Exclusive! 5.0/8.0 Effects Preview Part 1

The fxguide crew has had the good fortune to have an up-close look at the new 5.0/8.0 effects software which discreet is releasing later this year. It is a substantial update to the software, with the biggest change being resolution independence within a project. We’ve also obtained a couple of exclusive screen captures from the new batch and action. If you have any questions, please feel free to post your comments at the end of the article and we’ll try

We’ll first say that it is undeniably the best new release of software that discreet has put out since introducing fire and maybe since introducing flame. Except maybe for those who lived without archiving before that was introduced 😉 It is certainly a must-have release.

The effects and fire teams have gotten together and are providing a software release that dramatically changes the way we work in the software and really opens up exciting new capabilities. By doing so, they’ve provided the number one feature request that users have been asking for years.

For those who have been on an island the last several months, the key features of the release are:

– True resolution independence
– A revised batch, offering better integration of action within batch
– A “universal” batch channel editor
– Ability to process proxies instead of the actual footage (useful for hi-res previs)
– Kaydara FBX exchange (for importing models and camera data from other 3D programs)
– A “fire-like” editing timeline in batch.

The first initial shock — and a good one at that — is that there is no more worrying about defining partitions of various sizes…the software takes care of this for you. For instance, if you import a 3000 x 1765 image into inferno, it simply appears on the desktop. if you import a 12-bit 4000 x 3677 pixel image into inferno, same thing. There are various tools to help you see what size and resolution an image is (you can see this in the batch schematic screen grab). When grabbing a clip that already exists on the framestore, the transfer into the project is instantaneous — no more waiting for grabbing a clip from another local partition. Of course, if you need to resize the clip to a different size the process isn’t real time. There is a new resize module which gives you all of the handles on the deskop that you have from import image or the clip library.

Action now has an additional area in the setup menu for determining the output size, ratio, and frame depth for action renders. These are very similar to the options for batch and entering modules that don’t need a source clip (like text and paint).

(Click for a larger view)

You can see by the batch schematic that images of various resolutions are available within a single batch setup. In the case of a node such as action, the final output gets rendered at the resolution you define within the action node. Three images of different resolutions happily co-existing at the same time and all feeding into action layers. We had to smile when we saw that — no more tiling.

The channel editor screengrab shows the batch channel editor. There are several action nodes, a color warper node, and various clip nodes. Each clip has a slip and resize value associated with it. What this unified channel editor enables is the ability to link an axis in one action node in batch with an axis in a completely different action node. In expressions, this simply involes adding the name of the node to the front of a channel (aka action5.axis1 (as shown) or action5.axis1.position.x for a more specific channel). Of course, you could also link an axis in an action setup to a colour warper node….
There is now an editing timeline in batch with a single layer of video, and a stereo pair. This way, you can feed a node with an edited clip and still adjust the edit while remaining in batch. You can slip, slide, insert another clip into the edit, etc. All without leaving batch.

The lines between being in batch and being in action have blurred considerably. You no longer have to enter and exit the action module when working in batch — the entry into action is almost immediate. Toggling the ~ hotkey shows you action and the action schematic. Hitting the ESC key toggles between the action (or the node) and the batch schematic. What’s really nice is if you have an existing direct action layer (one where you added clips from the desktop), you can easily promote that layer to a batch fed layer. Simply select the layer in action, hit CTRL-add, and it adds the clip to the batch schematic and parents it to an action layer node. Then you can easily shift-drop in a spark node, effecting the clip before it feeds action.

What negatives did we see when checking out the software? The main one involved the changes to the UI and hotkeys. Because of trying to making buttons consistent across *all* modules, as well as conflicts between certain action and batch hokeys, there had to be some major changes. Our first impression upon using the software was a bit of helplessness with all of the changes. But after using the software for a short period, the old habits seemed to go away and the consistency was actually helpful. So in the beginning, it will be a trying process for users but in the end hopefully artists will be thankful for the changes (especially new users to flame and inferno who find the inconsistencies difficult to learn). So this negative essentially ends up being a positive, we suppose.

The timeline in batch is also a very welcome addition, but it could seriously use at least one additional video layer as well as four channels of audio (versus the current two channels). Don’t get us wrong…it is very cool and useful to have a timeline in batch — changing timings on clips is so easy now, not having to go out to the desktop to re-edit. And it is not as if all effects users are always looking for doing multi-layer timeline editing on a consistent basis. But the addition of one video layer would provide the ability to easily compare an offline roughcut with an assembled video layer. And four channels of audio would finally provide the ability to mix and edit a stereo track with a voice over — something that would definitely come in handy during an effects session.

All in all, however, this release is incredibly exciting. Flame and inferno artists around the world should be excited about the prospects this release brings. Check back here for more exclusive looks at 5.0/8.0, including the latest news and gossip direct from the IBC show floor in September. We’ll be taking another in-depth look at the software in a couple of weeks (a look at the timeline, proxy processing – can you say waaaay cool?–, and more). Feel free to add your comments below and we’ll try to answer your questions….