2d3D, boujou on track.

“we’re getting results in a matter of minutes and its just great to see it all working straight off. Boujou takes the tedium out of match moving”

-Will Bylkes Head of Aardman’s CG dept.

FXGuide caught up with Chris Steele CEO of 2d3D recently to discuss their market leading Boujou tracking software and sneak a peak at their new “Pixel Dust” product.

Boujou created quite a storm when it released its first version of its automatic image tracking software. While others were using manually finding 8 to 12 trackers to match move shots, boujou produced a revolutionary fully automatic tracker that used hundreds of trackers to automatically track shots. It has been used widely and “very successfully in such films as Black Hawk Down”, comments CEO Chris Steele.

Privately stated to be “several years ahead” of the big manufacturers in automated image tracking technology, 2d3D have now released version 2 of their boujou software. Version 2 contains intervention capabilities include features designed to maximise the potential of the automated tracking engine for solving tough shots. New feature-location and track editing tools such as Gold Tracks allow the user to guide the processing of heavily stylised or compound camera moves and to apply the power of the automated tracking with manual assistence – “solving a major problem users experienced with version 1, namely you either got a successful solution or you didn’t , there was no ability to treak the results”, says Steele.

Gold Tracks allows animators and composite artists to give priority to individual feature tracks created by the automatic tracking engine, by the new interactive frame-to-frame tracking feature. Tracks prioritised as Gold Tracks influence the action of the automatic tracking at both the feature tracking and camera tracking stages and can also be used by boujou’s statistical analysis engine to flag individual areas of the image for more detailed processing.

Gold Tracks:

* Created by being imported, created by hand, created by new interactive frame to frame tracking feature or from automatically created feature tracks

* Will always be included by boujou in the final solution

* Allow the user to help boujou when it does not produce the anticipated result automatically

* Allow the user to intervene only where necessary in a shot

* Do not need to be defined at every frame; they can exist for short periods of the shot or be defined in just a few frames over the entire length of the shot

* Can be used by boujou to guide both the automated feature tracking and camera tracking phases

* Can be used by boujou during the statistical analysis phase to guide the its first estimation, so allowing the user to help boujou get to the desired solution quicker

Boujou 2 also introduces new workflow enhancements. To deal with changing conditions within a shot, users can apply different parameters to subsets of frames, and track sections of the shot in any order. These features are particularly important when camera moves contain widely varying types of motion or when the much of the scene is obscured in part of the shot. Changing the local parameters for subsets of the shot allows boujou’s tracking engine to work in greater detail and with different criteria where necessary. boujou2 includes the ability to set the level of optimisation for the final camera solve in each subset to take account of the local conditions of the tracking task. To assist an iterative workflow, boujou2 re-tracks only the subsets of the shot after parameters have been adjusted, and then automatically joins all the sections into one continuous solve when the shot is finished. An example of this is if the frame was to flash to white during a flare, or have a sudden motion blurred camera hit or shake.

One very helpful points for new users is the Informationals. To help users select appropriate parameters and tracking methods, boujou2 provides ‘informationals’ – a context-sensitive advice system offering prompts and guidance on operational choices. Informationals help users understand how best to approach a tracking task, and how different approaches can be combined to achieve optimum results.

Boujou2 includes support for compositing software including Flame, Inferno, Cineon and After Effects. It runs on Linux – Red Hat 7.1 or Windows XP, (NT & 2000 supported in v1.3). There is no Boujou Spark for FFFIS only the stand alone application.

At last years SIGGRAPH, 2d3D showed a prototype or technology showing of a whole new product line, for image repair and automatic matte painting. At Siggraph the demonstration took hand held video footage of a building and patched together a final matte painting, with all the moving objects in the foreground such as cars, digital removed. At this year’s NAB this technology was shown as a product prototype to be called PIXEL DUST.

Pixel Dust is an automatic matte generating and image repair program, not dissimilar to the work of MoKey. The product was demonstrated with the background replacement of a 360 degree panning shot of a stadium, where the foreground actor was removed. Considering that the actor fully covered 1/4 of the screen at any one time, his replacement with the reconstructed background was extremely impressive. The way the product works is to track and then seamlessly composite sections of background that are visable into position when that part of the background is hidden by the foreground element. Of course if a section of the background is never seen in the clip, then the software can not replace it. The system therefore works best when there is a lot of frames and the camera or the forground is moving. To achieve high quality results, the replacement patch that is tracked in, is blended and colour corrected to match its surrounding original background. For the right shot this automated process could save hours if not days of conventional compositing and hand tracking.

While no dates have been release, FXGuide understands that it will be released next month at Siggraph and will be fully shipping by the end of the year. The product runs on Liunx and W2K – like its big brother Boujou, but we understand that 2d3D have been looking at OSX. No details of an OSX port have been publiclly released, but we understand the port is currently bogged down with a series of problems one programmer described as “technical gliches”.

2d3D is one of the leading specialist small companies that is helping redefine a suite from a single black box into a collection or suite of specialist applications. What will be interesting is to see if and how these hard core specialist applications are handled by the larger equipment manufacturers in the coming 12 to 18 months.

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