As you no doubt know by now, Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. I’ve had the privilege of working with a pre-release version of Adobe After Effects, and recorded two hours of lynda.com training about it. In this blog, I’ll give you an overview of the Refine Edge tool, an important addition to the Roto Brush technology that will make rotoscoping hair and other soft, detailed areas much easier than ever before.
Roto Brush and Refine Edge
The Roto Brush tool in After Effects has been significantly upgraded with the addition of a companion Refine Edge tool. To review, Roto Brush allows you to make a series of general paint strokes defining the foreground and background areas of an image (such as an actor over a complex background—in other words, not green screen). With this information, as well as judicious tweaking of its propagation parameters, Roto Brush then detects the edge between the foreground and background, and creates a matte. When used properly (as demonstrated in my course After Effects Apprentice 13: Paint, Roto, and Puppet), it can greatly reduce the labor involved in cutting elements out of video.
Adobe has started to reveal some plans for its next generation of pro video tools. Using a prerelease version of After Effects, I’ve recorded two hours of videos for lynda.com to keep you ahead of the curve. Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll fill you in on some of the interesting features that are on tap. First up, the new integration between After Effects and CINEMA 4D.
Live 3D pipeline between After Effects and CINEMA 4D
A couple of weeks ago, Adobe and MAXON issued a press release announcing a “strategic alliance … to bring creative professionals new levels of digital media content creation.” Buried inside that release was the intriguing statement that “As part of the alliance, both companies are expected to collaborate and engineer a pipeline between Adobe After Effects software and CINEMA 4D to give users a seamless 2D/3D foundation.” Now we can finally see what they were hinting at.
Q: PowerPoint 2010 released to the general public last week. Why should users consider upgrading?
A: There are actually quite a few reasons. In fact, of all the new Office 2010 apps, I think PowerPoint got the best enhancements. Features that a lot of users have been asking for are finally here. For example, one of the most common questions I get asked as a trainer is How can I convert my slideshow into a DVD or put it on YouTube? Before, you couldn’t without expensive, buggy third-party tools. Now, it’s built right into the Save menu and is super easy to do.
There are a bunch of other enhancements, too, and many of them are subtle. One of them is the new way transitions are rendered—transitions are the animations you see when going from one slide to the next. PowerPoint 2010 takes advantage of your fancy video card to make the movement smoother, less jagged, and gives you a bunch of new 3D options which are really neat to look at.
Q: What’s the best new feature in PowerPoint 2010 for making presentations more visually compelling?
A: Just one? Alright. It’s the new background removal tool for images. You know how you bring a photo or logo onto a slide, and it’s got a background that you don’t want—like a white square or other artifacts like a skyline or the rest of the scene? PowerPoint 2010 offers a slick new feature to remove the background from an image in just a few clicks. It lets you get really creative with your own photos, stock photos, or logos by removing the parts you don’t want. It’s amazing to see it in action and so easy to use.
Q: PowerPoint 2010 has new capabilities for sharing a presentation over the web. What are the issues to be aware of when using this feature?
A: That’s right, you can now upload your presentation temporarily to Microsoft’s servers and send a link to anyone you want for a live presentation over the web while you do a conference call. When you click next on your PC, everyone’s screen automatically slides forward too.
This feature has a few limitations, though. For example, it doesn’t yet work with embedded video or audio, and your transitions are all converted to Fade. Animations work, and so do all your images, graphics, charts, and diagrams. And there are no worries about fonts. But the problem most people will see right away is that your mouse pointer (plus the pen, laser, and highlight features) don’t broadcast. So, you can’t point with your mouse to the connected audience.
I think for their first attempt at something like this, they’ve done a good job, and I’m sure we can expect some enhancements down the road.
Q: In addition to training people in how to use Office, you help businesses craft PowerPoint presentations. What’s your top tip for making more effective presentations?
A: Keep the slides simple. I always see slides crammed with too much content and that just doesn’t work. The audience doesn’t know whether to listen to the speaker or read the slide. If you have a lot to say, summarize it on the slide and give the audience handouts or refer them to your website for the details.
This Saturday marks the start of the NAB conference in Las Vegas. The conference brings audio, video, and film professionals together for five days of inspiring keynote sessions, demos of the latest cutting edge equipment, and hundreds of vendors in the vast exhibit hall.
There are quite a few lynda.com authors who will be speaking at NAB this year, and it’s not too late to register for tickets.
George Maestri, content manager for 3D, animation, and video for lynda.com.
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is George Maestri, and I’m the content manager for 3D, animation, and video for lynda.com. My job is to find great authors in these areas and have them produce and teach courses that our members need.
My background is in animation, and I started my animation career 20 years ago. Back then, learning animation was not an easy task. There were very few books, and only a handful of colleges in the country taught the subject. The technology was primitive, as well. Even the best computers struggled with something as simple as a pencil test, and computers that could do 3D animation cost as much as a house.
Back then, we resorted to pencil, paper, videotape, and film to learn how to animate. I was fortunate to live close to a college which had a good animation program and a giant Oxberry camera stand. While there, I made enough films to get my foot in the door and start my career. Others were not as fortunate, and many had to literally move across the country to learn the craft.
In the intervening years, a technology revolution has made animation much easier, not only in the way it is made, but also the way it is taught. Almost all animation today is created digitally, and just about any modern computer is powerful enough to create high quality animation. The only barrier these days is some talent and the willingness to learn.
This is where technology comes to the rescue again. Instead of having to move across the country to learn animation, the power of the internet allows lynda.com to bring some of the best teachers of animation to you. I’m a total animation geek, and I’m very happy to bring my laser geek focus to bear on creating great animation courses for both 3D and 2D character animation, as well as special effects, motion graphics, and anywhere else animation is used. Look forward to a lot of great new courses in the coming year, and let me know what kinds of courses you’d like to see.