EM: I’m really looking forward to seeing Flame version 8.0 from Discreet.
C: Discreet calls Flame 8.0 a "great leap forward” in compositing. What does this mean to you in terms of what you can do image-wise, the speed at which you can do it, and any other impact on the effects process?
EM: It represents quite a new way of working in Flame. It allows for something called "resolution independence.” This is a huge step for them. It allows us to composite multiple formats in the same project, i.e., mixing media captured in HD with DV and NTSC and so on. Essentially, this is something other desktop systems, such as Adobe After Effects and Combustion have offered for a while. However, there is only Flame and Inferno in my book when it comes to doing compositing quickly and interactively with clients. As a company specializing in design, we do most of our conceptual work in Illustrator and Photoshop at resolutions higher than NTSC. In the past, this has meant a lot of wasted time "tiling” elements for the Flame in order to do basic pan & scan moves on elements provided by designers.The majority of our production is in 3-D. It usually involves highly complex camera moves and multiple layers of texture and animation. Traditionally, this has meant that we render 20 to 30 individual layers per shot in 3-D and composite them all together in Flame. In theory what the new 3-D camera and Filmbox import/export in Flame 8.0 allows for is the sharing of camera data between Flame and 3-D. Now, instead of rendering each layer in 3-D, we can create texture layers interactively with clients, and evaluate them in the Flame without having to go back to 3-D and render them through the 3-D camera. This will fundamentally change and accelerate our process. A good example of this type of project is our second Lugz spot, which involved multiple layers of flat photo textures and practical shot elements. We spent a great deal of time creating texture layers in Flame, exporting them to 3-D to be rendered through the camera, then reimporting them into Flame for compositing. If we had the camera data in Flame, this would have cut our production time significantly and allowed for a greater level of finesse in our final product. I work in batch all the time. It used to be fairly unstable, but now it allows for a very different way of working in Flame. The biggest advantage of batch is the flexibility to quickly change individual elements within a composite while maintaining my overall effects tree. Adding timeline editing and action accessibility means the artist doesn’t have to return to the desktop to do editing work. A big timesaver.
C: Anything else you’re especially interested in this year?
EM: The other big thing is the coming of age of HD systems. It seems that everybody now is offering HD-compatible systems. We have actively been researching what systems are the best to pursue this kind of work. We’ve had no true requests for finishing in HD. We’ve done an ad or two in HD for final output to cinema, but the big question for me is when the industry will wholeheartedly embrace this new technology. Time Warner cable of New York is already broadcasting HD for CBS, NBC, HBO and others, yet, I haven’t seen any HD ads running on any of these channels, and our experience with shooting HD has shown how young the technology really is.