CineMotion Improves CineLook
By Frank McMahon
Monday March 8, 1999, 12:09 AM PST
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CineMotion, DigiEffects newest plug-in for the Mac version of Adobe After Effects (the 95/98/NT/2000 version is slated to ship second quarter), builds upon the highly-praised CineLook plug-in by offering advanced features such as film motion, shutter blur, film grain, adaptive noise, letterbox, HSB noise and HSB posterize. Originally coded by ISFX Inc., the Film Motion plug-in part of CineMotion is the centerpiece of the product. ISFX Inc. approached DigiEffects, thinking that their Film Motion technology would be a perfect fit for the company's effects software. DigiEffects took the ball and ran with it, and developed a whole suite of plug-ins for advanced users who need to accurately simulate the film-look process, particularly during motion sequences.

What is the main difference between CineMotion and CineLook? "CineLook does not do 3:2 pulldown," explained DigiEffects director of engineering Chris Athanas. "It's essential, particularly when converting formats such as digital video, to be able to accurately simulate the 3:2 pulldown technique when film is transferred to video in a telecine. CineLook relies on the built-in 3:2 pulldown available in After Effects. This technique will work fine for a lot of users, but CineMotion is designed for professionals who need exacting control. Options such as keyframeable controls over the shutter blur and adjustable artifact density provide advanced output."

When Athanas talks plug-ins, he knows the ropes. Besides programming the DigiEffects family of plug-ins, his vast background includes stints at several other media companies, including Xaos, where he created plug-ins such as Paint Alchemy, Terrazo and Typecaster. "When you are processing video with movement, especially horizontal, CineMotion excels at smoothing it out and getting rid of the harsh digital look," Athanas continues. "One of the CineMotion modes is called shutter blur, and it essentially is more flexible than the built-in After Effects blurs because the direction is selectable. After Effects will blur horizontal and vertical, whereas shutter blur provides choosing either, as well as having controls for length and strength. It's perfect for objects moving in only one direction during a scene and helps to blend in artifacts that arise from using digital video."

Rob Birnholz, owner of Absolute Motion Graphics in Orlando, Florida uses CineMotion on a wide range of projects, with clients such as Disney and the Orlando Magic basketball team. "Two weeks ago, we were putting together a commercial for the Orlando Magic and we wanted to use a tight close-up of the owner," said Birnholz. "The only problem was that the motion had an unappealing strobe effect to it. We used CineMotion on just that particular shot and it improved the look dramatically." Birnholz said they don't always use CineMotion for the film-look process. "We actually use it more for frame-rate conversions, however, when we do need filmlook, it is obvious that the CineMotion plug-in provides better output when used with CineLook, as opposed to just using CineLook by itself."

Birnholz confirms that the product does improve on the built-in filters in After Effects. "We tried After Effect's 3:2 pull down on a recent shot of some race cars where we had to match them up with existing film footage. There was a scene where some signage that moved behind a car jumped all over with the Adobe filter. We could not get it looking smooth. So we applied CineMotion and it provided the right fix. Another recent example was a piece where we applied CineLook over some slow motion horizontal pans across an actor's eyes. We still had some stuttering, but applying CineMotion in addition created a smoother more natural feel." If there was an addition Birnholz would recommend, it would be more built-in presets for future upgrades. "Also, in addition to more presets, it would be nice to have a deeper explanation of what each of the settings actually mean. I begin with the presets that ship with the product, and then tweak from there. So more guidance to recreate specific effects, as well as better clarification of each parameter, would be helpful."

At KEZI-TV in Eugene, Oregon, senior producer Rod Butler shoots primarily in Beta SP. However his clients still want the film look. "We have been using CineLook for a while and the results have been OK, however running the footage through the

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CineMotion plug-in does provide a sharper look," Butler commented. "Ninety percent of what we do is thirty second commercials, so providing that 35mm look as a production service is something our sales department loves. CineLook provides a great way to add film grain. However, when there is a pan in the shot, it can tend to look smeary. CineMotion corrects this and provides a much better film feel to the footage. When we first got the package, the production crew was pretty blown away, now we have settled in to using it as another software plug-in workhorse."

Butler does realize the drawbacks to using such an intensive plug-in. "Well, the render times do take a while, but that actually may be more a drawback of our current equipment, which could probably be upgraded," Butler admits. "I typically move the frames to an Iomega Jaz drive and render the section on various other systems. But it is worth it to offer this professional service. The film-look has definitely increased our profits for such a modest investment, clients are definitely more satisfied." Butler also wishes for more presets, especially those in the 35mm range. He hopes to see additional advances such as the Film Damage plug-in that is part of CineLook. He says CineLook's Film Damage, combined with CineMotion, provides realistic film-look results.

While CineLook provides the color and grain effects for processing 60 fields-per-second footage, CineMotion covers the filmic motion effects using a variety of plug-in tools. CineMotion is currently available from DigiEffects for Adobe After Effects, with future ports to cover the Avid Media Composer and Xpress systems.

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