Category Archives: Video

Cinetics Just Launched A New Kickstarter Campaign

Cinetics launched their CineSkates about a year ago and now they have a new Kickstarter campaign.  The CineMoco system is their new product line built around a dolly track system.  What interests me is the Cinemoco device itself which can control the motorized wheels and the camera.  Controlling these together can allow for some cool motion time lapse stuff.

The system looks pretty comprehensive, seems like they have done their homework.  Price wise it seems pretty good compared to other motorized systems I’ve look at.  Definitely worth checking out!

CineMoco Kickstarter Campaign

Update:  I was wondering what the minimum step is on their motor system.  I wrote them and they answered right away.  They said their system can take steps as small as 0.1mm.  So ultra-smooth time lapses shouldn’t be a problem.  I also noticed that you can purchase additional lengths of the SkateTracks for more moment if you want.  I actually just pledged to pick up a system, ha ha, couldn’t resist!  They say I should have the system in October so keep an eye out for a hands on review!

Element 3D Is Out!

Video Copilot’s Element 3D plugin for After Effects is now out!  I’ve talked about it a little already and there’s plenty of information on their website but basically it’s true 3D inside of After Effects.  There are some limitations but for motion graphics and title work it does 90% of what you would want a dedicated 3D program for.

I’ve only been playing around with it for a little bit now and it’s really cool.  It’s pretty easy to create some nice graphics and animations.  You can check out all of the Element 3D tutorials here and get the idea of what it can do.  The different software packages are available here.

Blender 3D Program

If you’re like me you occasionally need to do something in a 3D program but you don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars.  I want a 3D program I just can’t justify that kinda money, I don’t need it that much.

In going through the tutorials on I learned about Blender.  Blender is a free 3D program and a pretty sophisticated one at that.  Even thought it’s free you still get a complete 3D toolset with materials and physics, pretty impressive.

I may dive into it deeper but for now I’m just using it as a tool to help composite in After Effects.  Using blender I can create some true 3D title graphics or create and edit other 3D objects to export into AE.  If I get real courageous I may use it to create some better models for when I use Light Converse.  I need some better people models in there.

That’s it, I’m not familiar enough with it to show a tutorial or anything but there are already plenty of resources out there for that.  It’s available on Mac and PC, go ahead and download it here.

The Blown Up Guy

Video can be a powerful way to tell someone’s story.  Here is an awesome story about God’s work in someone’s life.

Element 3D After Effects Plugin

VideoCopilot has been a great resource for me to learn After Effects and start to create my own motion graphics.  They also make some great tools for compositing and motion graphics.  I like to support sites like them so I’ve purchased many of their products.  It’s not out of charity completely, they really have good stuff that improves my work.  Plus supporting them keeps the tutorials coming.

Now they’re close to releasing a new plugin called Element 3D.  This product helps bridge the gap between 3D created in a dedicated 3D app and the control of keeping everything inside of After Effects.  Plus the approach they are taking to 3D should keep things very fast when it comes time to render.

The traditional workflow would be to create a 3D object in a 3D program, render it out, then bring it into After Effects.  If  you need to tweak or adjust the 3D object you would need to go back into your 3D program, edit, render, re-import. That will still be necessary for really intense scenes but it’s a lot of extra work when you just want to create 3D text and simple shapes.  That’s where Element 3D will help bridge the gap and keep you working inside of After Effects.

It’s not out for another week, personally I can’t wait to get it and play around with 3D inside After Effects!  Price will be very reasonable, I think I heard $150, but don’t quote me on that.

Update:  They announced pricing today.  $150 for the plugin alone up to $250 for the plugin and some extra presets and models, very reasonable.  They also released a video showing off some features and the user interface, looks really good!  Check it out here.

Update 2:  More information!  It’s available tomorrow, 7/10/12.  There’s more bundles, some more tutorials, it really does look sweet!  Check out the latest update.

Cinetics CineSkates

Camera dolly shots are always a nice touch to video.  But dolly systems are expensive and not the most portable things.  Cinetics led a successful KickStarter campaign a little while ago.  They developed their own portable dolly system, CineSkates.

As long as you have a smooth surface you can get those nice dolly shots with your DLSR, GoPro, or any other small format camera.  They even have an iPhone mount, ha ha.  Now dolly shots are affordable and portable for smaller projects

They also have the CineSquid.  Instead of the dolly wheels you have three powerful suction cups.  Now you can mount your camera to any smooth surface like a car or a window.  I used this to get some cool rig shots on my car not that long ago.  Between the skates and the squid you’ve got a lot of options.

Anyway it’s nice product and I figured I’d share!

Canon 7D Firmware Update

I love my Canon 7D. I bought it as an upgrade to my old Canon 20D. I went from 8mp to 18mp stills and now I can shoot 1080p HD video. Pretty versatile camera! I looked at the 5D Mark iii but it was a lot more money and for what I’m doing I couldn’t justify the extra cost.

Canon announced a firmware update for the 7D that adds a lot of features and narrows the gap between the 7D and the 5D. Some of the highlights to me were manual audio adjustments while shooting video, higher burst rate for stills, and in-camera image processing to name a few.

The update isn’t out until August so there’s some waiting left to do. It’s good to see them continuing to support and improve existing products. Check out the full press release here.

QLab for Audio, Lighting, and Video Control

So if you saw the other post about QLab you’ll know that we love it for track editing and playback of audio for shows. Recently we were playing around with some of the other features.

We were trying different options for controlling our lighting console from Ableton Live. We managed to get Ableton to output MIDI time code (through an in between program) and have our ETC ION console chase it. I’ll make another post about how we got that to work.

After some playing around with that setup we opened up QLab. QLab has native support for all kinds of timing and MIDI options. Using QLab we were able to simultaneously send time code to Ableton to track and play audio and send MIDI show control to the lighting console to “go” on the the cues. Basically we found that it would be pretty easy to set up QLab to be the center of control for everything. Hit one “go” button and trigger Ableton, lighting, the built in audio playback, built in video playback, just about anything!

Mainly we were testing sync’d playback from Ableton which is actually pretty easy. Either have the lighting console and Ableton both track to time code. Or have Ableton track time code and the lighting console track MIDI show control. Both options mean we can have our lighting cues precisely mapped out and repeatable all with the touch of a button.

And since you can set up multiple devices we were able to send MIDI timecode internally to Ableton and externally to our lighting console at the same time at different timecodes is we wanted to. This means if we needed to offset the timing to one or the other it’s pretty simple. So if you programmed a bunch of cues to a certain timecode range, but then had to change it in Ableton for some reason, it wouldn’t be a big deal, just offset the times.

I can’t wait for the next show where we need this kind of precision. By linking Ableton directly to the lighting console, or controlling both Ableton and the lighting console from QLab, we’ll have all the control we need! One “go” button and everything will sync up perfectly, pretty cool!

For more info on all of these products check out the manufacturer’s sites.

Ableton Live


Figure 53’s QLab After Effects Training

I’ve been wanting to learn After Effects for a while now.  Now that we’re getting closer to getting our environmental projection setup I want to be able to create our own custom content when we can’t find something we like that’s already on content sites.

Adobe After Effects is an extremely powerful tool to create some motion graphics and cool videos in general.  Learning it though can be a little intimidating though when you’re starting from scratch.  When I decided to learn After Effects I stumbled across has been an awesome resource to learn After Effects in a fun way.  The guy teaching is pretty funny and knows his stuff.  Everything is done through videos and they even supply project files to use in the tutorials.  If you never have used After Effects before then start with the Basic Training series and go from there.

They even provide free files where you can just plug in your text or graphics and have really nice title graphics with almost no effort.  They also have some great products of their own that help support the site and keep the training free.

I’ve also ordered Adobe’s classroom in a book training for After Effects.  That will help cover some of the topics and basics that VideoCopilot doesn’t.  I used one of their books when I first learned Photoshop and they’re great.

Media Servers

As we go down the road of environmental projection it’s relatively easy to add some projectors.  It’s a lot harder to to get something to reliably feed the projectors the video content.  We have gone through a few different setups at this point.  I’ll run through what we’ve done so far and go over some details of each.

We started with ProPresenter running from a MacBook Pro.  This gives you a lot of options for a reasonable price.  At our campus we have a site license for the software so that was the best place to start.

ProPresenter worked fairly well. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can remote control ProPresenter to trigger the videos.  It can struggle with some formats or higher res videos though even on a fairly powerful machine.

Then we needed to trigger some videos at precise times.  Videos with lyrics for example need to be timed right or they’ll look pretty silly, ha ha.  ProVideoPlayer lets us trigger video clips through MIDI.  We used this feature to receive signals from Ableton Live.  I’ll go more in-depth with this setup in another post.

Once set up the videos are just playing along with the click track and when everything works right.  You have videos triggering automatically and it’s great.  This extra level of control allowed us to take our videos to the next level.  Timing things out with verses and choruses adds that extra level of production that really pays off.

Both ProPresenter and ProVideoPlayer are packed with a lot of features for the money and really are great tools.  Both are limited by your hardware though. The framerate and resolution of your videos will be limited at some point.  They’re good options but they’re not as good as dedicated media servers with custom software and hardware.

Green Hippo Hippotizer HD
This leads us to the Hippo. In order to play back true 1920 x 1080 HD content perfectly you really need a media server.  There are a few options out there but the one that seems to be leading the pack is the Green Hippo Hippotizer HD.  It’s used all over the place, big award shows, the Super Bowl, some of those singing competition shows, lots of stuff.

Once you step to a real media server you gain tons of features.  Rock steady playback is just the beginning.  Now you can manipulate your content in real time.  Speed up, slow down, change color, apply filters that completely change the look, etc.

Rarely will you have a large wall that’s perfectly flat.  Most stage walls have angles and curves that will distort your projection.  With some abstract motion graphics that not really a big deal but once you start showing any kind of natual landscapes or text you want a goemetrically correct image.  The Hippo provides all the warping tools you’ll ever need to correct for any shape surface you want to project on.

There’s also the image blending tools needed to blend any number of screens together in any arrangement.  So you can create a seemless image with multiple projectors side by side, top and bottom, or a combination of both.

Media servers can also control lighting fixtures.  The most common use for this is controlling static LED fixtures.  So if you have LED fixtures throughout the stage and you want them to always match the looks of the videos you can do that pretty easily.  Just map everything out in the software and it does the rest

Now with all these features comes some more complexity and there’s a little bit of a learning curve with a media server comepared to the simpler software only options.  I got to demo the Hippo and without and real training I was able to load my media and get things playing back.  The more advanced features will take some more work but loading and playing media is pretty simple even though it’s a powerful device.

It’s because of all these features that we will be going with a dedicated media server when we finally install our environmental projection system.  We will need all of the screen warping and image blending features to create a seemless image across our curved rear wall using multiple projectors.

All of the media server features come at a cost, they’re typically fairly expensive gadgets.  The Green Hippo’s range from about $7,000 up to almost $50,000.  Coolux has their Pandora’s Box media server and they have a software package that start’s under $1,000, that’s another option to check out.  You’ll have to weigh out what project you’re working on and what features you can and can’t live without and find what’s right for you.  Between ProPresenter, ProVideoPlayer, Green Hippo, Coolux, and even QLab you have a lot of options.


ProPresenter and ProVideoPlayer

Green Hippo