I was asked to review the newest release of the Creative Cow master tools, Invigomany from Serge Hamad. Serge is a long-time serving leader of the Creative Cow in the After Effects and Invigorator forums.
Being a complete rookie with the Invigorator, I saw this as a good opportunity to learn some new tricks from one of the top Invigorator artists out there. I also work as senior editor at an all sports french network here in Montreal, so having pre-built 3D models ready for my After Effects work was an exciting proposition.
Nowadays, it seems like editors are asked to do more and more compositing. This often includes motion graphic work, and at times 3D work. I call this the grey zone, and it is where I spend the majority of my days. With that in mind, tools like the Invigorator from Zaxwerks become more than just a luxury, they become a necessity.
But enough already you say, tell us about the Invigomany. Well, the Invigomany arrived on a CD rom in a Creative Cow packaged DVD rom case. The Invigomany is neither a plug-in, nor software, but rather pre-built After Effects projects packaged with all of the necessary materials needed to build a bakers dozen models. Also included on the CD, a read me file, which I didn't read but should have, and a video tutorial.
The video tutorial is excellent. It lasts about twenty minutes and is hosted by Serge himself. Serge personally takes us through the structure of the CD rom, something that is vital to using the Invigomany. Serge also explains how to learn from the Invigomany projects, as well as taking us through building our own 3D baseball bat from scratch (you will need illustrator to follow along with this lesson). This is really interesting stuff, especially for newer users like myself. I can honestly say that I picked up some great pointers for future Invigorator use.
The projects that are included on the CD are all categorized in their own folders. Inside of these folders are sub-folders for Invigorator Pro, Invigorator Classic as well as for the Pro Animator. I tested the Invigomany using the Invigorator Pro filter within After Effects 7.
Serge has thoughtfully included two projects files for the majority of the models. The regular project and a project called ready. The regular projects are provided as a learning tool. All precomps and layers used in building the models are included. In most cases, the layers have layer markers with notes to inform you of a layers influence on the project. If you feel that you know enough already and just want to animate the models, then the ready projects are for you. Set up and streamlined, ready to animate.
I am originally from England. With the upcoming World Cup, I decided to start my testing with the Soccer Ball project. The first time you open each project, After effects will ask you to locate the texture jpg for that project. This texture is found inside the stills sub-folder inside the main folder of that particular model. After loading the texture, it is recommended that you save the project. This will prevent you from having to repeat this procedure.
When I opened the Soccer Ball project, I was shocked at how great the ball looked. There was a little bit of light reflecting on the ball; the kind of light that you would expect to see reflecting from a leather soccer ball. There is also a little swoosh on the Ball, but a quick replace footage and presto, my company logo was on the ball. This could be very useful for our station promos.
To animate the ball, well it took me a few minutes to figure out; hey I'm new at the Invigorator. I got it though. I had the ball spinning, and moving around the screen. I animated the ball using the invigorator camera, and by animating the ball itself. Most of the time I found it easier to animate the ball, although the Invigorator camera tools are awesome. I found that manipulations were pretty quick, considering that I was messing with a 3D ball. To speed up previews, I set my layer to draft and turned the anti-aliasing off in the Invigorator filter.
Next, I decided to try the Basketball. This really blew my mind. The texture on the ball, as well as the seams is, exactly as they should be. If properly animated, most viewers would be hard-pressed to tell that they weren't looking at a real ball.
I tried all of the project files and was happy with all of them. I did have a small issue with the pool balls. One of the balls was showing polygons, so I shot an e-mail to Serge at the support e-mail he gives in the tutorial and the issue was quickly resolved. More experienced Invigorator users would have figured this one in a hurry, but again, for a newbie like myself, this was difficult to figure out.
All of the models have beautiful textures. The football has the laces and the Wilson logo on it, along with a very real leather texture mapped to the ball. The volleyball is simply perfect. Wait until you see the pool cues. You feel like you can reach out and touch them.
In my job, I have been asked on a number of occasions to map our company logo to a turning golf ball. We have an eyewire movie of said golf ball, but after trying to bend the logo with sphere filters and mapping using displacement maps, I had pretty much given up. At one point I was able to make something somewhat usable by using a Boris Continuum Complete cloth. With our logo composited on it and mapped to a sphere, then after adjusting the logo to reduce the distortion created by the sphere, it looked ok. Not a perfect solution and time consuming to say the least. I had also scoured the web looking for a golf ball texture. If I would have had the Invigomany, I could have done the same operation, making the logo and the ball look realistic in around 2 minutes (the time to load the project find the logo and explain to the director what we were doing). Boy, do I wish I would have had the Invigomany!
|Conclusion and COW Rating:
This really is a sweet package. Go online, I beg you. Check out what 3D models go for. They are not cheap. This package contains all of the project files to create 13 models, and the cost is only 89 USD. A single 3D golf ball can easily set you back 50$. Also, not all models can be as easily imported and manipulated in After Effects. The only model that was missing for me was a hockey puck. I can create this myself in Boris Red, but I would have liked to see it added to the package. Maybe it will be a download or a single purchase for registered users.
I believe that this is the first in a series of models that Serge has planned. I think that this will do quite well. The sports models are a niche market, but if you are doing Sports TV, or commercials for sports related products, this could really make your life easier. Some more experienced users may be able to create some of the models themselves, but if they take you an hour each, then it is definitely not profitable for you to do it. I would strongly recommend this product.
I give the Invigomany a 4.5 Cow rating.
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-- Mark Harvey