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Creating Paint-On Effects in Synthetik Studio Artist

Recording brush strokes as movies while you paint By Dave Nagel
So you think you're pretty fancy, sitting there with your motion graphics package, playing with vectors and making paint-on effects that wiggle on the screen, eh? Well, maybe you are. I'm not here to dispute that. But I am here to show you another way to do it with an infinitely more "painterly" feel using that most painterly of applications, Synthetik Studio Artist 2.0, and that most painterly of instruments, your wrist.

The concept is this: You record your movie as you paint. It's as simple as that. Here, take a look at what I mean. (Click the Play button to watch.)

Now, that particular example took as long to create as it did for you to watch it, involving just two brushes and three colors--black, white and red. (The bluish tint on parts of the image is the result of on-the-fly color manipulation.) Of course, it didn't look all that smooth, but I have to cut back on the framerate and compress the bejeepers out of my movies so that you can actually view them. But you get the idea.

And in case you're wondering, this technique is not just for writing letters on the screen. You can also use it to create reveals over still or moving images. (Click the Play button to watch.)

That second example, incidentally, was created more than three years ago in a tutorial on making a drip transition in Studio Artist 1.0 with a little help from After Effects. Things have changed since then, and it's now possible to get a little more tricky within Studio Artist itself. I'll show you an example at the end of this.

Setting up for the effect
When you're creating this effect, the first thing you need to do is to set your movie output preferences. This is nothing more than a simple QuickTime settings dialog. But there is one little twist. First, go to File > Preferences > Movie Compression. If you intend to use this animation in another compositing application, make sure you choose a codec that supports alpha out. Otherwise you'll have to do a color or luma key. (Actually, the "drip transition" above used a luma key in After Effects.)

The one thing to keep in mind here for your frame rate is that this determines the actual speed of your effect, not just the frame rate of the movie itself. The higher the frame rate, the faster the effect. The examples I've shown you have been created at 60 frames per second, then dumbed down to 12 FPS for presentation here. You'll need to do a little trial and error to get the flow you want, but start out at 60 FPS and work your way down from there, if necessary. (Drip effects, by the way, look pretty good when recorded at 30 FPS.)

Creating a write-on effect
So now you're ready to try a write-on effect, like the first example. Assuming you have your canvas at the size you want, you're actually ready at this point to start recording. So just follow these steps.

1. Select one of the brushes that operates in "Autodraw Interactive" mode. This is necessary for creating this effect. All of the liquidy brushes are autodraw brushes, as are many of the sketch, chalk and paint brushes. If you select a brush that isn't set as an autodraw brush, you can change this easily enough. Go to the little menu above your canvas, and choose Mode : Autodraw Interactive.

2. Now choose File > New Movie Stream > From Main Canvas. (If you care about your sanity at all, make sure you don't accidentally create a new Image Stream from the Main Canvas, or you'll wind up with thousands of Photoshop files on your Desktop. Trust me!)

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