Opinion: Page (1) of 2 - 04/07/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

The Case for Specialists

There?s an important distinction between 2D and 3D technologies and the resulting workflows By Dariush Derakhshani
Special effects have become a pervasive part of the television industry, with especially heavy growth in effects-driven or CG-enhanced commercials. As a matter of fact, a large number of commercials being produced currently go through at least a minor amount of compositing, where different elements of separate live action shoots are merged together and matched into one scene. And quite a few of those commercials also employ 3D CGI to augment their shots.

Hands down, the majority of this effects work on commercials falls into the compositing category.
Clients require a high level of feedback, and given the ever-present short turnaround times required by most advertisers, having a real time or near real time compositing platform is an absolute necessity.
Systems ranging from After Effects on desktop machines to Inferno running on SGI workstation boxes basically run the gamut of compositing packages used for this work.

However, the major commercial shops, boutiques, and divisions typically rely on the near-real time compositing performance of systems like discreets flame and inferno. With clients and agencies taking more involved roles in a commercials look, it becomes necessary to give them and the artist running the box fast feedback on shots.

However, a large number of these shops also rely on "desktop" compositors such as Shake, Combustion, Digital Fusion, or After Effects to produce a generous amount of the compositing work for any one commercial. While client feedback and artist workflow is slower on desktop systems compared to flame/inferno, they nonetheless play a big role in getting a good amount of the work done behind the scenes.

Using lower-end desktop setups can create a far more cost-effective solution for the post-production house than running solely on flame and inferno machines. It provides for cheaper systems that can be used for generating anything from simple mattes and rotoscoping for the final composite to the final color corrected composite itself. The flame and inferno machines can be used more as finishing tools and a way for the artists and clients to come together to form their vision in a reasonable time frame.


Though these bigger boxes demand a larger procurement budget and incur a higher production cost to run, they are indeed invaluable in any serious commercial shop. Clients require a high level of feedback, and given the ever-present short turnaround times required by most advertisers, having a real time or near real time compositing platform is an absolute necessity.

But tempering this with lower cost desktop compositing to cover everything behind the scenes makes a lot of sense for a boutique or post house. Not only can elements be prepared for the final comp, but also "pre-comps" can be generated to test out methodologies and designs before spending oodles of time on a flame with the client. 3D CGI artists can also composite their own elements to test out their scenes lighting, animation, and so forth without having to take up valuable flame time.

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Related Keywords:Special effects, television industry, CG-enhanced commercials, compositing, 2D, 3D, Dariush Derakhshani

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