New Website, etc…

June 20, 2008

For those of you who got here directly via, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a new website up there. It features a variety of things that I hope will prove useful for readers of the book. Specifically, here’s the most important things that I’ve put up there:

1) Forum Discussions. If you want to discuss/argue/refute or complain about something in the book, here’s the place to do it. Rather than try to break things up into arbitrary categories I figured I’d just let the discussions flow based on the chapters of the book.

2) User-modifiable Wiki’s for the Glossary and Appendix A of the book. These two sections seemed like ideal candidates to open up to the user community who can correct, extend and enhance what is in the published edition. Feel free to add new terms, etc. And since it is a Wiki it should be reasonably self-policing. If someone posts something you don’t agree with (or that just doesn’t belong there), feel free to change it!

3) Social stuff: I went ahead and created a Facebook group for compositing – not sure how much traction this will have but I figured it could be convenient to have a common place where people can get in touch with each other. The ‘Frappr’ map that I originally set up a few years ago is still active as well – click on the link and go put a pin in the map for where you’re located.

Incidentally, for those of you who normally follow this blog via an RSS feed subscription, you’ll need to change where your feed is pointing. Click on the “Entries RSS” link over on the right and you’ll get to the new one.

A big ‘Thank You’ to fxguide/fxphd for their help setting this up and hosting it. Especially to Mark Dascoli who wrangled all the main page layout for me. Thanks Mark!

For all of this stuff, feedback is very welcome. Just leave comments here in the blog or within the appropriate forum and I’ll definitely see it. Looking forward to hearing what people think. Thanks for visiting!

Well, my author copy has just shown up. Woohoo! Looks pretty good, although I’ve been afraid to do more than look at a couple of pages because I don’t want to find any of the horrible mistakes that I’m sure are waiting for me 🙂 From what I can tell the images look reasonably good, although a bit darker than I’d hoped. Sigh. But at least there’s a DVD in the back of it!

So hopefully this means that the book is shipping everywhere now. Amazon still shows it’s not shipping immediately but maybe that’ll change by next week.

Well, it looks like copies of the book have started to ship. Sort of.

Unfortunately this isn’t the good news that I was hoping for because apparently any books that have shipped out so far were all missing the DVD that is supposed to accompany the book! Grr.

Here’s the full story, as far as I can tell: The book was sent back to the states (after being printed in China) to my publisher’s warehouse where the DVD’s were then supposed to be pasted into the back of the book. (Yeah, I know it seems a bit silly that they just didn’t bind the DVD’s into the book at the printer’s, but don’t get me started on that whole fiasco). Revised ship date is scheduled to be on June 16th. However, in the meantime, my publisher tells me that:

“a small number of the books were mistakenly shipped out without the DVDs. Our Inventory Management and Customer Service departments are running reports of all already sold copies and will draft and send a letter explaining the situation to each of the customers who mistakenly received a copy without the DVD.”

I don’t know how ‘small’ a number this actually is – hopefully not too many. Hey, maybe they’ll become collector’s items :-).

At any rate, if you were indeed one of the lucky few that got the book w/o the DVD, presumably you’ll be hearing from someone… although I’m not sure exactly how they know who you are. Big Brother is watching. I’ll try to get a contact email for someone at my publisher as well and post it here.

What’s actually on the DVD? Primarily it contains (as with the 1st edition) digital copies of all the images that are featured within the book. I also included some of the (Shake) scripts that were used to put together the example images. More importantly, a couple of the studios allowed us to include digital images from a couple of the case-studies. By far the most extensive of these is a shot from Ep3 of Star Wars – we were able to get the full shot (all the elements as well as the Shake script used to put it together) which should give a nice idea of how a real-world shot comes together. There are a few other miscellaneous pieces – some sample bluescreen footage that was generously provided by fxphd and The Pixelcorps.

So, that’s where we stand. Presumably this is all rolling along well now and the book will be shipping in less than a week. Thanks for everybody’s patience and thanks, too, for all the interest that people are showing in the new edition – I hope you all find it useful!

Since I’ve been asked this question several times in the past few days, I thought I’d go ahead and post this excerpt from the introduction to the 2nd edition that talks a little bit about what’s new in the update.  Incidentally, the page-count is close to 700 pages, vs about 360 for the 1st edition.  (A lot of that is, of course, the fact that there are far more illustrations/images).


What’s New


If you already own or have read the first edition of this book, you’re probably wondering what, specifically, is new for this edition.  My original goal was to simply update the chapter that contains the case studies – to cover a number of more recent works and thus have the opportunity to discuss newer tools and techniques within the context of those case studies.  


But as I was dealing with the acquisition of those various properties (a process that ultimately took well over a year, all told – traversing the bureaucracies of major movie studios is definitely not recommended for the impatient!) I found myself continually coming across areas that I felt could use a bit of an update in the main body of the text as well.  Although the book was originally written in a fashion that I’d hoped would be reasonably obsolescence-proof (concentrating on core compositing concepts rather than their use within a specific application), technology doesn’t stand still and there were a number of areas that I realized could use further elaboration and some updating. 


The new subtitle – Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics – is of course partially an aid to help people find this book a little easier when they’re searching for information on the web.  But it also reflects the fact that this edition is even more focused on providing a set of practical, real-world concepts for working with images.  Technology continues to advance but ultimately one needs to be able to apply that technology to solve a problem.  And technology is ultimately (and even etymologically) all about knowledge of techniques.  


In addition, the first edition was published at a time when color imagery still added a significant expense to a book.  As such there were a number of concepts that I wasn’t able to illustrate as well (or at all) due to the limited number of color pages I was allowed.   With this second edition that limitation has been lifted – the book is now full-color throughout – and I couldn’t resist the temptation to update some of the old imagery and add a number of additional examples and diagrams.  


As such we’ve now got over 600 photos and illustrations (more than 400 of which are new), added sections that cover rotoscoping, 3D/multipass compositing, and high dynamic range imaging, and there are 17 new case-studies.


In my original forward to the 1st edition, I stated that I was writing the book I wish someone had handed to me when I was starting out in this industry.  With the ability to now include far more color imagery (and with the advances in digital photography making the general process of getting high quality imagery much less painful), this new edition is the book that I wish I could have written in the first place. 


A final minor change is evident in the Appendices, which have been both updated and streamlined.  Anything that is likely to be of a more transient nature (lists of companies involved in the creation of digital compositing software, for instance) has been removed from the book completely.  Instead I have put together a website that will contain this sort of information as well as a variety of other things. This will hopefully allow me the ability to keep this information as up-to-date as possible. 

Random pages from book

April 10, 2008

Just for grins, here’s a few pages from the 2nd edition of the book, mostly because I’m curious how well one can embed pdf files into a wordpress blog:


(fairly large file, so it might take a minute or two to load once you click on it).

As you can see, having full-color throughout the book is A Good Thing, and I tried to take advantage of it as much as possible.

I’ll be at NAB for a few days next week, mostly hanging around the Foundry booth.  Some new stuff to be shown with the stereo workflow tools, including some very swank rocket-science with using optical-flowish tools to modify stereo pairs.

Available for pre-order

February 23, 2008

Poking around on Amazon and I just realized that the 2nd edition of my book is now available for pre-order. It features the somewhat-finalized cover, shown below. (Although it’s hard to see the fact that the ‘old’ cover image is actually being used as the dark background for the more colorful artwork). At any rate, the link is here:

art and science of digital compositing cover

Cover Art…

January 23, 2008

I dunno, in general it seems like I’ve gotten good feedback on the cover art I did for the 1st edition. Yeah, it did look a bit old-fashioned but on the other hand at least it was reasonably distinctive relative to other high-tech books out there.

But apparently the people at my publisher hate the old cover. (I think this is mostly the marketing folks). Mostly because they don’t quite understand what the point of it is. (For the record, it’s an example of one of the first ‘composite’ photos – wayy wayy before any of this digital stuff started showing up – and it’s discussed in the body of the book as well).

So they wanted something more modern. Originally I was thinking about just doing an update that was primarily a color and (minor) font update – something like this:

But that was too boring for them so then I tried to get clever with the node-thing and did this:

…which also met with little positive feedback. So, okay, then let’s just throw a bunch of stuff on the page and see what sticks. I didn’t seriously expect this one to fly:

But this one:

Made them a little happier at least. (I also sent one without motion blur, which they preferred). So right now I’ve sent off the following:

… and we’ll see what they say. I’m a bit bored by it all at this point :-).