GigaPan Timelapse Video Sneak Preview

As if GigaPan images weren't engaging enough, soon there will be Gigapixel Video (from stills in this example). Check out the Timelapse GigaPan Sneak Preview Video. I'd link the videos here, but they are full HD clips embedded on that landing page over at
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November headlines: DxO and more dutch sIBL sets

Oh, it keeps on getting better and better.

DxO announces an HDR plugin for their upcoming DxO Optics Pro 6.5.

It will be interesting to see how that fits into current HDR workflows. DxO has a track record in first-class RAW development, which makes me confident they will be able to merge really great HDR files. What concerns me is the recent trend of a short-circuit pipeline, skipping immediately to tonemapping. But if DxO does it right, and allows saving and managing EXR files, we could fit that in perfectly with the slew of tonemapping options we already have.

For example, Nik HDR Efex turned out to be a great option for artistic tonemapping, with Control Points providing an enormous potential to noodle the hell out of your image. I still owe you a full review, in the meantime you may want to check out Michael James' review. Nik's HDR merging, however, is pretty weak. That's where DxO might be the ideal workflow companion - if they play well with others. Well, we will have to wait and see...

New free sIBL sets

Our dutch friend Bob Groothuis is unstoppable. The second month in a row he provides the sIBL-of-the-month, this time even a full tour a wonderfully antique distillery. Looks great as panorama tour as well, all tonemapped in HDR Expose.

How that fits in with a 3d object demonstrates Lee Perry-Smith. Here is his CG head, rendered in each environment with Softimage and Arnold.

As special bonus Lee released his head model, courtesy of How cool is that? Grab it here.

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Unified Color announces HDR-Express

And you thought we already have enough HDR tools. Think again.

HDR is increasingly expanding into the consumer field. While there are several options out for pros, the new trend is to make things easy and accessible. Unified Color has already proven with HDR Expose and 32 Float that they're on the frontier of quality HDR editing. But for a quickie edit that's often overkill and takes too much time. Instead of scaling back the pro features, Unified Color rather diversifies their product palette.

HDR Express reduces the complexity to only few sliders. I was skeptical, of course, but after a hands-on session it turns out this is actually great.
  • it's lightning fast
  • very intuitive
  • has visual presets
  • slider names and their effects feel familiar right away
  • always-on halo reduction
  • really really really fast. really.
  • full size processing all the time, WYSIWYG with no surprises afterwards

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The controls behave like common Lightroom adjustments, except with much more room to play.
  • Brightness = LR Exposure
  • Highlight = LR Recovery
  • Shadows = LR Fill Light
  • Contrast = LR Clarity mixed with a Local Contrast boost (this is my favorite slider, actually)
  • Black Point, Saturation and White Balance are exactly what you expect.

HDR Express is a great addition to the arsenal when Fast&Easy is your thing. Do I miss all the advanced stuff like targeted color tweaks, sharpening and veiling glare removal? Sure, for my hero shots I do. But when I have 30 HDR images on my plate to be delivered tomorrow, HDR Express will get the job done with minimum compromises on quality.

Did I mention that it's fast? Part of the new speedy processing core will eventually make it into HDR Expose, which would be highly appreciated.

It will be available in December for $85, or for current customers $50. If you're in New York you can get a demo at PhotoPlus Expo Booth #673. The rest of us can read the Press Release and the new product page.

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Dolby launches Professional Reference Monitor

Yesterday I had a chance to witness the launch event of Dolby's new Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 at the W Hotel Hollywood. That's right, Dolby makes monitors now. It's 100% manufactured by Dolby themselves, and they take pride in that.

This monitor is the first product they made out of the tech acquired with BrightSide Technologies and their famous HDR display. In fact, Dolby has advanced it like crazy, now there are just as many people working in Dolby's Imaging division as in the traditional sound department.

They use RGB LED backlights now to make sure it shows the widest possible color gamut with a straight linear response. But more importantly, they figured out how to integrate it into a real-world production pipeline. You can put the monitor in different modes to emulate every sort of display from consumer TV to theatrical digital projection. It supports 3D LUTs directly, in the industry-standard cineSpace format. You'd simply put it on a Flash drive and stick that in the break-out box.

But what am I talking, just watch my witness cam:

Dolby Reference Monitor in the HDRLabs Channel on Vimeo.

It's just the nature of the beast that a video from my puny D300s on your pitiful computer screen is no comparison to seeing this monitor in real life. The awesome demo machine Susumu Asano is showing us is a professional 2k-4k color grading suite from Digital Vision, the Nucoda Filmmaster. I was told that's the system Pixar finished Toy Story 3 on, ILM has one as well, and I bet I know what these guys will be shopping for next. Another demo booth had live footage running from the new ARRI Alexa camera, which is incredible on its own and probably subject of future post.

Considering Dolby traditionally licenses technology out, you can probably connect the dots where this leaves the consumer market. Keeping control of the ultimate reference design and getting it first into the hands of movie industry professionals is a smart thing to do. Over time this might solve the chicken-and-egg problem: Real HDR media is useless without a true HDR display, and a true HDR display cannot be fully appreciated with LDR content only. Now we can at least master content with wide-gamut and high dynamic range, so it will look great on every screen to come.

More info on (yes, front page!)
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HDR video done tastefully

You might have seen the Soviet Montage clip that was recently making waves on the internet. While impressive to be shot with two Canon 5Ds simultaneously, it was tonemapped with a sledge hammer for no apparent artistic reason. "Because we can" doesn't count in my book.

In the meantime new HDRx footage from the Red EPIC surfaced. This is just a flat transfer with no visual enhancements whatsoever, but impressive for being shot all in-camera on a single sensor. The HDRx mode is now confirmed to come to the Red Scarlet, although that goes along with an unexpected increase in price.

By far the most creative use of HDR video is in this short movie by Patryk Kizny. Although shot with "traditional" HDR timelapse bracketing, it's treated with much care and tonemapped tastefully. A clear demonstration how HDR video in the hands of a skilled artist can turn it into pure gold.

Autumn. A short timelapse film from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

By the way, the crazy cool robot dolly in that video is a pre-production unit of the DriveCam Slider. Patryk seems to be the maker, ramping up for business. Check out some of the other movies on Patryk Kizny's website, especially don't miss the snaillapse.

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New sIBL collections: Dutch Skies 360 Vol.3 + 3DTotal

Bob Groothuis did it again.

Time after time Bob went out on that mole in Scheveningen, Netherlands to capture the most spectacular skies for you. Completely unobscured skies they are, horizon to horizon nothing but clouds and sky. Just what you need to wrap around any arbitrary 3D scene you like.

If Volume 1 and 2 were awesome, Dutch Skies Volume 3 turns out to be Killer! To give you a taste of it, Bob is giving away one complete sky package as sIBL-of-the-month. It's a whopping 225 MB download, and now imagine 39 of these delivered on 2 dual-layer DVDs. That's what you'll get in the new DS360 Vol. 3:

[ Download the DS360 Vol.3 Catalog - 22 MB ]

You can actually win this collection when you enter Bob's render contest. And while you're there, check out his Interview with Gerardo Estrada.

... but wait, there's more:

3DTotal releases Medieval City Collection

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CG Vespa by Torsten Pflug.
Lighting setup completely automatic with Smart IBL, using a sIBL set from 3DTotal's new Medieval City Collection, rendered in Maya using Mental Ray.

I'm completely thrilled to announce that UK's Number One CG artist community joins the Smart IBL revolution.

3DTotal is known for providing high quality textures, that you can really use. I used them a lot in the past, actually, because they are always clean, artist-approved, and high resolution. Their first sIBL-DVD is no exception: it's a Medieval City Collection, ready to become the backdrop for your ZBrush'ed orcs, elves, or hobbits. Or, if your name is Torsten Pflug, your photoreal CG Vespa.

Make sure to watch the demo movie on the bottom of the shop page, it's probably the sweetest quick introduction to Smart IBL I've ever seen.

As it has become a tradition for new sIBL vendors, 3DTotal donated some free sample sIBLs for our archive. How awesome, thank you!

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