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Rotoscoping in Synthetik Studio Artist, Part 1

The basics of automated rotoscoping By Dave Nagel
Over the years I've covered a number of topics related to Synthetik Studio Artist, most of them involving various manual painting techniques. But I often overlook one of Studio Artist's key features: rotoscoping. Most motion graphics applications do allow for a degree of rotoscoping--not just cleaning up footage or removing wires and rigs, but also generating frame by frame animations from video source footage. Studio Artist takes it a step further with automated rotoscoping.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, rotoscoping is essentially the process of painting an animation frame by frame while tracing over live footage. Pioneered by Max and Dave Fleischer back in the early twentieth century, the technique has been used on everything from Koko the Clown and Betty Boop to Gulliver's Travels and Superman cartoons. More recently, of course, the technique has been adapted for digital production with films such as Waking Life, which was released in 2001.  The definition of rotoscoping has also been expanded to include digital retouching and rig and wire removal, but, for the purposes of this series our articles, we'll confine rotoscoping to the creation of painterly effects over video sources.

Of course, you can do this sort of thing with just about motion graphics package or, for that matter, any still graphics package--just export frames, paint over them and then recompile the individual images into a video sequence. But Studio Artist has a number of features designed to make the process flow more smoothly with automated rotoscoping technologies that somehow manage to create a hand-painted look, as if each frame were painted individually. And this is owing to the fact that in Studio Artist you paint one frame, and the program then interpolates the information in that frame across any number of subsequent frames.

Here's how it works on the most basic level using almost completely automated methods.

Setting up
Studio Artist's automated rotoscoping methods use a technology similar to creating Actions in Adobe Photoshop. That is, the program records what you do on the canvas, and then allows you to apply those actions over and over. In Studio Artist, this is called a Paint Action Sequence ("PAS" or "PASeq"). Here's how you set up the initial project.

1. Launch Studio Artist, and select your video file as the "source image" in the dialog that pops up.

2. In the next dialog, set the size of the canvas to the size of your final movie.

3. up in the top left of the interface, shuttle over to a frame in your video file that you think is typical of the sequence. (In other words, don't start on a black or white frame or a frame that doesn't contain your subject.) This is the frame you will use to record your paint actions and the one upon which all other frames will be based.

4. Open up the Paint Action Sequence palette by choosing Action > Paint Action Sequence Window (Command-2).

5. When you open this, the default PAS will already be loaded. Hit the Erase button in the palette to get rid of it.

Before you start recording, experiment with some of the brushes (AKA "Paint Patches") to get some idea of the final effect you want to create. Rather than painting manually, use the "Action" button to allow Studio Artist to analyze the image and render your paint effects for you.

6. Finally, when you're ready to create your effect on this frame, activate the checkbox in the PAS window labeled "Record." Anything you do from this point on will be recorded in your sequence. (Of course, if you make a mistake, you can undo it. You can also deselect individual steps in your PAS if you decide later that you don't need them.)

Now you're ready to begin.

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Related Keywords:synthetik, studio artist, rotoscoping, rotoscope, paint, painting, painterly effects

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