IBC is back and things are hopping on the show floor. The big buzz this morning is about Adobe‘s acquisition of Munich-based IRIDAS and its SpeedGrade technologies. According to Bill Roberts, Adobe’s director of product management for the long-winded “Professional Video & Audio Digital Media Solutions Division,” the move was primarily driven by the need to add advanced color correction capabilities to the Adobe suite.
Roberts told me that Adobe could have developed those capabilities in-house, but after looking around they concluded that the SpeedGrade acquisition would get them up to speed, (bad pun), more quickly and more completely.
An added bonus, according to Roberts, is the fact that the IRIDAS technologies are, in his words, “stereo-native.” He pointed out that this is important for color grading, for example, where good results often require minute color adjustments to individual eyes. He does not feel that stereo will ever represent the larger part of the market, but he feels it’s important that Adobe support that growing segment.
Stereo Grows Up
It’s interesting to see the developments in stereoscopic workflows and it is clear that the market has matured a great deal in the past few years. Stereo capabilities are now much more fully integrated in the compositing applications, such as The Foundry‘s Nuke and Autodesk‘s Flare and Flame tools, as well as the grading and finishing applications.
I had a great demo with Marc Smith at Quantel and it is fascinating to see how refined stereo finishing has become with a full set of tools for assessing and correcting vertical and rotational camera misalignment, as well as parallax adjustments built in to Pablo Neo.
Of course stereo continues to pose numerous challenges, not the least of which is the fact that not many cinematographers and camera crews are comfortable with shooting 3D stereo, and often there is just not enough stereo shooting gear to go around.
As a result, we’re seeing a rise in stereo conversion. Converting standard 2D images into stereo 3D has come a long way since 2010’s Clash of the Titans, with the final installment of the Harry Potter saga providing a great example of tasteful and effective stereoscopy.
Stereo conversion involves a lot of manual rotoscoping to pull the foreground images off of the background and then a lot of complex tracking to artificially create the second eye, or camera. I saw demos of stereo conversion capabilities in Nuke and Flare – the younger brother of Autodesk’s powerful Flame compositing and finishing system. Both of these technologies provide impressive toolsets for taking apart images and re-assembling them as stereo 3D sequences.
Perhaps the most powerful tool for the grunt work of stereo conversion is Imagineer‘s Mocha Pro, a dedicated tracking tool which greatly reduces the amount of manual keyframing which might otherwise be required. It does this with a sophisticated planar tracking capability – tracking surface rather than just points – which allows the application to handle blurred edges, changing light conditions and even obstructions. With Mocha Pro ($1,495 as a standalone application), users can do “clean plating” to assemble background plates, including infilling, so that compositors can then focus (more bad puns) on the shaping and positing foreground elements.
“The Mocha planer tracking looks at all the pixels in the area that you’ve selected and it tries to make them fit across the sequence that you are tracking,” explained John-Paul Smith, CEO of Imagineer Systems, “whereas other planar trackers look for high-contrast feature points in the area instead and that is less robust with grain or things that are obscuring the area that you are tracking and generally don’t give as solid results.”
Imagineer tells me that they have been selling well lately to facilities such as Digital Domain, Pixel Magic, ICO VFX and Legend3D.
Now, I’m off to watch James Cameron and Vince Pace tell us more about the future of stereo 3D.