Friday, November 27th, 2009
Matchmoving is becoming more and more popular in visual effects world and is also quite interesting to know how to use, and to be able to utilize it within your studio or in your freelance work. In this new digital era where almost every single thing you see on the television or in a movie has CG elements placed into real world footage and you cannot afford not to have a working knowledge in a matchmoving software package. This article features a useful rundown of all the matchmoving software available for purchase and download, and perhaps to give you enough knowledge as to where to take your business as well as your workflow.
One of the more popular 3D camera trackers, as well as one of the more expensive ($10,000 per full license), 2D3’s Boujou is an Emmy Award-winning product that continues to pump out amazing looking visuals for the movies, commercials and productions that choose to utilize its capabilities. Now in its 5th version and offering new features such as a new automatic sequential solver, which looks at single frames instead of the old way, looking at the entire shot and this allows the user to interrupt the process and tweak when needed, and overall makes the whole solve faster. V5 also has a fully functional Graph Editor which lets you look at your solves, lock the correct parts, resolve or manually tweak camera data. Reference Frames is also new allowing you to import reference still imagery to assist the solve, and there is also the new Target Tracker which can now specify a pattern on a single frame as well as tracking multiple patterns simultaneously. Boujou has been around a long time and continues to prove that it is worth the money you put into it… with ease and massive reliability, this software is able to export to almost any compositing or 3D application that you may use.
With a single license of Andersson Technologies’ Syntheyes running for only $399-$599 (various versions – 32-bit, 64-bit, and Mac) you can see why this is such popular matchmoving software. There are lot of free tutorials across the web utilizing Syntheyes in various other workflow environments. So why is Syntheyes so cheap? Well it probably doesn’t offer as many options as Boujou, but it is geared more towards the freelancing and small shop community of businesses. Although it is used on high end movies such as The Fantastic Mr. Fox and 2012, it really depends on what you are working in, how precise and how well you work with the product. Awesome thing is, you can download a trial version to make sure that this is the right matchmover for you, crank through a few of the tutorials, and see if it works well with the other apps in your studio arsenal. You can check out the feature list, compatibility and more over at their official website.
3D Equalizer is a product that lies a little under the radar in the fact that most people probably haven’t heard about it, but Science.D.Visions has been around for well over twelve year pioneering the matchmoving business and you have probably seen them in action without even knowing. Not convinced? Well if you have seen any of the Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or King Kong movies, then yes you have seen what this program can do. With clients like Weta Digital and Cinesite swearing by the product, it has to be worth a look… now in its fourth edition, it offers a wide range of tools that most camera trackers and matchmovers posess, along with a price $10 cheaper than Boujou – $9,990, it seems to be one of the more under-the-hood tools used in big time visual effect post houses. If you have ever messed around with version 3 of this software, you are going to want to take a look at the new version, because it has been completely re-written from its predecessor, with an entire new look, obsolete function removed and tons more features added such as a new calculation core for extreme precision of points, new lens distortion features, improved 2D tracking engines, and a comprehensive list of tools for working with survey data.
The mid-ranged priced ($5,500), but high-end tool, PFTrack came out last year with their newest version, PFTrack 5.0 and it couldn’t be sweeter. This is rather well known matchmover, up there in popularity with boujou, but actually costs half the price of its competitors. It is loaded with features like full stereoscopic 3D support, true geometry tracking system, and Motion Capture feature right out of the box! There is a quote from Sam Schwier of Double Negative, the matchmove supervisor on Cloverfield who explained that, even though they had a lot of newbies in their team, after a few hours, all of them had their hands the software and started blasting through tracks. Cloverfield, was nothing but blurry, dark, handicam-shot movie that and you can imagine how much of a nightmare that could be.
Voodoo Camera Tracker
The best part about this little bit of camera tracking software is that it is absolutely and utterly free. Although free also comes the drawbacks, such as that it doesn’t export to Modo, Cinema4D, or any compositing packages, but it does export to Maya, 3D Max, Lightwave, Blender and Softimage. You don’t get all the bells, whistles and sweet features that Boujou, Syntheyes and the rest of the list comes with, but if you are in need of 3D camera solve, and don’t have between $$$$ to drop on software, then this is for you . You never know, this might just be what you need to match that tiny little 3D element into your scene.
Now, 2.5D motion tracking might not be an interesting technique as matchmoving is, but knowing how to use it in a workflow is an essential part of a motion graphic and visual effects artist’s toolset. There really are not too many alternative to the motion trackers built into your compositing application, but the few which are available can really handy if you know how to use them correctly.
Whether you use After Effects, Final Cut or any other application, there is a version waiting for you. Mocha has proprietary plug-in for Final Cut and After Effects that are significantly cheaper than its robust full version. If you just need some basic planar tracking done, hit up the plug-in versions first. If you need more than just planar tracking done, look into the full version, especially if you work in applications like Combustion or any 3D program. The newest version of Mocha actually includes all the features of Motor, which is a rotoscoping tool that works in conjunction with Mocha’s planar tracker, making rotoscoping and tracking duties a breeze. This is definitely one of the must-see solutions if you need some 2.5D tracking done.
Photomatch Plug-in for Cinema 4D
Photomatch works a little different when it comes to 2.5D tracking in the fact that it really isn’t that much of a robust of a tracker, rather than it is a tool used to match CG elements into a scene. You can definitely use it to place objects in a scene but it might prove to be a little difficult if you don’t have a locked down shot, or a shot that has a lot of perspective movement. Photomatch calibrates itself using vanishing points, or perspectives such as corners of buildings, interiors of houses, lines on the ground, edges or roads, or anything else that you can draw lines to create perspective in a shot. From there, you can integrate your objects and composite together what you need to complete your shot. Now, the bad thing about Photomatch, is you need a copy of Cinema 4D to use it, but if you choose to use your calibration data inside of a program like Maya (among others) you can export the data from C4D and bring it all into another app of your choice.
So there you have it, pretty much every option you have when it comes to 3D matchmoving and 2.5D tracking. If you didn’t know about these… and well even if you did, I hope you learned a little something that you can take with you when it comes time to purchase an app or find a solution for your studio.