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Old December 8th, 2004, 04:29 AM   #1
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Demo video to be shown at DV Expo L.A. tomorrow

Here's a link to a demo video for the launch of Serious Magic's new virtual set pack, MSL3.

http://www.seriousmagic.com/MSL3-Demo-750k.wmv

MSL3 will be launched tomorrow at DV Expo in L.A. This video will be playing in the booth but I just finished encoding it - so you can sneak preview it now! (and you don't have to fight traffic and pay for parking ;-) ).

This video is encoded at 750kbps, so if you have a slow connection, right-click the link and select "Save Target As..."

--- Mark

FULL DISCLOSURE:
I work at Serious Magic and produced this video. (gee, that sounds kinda like what they say now at the end of political commercials!)
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Old December 11th, 2004, 10:25 AM   #2
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Mark, quick question... Could one use Ultra and the virtual sets in a live, real-time environment? Say you were doing a live event with big-screen video, and you wanted to "cut" to a person in a virtual set -- for example, a news reporter. Could that be done live, and how much delay would be involved?
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Old December 12th, 2004, 06:34 PM   #3
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Cameron,

No, ULTRA has a real-time preview mode but it does not give a full-screen output since it is designed for adjusting the key on-set. You could use the sets as background stills with a hardware keyer but you wouldn't be able to do the Virtual Trak shots (virtual moving camera stuff).

Interesting question though, could you give me some info about what kind of application are you thinking of and how it would be used?

--- Mark
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Old December 13th, 2004, 05:55 AM   #4
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Wishlist

Hi Mark, i downloaded Ultra trial however it crashes on startup everytime, i have more than the minimum spec.

Anyway that aside here are some features that i would really like and i think others would agree (i dont know if it already is capable of these features)

(1) The ability to have change the DOF of the background, i.e. have a very nice shallow DOF than the current "deep" video all focus look

(2) Have plants/any animate object animated (looping perhaps) beacause the still CGI background are a dead giveaway,

(3) More realism please!, can you have photo realistic!
(eg the Underground train station of the "Matrix" scene was CGI, but it looked real)

(4) Personal Set builder, drag and drap furniture/stairs etc..
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Old December 13th, 2004, 11:50 AM   #5
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Anhar,

That crash will probably be resolved if you update your graphics card driver software.

ULTRA has a slider to defocus the background (or foreground).

ULTRA allows you drag and drop foreground elements which may be PNGs with alpha for stills or AVIs with alpha for moving foregrounds

Regarding the sets, they aren't supposed to be photo-real. This is for the same reason that CGI features (Nemo, Shrek, The Incredibles), tries to look like a filmed movie. They are their own look.

If you need photo-real, the ULTRA software takes any video clip as a background and up to four layers of video clips with alpha as foregrounds. There is also an easy way to position a B Source plane (the virtual 'monitor' in many of the scenes) into a photographed environment.

--- Mark
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Old December 13th, 2004, 02:03 PM   #6
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We are doing commercial "skits" whereby we tell a story that involves the use of our products to solve-the-mystery, save-the-day, etc. These generally run 10 minutes or less.

There are video projection screens above and behind the action. The staging is rather minimal. To add some texture, I'd like to be able to place an actor in front of a greenscreen (perhaps off-stage or behind the stage) and have them appear to be reporting "on scene" or be standing in some other place. The virtual sets that you produce would be kind of cool to use -- it would lend some texture to the presentation.

Just a thought.
Thanks,
Cameron
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Old December 13th, 2004, 02:24 PM   #7
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"eg the Underground train station of the 'Matrix' scene was CGI, but it looked real"

The Matrix subway set was a photometric reconstruction of a real place that was actually photographed. (See http://www.debevec.org--the techniques developed 1996-1998.) Ditto with the "apartment" sequences in Fight Club.

But the point is valid--much greater realism could be achieved if the Ultra library datasets were derived from actual locations rather than modeled and rendered using what looks like an ancient scanline renderer. Let's see some global illumination!
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Old December 13th, 2004, 02:52 PM   #8
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Cameron,

Thanks for the info.

Robert,

We're open to developing the kinds of sets that our users want (MSL3 was largely driven by specific user requests). What would you be willing to pay for sets with that particular kind of look? For reference, MSL3 lists for $495 for 296 unique shots divided into 12 sets (there is an introductory price this month of $295). The kind of highly detailed modeling, texturing and lighting work you're describing would, in my opinion, be much more time consuming than our current development (which is nearly a month per set), perhaps exponentially more time-consuming. Rendering times would be much greater as well (current render times are up to 4 - 7 days on multiple machines for all the animated layers for one set).

--- Mark
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Old December 13th, 2004, 04:46 PM   #9
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Thanks Mark! i will try and see if your suggestion works.

I am really impressed with your software, those were just future "wishlist" , it would seem as you say that some of these can already be acheived.


It is true that you could use video background or actual photograph, but we can't all really afford every set/loction we desire, hence CGI background..

I mean thats the power of green screen right?
Sometimes the best FX is the ones you don't notice! :)

As for the matrix type CGI, you could just up the price . I mean if you could make that level of realism, sure it would be time consuming, but who says you have to have so many "pro" sets, you could aim it at the pros and they would be willing to pay extra...

i.e. fewer sets higher realism aimed right at the pros and at a higher price tag.

Anyway just my humble thoughts..

Great work Mark!
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Old December 14th, 2004, 12:36 AM   #10
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Mark, I'm not sure that I'm asking for additional sets, I was enquiring as to whether they could be utilized in real-time, or near-real-time.

You mentioned 4-7 day render times. Is that our render time or your render time?

The capabilities of Ultra that you describe surpassed my expectations. I'll have to check it out regardless.

Thanks,
Cameron
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Old December 14th, 2004, 03:24 AM   #11
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Cameron,

Sorry, I was replying to Robert's question about sets. The render times are for our creation process. For the user it is generally somewhere between real-time and 1/3 real-time depending on the speed of your machine and how many additional sources you are feeding into the set.

Yes, ULTRA is pretty dang cool! ;-) Let me know if you have any other questions.

Anhar,

Thanks for your suggestions. They have been noted. I'm not sure that the market we are currently would be able to pay triple or more our price for sets. ULTRA is currently finding a lot of use for corporate, training, and industrial videography along with local and regional commercial applications and some event videography thrown in too. I think of it as the broad "middle" of the market.

Unlike the extreme high-end, the customers we sell to are somewhat price-sensitive. Our customers have limited budgets and limited production schedules. They are looking for a way to use the power of virtual sets (and deliver that cool look to their clients), for less.

--- Mark
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Old December 14th, 2004, 06:39 AM   #12
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Update!

Thanks Mark for your advice, i updated as you suggested and Vola! it now works, but i'll have to play around as i have no idea how to get it too work, but i will not be able to do so untill at least next week as i 'm very busy this week :(

Anyway, any online tutorials? (to get me started on Ultra)


Anhar Miah

P.S I'm studying at uni, and i can see this package being an excellent tool for projects (no more boring powerpoint!! )
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