|Okay. I confess. Until now, I've never attended the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. I've never experienced the sensory overload that comes with seeing the latest, greatest tools and technology and meeting true legends in the motion graphics industry. I've never felt the sense of community that comes with connecting the people and personalities to the names I've heard and read about for years. And I've never been so jazzed about the future as I am right now - after attending NAB 2005.
The truth is, I spent most of the convention as what we've come to call a "Booth Buddy" for Zaxwerks. I've been using Zax Dow's software since the heyday of Electric Image, the 3D software that gained its reputation for very fast rendering and the ability to handle insane polygon counts. 3D Invigorator gave Electric Image users an easy way to convert Adobe Illustrator files into 3D text, logos and more. Over the years, Zaxwerks built on that technology to create Invigorator-based plug-ins for Adobe After Effects and other applications. My enthusiasm for Invigorator led me to co-host the Zaxwerks forum at creativecow.net. More recently, Zaxwerks created ProAnimator and the brand new 3D Flag. I've been an enthusiastic Zaxwerks evangelist and motion graphics free-lancer for years. I've got a lot to learn, but get a kick out of sharing what I know. As a result, Zax invited me to join his team demonstrating Zaxwerks software at NAB. How cool is that!
The Las Vegas Convention Center is an imposing place. Especially when it's filled with more television technology than any other corner of the world and an estimated 110,000 people walking the floor. On Monday morning, fellow Booth Buddy John Dickinson and I walked through the doors with vendor passes dangling from lanyards around our necks. John had seen this all before, but what an eye-opening spectacle it was for me. And there, just across from the Adobe presentation area, was the Zaxwerks booth - our NAB home for the next four days. Our host for the week, Zax Dow, soon arrived. We finished setting up the booth, went over some details and fired up a G5 Mac, loaded with Apple's new Tiger OS, Adobe After Effects, all of my favorite Zaxwerks tools and some brand new ones.
The crowds started filling the show floor at 9 a.m. and Zax treated them to their first look at 3D Flag, just released for After Effects and Premiere Pro, and soon to be released for Apple's Motion 2 and Final Cut. Flag is a specialized cloth simulator with real-time preview in After Effects and amazing real-time rendering in Apple's Motion 2. You can map anything in your timeline to your 3D Flag, whether it's a flag image, a movie, a logo or a precomp. You can control all sorts of attributes including wind strength, direction, and cloth stiffness. You can create flagpoles and make flags and banners of any shape and size. It's a powerful flag simulator but for anyone who creates moving backgrounds, it's easy to see that 3D Flag offers so much more.
John Dickinson works the G5 demo station as Zax helps with a customer.
After Zax showed us the ropes, all three of us had the pleasure of showing people the power of the stand-alone 3D application ProAnimator, as well as Invigorator Pro, Flag and The Werks Volume 1 for After Effects. The "first demo jitters" soon gave way to having fun. It's easy to get excited about products you really like and a company you trust.
Invigorator Pro for After Effects and ProAnimator share common roots. Both can very quickly create 3D text on the fly and 3D logos from Adobe Illustrator files. Both give you tons of flexibility in how you model and apply materials to the surfaces of your objects. Invigorator Pro gives you the flexibility and power of working inside After Effects, including layer mapping and layer cycling. The workflow improvements alone make it a must-have upgrade from Invigorator Classic.
As we demonstrated with just a few mouse clicks, ProAnimator gives you a unique set of tools to create highly complex, amazing motion with ease. No complex keyframing required! We previewed the upcoming ProAnimator version 4, which includes the ability to map movies to objects and an incredible feature called cascading opacity. This new version is expected to be released in the next few months. ProAnimator drew rave reviews from video editors and people who don't have the time nor desire to learn After Effects or 3D apps like Lightwave, Maya or Cinema 4D. Many people who already use Invigorator for After Effects also seemed equally impressed with the power of ProAnimator. Like me, many of them decided they need to have both apps in their toolkits.
The Werks Volume 1 is a suite of three "bread and butter" plug-ins for After Effects. These plug-ins take the very common tasks of creating glints and glows to a new whole new level. Glintwerks gives you a Photoshop-style gradient editor and a host of controls that let you create and animate the best looking highlights you've ever seen move across text, a logo or just about anything else. Easy Glow makes it so simple to create a variety of glows and Gradientwerks does what the name says. It lets you create a variety of animated gradients that would be difficult, if not impossible to create any other way inside After Effects.
As each day passed, our demos became more elaborate and refined. Not because we had to, but because we were having so much fun exploring the power of each of these products. John Dickinson, the Senior Designer and motion graphics guru for Foxtel in Sydney Australia, turned an ordinary looking American flag into an animated version of Old Glory that appeared to have survived a battlefield. We used Glintwerks to give plain black text the look of hardened steel and created some ProAnimator projects that even the best 3D animator would be hard-pressed to replicate in any other application. And we showed Flag to everyone from cable network designers to people who create missionary television programming in countries around the world.
The enthusiasm at the Zaxwerks booth was contagious, with people often standing 3 and 4 deep waiting to ask a question or see something again. We sometimes encountered language barriers as convention goers from as far away as Japan and South America stopped by. But what words could not adequately explain, a few clicks of the mouse quickly demonstrated.
Being a Booth Buddy has lots of advantages. I count getting to know Zax and John among them. They're both first-class guys with tons of talent. Another bonus - meeting some of the biggest names in motion graphics, from internationally-known content creators to software developers and educators. Being the true gentleman that he is, Zax introduced John and me to some amazing people in the industry.
Equally satisfying for me was hearing from fellow users who've posted questions on CreativeCOW.net's Zaxwerks forum. Several people made a point of coming to the booth just to thank Zax for making great products and to thank us for our volunteer work on the forum. It makes me feel good to know that the answers we've posted over the years really do touch people and improve their projects. In the same way, it makes me feel great to know that many NAB attendees left the show floor knowing a lot more about Zaxwerks and having some really great software in their hands. I confess, I learned a lot too. And I can't wait to see what's in store for NAB 2006.
All photos on this page are copyright 2005 Jon Okerstrom. Reproduction without written permission is forbidden.