Special sIBL-set released for Artists Help Japan

Ever since the launch of this site, almost 4 years ago, I'm giving away a new sIBL-set every month. Today, for the first time, it is not free.

For this special edition sIBL I want you to donate to the Artists Help Japan fund. Seriously. Do it now.

See, many of the most popular sIBL-sets in the Archive are from Tokyo, and while shooting these I fell deeply in love with this town. I find it a personal offense from mother nature to mess with the wonderful people there. So I picked out the nicest of the Tokyo panoramas for this special occasion. It will not appear in the sIBL Archive, and it will disappear from the web when the fundraiser is over.

Get the Tokyo Tower Special sIBL here.

By the way, this sIBL-set is not only useful for 3D artists. The fullsize panorama included in the set can also be used in 2D compositing. With After Effects and the awesome Trapcode Horizon plugin you can create virtual camera moves like this one:

Trapcode Horizon Test from Christian Bloch on Vimeo.

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Mike Seymour test drives HDRx on the RED Epic

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image from fxphd.com
We already talked about the HDRx mode of the new RED EPIC camera here and here.

Now fxphd dean Mike Seymour received a pre-release model that most digital filmmakers would kill for, and the first thing he did was to strap that puppy to the hood of a car and race it around town. Famed DV Rebel Stu Maschwitz was also involved, so that might as well be his brilliant idea.

And here's the footage they got out of it: No remote controlled exposure adjustments, no visual effects, just some sensible grading of the HDRx material to show off all the dynamic range captured.

So, how does that work? When put in HDRx mode, the RED camera will capture two exposures for each frame, and lay them down as A Track (hero exposure) and X Track (highlight details). It does that by using a double-readout method. Shortly after the shutter opens, it will read the X track, then wait a bit (without resetting the sensor), and then read the actual hero exposure. Pretty clever.

Read more in the related post on ProLost and on FXguide. Mike and Stu are currently traveling New Zealand, shooting more incredible HDRx footage for the next term's RED training classes on fxphd.com. All their adventures are blogged about here.
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Advanced HDR tech moving forward

Francesco Banterle, known for his excellent Picturenaut/HDRShop plugin collection, has been pretty busy lately. He just released several plugin updates with SSE optimization for better speed. Coming up next is a bunch of native Picturenaut plugins, to take full advantage of multicore processing and realtime UI updates. I'll let you know when it's ready.

He also wrote a book called Advanced HDR Imaging, which is filled with tons of practical code examples, presented in student-friendly MATLAB code. If that's your kind of thing, this book contains everything an aspiring programmer like you needs for making homegrown HDR utilities and tonemappers.

Read more on the book's website or order from Amazon

HDR Video at the University of Warwick

Alan Chalmers, imaging professor and co-author of Francesco's book, has launched a special task force at the university of Warwick. He cabled up Spheron's prototype HDR video camera with a BrightSide HDR monitor. This unique million-dollar combo gives us a glimpse of where image technology is heading, a full uncompromised HDR pipeline. First studies are tapping into medical applications and surveillance, but they' re also looking at the opportunities in VFX and movie-making.

Capturing and displaying 20 f-stops with 30 fps in full 1080 is no easy feast. You're looking at a data stream of 720 MB per second (or 42 GB per minute of footage). Clearly this requires some clever compression technology. That, the media player required, and more related HDR video tech is getting published under the label GoHDR. Currently looking for beta testers.

PS: Monthly Site Update:

Over here in the real world, I just witnessed my coworker (long-time Lightwaver) giggle in joy, as he discovers MAX and Vray. And sIBL-GUI, of course.
Here's a 5-click render from him, testing the new sIBL-of-the-month. Steps were literally:
  1. Create Teapot Primitive
  2. Apply green-ish VRay Glass Material
  3. Lauch sIBL-GUI
  4. Choose the new Chiricahua NarrowPath set
  5. Apply and Render
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Promote Control firmware update

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Arty, the developer of the ingenious Promote device (HDR remote controller), has made another surprise visit in the forum. He brings us firmware 2.11 beta, with cool new features:
  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction compatible
  • Short exposures all the way to 1/8000 (!)
  • Scans camera settings and adapts to them
  • Checks if image was actually taken

Read the announcement and get the firmware beta here.
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HDR Gigapanos in the house!

Gigapan EPIC gets exposure bracketing

That's right folks, the new firmware update for the Gigapan robotic head adds a special HDR bracketing mode. It can either work with your camera's built-in bracketing, or remote control your camera in Bulb mode for up to 9 frames, in 1/3 to 2 EV steps, no matter what DSLR you put on that puppy. Pretty sweet, especially for all the Canon shooters who used to be stuck with that emberassing 3- frame-bracketing. The only way to get even wider brackets is by tethering a Promote Control between the Gigapan and camera, which sometimes gets flaky and adds a lot of dangling wires.

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A happy Gavin Farrell wiring up Gigapan and Promote for some sweet panoramic extravaganza.

New Gigapan units already ship with the new firmware v.171, everyone else can download the update here. Err ... actually not. For some strange reason the firmware updater is not public, I recommend a friendly email to tech support, voiced between confused and demanding.

AutoPano Pro 2.5

And how do you stitch it all together? For such really big panos AutoPano is the most convenient app. I used it for this giant Downtown LA night pano, as well as most others in the gigapano gallery. Being able to start out with a row/columns grid, and later optimizing small local clusters, turns out to be invaluable when your fancy pano robot churned out 500+ photos. I do, however, export the project usually to PTGui for final render, because that one gives me better blending.

The new AutoPano version 2.5 might actually make this step obsolete, because it has new HDR detection and blending. Supposedly. Haven't tested it yet myself. But It definitely does come in a slick dark grey interface, that fits right in with Lightroom and Aperture. It also got some improvements in detecting bracketing series and a new haze removal option.

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I'm especially thrilled that Alexandre Jenny used some example shots from my book DVD for documenting HDR stitching.

And best of all, for most people that's a free update.

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Filmic Tonemapping in After Effects

Atlas comes to Mac and 64-bit Windows

Stefan Minning's Atlas is currently the only real tonemapping plugin for After Effects. It's free, open-source, and the latest version is guaranteed to run on your OS. It also includes the all-new tonemapping method "Filmic", that was originally developed by our friend John Hable for the award-winning look of "Uncharted 2". Way to go.

Download Atlas here, or chat with the developer in this forum thread.

BTW - here are John Hable's slides from GDC, which are also a great primer on Linear Workflow. "Filmic" tonemapping starts at slide #100, and by #250 it gets into the fancy GPU programming with lots of Uncharted screenshots...

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