-- where you paint on moving images to give them a "painterly" effect
-- is one of the last post-production tasks that was still relegated
to the high-end of the post-production world. Sure, you can create
broadcast quality rotoscoping -- as long as you are willing to pay
an arm and a leg for studio time at your local branch of HappilyTakeUMoney
Post House. So given the time-intensive nature of rotoscoping (after
all, you still have to paint every frame of a video) and the high
cost, this was something out of the reach of most small to mid-range
However, a few
years ago Puffin Designs turned this around with Commotion, a Mac-based
rotoscoping tool that combined high-end features with a reasonable
(under $2,500) price tag. Now Digital Origin, makers of such DV
tools as Edit DV, Moto DV, and Photo DV, bring out RotoDV, a $399
rotoscoping tool for the Mac. RotoDV allows you to paint and retouch
video footage using a variety of painting tools. While the program
offers a lot of bang for the buck, given the program's glitches
and other market competition, serious rotoscopers might want to
consider their options before buying this program.
Me, Baby; RotoDV's
many palettes can eat up your screen real estate fast.
If you got
the RAM, I got the Time
up the program is a breeze -- if you've got enough RAM. RotoDV needs
a minimum of 128 MB RAM; if you don't have it, RotoDV won't install.
This seems a bit incongruous, as even Commotion allows you to install
in 64MB RAM. Granted, the more RAM the merrier -- specifically,
more RAM means more frames you can preview in real time. However,
if you don't have the RAM in your machine, then you'll have to add
that into the cost of the software.
started up, the program will have you make a choice on the number
of frames that you want to be able to preview at one time. This
is dependent not only on the amount of RAM that you have, but also
how much hard disk space you have available to cache temp files.
Once you set
how many and the start/stop points of frames you need to preview
(all of which you can change later), the program opens up. The interface
is similar to many of the graphics programs out there, using a combination
of floating palettes with multiple tabs. You can position these
how you like around the screen, however they won't snap to each
other (a "magnetic" attribute that you'll find in most Adobe graphics
programs). Even with a large screen (1024 x 768) I found I had more
palettes than screen real estate. But, Digital Origin put in a nice
touch by adding in an icon bar for the palettes that allows you
to show or hide any of the palettes.
about Time; RotoDV's
time line is where you can move, arrange, or copy the different
video and still graphic layers. Click image for larger view
To paint on
a video clip, you import the clip into a video layer, and then start
applying paint to the Paint layer. You can add as many paint and
video layers as you want, although things start slowing down considerably
as you give your CPU more to chew on. One of the great things about
the multiple video layers is the ability to clone areas from one
layer into a paint layer, so it is easy to paint in a section of
a fire video clip, and so on.
Overall, RotoDV does a good job at rotoscoping. Painting on a paint
layer allows you to do everything from simple touchups to wild animations
on top of the video clip. I was especially impressed with the fact
that you can paint on both frames and fields, since this is something
that was a relatively new feature in Commotion. This feature is
especially important if you are trying to paint on a clip with lots
of fast action, where you need to make changes at the field level
in order to make the animation smooth. The variety of brushes that
you can use and customize makes RotoDV very flexible. The program
even includes special effects brushes for adding city lights, fire,
and so on. These are not particle effects, just specialty brushes
that make unique patterns on the paint layer.
Tool for Every Task; RotoDV offers a wide variety of tools,
from standard brushes to color dodging to special effect brushes,
such as the fire tool.
Using a digitizer
table with RotoDV is really a must, as detailed painting with a
mouse won't give you the level of control that you need for most
rotoscoping jobs. One quirk that was irksome; the program wouldn't
start displaying the paint on screen until I had moved the brush
a bit, so it was impossible to have the paint area start when you
begin drawing. While not a fatal glitch, this is something that
should be cleaned up in the next version.
of the things that drove me nuts about RotoDV was its insistence
on rendering the whole !@#$!@ project nearly every time I performed
an operation. It wasn't that RotoDV just rendered a single frame,
like you'll find in After Effects or even Photoshop -- no sir; it
rendered every cursed frame in the composition. The punch line?
You can't stop this operation after it's started, just sit back
and glare at your screen. While this is clearly due to RotoDV's
attempt to maximize your RAM for real-time previews, I'm totally
underwhelmed with this "it's not a bug, it's a feature" feature.
Hopefully this "feature" will be squashed in the next version.
So what do
you really think?
the main question is which should you work with -- RotoDV or Commotion?
I find the difference between the two programs is similar to the
difference between Adobe Photoshop and MetaCreations Painter 6.
RotoDV and Painter provide the widest variety of artistic tools,
while Photoshop and Commotion offer precision tools and features
that you have to have on professional jobs.
no place like Clone. RotoDV's Clone tool is what you use
to pull elements from one layer of video onto another. Unlike
doing the same operation, the clone tool automatically locks
in the same area on a the area that you are drawing from to
the same area on your drawing layer.
motion tracking, ability to handle third-party plug-ins, strong
integration with Adobe After Effects, and precision matte capabilities
make it the winner in the pure professional features category. So
it should be easy to say that if you don't have $1,800 to spend,
that RotoDV should be a great alternative. Well -- yes and no.
also has a product aimed at the mid-range production market called
Commotion DV, which has most of the features of its big brother
(with the big exception of the motion tracking features and the
ability to handle anything beyond a DV sized image), but is priced
around $795. And there is an upgrade path to the full version of
Commotion. If you are serious about doing professional-level rotoscoping
on the Mac, then you should strongly consider either Commotion or
Commotion DV. However, if you would like an economical, yet solid
rotoscoping product to add to your production tool box, then by
all means check out RotoDV.
are the best judge of what will work for you, so check out the demo
versions of each program that are available online (Click
Here for the RotoDV demo and Click
Here for the Commotion DV demo).
Digital Origin Inc.
460 East Middlefield Road Mountain View, CA 94043 650-404-6300
Minimum System Requirements for RotoDV
Power Macintosh with a 604, G3 or G4 processor
hard disk capacity to store source and output video.
OS 8.5, 8.6.
3.0 or later.
to 1GB of RAM for extended realtime playback
resolution accelerated graphics capability
fast hard drive for increased storage and improved performance
editing software, such as Digital Origin EditDV
tablet (Wacom or compatible)
the image above to see a 1.9MB QuickTime file that was enhanced
is Digital Media Online's video producer, animator, what-dya-need-now?
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