit (not 100% yet, but with 5 min. in Photoshop I was able to get it 95% of the way there – in 15 more minutes it’ll be perfect).

I want to do a users gallery of this kind of stuff, so please send me comments if you’ve done anything cool with this technique.