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One feature built into Vegas Video that really makes it stand out among non linear editors is it's built-n compositing tools. These tools make it very easy to integrate material produced in 3D applications with your projects in an intuitive manner and with very little fuss.
The primary aim of this tutorial will be to create a composite image of a bubble with moving/still images inside. The secondary objective is to demonstrate to the user the convergence of 3D modeling with compositing and non linear editing applications. James Green will demonstrate that this is a very basic but useful composite that is designed to provoke creative thought towards potential applications.
For this tutorial, you'll need a 3D program called Anim8or. Anim8or is free modeling and animation program you can download here. Also available in the download page is a very easy to understand 72 page PDF user manual. The entire download including the manual is 2.5MB. Though not as feature rich as commercial packages like Alias/Wavefront Maya or Lightwave, many users will be surprised at the features built into Anim8or.
Anim8or includes four modes starting with the object editor which we will use for this tutorial as well as a character editor where you can build jointed skeletons for characters and a sequence editor so you can animate your characters and models. Also in this tutorial we will use the scene editor which is the mode where you place your characters and objects into their world to build a scene. Anim8or can generate uncompressed .avi files, bitmap still images and alpha channels at resolutions up to 1024x768 at frame rates of 24, 25 and 30 fps as well as custom frame rates.
1. When you activate Anim8or, it defaults to the object editor mode. Locate the sphere button and make a large sphere.
2. Notice the sphere is not smooth. Double clicking on your sphere will bring up the properties dialog box for your object.
3. At the bottom of the properties box is a section that says parameters. Choose the option that says "Lon/Lat". By default, your sphere has 12 longitude and 8 latitude divisions. Change both values to 32 and click OK. You should now have a smooth sphere. Feel free to experiment with these values to see how they affect your object.
4. On your top toolbar, locate the materials button. This button is marked with four dark circles. Pressing this button shows your materials menu. Double click on the box marked "New" to bring up the Material editor dialog box. This menu is where you will define the surface properties of your bubble.
5. Name your material "bubble" and enter these numerical values:
6. In your materials menu you should see a small glossy opaque sphere. Select your sphere and click the "apply" button on the menu above your new material. The material is now applied to your 3D sphere. Your bubble is now complete and should look like the picture.
7. On your menu bar click "Mode" and select "Scene". This opens your scene editor. Click "Build" on the menu bar and select "Add Object". The Object Selector box that opens lists all objects currently loaded into Anim8or. Select "object01" to place your bubble into the scene. To scale the size of your object, click the scale button shown. Click and hold over your object. While holding your mouse button, drag left or right to set to a desired object size.
8. On the menu bar click "View" and select "Camera". You should now see your bubble sitting on a checked grid. Choose "Settings" on the menu bar and select "Environment". Uncheck the box for Ground Grid and click OK. Using the move tool just above the scale tool, center your bubble on the screen.
9. Change your view to "Top". Next choose "Build">"Add light". In your light editor box, under "Fixed Properties" choose "Local". Move this light next to your camera. Repeat "Add light" and add another local light. Drag the second light opposite the first to provide some back light. (Do not worry about the elevation and precise placement of your light at this time. The placement of these lights is for learning purposes and by no means represents the best lighting scheme for the scene. You should set up lighting to suit your needs.)
10. Change your view back to "Camera". Double check to make sure that the bubble is centered. On the menu bar choose "Render">"Preview". Choose your image size and check "Image+Alpha channel". Click OK and one full resolution individual frame will be rendered. Your results should look similar to the picture.
11. Choose "Save" on the left and save the image as a bitmap. Press "Alpha Channel" and save that image also (this will be used to make a mask in Vegas). Later you can experiment with camera animation and keyframes in Anim8or to animate this project but for now all you will need are the bitmap and alpha channel you just generated.
12. Import your bitmap and alpha channel into Vegas along with any source footage (about 3 to 5 seconds of footage will work nicely). On three separate tracks, place your media in the following order:
Track 1- place the bubble against the black background.
Track 2- Place your alpha channel that you will use to make your mask.
Track 3- place your footage to be shown inside the bubble.
13. On track two, apply the Sonic Foundry Mask Generator to the clip. Set type to Luminance. Settings should be:
Low in: 0.710
High in: 1
Low out: 0
High out: 1
14. Next, set your compositing modes for each track. I set Track 1 for my footage to "Lighten" because it maintained the illusion that the action was inside the bubble better that the "Add" composite mode. Choose the mode that best fits your footage.
If you Mute Tracks 1 and 3 after you apply the Mask Generator plug-in to Track 2, you were essentially were left with a black circle on a white background. Apply the "Subtract" composite mode to Track 2. This mode hides everything covered with white while letting through any image under the black circle. Now un-mute the remaining tracks. It should now appear as it your footage is inside the bubble.
15. The image still looks flat though. To complete the illusion, apply to the footage on track three the "Sonic Foundry Spherize" plug-in. Setting the distortion at the center of your bubble creates the refractive effect one might see if they looked through a glass sphere or bubble.
The picture on the left shows the image before the spherize plug-in is activated and the picture on the right shows it with the plug-in. Notice how the image distorts. Varying effects can be achieved by either spherizing in or out as shown here.
The final result is a very nice composite that shouldn't take more than a few minutes to complete but could add production value to any project. The ability of Anim8or to output alpha channels greatly simplifies the process once the footage reaches Vegas.
Vegas Video is a great program for visual effects if you are willing to think about how to solve the problem with the tools built into this application. The footage used for this tutorial was a multi-layer composite I did for another project using Vegas and Anim8or. Except for the explosion and a few minor things in Adobe Photoshop, everything was done with Vegas from the glowing rockets on the ship to some very convincing lasers which aren't shown.
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