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July 30, 2009

Table of Contents

In the Studio: CoreMelt V2 Pigment—Colour Tools
EventDV-TV World Premiere: Hal Slifer's 3 Questions, Episode 3!
MotionKit.com Releases 1,500 WMV Video Backgrounds Optimized for PowerPoint
Digital Rapids Extends Acclaimed Multi-Platform Video Solutions with Support for Microsoft Silverlight 3
Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release
Boris FX Announces New Boris Continuum Unit: Cartoon Look

In the Studio: CoreMelt V2 Pigment—Colour Tools

CoreMelt V2 Pigment--Colour ToolsAt NAB in April, I checked out the new generation of software from CoreMelt. I’d always liked what CoreMelt did using FxFactory (see Joe McManus’s FxFactory review), but the company has moved on, and it has some fantastic software available at very reasonable prices. To start with, the reps at NAB told me that the company has moved away from FxFactory’s engine and developed its own render engine. This allows CoreMelt to go beyond its previous limitations and to produce some really great products. In this article, I’m going to review one set of the many wonderful plug-ins CoreMelt makes. This set is called Pigment, and it sells for about $79. V2 Pigment—Colour Tools is a collection of 22 plug-ins that do color grading and correction work. All in all, it’s a collection of great filters.

First Impressions
The first thing I noticed when playing around with some of these is the sensitivity. I use Apple’s Color application a lot; I even teach Color and know full well how much more sensitive the controls in Color are to the controls in FCP’s color correctors. When doing grading and correction, that sensitivity is vital to getting the ultrasubtle nuances that make or break a color grade. The controls in Pigment’s color filters are very sensitive. I was blown away at how subtle I could get with them.

The second thing I noticed about the Pigment filters was their usefulness. They’re not just fancy effects that have no practical purpose except to generate eye-candy looks. They’re actually very practical, purposeful, and powerful filters that can go beyond what FCP’s stock color filters are capable of.

The third thing I immediately noticed was the lack of traditional color wheels. Instead, Pigment offers more of a Photoshop-like interface. The slider controls are very Photoshop-like, as are the on-screen level graphs (Figure 1, below). You can turn the graphs on and off only while you are moving sliders. They show up in the Canvas window as graphs similar to what you may see in Photoshop. The other cool thing about these graphs is that next to each slider is an RGB numeric readout that shows you more detailed information, along with the graphs in the Canvas window. You can’t control them from these numeric fields, but it’s nice to have the data there to work with. I like that I have a different way of working directly in FCP now. I love color wheels, don’t get me wrong; we need them. But this set of filters gives us a whole new way of working with our images in FCP.

Pigment's on-screen level graphs

Interface Modes
This brings up something I really like about these filters: the interface has two modes—Custom and Standard. Custom gives us the sliders and RGB numeric readouts as I stated before. Standard gives a more FCP-like look to the controls that adds keyframe diamonds next to pretty much everything, allowing for very precise keyframing of the effects (Figure 2, below).

Pigment standard mode

Going Global
At the top of each filter is a Global button. Clicking on this button brings up a small window with two tabs—General and Motion Blur. The General tab lets you turn on or off color clamping to all filters across the board (thus the term “Global”). The Motion Blur tab lets you turn off or on motion blur for the filters, the number of samples ranging from four to 256, and Shutter Angle ranging from 0 to 1,800 (Figure 3, below).

The Motion Blur tab

Creating Custom Presets

Finally, you can easily create your own custom presets as well. At the top of each filter in the Presets section is a plus sign (+) button. Click it and you can take your current settings, save them as a preset, name the preset as you wish, and give it a description (Figure 4, below). It’s very nice to have all our preset effects loaded into the filter, making it universal. This option is available to you in any project, on any clip, with two mouse clicks. Just select it from the Preset pop-up menu and click the Apply button.

Creating a custom preset

I did try an Undo when I applied a preset, and it undid each control one at a time from the bottom up. I’m not sure if that’s useful, but it’s there if you want it. And, of course, you can delete presets as well.
And since these are FXPlug architecture, you have the normal Mix slider at the bottom of the filter to balance the blending mix between the original and your filter, for even more flexibility.

Using Masks
Most of the filters—but not all of them—have a Use Mask section. When checked, it opens an additional set of controls for masking your coloring effect (Figure 5, below). You can use its standard vignette mask or use the Mask Well, where you can drop a grayscale image to use as a mask. This section has enough controls to help you really tweak any masking you may need to do, including mask scale, center, blur, strength, channel (alpha/red/green/ blue), aspect, rotation, invert, preview, and the like.

Masking controls

Now, on to a very important issue with plug-in filters: How do they render? On my eight-core Mac Pro system (2008 model), I get an orange RT render line on my Sequences when I apply these filters, and I get good RT playback with them. When I go to render, I’m really surprised at how fast the filters render. On my system, at least, rendering isn’t much of an issue.

Some Especially Fun Filters
Finally, I’d like to talk about a few specific filters I’m having fun with these days. I won’t go into a ton of detail, I just want to give you an idea of what I’m seeing that sets these filters apart from the others out there, based on an outdoor shot I took at Mardi Gras ’09 (Figure 6, below).

Mardi Gras '09—the original shot (no filters applied)

We’ll start with the Negate Keep Black. This filter has three controls: Strength, Use Mask, and Mix. I’ve found with the overly saturated HD video I’m often handed to edit and color-correct, I can set Strength to 0 (or close to 0) and the Mix to about 10%. It knocks out the overly hot colors and gives me a very smooth, more filmlike look.

The Filmic Look filter is tricky but very cool to fool around with—especially when using the Mix controls to blend it with the original image. It can, if used right, give a slight punch in all the right places, and tone down all the right places, for a more filmlike look. I actually used it in a bar shot that was overlit, when it was supposed to be dark, to make it look darker, without killing off my details.

The Luma Levels and Curves filters give me more sensitive control over my luma levels than the FCP 3-Way Color Corrector (3WCC) does (Figure 7, below). But it also seems to function differently, affecting the image in a different way so that I can achieve different types of results. It seems that the blacks, mids, and whites on the Pigment sliders don’t overlap the same way they do with the 3WCC; they may use a different algorithm to affect the image. But it’s very useful and worth experimenting with.

The image with Luma Levels and Curves applied

The Bleach Bypass filter is really sweet (Figure 8, below). There are other Bleach Bypass filters I’ve used before, and they’re all good. But this one seems to be tight, very on target, and again, very sensitive so that I can get the perfect balance in the image that appeals to me. The separate Luma and Luma S curve controls really contribute to this filter being able to achieve some great looks.
I also like the Advanced Vignette with its wide selection of mattes and the ability to use your own with the Matte Well. But I wish it offered color control. Your vignette is black, and that’s it; you don’t have much control over tinting it. CoreMelt, are you listening? It’s a very nice vignette filter as is, but it would be much enhanced by color control.

Color-graded with the Bleach Bypass filter

Finally, I need to comment on the Pass Color filter. If you ever need to get that old 8mm Brownie-camera-from-the-’60s look (I did my first video work with one of those when I was about 13 years old), this filter will do it for you in the blink of an eye. I quickly found the perfect settings, along with about a 30%–34% mix between effect and original image that did the trick for aging my footage. I did it in record time and saved it as a preset, and I love it.

The V2 Generation
In conclusion, I have to say that CoreMelt is definitely moving beyond the confines of the FxFactory model, and its new V2 generation of plug-ins is amazing. I’m using them all now—not just the color correction tools but transitions, generators, etc.—and I’m really impressed. These guys are really on target and seem to be sticking to useful, practical plug-ins rather than just developing a bunch of fancy-looking stuff that has no real-world applicability.

I do have to get used to the more Photoshop-like feel of the controls. The graph overlays in the Canvas window are really helpful. But now that I’m getting more accustomed to the sliders they incorporate, I’m finding that I can tweak some looks that were previously not available to me directly in FCP.

As for pricing, we’d all like to get software for less. But to be able to get these 22 filters for only $79 is really quite reasonable. Very good job, CoreMelt—keep it up. I can’t wait to see what you do in the future.

Ben Balser (benb at bbalser.com) is an Apple Certified Trainer based in New Orleans. Along with training and consulting, he also produces documentaries and educational material, and he designs digital signage systems.

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EventDV-TV World Premiere: Hal Slifer's 3 Questions, Episode 3!

In Hal Slifer’s 3 Questions, video biography and same-day edit pioneer, EventDV 25 all-star, and WEVA Hall of Famer Hal Slifer and his panel of video experts tackle such hot-button industry issues as the decline of the photomontage, the power of the same-day edit, maintaining your business in a soft economy, the move to HD, and what annoys you! Hal even announces a "video rant" competition with a real cash prize. Got questions? Watch Hal Slifer's 3 Questions and get answers!

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MotionKit.com Releases 1,500 WMV Video Backgrounds Optimized for PowerPoint

\MotionKit.com released PowerMotion Toolkit for PowerPoint® a unique video background collection for PowerPoint® users, which includes 1,500 WMV video backgrounds. All 1,500 video backgrounds have been encoded in WMV format and optimized for PowerPoint® playback. The collection features 1,500 WMV video backgrounds at 640x480 resolution and 15 frames per second. The PowerMotion Toolkit for PowerPoint® is available for $299 -- less than twenty cents per clip. This is a must-have collection for PowerPoint® presenters.

The collection of 1,500 WMV video backgrounds features a wide range of stylish, animations including both 2D and 3D elements. There is also a huge variety of themes within the collection including: "Finance and Money," "Globe and World," "Modern and Clean," "Business and Corporate," "Abstract," "Sports," "Hi Tech," "Worship" and "Wedding."

About MotionKit.com
MotionKit.com is a leader in affordable and fresh, royalty-free HD motion graphics, stock footage and animated video backgrounds. In business since 2003 MotionKit.com offers a huge selection of stylish stock footage and graphics - all available for immediate download.

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Digital Rapids Extends Acclaimed Multi-Platform Video Solutions with Support for Microsoft Silverlight 3

Digital Rapids -- the leading provider of tools and solutions for bringing television, film and web content to wider audiences -- today announced support for Microsoft Silverlight 3 in Digital Rapids' comprehensive range of studio encoding, transcoding and live streaming systems. Silverlight 3 support further extends the proven abilities of Digital Rapids' award-winning solutions for delivering unparalleled, high-quality, live and on-demand online video experiences.

Silverlight 3 is the newest version of Microsoft Corp.'s powerful platform for creating and delivering rich Internet applications (RIAs) and media experiences on the Web. Digital Rapids' solutions will enable content owners and distributors to take advantage of the video-related enhancements and features in Silverlight 3 to deliver rich, high-quality online viewing experiences.

Highlights of the new feature set include support for Microsoft Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7) Smooth Streaming, an HTTP-based platform that enables adaptive delivery of live and on-demand content to Silverlight-based video media players. IIS7 Smooth Streaming dynamically detects the best quality a viewer can receive based on their current bandwidth and local computer conditions, seamlessly switching between multiple streams at different bit-rates to deliver consistent, high-quality viewing experiences up to true HD even under changing connectivity and playback conditions. Live and on-demand IIS7 Smooth Streaming support will be available in the upcoming version 3.1 software for Digital Rapids' StreamZ and StreamZHD encoding systems. IIS7 Smooth Streaming will also be available in updates of the Digital Rapids Transcode Manager enterprise-class transcoding software and select models of StreamZ Live dedicated streaming encoders.

Silverlight 3 also augments its existing support for the VC-1 video format and Windows Media Audio with new native support for H.264 (also known as AVC, or MPEG-4 Part 10) video and AAC audio, allowing users to choose their preferred compression standard. Digital Rapids' encoding, transcoding and streaming solutions offer robust standard or optional support for H.264 and AAC encoding.

"As consumers raise their expectations for Web video and the surrounding experience, it's imperative that content owners and distributors create offerings that increase viewer engagement. The enhancements in Silverlight 3 bring Web viewing experiences far closer to the quality and reliability expectations of television while wrapping them with rich interactive capabilities, and we're pleased to support these new features in our solutions," said Brian Stevenson, Director of Product Management, Digital Rapids Corporation. "Support for live and on-demand IIS7 Smooth Streaming is a natural extension of our systems' long-standing ability to create outputs in multiple formats, sizes and bit rates simultaneously. Extending our H.264 encoding capabilities to Silverlight lets our customers choose the format that best serves their multi-platform distribution strategies."

"Microsoft is pleased that Digital Rapids is supporting Silverlight across its encoding, transcoding and streaming portfolio," said Steve Sklepowich, group product manager for Silverlight at Microsoft Corp. "The addition of Silverlight 3 support in Digital Rapids' hardware and software solutions, together with support for HTTP-based Smooth Streaming, enables users to experience true stutter-free HD online via efficient, automated media production workflows."

For more information about Digital Rapids, please visit www.digital-rapids.com.

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Music 2 Hues Announces New Flagship Series CD Release

Music 2 Hues, a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the, Film, Video, Animation, & Multimedia Industries has just added a new Flagship Series CD release, and adding over 2000 music WAV file tracks for instant online download. 

Andy Wells, president of Music 2 Hues adds, "Our new Download Center offers our clients the ability to purchase individual tracks from all of our current Flagship Series Audio CD's, or entire Audio CD categories with just one click, and have the option to download all tracks instantly in either Mp3 or Wav file formats. For just one price, clients will get all the edited versions of any one music track, including the full length theme, and any 30 and 60 seconds versions when available". New production music will be added monthly.

ALSO JUST RELEASED:  Our newest Flagship CD title: "Classic Rock" is now shipping worldwide. 

"This release satisfies the needs of our clients that have been asking for a CD of pop rock and classic rock sounding music beds, for visual and multimedia support".

Visit our website for more information on these products: http://www.music2hues.com

Music 2 Hues is a leading supplier of Production Music & Sound Effects to the Pro Sound, Film, Video & Multimedia Industries.


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Boris FX Announces New Boris Continuum Unit: Cartoon Look

Boris FX, a leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, announced that a new Boris Continuum Unit, Cartoon Look, is now available. The Boris Continuum Cartoon Look Unit includes the Cartoon Look, Pencil Sketch, Charcoal Sketch, and Watercolor filters from Boris Continuum Complete 6:

• BCC Cartoon Look - BCC Cartoon Look simulates the look of cartoon rotoscope animation which was recently popularized with feature films such as "A Scanner Darkly" and "Waking Life" and may also be seen in memorable advertisement campaigns for The Charles Schwab Corporation. The filter includes many preset looks and styles, all available via the filter's preset pop-up menu. Users can even make their own presets and apply them to any other clip in any project. This filter is easy to use, yet provides parameter controls to achieve the right look with any source material.

• BCC Pencil Sketch - The BCC Pencil Sketch filter simulates the look of a hand-drawn pencil-sketched image. Simply apply this filter to an image clip to emulate the look of an animated pencil-drawn sketch. The filter includes apply modes which can be used to blend the generated pencil lines with the original image to produce unique stylized looks

• BCC Charcoal Sketch - The BCC Charcoal Sketch filter simulates the painterly look of an image that was created using charcoals. Simply drop the filter onto any clip and the image is immediately transformed into a charcoal sketch. The filter includes easy-to-use pop-ups to determine the weight or line width and the desired level of detail.

• BCC Watercolor - Watercolor paint-style images can easily be generated from any source material with the addition of the BCC Watercolor filter. This filter includes the ability to control the color and weight of the contour edges as well as the desired level of contouring. Users can save their own preset looks or use the included user-modifiable preset looks to generate wash or watercolor effects.

Boris Continuum Cartoon Look supports Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, and Apple Final Cut Express. Apple's new Final Cut Studio 3 release is supported.

The Cartoon Look Unit is the latest addition to previously-released Boris Continuum Units: Chroma Key, Pan and Zoom, UpRez, Motion Key, Lens Flare, Film Look, Glitters, Optical Stabilizer, Light Rays, and 3D Objects.

Pricing and Availability
Boris Continuum Cartoon Look is immediately available through the Boris FX worldwide reseller channel and direct from the Boris FX web site at www.borisfx.com for an MSRP of $199 USD. Customers who purchase the Boris Continuum Cartoon Look Unit or any other Boris Continuum Unit may credit the price of the Unit towards the full Boris Continuum Complete plug-in suite. For more information, please visit the Boris FX web site at www.borisfx.com.

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