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Five Alarm Stock Footage

Flames, smoke, explosions, breaking glass ? calamity on a DVD for your compositing pleasure By Charlie White

If youre in the business of creating special effects where lots of things blow up in a most dramatic way, VCE has released a set of fire and explosion elements that are of extraordinary quality. Created by Academy Award winner and ILM veteran Peter Kuran, the clips are available on DVDs or individually downloadable from the Web site. We took a close-up look at both volumes 1 and 2 of VCEs Pyromania! HD ($199 each) and also another DVD with high-resolution organic effects such as clouds and breaking glass called Visual FX HD, and were highly impressed with them all.

VCE stands for Visual Concept Entertainment, a company founded in 1982 by Peter Kuran, who began his career in visual effects and animation in 1976 when he was working on the original Star Wars. In addition to being available for custom consulting for various clients, his company offers a variety of royalty-free stock footage thats of extremely high-quality. Kuran brings to the table considerable knowledge of color and matte techniques, which is altogether evident in this collection. In fact, he won an Oscar last year for scientific and technical achievement for a special color restoration process he developed. Kuran obviously knows what hes doing, and uses some of this intimate knowledge of color and explosions in creating this film-based stock footage offered by VCE.

The reason these clips are unique and useful to compositors and animators is that each was filmed using actual flames and natural elements, not animations. Even though its possible to create footage of smoke and flames using current 3-D packages, the amount of time and effort required to create such graphics might be better spent doing something else, especially when packages such as Pyromania! HD are available.

Three of VCEs newest offerings are reviewed here, and all the clips are offered on DVDs in QuickTime format at 1920x1080 resolution at 24p. The DVDs include between 15 and 18 high-resolution clips on each one, with volume 2 also including a few mattes that go along with the clips. Also included in the package is a high-quality color proof sheet for each DVD, showing you a thumbnail of each clip and how many frames each consists of. The sheets are punched with three holes and ready to place into a binder for quick reference. Footage is also available in 720 x 486, as well as 2K (2048 by 1556) resolutions. The included shots were all scanned from 35mm masters, resulting in HD frames that are absolutely free of pixelization or any other digital artifacts.  

The Pyromania! HD Volume 1 DVD contains fire in various contexts, including an exploding vehicle and explosions that look like they happen in space. Showers of sparks, fire billowing down from the top of the frame, and flames leaping up from the bottom of the frame, as well as flames traveling from right to left are included. Theres also a couple of angles of a shockwave spreading out with flames in the middle.

In this shot from Volume 1, a shock wave of flames spreads out from the middle.

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