Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MatchMover Pal

I decided to revive an unofficial fnord product, MatchMover Pal. This is a free plug-in for After Effects that lets you import tracker data from Realviz MatchMover, which has in my mind the best 2D tracker money can buy.

The Realviz tracking algorithm seems good enough, but what really makes MatchMover great is that it provides a timeline interface for creating multiple tracker keyframes and then tracking forward, backwards, or even bidirectionally. While tracking, the point is shown in a big magnified window so you can see if it wanders and the track accuracy is color coded. Finally, MatchMover loads image sequences very fast as it tracks. It really is the best tool for beating a tough tracking job into submission.

Of course, MatchMover's real mission is to re-create a 3D camera move—a much more complicated task, for which they charge accordingly. I doubt anyone would be interested in paying all that money for the 2D tracker alone, but if you already have it, MatchMover Pal will help you use it with After Effects. The plug-in will also create a 3D scene in After Effects from a Realviz .rz3 file.


PS - I realize this functionality could have probably been added through AE scripting instead of a plug-in, but AE scripting wasn't able to do everything I needed when I originally wrote it for AE6.

Monday, September 17, 2007

ProEXR 1.1 released

We've released an update to ProEXR that contains performance improvements, minor bug fixes, and enhancements to the After Effects Comp Creator. Everyone should go get it.

Probably my favorite feature, however, is a new report that you'll find in Photoshop's File Info dialog. Look in the Description field and you'll see a complete breakdown of all the channels and custom attributes included in the EXR. For those of us that can get files from a variety of places, it can be very interesting/useful to see exactly what's in a file. For example, some of the ILM Sample Files contain information like aperture, altitude, latitude, and longitude.

Since this report can get a little long in Photoshop CS3 and earlier, I've made a Custom File Info Panel that fills up the whole dialog with it. Download it here and drop it into the Custom File Info Panels folder:

/Library/Application Support/Adobe/XMP/Custom File Info Panels/

C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\XMP\Custom File Info Panels\

Currently there is no way to save your own custom attributes in an EXR, but options for doing so could be explored if there is interest from users.

Incidentally, we've done some benchmarking recently and our tests have shown the After Effects plug-ins to be somewhat faster than Adobe's included OpenEXR plug-in. This can mostly be attributed to ProEXR providing a native AE plug-in, while the Adobe plug-in is actually made for Photoshop. So yet another reason to switch to ProEXR.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Controlling Alphas with ProEXR

One of the more unique features of ProEXR is that it lets you choose how alpha channels are treated. Usually Photoshop takes an alpha channel and makes a layer with transparency, but some people would prefer to have the alpha channel kept seperate, particularly if they plan to use it for something unrelated to transparency like a bump map.

In ProEXR, holding down the option (Mac) or alt (Win) keys as the file loads causes any alpha channel(s) to show up on separate layers.

Update: In ProEXR 1.3, holding down shift now brings up a dialog with these import options and more.

Under ProEXR naming conventions (see the manual), a layer named "RGBA" will save layers "R", "G", "B", and "A" in the file, but a layer "RGB" will skip the alpha. Then if you have a separate layer called "*A", the red channel in that layer will become "A".

Or to put it simply, if you separate the alpha by holding down option/alt, save the file without changing the layer names and you'll get the RGBA file you expect.

Another Update: ProEXR now includes ProEXR EZ, a simpler EXR plug-in that lets you send direct the alpha to the channels palette when you hold down the shift key.