Saturday, January 30, 2010

Studio Artist 4 Update

We've been posting information regarding Studio Artist 4 here and on the Studio Artist User Forum for awhile now. So we wanted to present some update information on what's happening with the Studio Artist 4 release.

Quick Overview of Studio Artist 4 Features

Studio Artist 4 is the next generation of Studio Artist digital art, image and video processing software.  With version 4 we’ve now opened up the Studio Artist experience to Windows as well as Mac users.  Mac users will be pleased that version 4 is a universal binary application with faster native processing speed on both Intel and PPC Macs.  Windows users will be pleased that they can now run Studio Artist on their Windows computers. Studio Artist 4 is compatible with Apple computers running OSX 10.4 through the latest OSX 10.6, and with Windows computers running Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Studio Artist 4 still provides the same graphics synthesizer editing metaphors, intelligent visual processing and smart automatic drawing capabilities developed in previous versions of Studio Artist.  But the underlying code base was extensively rewritten in version 4 to allow for support of existing features while also providing a solid platform for future development. We also added a ton of new features, enhancements, workflow and speed optimizations.

The new Studio Artist 4 workspace is much more modular in nature and can be custom configured depending on your particular workflow. You can dock and reposition your working palettes and toolbars anywhere at the edges of the main workspace. Palettes can be tab nested on top of each other to conserve screen space. Palettes can also be floated outside the main workspace, which is very useful in dual monitor and live performance setups. You can switch on the fly while working between 4 different user configurable workspace memories and a full screen display mode. Multiple levels of undo are also now supported.

Studio Artist 4 provides enhanced functionality and new features while maintaining compatibility with all of your old Studio Artist presets. The factory preset collection has also been significantly expanded, providing thousands of new presets to explore and modify.  A new Favorites preset toolbar allows you to custom organize sets of working favorites presets in a space saving moveable toolbar.  The new integrated help browser allows you to document, organize, and access presets via custom html help pages.

Studio Artist 4 includes new real time interaction features. Loop Action allows you to switch between different processing presets on the fly while they run in a live processing loop.  Effect and paint parameters can also be live adjusted while Studio Artist is auto painting or processing in loop action.  Paint Synthesizer Time Particles take on a whole new life with live editing while they are painting.  Live video capture can also be incorporated into loop action processing along with live interactive editing for live visual performance or live video synthesis.  The new Gallery Show features allow you to build custom free running art shows or automatically generate an infinite range of new presets and/or art images.

The Paint Synthesizer now has over 480 adjustable parameters and is capable of an even wider range of potential styles and effects. Hybrid vector-raster paint effects can now be created, like painting a vector region that then has it's edges melted or smeared with water using a single paint preset. The new Live Extend path shape option allows for wild dynamic paint styles with physics based behavior. Photo mosaic, movie brush, and paint regionization features have been enhanced to expand your creative potential. The new Dual Paint operation mode allows you to combine digital painting and live image processing together to create dynamic organic paint presets as well as amazing interactive visual effects.

The Paint Synthesizer and Vectorizer now provide direct anti-aliased vector drawing and vector output.  Vector files can be output to eps, pdf, or svg vector file formats for resolution independent output.  Bezier paths can be embedded in a paint preset and then animated over time, creating dynamic animation or cross hatching effects. Bezier path editing for creating morph or warp effects has been streamlined for faster workflow.

The old Layer and Paint Action Sequence (PASeq) timeline functionality have been integrated into a single new PASeq timeline editor. PASeq batch processing features allow for enhanced professional workflow when auto-rotoscoping multiple movie files. The new Movie Layer features allow for Quicktime movie files to be embedded in multiple canvas layers when building animation effects or doing manual touchup to individual movie frames.

The Image Operation effects have been extensively enhanced and expanded. New intelligent Image Operation effects like Sketch Edge and Sketch Mass effects can now directly generate Bezier paths in addition to raster processing effects.  The new intelligent path generation features can be combined with the infinite variability of the Paint Synthesizer’s drawing engine to create an endless range of different art styles and processing effects limited only by your imagination.

The new Temporal Image Processing operation mode provides a number of new time based image processing effects.  These new temporal effects can be used for video processing.  They can also be used to generate static images from video sequences that encapsulate the motion in a video sequence into a single static image.  They can also generate a static panorama view based on the video camera’s panning and movement in a scene.  Slit scan temporal effects can be used to expand, contract, extract or remove motion from a scene as well as create amazing looking visual effects.

Much of the old MSG Evolver modular image processing editing capabilities are now accessible directly in version 4 via the new MSG Advanced Editor and MSG Evolution palettes. You can use directed evolution to generate an infinite variety of different abstract procedural art images as well as image and video processing effects without delving into the technical aspects of MSG editing. There are now over 500 MSG processors available that can be combined together for constructing custom modular image processing effects.  MSG presets can also be used to expand the Paint Synthesizer's capabilities through the use of MSG source brushes, brush load processing, path start, and path shape generators.

More information on Studio Artist 4 can be found at the Studio Artist Tips site at

How to Get Studio Artist 4

There have been a lot of requests from existing Studio Artist customers as well as new windows customers about when they can upgrade to Studio Artist version 4. The Studio Artist 4.0 release code is finished at this point in time. We're still working on finishing up new video tutorials and some supplementary documentation for the 'official' version 4 release.

Since we're at the end of the development cycle for version 4, we've decided to allow interested customers the opportunity to upgrade to version 4 early prior to the completion of the video tutorials.  We briefly mentioned this on the Studio Artist User Forum but i also wanted to post the information here so that anyone interested in taking advantage of getting an early start working with Studio Artist 4 could do so at this time.

The list price for Studio Artist 4 for new customers is $399. There is special upgrade pricing for existing Studio Artist customers. And there is also special academic pricing available as well. If you are interested in getting started now with Studio Artist 4 now please contact Synthetik Software technical support via email at techsupport AT synthetik Dot com and we'll send you the appropriate information.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Utilizing Video Processing to Build 2D Art Imagery

One of the cool things about Studio Artist is that it bridges the gap between 2D art programs and video processing and animation programs. What i love about this is that it allows for cross pollination between different art forms that would normally not mix.

Sometimes 2D artists wonder why they would need to use animation features. Video artist wonder why they would need advanced 2D paint features. The answer is that you can still be a 2D artist or a video artist and use the expanded functionality available in Studio Artist to explore new artistic ground within the 2D or video artistic domains you are comfortable working in.

One interesting example of this cross pollination i've been exploring recently involves using video processing as a way to build 2D artistic images.

A video sequence provides a sequence of inter-related 2D images that can be combined together in different ways to build 2D artwork. Studio Artist provides a great environment for 2D artists to try out this kind of exploration because of all of the advanced video animation and manipulation features it offers.

Things get even more interesting when you process a video sequence with some kind of Studio Artist effect and then use the effected video sequence as your sequence of source images to build 2D artwork. One simple approach is to work with multiple layers to combine together a series of offset frame images from a processed or paint animated movie file. Different layer compositing and opacity mix settings can be used to build your final 2D image from a collection of time offset sequential processed video frames.

The image at the top of this post is an example of using 3 different video frames grabbed from a paint animated movie sequence as source images for 3 Studio Artist layers. I used Studio Artist's interactive translate warp capabilities to reposition the individual video frames to achieve my final spatial composition. After adjusting the individual layer opacity and compositing settings, the layers were flattened down to one layer and then further processed to achieve the final finished output image.

Studio Artist 4's temporal image operations are also a great tool to use to build static 2D imagery out of video sequences. The center example was created by processing a video sequence with the Studio Artist temporal rank filter.

The example below was generated by processing a paint animation sequence with the Studio Artist temporal motion rank filter. This filter takes multiple video frames and processes them to create a single effected output image. For the example below a motion rank max algorithm was used. What this temporal filter does is examine a group of video frames, compare them to find the fastest movement in any given area of each video frame, and then paint the fastest movement it found in any given spatial location into the processed output image

So don't be afraid to explore new features of Studio Artist you might normally think would not have any relevance to your particular area of artistic expertise. Cross pollination is a great way to expand your creative potential, and to have fun in the process.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What is Studio Artist

As we begin a new year i thought it might be fun to reflect for a minute on why Studio Artist is such an awesome art program.

So, What is Studio Artist?

Studio Artist transcends a lot of existing graphics software product categories. It's a digital paint program. Its an image processing and photo manipulation program. It's a video processing program. It's a paint animation program. It's a procedural art generation program. You can create 2D imagery, but you can also create time based animation or video processing effects. By straddling existing product boundaries it isn't restricted by the artificial marketing categories that have been created by restricting software products to be just a photo manipulation or digital paint or video processing program. Studio Artist is all of these things and more.

Studio Artist is a Graphics Synthesizer. This means it's a tool for synthesizing artistic visual imagery as well as a tool for building an infinite variety of custom visual effects.

Studio Artist takes working metaphors from music synthesis and applies them to digital painting, photo manipulation, and video processing. Studio Artist also incorporates advanced visual modeling based on human perception of imagery in the brain and applies that visual intelligence to control automatic painting as well as image and video processing effects. Studio Artist provides intelligent assistance that helps you create artistic imagery much faster and with more fun than other programs.

You can do everything in Studio Artist manually by hand if you wish. Or you can select a preset, press a button and let Studio Artist do all the work. You can also work interactively while Studio Artist intelligently works behind the scenes to dynamically assist your manual hand work.

What i love about Studio Artist is that it helps you create artistic imagery. So you can quickly generate an infinite variety of different artistic images or processing effects. You're still in the loop as an artist, making decisions about what you like and don't like. But at the same time you don't have to do all the work. Unless you really want to, and even then intelligent assistance is working behind the scenes to make your work more organic, visually complex and compelling.

When i sit down to use other digital painting or visual effects programs i tend to get frustrated very quickly. I also tend to get very little accomplished, even after putting a lot of work into a project. Because nothing happens in those other programs that isn't directly instigated and driven by the user. So creating a single painting or artistic image or visual effect is a very tedious and time consuming task. One that is limited by the physical motor skills you have available to you. One that is limited by your internal energy and concentration to preserver until the job is finished. What should be a fun and creative process quickly becomes a chore. A marathon of internal energy is required to actually create something.

After using one of these other digital art program, returning to Studio Artist is like a breath of fresh air. I can immediately start generating an infinite variety of different artistic images very quickly.

My work could be derived off of source images, source video, or it could be complete visual abstraction generated from no prior imagery. Work derived from source imagery could be realistic, or very abstracted output that is nothing like a conventional clone effect and has no direct relationship to the content of the original source imagery.

I can try out different pre-built intelligent presets to stimulate my visual creativity. When i find something i like i can then edit it to customize or further enhance the visual effect. When i create something new i like i can then save it as a new custom preset for use at a later date. I can do detailed editing, potentially adjusting hundreds of different parameters that affect the look and feel of a digital paint tool. Or i can press a button and have Studio Artist generate new sets of presets automatically for me to cull through looking for keepers.

I can generate sets of procedural abstractions or modular image processing effects at the click of the mouse, working with directed evolution over time to build amazing artistic imagery i could never have created or even conceived of if i had to manually build them from scratch. At the same time i have the ability to get under the hood and fine tune modular image processing or procedural art effects via detailed editing if i wish to refine or fine tune a particular effect or image. With over 500 modular image processing modules that can be combined together in an unlimited number of different ways i have access to an endless supply of different visual effects.

I can generate free running gallery shows that generate new artwork and visual effects unattended. Gallery show can be used to build dynamic customized art displays, visual performance pieces, or as a way to automatically generate new presets effects or sets of art images that can be culled through later for keepers.

I can work with live visual synthesis in real time. Building recursive visual effects that feed back on themselves. Processing live video captures. Changing between different preset effects on the fly without interrupting my visual performance. Live editing effects and watching them adjust in real time. Streaming my live visual performance out to a video file to capture a visual performance.

Studio Artist is all this and more.

Stay tuned for amazing new Studio Artist developments over the upcoming year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adding Representational Detail to an Abstract Image or Animation

One of the great features of Studio Artist is that it gives you an unlimited number of different techniques you can use to build abstract images or videos. But sometimes you want to create a recognizable abstraction that still maintains features of your source image. Studio Artist also gives you many different tools you can use to take a totally abstract image and make it more representational. So you can take something very abstract and modify it to make it more closely resemble a specific image.

The example at the top of this post showcases what i'm talking about. It's a frame from a paint animation. The paint style is fairly abstract, but the original image content is still recognizable. This can be especially important when dealing with source video facial features in a paint animation.

I started this project by using a single Studio Artist paint synthesizer preset that auto-rotoscopes a video file to produce a very abstract wet paint look. The image below shows off what you get by processing a single video frame with my soft wet look paint preset. Note that the painted image is very soft and abstract. There's not a lot of feature detail in the abstract painting.

There are many different approaches to adding detail in a painting. A more conventional approach would be to continue subsequent paint passes using progressively smaller brush sizes to build detail in the painting. These additional paint passes could also be edited in the paint synthesizer to more closely focus on painting edge detail in the image. Auto masking features could also be turned on that automatically mask paint nibs to prevent edge or feature distortion. All of these different techniques will work to help generate a painting that more closely resembles the original source image it is derived from (like the image below).

But for this particular example i thought it would be fun to not use any of those paint synthesizer techniques and to instead focus on other ways to add source image features back into an already abstract image. Probably the simplest approach is to just mix some of the original source image back into the abstract image. You can easily do this by using the Fixed Image Ip Op at the end of your Paint Action Sequence. The settings below for this image operation show how to generate a 50% mix of the source image with whatever is currently in the canvas.

The nice thing about this approach for source mixing is that you can do this without having to use multiple layers. The image below shows what you get when you use this approach with the abstract painting shown above.

This source mixing approach can sometimes be very effective, it's easy to understand,and is easy to apply to any abstract image. But it does soften the abstract image, and sometimes this might not be desirable. Not to worry, there are other approaches you can use that can add feature detail into an abstract image while still retaining all of the visual characteristics that makes the abstract image interesting.

One alternate i like is to use is a spatially modulated adaptive warp which when properly executed can add back some original source image edge representation. This is easy to do using Studio Artist's interactive warp functionality. You generate an appropriate selection image and then use the Selection Modulate Rotate or Selection Modulate Translate interactive warps to warp the abstract canvas.

Using the source image as the selection is one approach. But for this particular example i wanted something that would only add edge features back into abstract canvas. So i generated a high spatial frequency representation of the source image (shown below) and made that the current selection.

You can use the Equalizer ip op to do this. I set the ip op's composite option to replace region selection. So when the ip op effect is run the result is directly placed in the selection buffer instead of the canvas. I then used the mouse to interactively warp the abstract canvas, using a warp option that modulates the warp based on the current selection image.

The image below shows off the result after using the Selection Modulate Rotate interactive warp. Note how it retains the original characteristics of the abstract paint field while also maintaining the edge feature characteristics of the original source image.

The great thing about Studio Artist is that it provides an extremely flexible and full featured environment to create your own custom digital paint, image or video processing effects. The techniques we showcased here are just a quick glimpse into the vast configurable visual effects toolbox available in Studio Artist.

I added one extra step to the movie processing by adding some of the high spatial frequency image we used as the selection image above into the abstract canvas after the interactive warp step. When generating a paint animation you also always want to try and add some temporal continuity from frame to frame into the overall process. I did this by overpainting on my previous output frame, and insuring that the new paint strokes only partially covered the old painting. Because parts of the old output frame are still exposed in the next frame there's temporal continuity from frame to frame and hence reduced flicker in the resulting animation.

There are many other techniques you could use to build source representation and to reduce flicker in paint animations. The point of this particular tutorial example was to show that there are some fairly simple approaches you can use to take something very abstract and make it more recognizable. In a real project you might want to combine approaches like we describe here along with multiple paint passes or time particles to build your ultimate paint animation effect.

The video example below shows the final effect in a processed movie

paint animation ex5 from john dalton on Vimeo.

Monday, January 4, 2010

January Film Screenings and Workshop

Studio Artist animator Jean Detheux will be in Toronto at the end of January giving a lecture along with a screening of many of his Studio Artist animated films. This will be followed by a live performance using Studio Artist in conjunction with musicians Lori Freedman and Scott Thomson and a dancer.

The next day he will present an all day workshop on the making of his films that focuses on working with Studio Artist and Final Cut Pro. The screening and workshop events take place at Le Labo in the Toronto Distillery District in conjunction with the Toronto Animated Image Society on January 30 and 31. You can lean more here.

Jean's Studio Artist animated film 'Civil War' is also showing in Los Angles this Thursday January 7th. The showing takes place at the iotaSalon at the UCLA campus's Broad Art Center. You can learn more here.

Some of the music for Civil War was by Dave Nagel, another long time Studio Artist user and the host of the original Studio Artist DMN forum.