Profile: Carl McKay, Fire Editor at Fox Digital, Los Angeles
08 June 2008

Carl McKay is a Fire Editor at Fox Digital, Los Angeles. He has been working with Discreet's Fire and Smoke for about six years. Despite the pressures of working in such a high-profile environment, Carl has found time to beta test the SGI IRIX-based Boris Continuum Complete for Discreet Sparks. BCC includes over 100 dynamic filters that extend the capabilities of Discreet Inferno®, Fire®, Flame®, Flint® and Smoke® systems. The Discreet¹s Sparks architecture is an advanced Application Programming Interface (API) for developing custom plug-ins for Discreet finishing systems.

I have been afforded the luxury of using the BCC sparks for the better part of a year, said McKay. My position, simply put: Boris is powerful, flexible and has a lot of options.

The Continuum filters expand the capabilities of Discreet's world-renowned visual effects solutions. Continuum Complete includes two volumes, which are available separately. Volume I includes more than 70 filters in four categories, Colors and Blurs, Effects, Lights and Wipe Transitions. Among the highlights are sophisticated glows and OpenGL-based generators that simulate real-life lighting such as lens flares, glints and glares. Other cutting-edge filters include DeNoise, DeInterlace, Witness Protection and dozens more.

Once it's available, Volume II will include an additional 80 filters in four categories, Distortion and Perspective, Generators, Keys and Mattes and Time. Highlights include auto-animating procedural generators that create realistic caustics, clouds, smoke, rain, textures, and stars. Temporal effects feature state-of-the-art optical flow technology to smoothly retime clips. Sophisticated image processing filters include raster and vector image displacement maps. Geometric primitive shapes like a cube, sphere, or cylinder can be manipulated in 3D space.

Flexibility and options are important for me as most of my work at Fox is with the Network Sports Promotion and Day Air Production Departments, said McKay. Promo in sports at Fox works more like an agency: we want the latest greatest and slickest look. Production wants the same, but yesterday and you have two hours to get it done. Herein lies the diverse nature of Boris. You can choose from numerous Sparks.

What does Carl like about BCC? The flexibility to adjust the basics and then go into parameters that allow you to create new looks within that Spark, said McKay. Then, for the quick turnaround, Boris gives you the option to use preset effects for each Spark. So when you have the time to tinker for the next great look you can, or, if you have to get a World Series, Superbowl, or NASCAR open to air in a couple of hours, you can jump to an optimum start point.

Each volume features hundreds of presets; users can also save their own custom presets to streamline effects creation. While the intuitive interface minimizes the learning curve, each filter includes an integrated online help file in case any questions arise. Most filters include a separate RGB input for fast masking. For more sophisticated masking, the integrated PixelChooser creates channel or region-based masks; combined channel and region-based mattes define precisely which pixels a filter affects. Among the other feature highlights are animatable apply modes, integrated motion tracking, and OpenGL acceleration.

Carl likes that BCC has combined some of the traditional Sparks parameters so that you can do more with one pass than with other Sparks. You can load more clips for specific matting techniques as well as background clips to see how the comp appears without having to render separate fill and matte passes then comp in the DVE or another spark afterwards, said McKay.

The Boris team has also been open to altering the Sparks to work more fluently with Fire and Smoke. Where a Flame or Inferno may require a specific path, they do differ, even though they are both Discreet products. Again, flexibility makes my life easier and my work faster.