Digital Anarchy's Beauty Box in Review

Product Review: Digital Anarchy's Beauty Box

At SIGGRAPH, I had the chance to meet Jim Tierney from Digital Anarchy. Jim was showing what was new in their imaging and video tools, including the upcoming CUDA-enabled Beauty Box, which I've reviewed in the past (you can read my Beauty Box review here).

Beauty Box is a plug-in for video applications that can be used to fix imperfections on the skin that your subject may have had during shooting. For example, any marks, scars, and other things that may have not been covered by makeup, or, in the worst scenario, imperfections present when your subject didn't go through any make up session at all.

The skin smoothing is based on masks, so you only fix the areas that interest you. The workflow is pretty simple. After analyzing the frame, you can add or remove portions of the mask, and adjust the smoothing settings to fit your needs.

The most significant change for the current version of Beauty Box is the move to 64bit computing and support for Adobe CS5 video applications (as you know, After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 are 64bit only applications). However, Beauty Box 1.1 will also support CUDA, yielding faster rendering times. Beauty Box 1.1 is currently in beta.

As of today, CUDA is the dominant programming language when it comes to utilizing the processing power of GPUs for applications other than the standard 3D software. This offers a dramatic speed increase in many scenarios, as GPUs have reached superior processing speeds over CPUs.

The test system I used for Beauty Box is a dual-core Xeon, with 6 Gb of RAM, and a Quadro FX 4800 (this is the system I use for the Adobe CS5). The Beauty Box plugin is compatible with both After Effects and Premiere Pro, so it will work inside both host applications without the need to use a different installer. I used Beauty Box inside Premiere Pro since I didn't want to worry about slow playback times. Premiere Pro plays back 2K or 4K resolution video in real-time using the Mercury Engine, allowing me to focus on the Beauty Box performance exclusively.

On either Premiere Pro or After Effects, the settings are pretty much the same. The image below shows how Beauty Box in After Effects looks.

This image below shows how Beauty Box for Premiere Pro looks. You will notice there's a check box that allows you to enable or disable the GPU for processing.

Video clips in Premiere Pro will usually display the thin yellow bar on top if you have the Mercury Engine enabled, indicating the video will play back in real-time. However, when you add the Beauty Box effect to your video clip the bar will turn red, meaning it will no longer play back in real-time. I actually tried playing it back, and I got the familiar frame skips you used to get when playing back HD video on previous versions of Premiere Pro.

If you use the "render workspace" command, the Beauty Box effect will be rendered, or "baked," so it won't need to be calculated again for each frame. In order to test the actual speed increase, I tried rendering two different sequences inside the same project. One of them had Beauty Box with GPU processing turned on, and the other one had GPU processing turned off. Using CUDA, Beauty Box renders roughly 6 times faster than using only the CPU. Even if you don't get real-time playback unless you render the effect first, that's an impressive speed increase.

Nvidia launched the new Fermi Quadro cards at SIGGRAPH, and according to Jim, if you're using one of the new Fermi cards, you should get near-real-time playback inside Premiere Pro without having to render the effect first.

One of the questions that may arise is why choose CUDA over OpenCL. The problem with OpenCL right now is that, unlike CUDA, the language is not mature enough. On top of that, not many video cards support it (as far as I can remember, there are only a couple of ATI cards that support OpenCL, and I am not sure how many Nvidia cards support it). In the future, there may be a version of Beauty Box supporting OpenCL, but right now CUDA is the way to go.

If you rely alot on Beauty Box for your digital skin retouching needs and have a Nvidia CUDA capable videocard (if you upgraded your system to take advantage of Adobe CS5, you already have one), you will find a lot of performance improvements in this new version. In the end, faster turnaround times make you more competitive by letting you work better and faster.

For more information, please visit the Digital Anarchy website.


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.

October 4, 2010

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