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Author Topic: (legitimate) Visual Effects Software  (Read 14062 times)
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Mark Benard
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« on: April 08, 2009, 09:30:29 PM »

Strapped for cash but need some decent software to learn on?  

Don't despair, you have two (OK, maybe three) choices, Open Source or Personal Learning Editions.

1/  Open Source

It's free and sometimes it works as well or even better than the pricey mainstream stuff.  This is a great option for the younger guys and gals that care more about making cool stuff than bragging about how many mainstream software packages they know.


A free OS alternative to Microsoft Windows.  Ironically most of the professionals use Linux due to it's speed and reliability.  This is definitely one of those times where the old saying "you get what you pay for" will lead you astray.  Although Linux has a reputation for being only for the geekiest of the geeks, Ubuntu is actually easier to install than Windows XP!  Other good reasons to try it out is that the following two software packages were originally developed for Linux so putting together a cool little workstation on the cheap is now in your grasp.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ubuntu, (pronounced [ùbúntú], or "Ooh-boon-too"[citation needed]), is a computer operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux. Ubuntu's goals include providing an up-to-date, stable operating system for the average user, with a strong focus on usability and ease of installation. Ubuntu has been rated as the most popular Linux distribution for the desktop, claiming approximately 30% of desktop Linux installations in 2007.[2]

Ubuntu is composed of free and open source software distributed under various licenses, especially the GNU General Public License (GPL) so that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Ubuntu is sponsored by the British based company Canonical Ltd., owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. Instead of selling Ubuntu for profit, Canonical creates revenue by selling technical support. By keeping Ubuntu free software and open source, Canonical is able to take advantage of the talents of outside developers in Ubuntu's constituent components without developing the entire operating system itself (which is based primarily on current Linux kernels).

Canonical endorses and provides support for four additional Ubuntu-like operating systems: Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, (a subproject and add-on for Ubuntu, designed for school environments and home users),[3] and Ubuntu JeOS (pronounced "Juice", a stripped-down version of Ubuntu optimized for virtual appliances).[4]

Canonical releases new versions of Ubuntu every six months and supports Ubuntu for eighteen months by submitting security fixes, patches to critical bugs and including minor updates to programs. LTS (Long Term Support) releases, which occur every two years,[5] are supported for three years on the desktop and five years for servers.[6] The current version of Ubuntu, Intrepid Ibex, was released on October 30, 2008, and the upcoming version, Jaunty Jackalope, will be released on April 23, 2009. The version after Jaunty will be Karmic Koala, which will possess several advanced features like Eucalyptus.

Voodoo - 3D Camera Tracker

The integration of virtual objects into an image sequence of a moving camera is of high interest for special effects in tv- and movie-productions. A virtual camera generates a synthetic image of a virtual object which is mixed into the real camera image. The goal is the creation of a new scene with the illusion that the virtual object was already in the scene taken by the real camera. To make this illusion perfect, the parameters of the real camera are estimated and those of the virtual camera are adjusted accordingly.

GIMP - Paint Program

Photoshop has a pretty strong lock on the professional 2D paint/photo enhancement scene and has many fancy features but GIMP will give you everything you need from a paint package to support your Visual Effects production.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program, previously General Image Manipulation Program) is a free software, raster graphics editor used to process digital graphics and photographs. Typical uses include creating graphics and logos, resizing and cropping photos, altering colors, combining multiple images, removing unwanted image components, and converting between different image formats.[2] Along with these uses, GIMP is widely used as a tool for photo enhancement. GIMP can also be used to create basic animated images in GIF format. It is often used as a replacement for Adobe Photoshop, the most widely used bitmap editor in the printing and graphics industries; however, it is not designed to be a Photoshop clone.[3] The project's mascot is named Wilber.

The project was started in 1995 by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis and is now maintained by a group of volunteers under the auspices of the GNOME Project.[4] The current version of GIMP works with numerous operating systems, including most Unix variants, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Released under the terms of the GNU General Public License, GIMP is free software.

Blender - 3D Animation & Effects

I think this program is absolutely amazing.  In the right hands this can be used to create content that is professional level and the program is completely FREE!  It has a very developed user community with plenty of tutorials to learn from.  I can't say enough good about this one...  If you're looking to explore Visual Effects without spending a dime this is the way to go.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blender is a 3D graphics application released as free software under the GNU General Public License. It can be used for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications. Blender is available for several operating systems, including GNU, FreeBSD, IRIX, Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Solaris with unofficial ports for AmigaOS, BeOS, MorphOS , Pocket PC and SkyOS. Blender has a robust feature set similar in scope and depth to other high-end 3D software such as Softimage|XSI, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Lightwave and Maya. These features include advanced simulation tools such as rigid body, fluid, cloth and softbody dynamics, modifier based modeling tools, powerful character animation tools, a node based material and compositing system and Python for embedded scripting.


2/ Personal Learning Editions (PLE's)

Many of the wiser software companies have realized that if they offer versions of their software for free to the keen "up and comers" the Studios can more easily grow their staff (AND buy more of their expensive software).

The catch is that some of the features have been disabled so that it's not 100% functional.  This keeps you from  trying to pull a fast one and use it for financial gain.  How could you!?  Wink

This is a good route to take if you plan on making the leap into your Visual Effects career in the relatively near future.  Getting familiar with professional software will help your marketability immensely.


Nuke PLE

Currently the hot new thing in Visual Effects.  Originally developed as an "in-house" compositing tool at the visual effects power house Digital Domain it has since been released to the world by The Foundry.  As an old dog, I was hesitant to learn this new trick but I have to admit this software is a lot of fun and I'm very happy to be teaching it.

Fusion PLE

Fusion is a great package.  If Nuke hadn't come along this is the program that would have dominated the future of visual effects Compositing.  Many of the great visual effects films have had talented Fusion Compositors behind their curtains.  



Automatically (well almost...) track camera's and objects.  This kind of software is absolutely magical to us old dogs.  "In my day..." I'll spare you the sob story but just trust me when I tell you that manually tracking ANYTHING really sucks the life out of you.  With tools like this the possibilities are endless!  

PFTrack, launched in 2003, quickly established itself as the Match Mover of choice for high-end visual effects productions, when its ground breaking features quickly brought revolutionary new tools to the desk top, including many firsts; integrated optical flow, geometry tracking, true 3D Stereoscopic solves, multiple motion solving and per pixel Z depth extraction. Since its inception, a rapidly growing number of renowned visual effects companies use Pixel Farm products and PFTrack in particular, these include: Sony Imageworks, The Mill, UbiSoft, Riot, Stan Winston Studios, Digital Domain, Cinesite, Double Negative, The Orphanage, CORE Digital, MPC and Animal Logic.


Unfortunately, Autodesk has apparently lost some of their wisdom lately and have shut down their PLE program...  Now the best you can get is 30 day trials...  Booo!  But at least they are "fully functional" unlike the PLE's.

Maya - 30 Day Trial

This is the 3D application of choice for the majority of the visual effects industry.  It's also very popular in the animation and gaming industries.  If you want a 3D job in this biz you'd best focus your attention here.

The award-winning Autodesk® Maya® software is a powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted or programmed using a well-documented and comprehensive API (application programming interface) or one of two embedded scripting languages, the Maya Embedded Language (MEL) or Python®. This level of openness, combined with an industry-leading suite of 3D visual effects, computer graphics, and character animation tools, enables you to realize your creative vision for your film, television, game development, and design projects.

Mudbox - 30 Day Trial

If you plan on being an organic modeler this is quickly becoming the weapon of choice.  Just don't expect it to make you an amazing character artist overnight.  It's a bit like sculpting clay.  You'll need a developed eye to compete with the pro's.

Autodesk Mudbox 2009 combines a highly intuitive user interface with a powerful creative toolset for creating ultra-realistic high-poly 3D models. Breaking the mold of traditional 3D modeling applications, Mudbox 2009 provides an organic brush-based 3D modeling experience that ignites the creative process.

3/ "Arr, me hearty!" (...but I best not to go there...)
« Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 04:06:34 PM by Mark Benard » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2011, 04:19:00 AM »

"Unfortunately, Autodesk has apparently lost some of their wisdom lately and have shut down their PLE program...  Now the best you can get is 30 day trials...  Booo!  But at least they are "fully functional" unlike the PLE's.

Maya - 30 Day Trial

This is the 3D application of choice for the majority of the visual effects industry.  It's also very popular in the animation and gaming industries.  If you want a 3D job in this biz you'd best focus your attention here."

There is now and has been for a while a student learning editions.  Basically a full version just on a limited    license but there reasonable.  For example the Maya 2012 version has a 3 year license, the only thing is when you save and some other things a popup comes up saying you have the student edition.  And you can simply click ok or close the popup and continue with what you where doing. You can use any email for it (hotmail, gmail, yahoo, personal domain, etc.) just fill in some school name doesn't really matter which then your good to start your downloads.

Link http://students.autodesk.com/
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