Product Review: digieffects' Buena Depth Cue v2
Buena Depth Cue v2 is a collection of plug-ins for 3D object manipulation in Adobe After Effects. It includes tools to generate depth maps, add atmospheric effects, map footage onto 3D objects and adding dramatic lighting to your 3D scenes. All of the plug-ins rely on users building the scenes with 3D Solids, so you can generate the depth information needed.
Camera Mapper lets you map your footage on top of different solids. Basically, you create the solids and adjust them in 3D space so they simulate the position of different objects of your footage. For example, if you have a shot of a house, you would create solids for the ground, the different walls, and any other object that might be there. You can then project your footage onto those solids and freely move the camera around in 3D space.
When you have your solids in place, you can then use Depth to generate a gray scale depth map of your scene. Depth maps can be used to add distance fog or depth of field, as well as source material for stereoscopic 3D conversion.
I have read about some plug-ins that will automatically generate depth maps from any footage, but Depth is not one of them, since you're required to create your own sets of solids inside After Effects to rebuild your scene. This may be time consuming in some situations, but luckily you're not limited to solids, as you can use masks (including the new Roto Brush) to assist you.
The Atmosphere plug-in is used to add distance fog to your scenes. Distance fog tools can be used for a variety of effects besides the standard fog, like adding depth to underwater scenes, adding haze, or giving your scenes a very nice Silent Hill feel. Atmosphere adds the fog based on the distance of your objects in 3D space.
Using Atmosphere, just like the other Buena Depth Cue v2 plug-ins, requires that you build your scene using solids and objects in 3D space. You can also combine Atmosphere with other plug-ins, like Camera Mapper to add distance fog to your re-created scene.
Another plug-in is Falloff Lighting. Falloff Lighting yields realistic lighting and shadow results, as it can add decay rate to lights, making objects closer to the light sources more visible than those away from them, just like it should be. Imagine you want to add a light source to a scene you built using Camera Mapper, Falloff Lighting could give you a very nice result.
Buena Depth Cue v2 includes two more plug-ins: Rack Focus and Flipside. The first one allows you to create focus effects depending on the distance of objects from the camera, and Flipside lets you project two different images on each side of a solid, so you can view it from either side.
Using the 3D features in After Effects for the plug-ins gives you the 3D and depth information right off the bat. However, I don't find the 3D tools in After Effects very user-friendly after using 3D compositing apps like Fusion, since the viewport is not exactly the fastest out there, and placing objects in 3D space isn't really the easiest task. This can make workflow very time consuming if you are not used to the 3D workflow in After Effects.
The plug-ins have "Helper plug-ins," which allow you to apply one of the plug-ins to all layers of your composition automatically, creating a "master control" that can adjust the settings for that effect on every layer. For example, if you use "Apply atmosphere to all layers," the effect is added to all layers and you get a top layer called Master Atmosphere Control that lets you control the fog depth, color, and everything else. This is definitely a time saver, especially when you have a composition with many objects.
Applying and modifying the effects is generally very fast. You can change the parameters of your current effect and see the result in around one second in NTSC (higher resolutions and combining effects results in slower feedback, though). However, performance can drop due to the combination of various effects and the After Effects 3D viewport.
Learning the different plug-ins can be daunting at first. Luckily, there are many tutorials available on the digieffects website. Unfortunately, there aren't many resources for Rack Focus or Flipside.
Buena Depth Cue v2 offers an amazing set of tools for 3D workflow inside After Effects, making it easy to add a new dimension to existing footage. If you're into stereoscopic conversion, Depth should be very useful for converting footage to 3D. You should really check out Buena Depth Cue v2 today.
For more information, please visit:
Buena Depth Cue v2 effects now available a la carte:
Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.