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Using PD Howler with Video footage and 3D animations

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About Dan Beck

Dan Beck is a prominent user of Carrara at Daz3D. He also uses PD Howler to enhance his videos and 3D renderings.

You can learn more about Dan's art here:

September 2016 - Thoughts about VFX with Howler

As some of you may know, my ambitions lie in my eventually producing a series of CG Animated Episodes, rendered in Carrara Pro.

Well, when I first started practicing, learning, and rendering clips of animation, I was actually trying very hard to get my renders to a finished state - straight from Carrara, so that all I'd have to do is to stitch them together. Silly, right? It was.

I did get very resourceful on being able to set my shaders according to my fast-rendering techniques, etc., and have been getting very comfortable with the whole aspect of animating everything.

A good friend of mine wrote an article regarding the power of post-work. I put my tail between my legs and asked him if he knew how I could apply these sort of techniques to animations - since everybody was just showing post techniques for still images. Before he replied, I remembered seeing a strange software in my publisher's (Daz3d) store called: "Project Dogwaffle", and thought I remembered seeing that the Pro version had some kind of tools for animation. For all I knew it was probably some kind of spyro-graph sort of thing! LOL

Sure enough! Dogwaffle Pro (see PD Pro for v4, PD Pro 5 for version 5) could certainly produce Spyro-graph sorts of things... but a whole lot more...  including the stuff "I" wanted it to do... edit my animated clips from Carrara!!!

Okay, this is taking too long and I'm babbling too much.

Lately I've been studying Visual Effects for Filmmakers so that I can apply what I learn towards my production. In a recent course I've taken through Norwich University of the Arts, we were given free express versions of HitFilm compositing software and taught how to do a lot of cool VFX practices in it.
During the course - very early on - I couldn't help but think to myself how easily I could do these things in Howler instead. Still new to the concepts, I ran into some walls of incompetence on my part. Dan and Philip helped me on my way - pointing out video tutorials that I've already seen. Funny how the information only sticks when we have a use for it at the time of witnessing it, eh?  LOL

So now I continue to study. I have some powerful Compositing tools, and they aren't as fun for me to composite with as using Howler! The Dogwaffle selection tools and effects are incredible for compositing. I love how we can key-frame so many aspects of Howler as well.

Dan keeps pushing the envelope, and this amazing tool just keeps getting better and better... I get more and more excited. Philip keeps demonstrating Dan's new revelations and I just keep studying and practicing.

So, at Daz3d's Carrara discussion forum, they're running these monthly render challenges. Most often I sit out - sometimes I might sponsor the challenge offering my products as prizes. This month the theme is "Carrara 9 - Give us a Sign" because everyone's eager for Daz3d to release a new version, but they don't tell the Carrara public a word about whether it will occur or not. They're (Carrara users) very frustrated. But hopefully, patience will pay.

We've seen more and more 3D be added in tools like Photoshop, After Effects, character creation and animation tools, etc... so it stands to reason that sooner or later, Adobe might have their very own full 3D tool as well. I guess we all hope that Daz won't let Carrara slide away. It does have so much already, and has so much more potential, especially if more integrated with DAZ Studio, and yes, if it had its own paint program for awesome texturing, or integration with something like Dogwaffle, more integration with exports for indie gamedev,... Ah, the possibilities for many of us mere mortals on tiny budgets!

Howler Workflow

I've been playing the part as a contestant this time around, and have been having a lot of fun doing it. They all know now how much I love using Howler as my Post-work tool of choice, and even for making my textures and such for pre-production as well.
So now to edit my still images, I've been pretending that they're animations and using what I'm learning for VFX to edit my images to help them realize what I'm imagining, and I'm finding that I can imagine pretty much anything, and then bring it to life using Howler.

Here is an original render from Carrara.

I also rendered out an Ambient Occlusion pass and a separate wire-frame mode draft render to be used in my composites.

I loaded each image separately and stored them in turn to my work area. I also had some lettering and a new fictitious Carrara 9 (which doesn't yet exist!) logo in the scene, but rendered those with everything else turned invisible. I decided that I would probably want the character as a separate brush, so I turned everything but her off, and rendered her like I did those other elements - with an alpha channel, already keyed out - works beautifully!

With all of my base images stored nicely around the main view port in Howler, I proceeded to load in each of my custom alpha brushes: the logo, the lettering, and the character, and stored those brushes right away - before I even started compositing. This lowly laptop handled all of this without a single hiccup!

Oh... I should mention that, by this time, the main image as well as the ambient occlusion and wire-frame images didn't have the character in them - just the star ship interior by itself.

So I began with the main color image of the interior and loaded the Ambient Occlusion layer in the Swap. Back in Main buffer I drew a nice squiggly shape around the outer portion of the scene, blurred the selection and composited with swap using a mix - all the way to 255. The blur made this a perfect transition but this was just to set the stage for the wire-frame. I drew a new squiggle outside the original, but not following it too closely, and blurred that and stored the selection. Back in Swap, I loaded in my wire-frame image, which needed some tweaking to get it right.

Back in the Main image, I re-applied the selection and composited using Add, which worked really well! I drew a selection out of the central table and added wire-frames to that too... which really adds to the effect. Then, to help get the individual wires to spread a little further into the scene, as a mild overlay, back in Swap I used Select-By... and chose a tight threshold on the color of the wire... perfect selection acquired! In the Main buffer I cleared the selection to white, and used the undo slider to back that off enough to realize that I really need a bit of an inverse selection around the middle to keep the wires spreading too far inwards. So I did all that and I really liked the effect.

I took this time to perform Adjust All to color grade what I've got so far. Then I went to my stored brushes and, within the storage tools, adjusted their saturation, value, size, etc., to match the scene - paste them down. As had been observed by another user of PD Howler (Tiffanie Gray), ... it would be nice if the default stepping was 0 or 1. Hey, there's always something left to make it even more than perfect, right?

It's so powerful to be able to work this way. I haven't used layers since shortly after I started using Howler, and I don't miss using them in the slightest.

But now that I'm getting to know how all of this works so much better... I'll start bringing them back into my flow as well - but these stored images, selections, brushes, etc., is such a natural way (for me) to work - now that I'm doing it!

Here's where I've got after adding some more color-correction and a bit of motion blur to simulate her movement. I must say... I love VFX, which keeps making me love using Howler more and more! Sorry for taking so long to say all this... I really didn't expect this to go on so long! Cheers Team!  (editor's note: Dan is on the Beta testing team too :-)  )

Note: The new feature and the Carrara 9 existence are purely imaginary! Dartanbeck 
P.S. Have a wonderful day!

Earlier Projects

Howler in the University

I've created a couple of VFX tutorials compositing in Howler as part of my homework assignment.

I'm taking "VFX for Guerrilla Filmmakers" from Norwich University of the Arts, which is really, really fun!

The homework given was meant to be done in (another popular VFX tool), but we're allowed to use any software we wish, so I'm using my favorite tool, PD Howler.

We were given several 8 second (25 frames/sec) plates of only a few actors in each, showing how it's often up to the VFX team to turn those few into a mob. Nine plates in total. Howler ROCKS for this kind of thing, so I wanted to show my classmates. I've been talking up Howler all along.

So here's the "Making of" video for my homework assignment:

...and here's a second one where I demonstrate how to add fire and smoke:

So fun, doing these things - and a whole lot more. This is Week 3 of 4, and I've been seeing over and over again what a valuable tool Howler is for anything to do with moving pictures! I mention "Moving" because "PD Artist" is just as awesome for stills! ;) Such excellent software! Such an excellent Developer! Such an excellent spokesperson!
Dan, Phillip, thank you both for such sheer excellence! My art inspiration has been elevating enormously ever since I've discovered Project Dogwaffle and Phillip taught me to use it via the ever-so-incredible "pdhowler" YouTube channel! Just outstanding how aggressive you two are!


of the Moment

and also:
the Howler
of the Moment!

PD Artist

PD Howler

PD Howler