Chaff and Flare(s)?

I’m probably one of the few people (within the specific target group such movies are normally made for) who hasn’t seen a single one of the Transformers movies. A case of "The trailer is cool, but 2 hours of this?" , I guess. That notwithstanding I still have a keen interest in the tech used in making such eye porn as do others and so invariably the latest article on CGSociety also caught my eye. While it mostly indulges in the usual "This was difficult and we almost missed the deadline, but we solved it." , it raises an interesting point in a minor note near the end: There’s a difference between what we perceive as real and things actually being real. Now calling it hyper reality is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but indeed what we want to see on screen is different from what we see already every day. When dealing with CG imagery in particular we almost expect it to present us with a heightened version of things, not the dreary and dull one we get by looking at things in the physical world. It’s a situation I’m regularly facing myself in my 3D work – people speak about "photo realism" all the time, yet the exact opposite is true. They want a specific style or look, that feels real to them and presents things favorably, yet it must not be anything you could achieve using conventional means in a physical world. Treading that fine line is infinitely difficult.

On that same note, an off-topic question on the Video CoPilot forum brings us somewhat closer to the truth, too. Why is it, that in specific pieces we always easily detect which plug-ins were used? For the most part, the simple answer is laziness. Yes, laziness of users to modify presets or actually create stuff by tweaking and playing with the plug-in settings. Of course anyone can detect one of the stock Optical Flares presets when he has the plug-in himself. That should be clear to anyone who uses it to create those effects. So therefore the logical thing to do would be – within reason and the dictates of what is possible physically – to try and use your own presets or at least modify the prefab ones to some degree. The second thing to keep in mind is to show some good taste and restraint. In fact you can make detection of preset usage easily more difficult by adjusting intensities, sizes and colors already, and in case of Optical Flares by that I don’t even mean you need to go to the editor, but just use the global effects controls. Quite often the lesser sin is actually using a preset, but doing so with all lights on (no pun intended) might be considered a bit too pushy. You may like a particular preset, but others will loathe it… And where does this all fall together? Of course the movie also used everyone’s favorite flare plug-in which I guess is good for Andrew especially now that he’s also getting closer to releasing a native Nuke version of it. If people are already willing to jump hoops in a big production to use After Effects and a plug-in just for some flares this should make it easier to sell a tool that works natively in their pipeline…

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