Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

Combustion 4 came by FedEx yesterday, and I finally got to install it last night.

A bit of background: I've known about Combustion for a long time. Discreet (now owned by Autodesk who do AutoCAD and 3DSMax) has been a player in the film effects industry for a long time. They have some of the most fabulous high-end compositing and special effects software in the industry (Inferno, Flint, Flame, Smoke). Combustion is their "entry level" tool, which is not to say that it is limited in capability. It is really chock full of effecty goodness, and in a quite practical sense. It's sort of a Swiss Army Knife tool for visual effects. And it's always been prohibitively expensive, like the price of a used car.

The latest version adds some tremendously powerful tools. They brought in the Diamond Keyer, which is the same technology as the oh-my-god-is-that-expensive high-end film compositing programs. I have yet to try it with DV footage (I suspect that there is very little that can be done with DV greenscreen images just because of the limitation of the medium), but it's got some powerful tools for pulling mattes.

Then there's this thing called G-buffer Builder. Essentially it takes a 2D flat-plane image, and with some initial help, recreates 3D depth cues which can be then fed into effect units to allow things like depth of field and fog effects that are stunning. Literally jaw-dropping.

Of course, the program is also quite complex. While I think the layout of the controls is one of the best I've seen, there is a LOT of stuff, and of course there is a learning curve.

I had to try it last night. I picked a piece of footage that has some unfortunate camera shake-- it was a dolly shot, but was handheld on the dolly and is just too shaky for the emotion of the scene. C4 has a couple of stabilizer effects, and I picked the easy one, which is a single-point tracker.

Essentially what you do is select a "good" tracking point on the image, and hit a button. The program analyzes the motion, creating a tracking path as it follows that point through the shot. Then it uses that tracking path to correct the image and lock that tracking point that you have selected in place.

And it works. Boy howdy. But there are some other problems-- like it "pushes" the image around, so the edges of the image have these black bars that move as the image is stabilized, and I have to figure out how to correct that. And finding a stable tracking point in a dolly shot can be a nightmare-- I finally had to settle on a point on the costume of the actress in the scene, which was the most stable point that I could find. It adds a subtle weird focus on her that works for the scene.

There are a couple of other scenes that I want to try and stabilize too. I think they may actually be easier.

I also spent some time with SoundSoap trying to see if I could excavate dialogue from a particularly tough scene. Mixed results-- it got rid of the noise, but it ends up making the voices sound kind of metallic and underwater-ish, and I can't seem to find a good balance. It was a planned ADR session anyway, I just wanted to see if I could pull something usable out of the mix.

All in all, happy with the tools.
Tags: movie

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