at a Glance

Maker: RE:Vision Effects
Macintosh, Windows
Supported Applications: After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Commotion, Premiere 6, Combustion and other After Effects plug-in compatible programs

Overall Impression: A robust set of interlacing tools that provide numerous useful options over After Effects' built-in capabilities.

Key Benefits: Designers and editors can create clean, progressive scan background plates from interlaced source footage through ReelSmart FieldsKit's advanced interlacing tools, such as timing modes, motion detection, and motion masks. The pulldown plugin also provides numerous film-to-video conversion options over what is included in After Effects.

Disappointments: Reinterlacer plugin not especially useful.

Recommendation: Strong Buy


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RE:Vision ReelSmart Motion Blur and FieldsKit
Interlacing and motion blur plugins for editing and compositing systems

by Kevin Schmitt
Contributing Editor
[email protected]

This week we're going to start taking a gander at RE:Vision Effects' suite of video and effects plugins by doing two, two, two reviews in one. Why double up? Well, According to RE:Vision Effects' own literature, "ReelSmart FieldsKit is a great companion to other ReelSmart modules such as Twixtor and Motion Blur," so we're going to see how that claim measures up by using the After Effects versions of FieldsKit and Motion Blur in tandem.

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical at first that these products would, or even could, work as advertised. After all, getting clean, progressive-scan plates from video source and adding motion blur to a comp as needed were two of my personal holy grails. As these are two of the main selling points of FieldsKit and Motion Blur, respectively, I wondered if they could really do the job. I don't want to spoil the ending, but after only a couple of weeks FieldsKit and Motion Blur have already changed the way I approach compositing tasks, and I can think of at least a dozen projects I've done in the last year that would have benefited tremendously from these tools.

ReelSmart FieldsKit: What it does
Let's face it: there are times when the Interpret Footage command in After Effects leaves you with some pretty skunky clips, rife with motion artifacts and bad field blending. This is especially annoying if you're trying to get a clean moving background plate for use in a composited or visual effects shot. That's where FieldsKit picks up the slack. FieldsKit comprises three separate plugins: Deinterlacer, Reinterlacer and Pulldown. Actually putting these plugins into service requires a different method of thinking than After Effects users might be accustomed to, as you must make sure that your clips are clear of field and pulldown options in the Interpret Footage panel in favor of the advanced options the FieldsKit plugins offer. As a result, it is relatively easy to get confused, since you could conceivably apply field blending from two different locations. However, the upshot is that since the FieldsKit modules are actual plugins, you can animate the advanced options as you would any other conventional plugin, meaning that it's possible to tweak and vary the settings for more complex clips over time to achieve very clean results.

The star of the bunch is the Deinterlacer plugin. Deinterlacing is a tricky process because what you're really asking the software to do is throw away half of the frame and re-create what was thrown away through interpolation or doubling of the remaining field. And at first glance, it appears that FieldsKit's Deinterlacer doesn't do any better job of handling interlaced footage than After Effects; however, it begins to set itself apart once you blow by the default settings and dive into the other options. According to RE:Vision Effects, the Deinterlacer "uses adaptive motion techniques and clever models for deinterlacing." In plain English, it goes way beyond simple upper frame and lower frame field order to allow the user to control every aspect of the deinterlacing process. This control is accomplished by breaking the process down into four main functions: field order, timing mode, fill method and motion masking.

The ReelSmart Fields Kit Plug-in Options.

Field order is the standard selector that most of you are probably familiar with, letting you select upper or lower as the dominant field. The timing mode options allow you to choose whether one or both fields in a frame are interpolated, which in turn affects the duration of the clip. The fill method provides a choice of several interpolation options, such as duplicate, blend and nearest neighbor. Perhaps the coolest feature, motion masking, actually analyzes the motion of the clip and only selects the areas of the image that are in motion for interpolation while leaving the static areas of the image intact. This function is especially handy for locked-down shots where objects are in motion against a non-moving background.

With motion masking turned on, you can see what parts
of the image the Deinterlacer will interpolate.

The other two FieldsKit plugins, Pulldown and Reinterlacer, are nice inclusions as well. The Pulldown plugin provides some advanced settings for turning 24 fps film clips into 30 fps NTSC standard clips (or vice versa). The formula for pulldown basically turns four frames into five, so the ReelSmart Pulldown plugin lets you choose between numerous settings for determining which of the four frames in a five-frame sequence remain whole and which get split. The Reinterlacer plugin adds several output types to the normal upper field/lower field dominance options.

ReelSmart FieldsKit: Limitations
While FieldsKit is a great product, I have a couple of beefs. I would stress that while the FieldsKit plugins are incredibly advanced, they're not magic, nor are they really automated. Just applying any of the plugins with the default setting won't yield any better results than After Effects' native interlacing options. Getting extremely clean results can often require a lot of meticulous tweaking to achieve a noticeable effect and take a lot of getting used to in order to get the look you want.

Also, I didn't find that the Reinterlacer plugin gave me a better final product than the normal field rendering options in After Effects, though admittedly I am looking at them with more of a compositor's eye. I suspect that editors would find the Reinterlacer to be a very able companion to the Deinterlacer, as the timing options in each work in tandem to minimize field rendering quality issues when re-outputting edit-only footage from NLE software.

ReelSmart Motion Blur: What it does
All I can say is, "Wow!" As anyone who has tried to marry CGI and live footage knows, adding motion blur is an absolute necessity to the realism of the scene, but it is among the biggest pains in the rump as well. As someone who is subjected to all kinds of last-minute changes to composites, I've become a big believer in multipass rendering, so I'm not kidding when I say that ReelSmart Motion Blur changes my entire workflow. In a nutshell, as the name suggests, Motion Blur adds motion blur where none exists. Let me say that again, because it's REAL important: Motion Blur adds motion blur where none exists.

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Kevin Schmitt has been a working with just about every aspect of digital design since before it was called digital design. An award-winning multimedia producer, artist, and animator, he is currently the Digital Design Director for StudioAPCO, a creative shop housed at a communications firm in Washington, D.C. By all means, drop him a line at [email protected].
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