Steve Pankow is a Senior Editor at KEZI, the ABC affiliate in Eugene, Oregon. He runs both Boris Red and Boris Continuum Complete AVX 3 on his Avid system. Two additional Xpress Pro systems also include RED and BCC AVX. Despite the fact that Eugene is a small market (#120), if you watch the demo movie, you will agree that their work is worthy of a top five market.
“KEZI has the fortune of being affiliated with the Oregon Sports Network, which produces weekly television shows promoting the University of Oregon's sports teams,” said Pankow. “That's where I've really been able to cut loose and develop the graphics you see in this demo. Their goal was to produce something along the lines of what's on ESPN or Fox Sports and I think we're close. It's been a great experience both creatively and from an educational perspective. Two to three years ago, I don't think anybody would've thought that this level of work would come out of Eugene Oregon, but here it is and I have no one but Boris to thank for it. I can no longer watch network sports programming without thinking, ‘how could I do that in RED?’”
“KEZI is pretty much an Avid/PC house,” said Pankow. “Our Creative Services unit owns three Xpress Pro systems, and our OSN/Sports department has two NewsCutter XP units. My Xpress does have Photoshop, but I rarely use it - I can get what I need from Red ninety percent of the time.
“Our sister facility, Chambers Productions has some more serious firepower. Their focus is more on corporate long forms and syndicated TV shows, so they own a Symphony, two Media Composer Adrenalines and a DS Nitris - all equipped with BCC AVX and Red, along with a Mac G4 equipped with Photoshop/After Effects/Illustrator and a PC equipped with Softimage XSI 4.0. While they do great work in their own right, I've had several compliments from their staff on my work for both OSN and KEZI, and that's a real boost.”
One of the more interesting effects in Steve’s promo is the basketball court in the "Upper Deck" animation. The court lines were originally created in Adobe Illustrator, although Steve notes that he could easily create them in RED as spline objects. The convincing look of the court floor was created using Red's Wood Plank natural media.
The “Pit” text and the dark green court boxes use Red’s 3D Line Art shape, which is vector-based; for the "Upper Deck," Steve used the 3D Extrusion shape. “The reflection detail is a QuickTime movie of dots moving across the screen with a Light Zoom filter applied - I use it all the time for our OSN work,” said Pankow. The spotlights on the court surface are just that - RED's Spotlight filter.
“I throw it all in a container, shift around the Z depth and rotation to get it to stack the way I want. Then use the virtual camera to fly it around. I'm simplifying this a bit - it took a lot of fiddling around, but I honestly think if somebody like me can do it, a motion graphic artist could easily handle it.”
“The final part of the effect is the "Upper Deck" text sweeping through the screen to reveal new video. You don't see this in the demo, but an animated spline object tracks along the left edge of the text. I place this behind the text track and it all reveals out to "checkerboard." I render it as a QuickTime and import it back into Avid. Being able to easily rotoscope and create animated/tracking mattes allows us to produce graphic elements that look much more upscale than if we were simply cutting to and from them.”
“The ability to extrude Illustrator files is in my opinion one of the greatest features of RED. Along with texture and reflection mapping, you can create network level 3D shapes and letters with ease,” said Pankow. “I've just begun to mess around with the spline animation tools. While I have a long way to go, I can easily see they have the power and potential to enhance any project using animated elements.”
“The Light Zoom filter is great as well, but I'm hoping at some point that a few of the newer BCC AVX light/Lens Flare filters make it in to a future version of Red (hint hint).”
“Of course the Text tool is leaps and bounds above Avid. No offense to them, but I find it hard to go back once you get used to RED's ability to give you actual thumbnails of your fonts. I have nearly 1200 fonts on my system, and the ability to categorize them is wonderful. The fact they're all vector and can be scaled without any loss of quality? That rocks. The program's seamless integration with Avid is also wonderful - you just drop the plug in onto the timeline, jump in and start doing whatever you need.”
While Steve appreciates the Avid integration, the standalone RED Engine has also come in useful. “The ability to export project files and have them render out on standalone computers using the RED Engine is nice as well,” said Pankow. “In some tight turnaround situations for OSN I've had three systems all cranking out QuickTimes at once - quite a timesaver.”
The ability to use Avid’s codecs, which play in real time on most Avid systems, also helps streamline workflow. You can use the Avid codecs in the Engine as Steve does or even export from the RED plugin. For example, if you’re not sure about the background for a complicated 3D text animation, delete the background, export the effect with the Avid codec and then import it into Avid. It imports quickly and you can change the background repeatedly without any rerendering.
“Red gives you the effects capabilities that Avid editors have been dreaming of for quite some time, all without having to use After Effects,” said Pankow. “As an editor, I haven't really been formally trained in motion graphics, and with the little time I've spent with After Effects I've found the interface to be a little overwhelming. Not so with RED. To me, it's much more intuitive, and along with the effect library and Intelligent Assistant I can usually achieve whatever it is I'm trying to get done.”
So does Steve have any tips specifically for Avid users? “Jump in and fool around! There's a whole universe of effects to explore in RED, and the more time you spend figuring them out, the easier it becomes to just do whatever you want versus handing it off to somebody else to create. What you see in the demo just scratches the surface of Red's power - there's so much more and I look forward to developing my skills.”