Tutorial 3 - Masks, Paths & Animation
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This tutorial begins at the end point of DFX Tutorial 2 - Inserting
& Animating Tools. Please open the Flow from Tutorial 2.
Go to frame 175 of the sequence by dragging the Time Slider
to the frame. View Merge 2 on the Large View and Merge 3 on
the Small View. Right click on the Small View and select Display
and choose Alpha. This allows you to view the alpha channel
of Merge 3. Select Merge 3 on the Flow area. (Fig 1)
In the Large View, right click on the center of the ship. Select
Effect Mask from the context menu, then Ellipse. Notice the
circle that is added to the screen and the new Ellipse 1 Control
Header located under the Small View. Also note that the laser
beam is cut off at the circumference of the circle.
Adding the Ellipse Effect Mask on Merge 3 caused this, because
Merge 3 is the tool that combines the space ship clip without
the laser (Loader 3), to the one with laser (Loader 4).
Press F10 to enlarge the mask and path area. Expand the Ellipse
1 Control Header to reveal its set of controls. Pressing F11
will restore the Control Area. (Fig 2)
The Level Slider controls the intensity of the effect within
the mask and should be set to 1. The Soft Edge slider blends
the edge of the mask more gradually and should be set to about
0.03 The Width slider and Height sliders determine the dimensions
of the mask and these should be set to 0.5
Click and drag the crosshair in the center of the circle to
move it around. If you cannot see a circle and crosshair, double
check that Merge 3 is still selected in the Flow. Notice that
the Effect Mask only masks out the laser and not the ship. This
is because the ship is the background image and an Effect Mask
only affects the foreground input of the tool to which it is
applied. In this case, that is the laser on Merge 3.
Now, animate the laser to blast the planet's surface more realistically
by creating a path for the mask to move along. Confirm that
the current frame is set to 175
Click on the Ellipse 1 center crosshair and drag the mask up
and to the left, past the length of the laser, until the beam
is completely hidden. This will be one end of the mask's path.
Right click on the mask's center crosshair and select Ellipse
1 Center, then choose Path. This should add a small white square
at the center of the mask. Right click on this square and select
Path 1, then Insert & Modify. (Fig 3)
Advance to frame 185. Click once at the bottom right corner
of the image in the Large View. Drag the mask back down to the
bottom right corner of the image, until the laser is completely
hidden again. This will be the other end of the mask's path.
Notice the line connecting the first point to the second. This
is the path for Ellipse 1.
Advance to frame 186 by pressing the ] key on the keyboard.
Open the Control Header labeled Path 1. The displacement control
animates the distance the mask will travel along the path. The
starting point of the path is represented by 0 and the end of
the path is 1.0. Set this control back to 0 to return the mask
to the beginning of the path for frame 186.
Press F8 to replace the Flow area with the Spline Editor. Select
the Fit button in the top left corner of the Spline Editor to
cause the Path 1: Displacement spline to fit within the screen
area. Notice the little boxes in the spline at frame 175, 185
These are key frames (Fig 4) that represent the values of the
displacement slider we set in step 8, 9 and 10. Select these
keys by using your mouse to draw a rectangle around all three
of the boxes. The keys should turn white with yellow control
handles. Right click and select Set Loop to cause the key values
to loop throughout the remainder of the sequence.
It takes 10 frames for the mask to travel from the top left
point to the bottom right point of the path, then 1 frame to
go back up to the start. The movement will reveal and then hide
the laser, causing it to animate on and off. Set the render
start to 175 and the render end to 224. Right click on Merge
2 and create a preview on the Large View.
Play back the rendered animation using the Preview transport
controls, which will appear at the bottom of the Control Area
when Digital Fusion has completed rendering your sequence.
Although the sequence is essentially finished, now is the time
for fine-tuning. In particular, the space ship is hard to see
and the stars are shimmering far too much.
Drag and drop a Brightness/Contrast tool between Merge 3 and
Merge 2. Once again DFX makes room for the new tool and automatically
connects the necessary in and out pipes.
View Merge 2 in the Large View. If you have a video monitor,
view it on that. (Fig 5) Expand the Brightness/Contrast Control
The four check boxes named Red, Green, Blue and Alpha represent
the channels affected by the tool. A check mark indicates that
the tool will affect that channel. Click to clear the Alpha
box, leaving the other boxes checked.
This will explicitly control the brightness and contrast of
the space ship without affecting its transparency.
The Gain, Brightness and Contrast sliders affect the image's
appearance. Raising the Gain causes the color channels to be
more intense. The more color, the more vibrant the image will
be. Raising and lowering the Brightness will make the image
brighter and darker, respectively. Adjusting the Contrast will
increase or reduce the contrast of the image.
View frame 90 of the sequence. This may be the frame where the
ship is least visible. Drag the Brightness slider right until
the ship's detail is more noticeable. The ship is now brighter.
Drag the Contrast slider right to compensate for the Brightness
After these two controls are adjusted to your satisfaction,
adjust the Gain value to 1.4, the Brightness to 0 and the Contrast
also to 0. Collapse the Control Header by clicking on it.
Add a Blur tool after Merge 2 and view it on Large. This will
eliminate the stars shimmer, and will also soften the whole
image to help minimize the 'computer generated' look often caused
by the sharpness of rendered images.
Experiment with the various controls. Refer to the online help
for detailed explanations of each of the controls.
Reset the Blur tool to its default settings by right clicking
on the Blur tool's Control Header. From the context menu select
Settings and then Load Default. For the purposes of these tutorials,
the defaults are sufficient.
Add a Filter tool (Fltr) after the Blur and display it on the
Large View. Use the Filter tool to add simulated grain to the
sequence, giving it a more realistic film look. The Filter Type
drop down list offers several choices of filter types. Descriptions
of these are available in the online help. Select the Grain
type. Set the Power slider to 4 and set the Blend slider, located
under the DFX tab, to 0.5.
Drag and drop a Saver tool (SV) after the Filter. The Saver
will store each file of the finished sequence in the location
that is designated with the controls. After expanding the Saver's
Control Header, click on the yellow folder to browse local hard
Navigate to the directory where completed frames are going to
be stored, and choose an appropriate name for the files, such
as 'Space'. Also select the correct file type, be it TGA, AVI
or DPS. (Fig 6)
Confirm that the render start and end times are set correctly,
and save the Flow. Click on the Start Render button.
The green Render Light will go on, indicating that DFX is now
rendering out the final sequence, follow the green light as
it renders through the Flow. The Status Bar along the bottom
of the screen will give an approximate time to completion.