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Varying Effects over Time in Studio Artist
How to add and reduce strokes in moving images

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

As one reader pointed out to me last week, it's been a little too long since our last look at Synthetik Studio Artist. I had promised I'd show you a post-processing technique that allows you to vary strokes over time. Let it never be said that Dave fails to follow through on his promises, even if such fulfillment does take some time. Now, this is not the same as making strokes longer or shorter over time. I'll cover that one in a future installment (just as soon as another reader reminds me that I'm lagging). Instead, this technique allows you to change the actual number of strokes that appear in your video.

Typically in a situation involving this technique, you're going to want to use it as an alternative to simple fading of the movie in and out. Rather, this will let you phase the image in and out by moving from no strokes to full strokes and back to none. If you click on the image below, you'll see an example of what I'm talking about. This shows a skydiver (actually a skyboarder) jumping out of a plane and performing some aerobatics. You'll see a white image to start with, followed by some pencil sketch, followed by a full-color image. Please keep in mind that compression for the Web has altered the look of the video somewhat.

This is not a terribly difficult technique, but, as with all things Studio Artist, it's also not readily apparent how you can go about doing it. If you don't already have Studio Artist but want to follow along and see what it's all about, visit http://www.synthetik.com to download a demo.

For this example, I'm going to phase in two separate brush stroke types: a pencil outline and a color fill. And, what's more, I'm going to stagger them so that the outline appears first, with the color filling in a bit later. I'm also going to apply a couple of my favorite Studio Artist Image Operations, which are irrelevant to the tutorial but make the movie look better. These are Image Compressor and Geodesic Watershed. I'll discuss these a little bit later on.

We're going to work this one stroke at a time to make things simple. And, while I'll be using two specific types of strokes for this example, you can use this technique with any Studio Artist preset or Paint Patches that you create yourself. In fact, I did create these Paint Patches myself, which you can download here and use yourself. Also, if you happened to like the example above, you can download my PASeq here, which will let you apply exactly the same effects to your own movies.

Phase in
Start by opening up Studio Artist and choosing the movie that you plan to process as your Source Image. Don't worry about damaging your original footage; we're not going to be doing anything to it except using it as a source for our final output. The original footage will be untouched.

Then open up the Paint Action window (PASeq window), and erase what's there. Click the Record button in the PASeq window, and then follow these steps.

1. Click the little arrow above your Canvas to set the Canvas to white. (Do this even if your Canvas is already white because it needs to be recorded in the PASeq.)

2. Choose your preset (or custom Paint Patch), and click the Action button. Don't worry about how long it runs. We'll be adjusting all of this later. So go ahead and stop it whenever you'd like.

Click the Play button in your source window
to advance to a frame that will be typical
of your movie. This will help you get your
settings just right.

Shortcut: You can use Command-Spacebar to start an action and Spacebar to stop it.

3. Uncheck the Record button in the PASeq window.

4. Click on the first frame in your PASeq timeline (the one that's colored red). Your action will automatically redraw itself; but don't worry about this, as we'll be modifying everything manually so that, in the end, you'll have only the number of strokes you want.

The first frame of each action in your PASeq timeline has a
keyframe, indicated by the red coloration. You can set
your own keyframes or modify existing ones by
Option-clicking on the desired frame.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.