Product Review: The Pixel Farm's PFMatchit
The Pixel Farm recently released PFMatchit, a 64-bit, node-based matchmoving and camera tracking application. I had the chance to see PFMatchit at SIGGRAPH 2010 a few months ago, where Ricky and I got a demonstration on how the software works.
The first thing that got my attention was its node-based workflow, and that's what sets it apart from similar applications I've used, since it offers a more open, non-destructive, and even more efficient workflow. If you've used node-based compositing applications (such as Fusion, Nuke or Toxik) you know the advantages of using nodes. Basically, using nodes allows you to experiment in different ways to solve a shot, reuse the results of certain nodes, and find better ways to take on a shot without having to start everything all over again.
Depending on the camera lens, you will get lens distortion. PFMatchit offers tools to suppress that, since those issues will affect the workflow along the entire pipeline. Once your shot is corrected, you can start tracking.
The workflow is similar to any other matchmoving application you may have used. First, you track the features, and then you solve the camera. Picking the features is usually automated, but sometimes you need to pick your own features because the shot might be too difficult.
You can enhance the markers by color (meaning you can pick the color of the marker and pretty much suppress everything else), or you can use color sliders and curves to enhance the markers and add more contrast between them and the rest of the plate. The color enhancements are exclusive to the node in which you made them, meaning that the following node down the flow won't inherit the colors from the previous nodes, but rather use the color of the footage.
Imagine you shot everything in front of a green screen, and to help the compositing team, the markers are, in fact, of a different shade of green instead of blue, white, or anything else. This is the perfect scenario where you'd be using these color enhancement tools.
PFMatchit can also be used to matchmove objects. This is especially useful if you need to place CG objects on top of moving elements (like CG elements on an actor's suit, perform body replacements, and things like that). You can even perform object matchmoving on moving shots, so there's no limit on what you can do with PFMatchit in this area.
As you may know, Stereoscopic 3D is a big thing right now. However, as I wrote in my Neo3D review recently, you need (among other things) good tools that can help you. PFMatchit can also solve 3D shots like it does with standard footage. The only difference is that it will output two cameras instead of one. The software also offers anaglyph stereo viewing inside the viewport, using either red-cyan or blue-magenta glasses. Other 3d viewing methods are not supported, though.
PFMatchit can export the final result using a wide variety of formats, including the industry standards FBX and COLLADA, so you can use that data in both 3D and compositing applications. During export, you can choose to save the camera animation, as well as the point cloud data and the footage clip. Some types of data are not available in certain formats.
If you're looking for an application to solve your matchmoving and object tracking needs, PFMatchit is up to the task. The non-destructive, node-based workflow is certainly an advantage over many competing apps. With the growing interest in stereo filmmaking, a matchmoving application that can natively handle that type of work is more than welcome. You should definitely check PFMatchit out now.
For more information, be sure to visit The Pixel Farm 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.
December 6, 2010
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