Happy 2011

My personal New Years Resolutions: I smoke no more cigarettes (there, I said it!). Oh, and finish the second revision of the book.

Yes, the second revision is what I already promised last year. My excuse is that I'm a working photographer/VFX artist, just like you, constantly tackling new challenges. And especially last year I learned new things faster than I could write them down. Catching up, though. For now, here is an example of what I did last summer:

[ Watch The Cape Reel from Eden FX on Vimeo ]

Not just me, but the entire gang at Eden FX was cranking out a massive amount of CG cloth goodness for this pilot. Thanks to a dedicated sIBL-set for each location, shot by yours truly, lighting and rendering were really the least of our worries. So we could concentrate on comping, cloth simulations, and roto-animation.

Check out the premiere of The Cape on NBC, Sunday 9PM. Damn - sounds like I get paid for saying that. Frankly, you be the judge if that show is any good. For me, it was a great experience on set, which was the Queen Mary. And for you, such opportunities result in some exclusive sIBL-of-the month.

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Holiday Updates and Specials

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Just in: 50% on HDR Darkroom and new HDR Photo Pro

EverImaging joins the bargain party, offering incredible 50% off with the coupon code MCNY2011. They also have a new "Pro" app, because that seems to be the most popular name appendix this year, which has many more features compared to HDR Darkroom.

15% off HDR Express

HDR Express is out in the wild, currently on holiday special for $84.15 instead of $99.-.

It's the new tone-mapper from Unified Color, that is super-fast and super-easy to use. Read my preview report here. Recommended for beginners, maybe as last-minute gift for that old-school photographer buddy of yours? Pros probably need more controls, and won't be happy about missing EXR and Radiance support. But the 15% holiday special actually applies to all Unified Color apps, just use the coupon code HOLIDAY2010.

40% off Magic Bullet Photolooks

Magic Bullet Photolooks, however, is on the opposite end of the professional scale. It brings curves, vignettes, blurs, targeted colortweaks, and a myriad of other adjustments to Photoshop - all in full 32 bits. And right now you can get it for $119.40 instead of $199 with Red Giant's store-wide 40% special. Use the code BIGSALE2010 on checkout. If you're a compositor, this might also be your ticket to grab a discounted copy of Primatte or everything from Trapcode (all plugins I couldn't live without in my day job).

12% - 24% off HDR Efex Pro 1.1

Nik Software's HDREfex Pro was updated to 1.1 already. Since the major selling point of this software are artistic and creative looks, this update answers the popular demand to work in 8- and 16-bit modes in Photoshop CS 3/4. And makes it faster and more stable in general.

It's on a 12% sale right now ($139 instead of $159), along with all other Nik plugins with the coupon code HOLIDAY10. Or get 24% off when it's bundled with the sharpening plugin DFine2.0 with the coupon HEPDF10.

Update: Dynamic Photo HDR 5

DPHDR 5 is out, now with Exposure Fusion goodness and a whole lot of other amazing features, that have accumulated over the years. Match Color, direct Light Mask painting, and an Anti-Ghosting brush that blows Photomatix' clumsy lasso selection out of the water. Doesn't beat the actual anti-ghost algorithm that ends up processing the mask, though. But compared to all the others here, the regular price of $55,- is a bargain already.

Update: PTGui 9

PTGui, the leading pano stitcher, also has brushes in version 9. Here they're used to mask out things like the tripod, pedestrians, or your own shadow from the source images. PTGUI 9 is also faster, has better blending on HDRs, uses the GPU for the preview, and can export panos to HTML5. Most recommended update, even if you fall out of the grace period and actually have to pay for it.

So there ya go, now you know where to spend all the cash you have left over this year.

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Grand Finale of True Vision HDR Contest

It's time for you to decide who will find a brand new MacBook Pro under the Christmas tree.
Head over to Unified Color's HDR Contest page and to put your vote in! And drool over the amazing visuals of the finalists:

Promote Firmware 2.0

Finally, a Mac updater for the Promote Control! HDR Timelapse, bracketing sequence preview and much more in Firmware v2.0! Get the news straight from the horses mouth, in the developer's post in our forum.

Monthly site update:

December's sIBL-of-the-month reflects the fact that I'm sitting here in sunny LA, yearning for some moody winter atmosphere. Like that one eve in a Czech forest. Ahhh...

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Pre-Announcement: HDRI Handbook 2.0

Amazon doesn't tell you the truth when you try to order the HDRI Handbook now. It's not likely to ship in 2 to 6 weeks, because there simply are none left anymore. We're all sold out.

But fear not, the Second Edition is coming up.

I have actually taken an extended hiatus from my day job, working feverishly for the last couple of months on The HDRI Handbook 2.0. What started out as a little update turned into a major overhaul. Pretty much everything had to be revised, extended, rewritten and reconsidered. The puzzle pieces are starting to fall into place now, but I must admit it's far from finished.

You can already pre-order v2.0 if you want my publisher to send me encouraging and slightly anxious emails. My best guess is it will be available in March 2011, but don't be a hater if that turns into April. I'd rather do it right and polished than rush it out the door.

Soon I will disclose some details, but for now I would like to thank all my readers for the overwhelming support of the first edition. It sold an estimated 40,000 copies in English and German alone, not even counting the Korean, Polish, Czech, and Chinese translations. Considering the fact that at the initial release 2007 it was the first HDR book for the mainstream, this response exceeds everything I could have ever hoped for.

Thank you so much, and stay tuned for v2.0.

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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 GigaPan.org.
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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 triplegangers.com. How cool is that? Grab it here.

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