Posts Tagged ‘colourist’

Lustre 2008 and Brett Manson…

Earlier today I met with colourist Brett Manson from Video Lab, South Africa, to talk about his approach to grading and take a look at what’s new in Autodesk’s Lustre 2008.

Brett doesn’t have what you might call a typical colourist’s background: rather than learning the ropes as a telecine assistant or the equivalent, he started out a Flame operator. The first major difference was that he approaches grading in a very different to many of his contemporaries. Rather than work almost exclusively in the primary controls, he instead uses them to get a very rough balance, and then begins pulling luminance keys for highlights and shadows, working on them independently. He says that this approach is not necessarily better or worse, but more a matter of personal preference. Watching him do it though, I’m not sure I agree. It takes a little bit longer to pull the keys (by a matter of seconds) than to dive straight into primaries, but the results look much more pleasing to the eye in a very subtle way. Furthermore any tweaks are made much more visually, and he exploits Lustre’s ability to grade both the inside and outside of the keyed regions. He also points out that this method also gets around a current limitation of Lustre which is that detail destroyed by the primary corrector cannot be subsequently recovered by the secondaries (though stacking secondaries together is a completely non-destructive process). I asked him about the common perception that working with secondaries increases the level of noise in the image, but he points out that what actually increases the noise is what were traditionally called “secondaries” on analogue systems; namely vector changes, or sharp hue changes, rather than overall manipulation. He then went on to prove the point in front of me, though I’m sure that Lustre’s robust softness algorithms also play a big part in the fact that it was very hard to break the images.

Lustre 2008 Screenshot

Another unique trait he seems to have is that he really likes to get his hands dirty. In several of the shots he showed me, there were some really complex mattes that had been drawn by hand, adding the effect of rays of light for example. In one memorable case, he’d created a matte by tracing the outline of wire mesh on a previous shot, and used that to simulate a shadowed light source. This thing had probably 200 or more bezier points to it, and when I asked that it must have taken ages to create, he told me that it didn’t, and then went on to prove the point by going through the whole process right there and then. He then recreated a very stylised opening sequence from shot footage, turning a foreground actor into silhouette and then flooding the frame with graduated colour. One other, more subtle effect he uses a lot is to create what he calls “paths of light”- bright regions to lead the viewer’s eye to the point of interest. One technique he uses a lot is to add a lot of softening to a rectangular shape which creates a kind of star pattern at the corners. When he grades using this shape, it produces an almost subliminal focal point, with four streaks of light literally pointing at the item or person in question.

So what of the new version of Lustre? When I looked at Lustre 2007… I complained that it was lagging behind in the feature department, and to be perfectly honest, I suspected that it was starting to go the way of combustion. However, I’m pleased to say that the last year has seen a lot of improvements. I was most impressed to see the addition of Smoke’s timeline at last, since I’d been bemoaning its absence since version 1.0. And I’m pleased to say that it’s integration is not half-hearted at all. You get pretty much all of the editorial capability of Smoke, with thought put into automatically locking certain timeline tools during grading, and the ability to copy grades across tracks. If I was going to fault it in any way, it’s that there isn’t any option to blend between tracks. At least not yet- the 2009 release promises more timeline features, so it’s likely we might see this functionality implemented in some way. Either way, an outstanding development that I’d all but given up on seeing.

Lustre 2008 Screenshot

Brett was eager to demonstrate another new feature: Lustre has a new 3D tracker. It is really outstanding, and I could have sworn we were looking at Imagineer’s tracking technology. Basically you draw a shape around the object you want to track, and it will then go off and track every pixel in the region, adhering to both scaling and rotation of the image content- and pretty quickly too. And that’s not all- it will even track through crossing objects. Brett showed me a shot that trucks sideways, tracking a girl sat on a window ledge. When a tree in the foreground obscures the girl for a few frames, Lustre happily picks up the tracking smoothly without any issues.

Everyone should buy Lustre just for this

says Brett. Other new features include GPU improvements, CDL support and general performance tweaks. Though there’s nothing new in terms of colour manipulation (fingers crossed for some sort of blending modes in the future), this latest release will surely reaffirm Lustre’s status as a heavy-duty grading system.

Posted: January 11th, 2008
Categories: Tools
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