Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Life After Photoshop?

I recently read an article in '3D World' magazine titled 'Life After Photoshop?' I learned that one of the currently most important tools used by 3D animators, Games designers and VFX artists could soon reach an end. It seems that when Photoshop CS6 is released, any users currently below version CS5 will have to re-buy the software which costs $500. This has raised the questions: "could the VFX industry ever move away from photoshop? And is there a Photoshop killer currently in development."

I personally am a novice in the area of computer animation. For this reason, some points raised in the article were very foreign to me. I do recognize however, that Photoshop is a piece of software that is used in virtually all areas of the art and design industry, and it is also a tool I myself have experience using and feel comfortable with the interface. Despite this, I am not filled with a sense of worry, but a sense of optimism and excitement as I read about some of the exciting new softwares that could arise from the fall of Photoshop.

One of the alternatives to Photoshop mentioned was a programme called 'Mari':

After conducting further research on the software, I discovered that 'Mari' is a 3d digital paint tool, that 
allows the user to paint directly on to 3d models in a 'fluid and natural way' (The Foundry website. A VFX and post production company mentioned in the article). Apparently the software can process large amounts of pixels, meaning the user can concentrate on applying detail. It was originally produced for the movie 'Avatar,' to meet the huge demand for detail and textures. This video below, shows the large number of layers that Mari can handle, and also the level of detail that can be achieved:

The level of detail here is breathtaking. The Blacksmith's skin is almost life-like, complete with wrinkles and small blemishes. Even the blood shot eyes have been considered.

Another piece of software mentioned was 'Nuke.' Nuke is a node-based compositor used for post-production. At first, I had no idea what this actually meant but after seeking out video examples, I discovered that it is similar to Adobe's After Effects. I watched a tutorial video on multipass rendering using Maya and then Nuke. This is the technique of rendering separate passes (examples being a specular highlight pass, later to be combined with a shadow pass and then the diffuse pass), meaning that you can have more control over the individual elements rather than only being able adjust say the brightness. The tutorial video was 22 minutes long, meaning it would be unpractical to share the embeded link in the event of me needing to PDF my blog posts for this module. The link to the video on YouTube however, is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCzzp5tG4Eg

In conclusion, it is interesting to see some of the new software being produced for visual effects. In the event that Photoshop should eventually phase out, it is important to be aware of some of some of the future tools that will be on offer for someone interested in the area of 3D computer graphics. A darker undertone of this particular study, could be one of corporate greed. Although the other softwares mentioned are significantly more expensive that Photoshop ($6800), Adobe's choice to re-charge customers who are looking to upgrade from older versions has caused people within the industry to pause for thought. Photoshop is a fantastic piece of image-editing software, but it has never been strictly for VFX artists. One criticism raise in the article, was that having to keep re-openeing hundreds of frames in photoshop often results in wasted time. By charging existing customers for the new upgrade, it seems people in the particular industry of VFX have decided to seek out  new tools that are specifically designed for working with lots of frames and pixels.

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