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Scopo Gigio and Layer Splitter

Two very useful plug-ins for the Mac reviewed By Paulo de Andrade
One of the biggest problems when creating graphics for video or television is that not all colors are legal for broadcast use. As a result, artists must make sure that their creations can be displayed without problems. Those lucky enough to work in a broadcast facility have access to video test equipment to ensure that things are fine. But even then, the process normally involves outputting the images to video or displaying them on a frame buffer before measurements can be made.

META/DMA, a small company based in Portland, OR, has released a plug-in that not only makes the video signal levels testing process much easier but also accessible to virtually anyone. Scopo Gigio, available as a a plug-in for Photoshop and After Effects, gives you a virtual Waveform Monitor and Vectorscope that serves the same function of units costing a few thousand dollars. Scopo Gigio's functionality doesn't stop here, though. Because you can call it up from within the applications, you can see the levels instantly as opposed to having to output to video first. This not only saves a lot of time, but also makes any additional hardware unnecessary.

Both versions of Scopo Gigio perform exactly the same functions but work a little bit differently. The After Effects version works as a layer effect, displaying the video levels on that particular layer. The Photoshop version shows up as a filter. Using either version couldn't be easier - once selected, Scopo Gigio analyzes the image on the fly, displaying its parameters just like real waveform monitors and vectorscopes would, with the advantage that you never have to leave your application. If you find that your colors are too hot, for instance, you can perform adjustments and see the results in Scopo Gigio on the fly.

Because the After Effects version of Scopo Gigio works as a typical effects layer, it will analyze the image after it is affected by any effects placed above it in the Effects Control window. This makes it very easy to insert a saturation control above it, for example, and see the results of the adjustments on the fly. That way, if a color is indeed too hot for broadcast, you can adjust the saturation slider until it reaches the desired levels.

Only very expensive stand-alone scopes offer some of Scopo Gigio's options.
Scopo Gigio simulates high-end scopes, with lots of options at the user's disposal. The waveform monitor part of the program lets you select from several display options such as luminance, parade, overlay and arrowhead (an option available only on very complex waveform monitors). You can set the sweep for lines or fields and the color system for NTSC, PAL, D1, ITU-601, HDTV, SMPTE-240M, DTV and SMPTE-274M. Black level can be set to 7.5 or zero IRE and the range can be set to either RGB (0-255) or D1 (235). As for the vectorscope, the reference may be set to 100% colorbars or 75% colorbars. All these options mean that you can easily make your work safely comply with virtually any standard.Scopo Gigio is one of those rare applications that makes you wonder why hasn't anyone else thought of them before. I have been struggling with broadcast levels for many years and when I found out about Scopo Gigio, I had to try it out. Not only was I completely satisfied with the way it works, but also surprised by all the options it offers and how fast it is. If you do any work that's going to end up on video or television, you should definitely add this plug-in to your toolbox. It will save you tons of time and headaches and it's very reasonably priced. The other software from META/DMA that I tried out is Layer Splitter. This simple application best resides on your desktop and it performs a very simple but very important function: it takes a Photoshop or Illustrator file and saves its layers as separate files, preserving the original dimensions of the original document. This solves a very common problem with layer alignment in certain applications. It also enables any compositing or graphics package that can't import Photoshop or Illustrator files as layers to work with them with virtually no extra work from the part of the artist. Nonlinear editing programs are, in fact, some of the biggest beneficiaries of Layer Splitter. Just design your final layout in one of the Adobe applications above, use Layer Splitter to save the layers as individual files and you can use the editing application's transitions to assemble your finished piece.Like Scopo Gigio, layer splitter is very easy to use, yet it gives you several options. It can output Photoshop files as straight (unmatted) with a mask channel or premultiplied on white or black. It can read and write the files in RGB, CMYK, grayscale and lab color modes. Photoshop flies can also be output in photoshop, tiff, pict or Electric Image formats. The program also gives you the option of naming files by layer, document name and ascending or descending sequential numbers.Like Scopo Gigio, Layer Splitter is very reasonably priced. It's a very useful small utility that will save you tons of time in After Effects and will enable you to take advantage of Photoshop and Illustrator layers in virtually any application that doesn't support them. I consider it to be another must-have tool. By the way, META/DMA also writes custom software, in case you need something special. In fact, Danny Rosenberg has written the Extrude and Color Halftone filters that currently ship with Photoshop. No wonder Scopo Gigio and layer Splitter are so cool... Prices: Layer Splitter: $50 Scopo Gigio PS (for Photoshop): $50 Scopo Gigio AE (for After Effects): $50 Scopo Gigio PS/AE bundle: $75 Layer Splitter/Scopo Gigio PS+AE bundle: $100 META/DMA 675 SW 83 Avenue Portland, OR 97225

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Related Keywords:Scopo Gigio, Waveform Monitor, Vectorscope, Editing, Compositing, After Effects, Photoshop, plug-in


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