Thursday, February 25, 2010
Studio Artist user Jean Detheux is presenting his Studio Artist animated film "La Folia" at the RVCQ fesitval in Montréal this month. "La Folia" was selected in the "Art et Expérimentation - Corps et Danse" programme ("Art and Experimentation - Body and Dance" program).
For its 27th year in existence, the RVCQ festival, a celebration of Québec Cinema, runs for 10 days (Feb, 17 - 27 2010). Presenting films, workshops, master-classes, panel discussions, exhibitions and parties, it is a major festival where film professionals and their public can meet. You can learn more about the festival and Jean's animated film "La Folia" here.
A web version of the film is also available for viewing here.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Studio Artist is an incredibly rich sand box for artistic creative exploration and discover. Creativity is an active process of discovery of new ideas. Typically by generating many trial ideas, and then discarding useless or unproductive ones.
I thought it might be illuminating to break down a particular instance of some personal creative exploration that happened while working with Studio Artist. Both to show off some Studio Artist features you may be unaware of, and also to touch on the whole process of creative flow and being willing or flexible enough to go where it takes you.
I'm going to focus on the creative process i went through to generate the image above. Getting to this final image involved following a creative journey. I started by taking my initial thoughts on what might be a fun project and then modified them several times as the work progressed. I ended up with a final artistic approach that was somewhat different than my beginning conceptions, expanding on my initial ideas in some new and interesting ways.
My initial thoughts on this particular creative session involved working with the Dual Mode Paint operation mode to create a paint animation. Dual Mode Paint is a hybrid painting operation that combines a paint synthesizer painting preset along with a dynamic image processing effect.
The particular dual mode paint preset i put together involved a combination of a paint synthesizer preset that generates painted symmetry effects in combination with the Fracture Displacement image operation.
The image below is an example generated using my custom dual mode paint preset. I thought it was generating some interesting abstract painted imagery, but i wasn't really happy with the animation output when i generated a short test movie using the Studio Artist movie stream auto-write features.
So i thought it might be fun to take my paint animation movie and load it as a source movie so that i could further process it, to perhaps generate a more interesting paint animation. I put together a paint action sequence (PASeq) that composited together a warped version of each source frame with the original painted frame along with some cleanup image processing effects to sharpen and boost the contrast of the painted movie frames. I then processed my initial paint animation source movie using my custom PASeq to generate a second paint animation movie file.
The image above is an example of one frame from this second modified paint animation movie. I liked the individual painted frame imagery in this second movie better than my first pass at a paint animation, but i still didn't really like the animation itself as much as the individual frame images. So i decided to try a slightly different approach. Since i liked the frame imagery as a collection of still images, i thought it would be fun to try using my second paint animation movie as a movie brush in the Studio Artist paint synthesizer. That way i could build a larger canvas out of the individual movie frames and their interesting painted textural qualities.
Rather than starting from scratch, i decided to start by taking an existing movie brush preset and modifying it to use my second paint animation movie as the movie brush. I picked the 4.0 Collection B : RegionFillBrushMovieTest : moveTest4 paint preset. It references one of the example movie brushes in the Brush folder provided with the factory paint presets. The image above is an example of the kind of effect generated by the original movie brush paint preset. The image below shows some output from my modified paint preset that used my second paint animation movie as a custom movie source brush.
At this point i liked the textures being generated by the movie brush, but i wanted to try a different arrangement for the blocks of texture being applied to the canvas. I decided i wanted something more ordered rather than just random placement, so i edited the paint preset to use the Adaptive Block Regionize path start generator and the Path Start Regionize path type. I set the max stroke option in the path start control panel to 100 so that i would get a fairly coarse layout of large blocks in my photo mosaic image. The image below shows an example of the kind of output i was able to generate after making these editing changes in the paint synthesizer.
At this point i was liking the layout and quality of the textured blocks. But i wanted to introduce a little more of the original source image edge detail into the mosaic canvas. So i switched the path start generator to the Adaptive Block Regionize DM option. The DM options for all of the path start regionize generators break up the individual generated paint regions into dual regions that split along edge features in the original source image. I also turned on the Local Region nib masking in the paint fill apply control panel so that each paint region was auto-masked rather than drawn as blocks.
I also set the selection to the source image, and applied a slight interactive warp to the mosaic canvas using the Selection Modulate Translate interactive warp option. This helped break up the regularity of the textured mosaic blocks a little, leading to the more organic final output image shown below.
You can use the Canvas : Selection : Set to menu commands to set the selection buffer to a number of different images. In this particular example we're using the selection buffer as a modulation source for an interactive warp. Modulating a warp based on the source or canvas image is a useful trick to add some organic complexity to a canvas, or to simulate image through glass effects with more extreme warps.
So, the final image i generated in my creative journey was very different than my initial impressions of what i was setting out to accomplish when i first sat down to create a paint animation.
The process of creative expression is really a journey of discovery. In this particular example i was willing to 'go with the flow' and ended up at a very different place than my original intentions. But even if i had persisted with my original goal of generating a great paint animation, i would have tried out and discarded a series of artistic ideas and potential techniques to arrive at my final result. That process could be as simple as trying different paint presets or paint synthesizer editing decisions to perfect a particular paint aesthetic. Or in this particular example, re-conceptualizing my initial goal of creating a paint animation to utilizing the results of a paint animation as a movie brush to build a mosaic painting from the individual textured frame images in the paint animation movie file.
For Further Study
This tutorial touched on a number of different Studio Artist features. The Studio Artist Tips site provides a weath of information on different Studio Artist features. Some specific tips related to the discussion in this tutorial are detailed below.
This tip discusses how to work with movie streams to generate movie output as you live paint in Studio Artist.
This tip discusses how to make a movie brush to build a photo mosaic paint preset.
This tip provides some more informariton on working with paint regionization in the paint synthesizer. This tip provides some example brick wall mosaic paint presets you can modify to use your own custom movie brushes with.
This tip provides an introduction to DualMode Paint.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Studio Artist user Craig Deeley has put together a really wonderful collection of natural media paint presets. These presets are primarily designed for manual hand painting, and emulate different natural media types. The different art media tools provided include things like watercolor, ink, charcoal, pencil, oil paint, pastels, and crayons as well as more exotic tools like his awesome sumi brushes and wet smear presets.
Some of Craig's natural media presets are included as the CD_Hand_Drawn_Media collection in the Studio Artist 4 factory paint synthesizer presets. Craig recently posted some additional natural media presets that expand on the range of effects available in the factory collection you can download here. These are all Studio Artist 4 paint presets, they won't work properly in previous versions of Studio Artist.
The great thing about Studio Artist's paint synthesizer is the extreme flexibility it provides for building custom painting effects. So you can emulate traditional painting tools if you wish. Or you can go boldly into the digital future where no one has gone before, and create your own signature artistic look by editing custom preset tools that reflect your unique artistic style and vision.
You can check out more of Craig's artwork at his web site i-toons.com. Craig has also posted some examples of his work that showcase his natural media preset collection in the Studio Artist User Forum photo section.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Gallery Show is a new automated presentation feature in Studio Artist 4. Gallery Show allows you to construct custom art shows that could be displayed in a gallery or used in a live performance. Gallery Show is also a great tool for automatically generating collections of art images and the presets that built them. You can set up a gallery show run, then come back several hours later and cull through the results, looking for keeper images and keeper preset processing effects.
Gallery Shows are based on a set of Gallery preferences that can be edited to customize a gallery show presentation. There are a number of different techniques that can be selected to build a gallery show. Some techniques are based on working with factory presets or sets of custom presets you build and store in a favorites folder. Other techniques are based on mutating and evolving sets of presets or operation mode settings.
One fun technique is called Surprise Me. This technique does exactly what you might expect, something different every time it runs. It culls through all of the different technique options, randomly choosing a new one for each gallery show cycle. Many of the individual techniques have additional options, so the range of potential effects that can be created with a surprise me gallery show technique is indeed quite surprising.
Everyone at Synthetik Software is very familiar with Studio Artist and all of the different things it can do. But we're still constantly amazed at the new effects we discover when we run gallery show.
Individuals often tend to gravitate towards certain favorite presets or processing techniques when working with software. Working with gallery show can help to break you out of repetitive work patterns you've grown accustomed to using, and in doing so can lead you to new types of artistic effects and educate you about the incredible range of potential visual effects Studio Artist is capable of achieving.
Like any artistic process, there will be keepers and junk. So if a particular gallery show cycle generates something not too interesting, just ignore it and wait to see what happens next. You could run a Surprise Me gallery show all week and it will still be generating new and interesting images the whole time.
You can stream your gallery show art out to a folder of images by using an image stream. And you can record the mutated presets generated during the gallery show run by turning on history recording. These Studio Artist features give you the ability to record what a gallery show run is generating and then cull through the results at a later time. Like any generative artistic process, you evaluate the results, keep the interesting images and effect presets, and throw away the rest.
You can also take the results of a gallery show run and turn it into a unique custom movie brush to build photo mosaic effects. Moving the initial gallery show generative art process to a whole new level.
If you desire more control in putting together a custom gallery show than just the element of surprise and extreme variation you get using the surprise me technique, then you can work with custom preset folders. There's an endless range of ever evolving visual effects and aesthetic looks you can achieve by carefully designing sets of presets that work together to build your desired gallery show aesthetic. Custom Favorites preset folders allow you to mix and match different preset types together to build you custom visual performance.
Gallery shows can be constructed to work with random source images from an image collection of your choosing, from a single static image, or from live video captures taken at the beginning of each gallery show cycle. Additional processing presets can also be incorporated at the start of the gallery show cycle to modify the last gallery show display image before the new processing effect in the current cycle is run.
All of the images in this post were generated during a single gallery show surprise me run. They are just a few of the unque art images and processing effects generated during this single gallery show run.
Gallery show is an amazing new feature in Studio Artist 4. Probably the most amazing thing about it is all the cool effects we don't even know about waiting to be discovered from working with gallery show.
There's a tutorial tip on the Studio Artist Tips blog you can read that presents more information on how to build a custom gallery show. For more information on working with gallery show check out the tip.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I recently stumbled upon Studio Artist user H.J. Kropp's visual sketchbook blog, and it's truly awe inspiring. Lot's of great Studio Artist generated art there. There's also some cool examples of his Studio Artist 'One Minute Paintings' which is a really interesting way to approach creating art that is fun, fast, and highly successful. You should definetly check it out at www.blog.artfusion.de/ .
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
On the anniversary of it's initial Sundance Film Festival premiere, I thought it was time to take another look at the making of the Studio Artist animated film Year of the Fish. What I love about Year of the Fish is that it's a beautiful example of what a single individual can achieve working with Studio Artist and it's automatic rotoscoping and paint animation capabilities. What Studio Artist is really all about is empowering individuals to create their own artistic styles and visual effects. Year of the Fish is really a stunning example of what an individual with some creative vision working with Studio Artist is able to artistically achieve.
I recently spoke with director and Studio Artist user David Kaplan about the making of his feature length Studio Artist animated film Year of the Fish. David provided some interesting technical details on the making of the film. He's also very excited about the upcoming Year of the Fish DVD release happening later this year.
What was your inspiration for doing the film?
Year of the Fish is a loose adaptation of an old Chinese fairy tale from the Tang Dynasty. Because I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of funding I wanted to do a very low budget film based in New York City where I live. So I decided to set the film in modern day NYC Chinatown. The initial script was developed at the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters labs.
Because of our budget constraints we needed to shoot in standard-def video. But I wanted to turn that initial harsh hyper-realistic footage into something more lush and lyrical that would be presented in high definition HD resolution. I wanted to situate the film in a place somewhere between dream and reality. Instead of going for more and more detail with a photo-realistic look, I wanted to strip detail away to create a more impressionist feel. Studio Artist's auto-rotoscoping paint animation features enabled me to take our initial standard-def video footage and reinterpret it as stylized impressionistic paint animation with high definition film resolution.
Were you inspired by other rotoscoped films like the ones created by Richard Linklater?
You mean Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly? Yes, Richard's films were an inspiration. They are presented in more of a graphic novel style with very clean sharp edges and flat color. We certainly could have used Studio Artist to create a visual look like that. But I wanted to develop a much looser more impressionistic visual look for our film. One where colors spill across boundaries and melt into each other. A more painterly approach to rendering the animated film.
Richard's films were also created by a very large team of individual animators who animated manually by hand over a long period of time to build up all of the rotoscope animation effects. It requires a huge budget to make a film like that, something that would have been totally impossible for us to put together. Studio Artist was really a revelation for me because I was able to create a complete feature length animated film working at my kitchen table in my apartment in NYC in a few months. I didn't need a large team of animators to achieve the animation effects I wanted to create, I didn't need to come up with the money to pay them, and I was able to work much faster than would have been the case if each individual frame in our feature length film was completely hand painted.
In hindsight I wish we had taken things further, made the final film even more impressionist and painterly. At the time I was a bit timid because I didn't want the effects to get in the way of the story. Maintaining very distinct and coherent facial detail was a big concern as we developed the paint action sequence presets we used to render the film. And that's something we were able to achieve when working with Studio Artist.
I certainly think you achieved your initial design goals in the final film. The paint animation looks stunning when seen on a large theatre screen. And as I watched the film I was continuously struck with how you utilized Studio Artist's paint animation effects to help tell the story and set the mood of the film. I never felt like the animation was gratuitous or out of place, which is not something I can say about some other rotoscoped films I've seen.
Can you talk a little about the equipment setup you used to make the film?
The live action segments of the movie were filmed using a Sony DSR-PD170 standard definition camera. All of the film editing was done on a mac using Final Cut Pro Studio. Because the film is feature length and we needed to auto-rotoscope a lot of footage we put together a setup with 4 G5 Power Macs running Studio Artist for rendering the paint animation. We also used Wacom tablets for some additional hand touch up work using Studio Artist's canvas movie feature where you can load a movie file into the canvas and then paint on individual frames.
How long did it take to render out the film? I seem to remember you did the initial work, and then after the film was accepted into Sundance you did a final pass at a higher resolution.
The rotoscoping process took approximately 6-8 months using 4 G5 Macs. I did a standard definition version first as a test run sketch and then redid all the shots in uncompressed HD 720 for our digital master, which we then up-converted to HD 1080 for festival screenings and eventual 35mm transfer for our theatrical release. There was a lot of experimentation at every stage and most shots were rendered several times over until a satisfying look was achieved. There was a lot of learning on the job so I think if I did it again, the process would take half the time.
New Studio Artist 4 runs much faster than 3.5, especially on more modern Intel macs. So if version 4 had been available when you worked on the film I think that would have sped things up quite a bit as well.
One thing i thought was very interesting was your use of custom color palettes to help set the mood for different scenes. Can you talk a little about how you worked with Studio Artist to achieve your custom colorization effects.
What I did was to find images online that had a certain color "feel" to them - say Van Gogh's "Starry Night," or Bruegel's various winter or harvest scenes, or any work by Cezanne - load these into Studio Artist as a source image and create a color palette using "Generate Source Color Palette from Source Image." Once this palette is created I could save it (Source Color Palette Export) and apply it to a new source image or video clip as part of my rotoscoping steps using Image Operations > Color Palette Map. This was particularly helpful when doing day for night scenes (all these scenes were created using the same color palette) or scenes that were shot in bright colorful summertime but were supposed to look gray and wintery; moreover, it gave a certain subtle aesthetic elegance to the overall color scheme of the movie.
I remember you also used Studio Artist to adjust the aspect ratio of your footage to match what you needed for the final film projection. Can you discuss some details about what you did to do that?
We were going from source video that was standard-def in 4:3 aspect ratio to HD in 16:9 aspect ratio, so I would use a canvas size of 1280 x 720 (16:9) and at some point in the PASeq I would do an interactive warp step to adjust/stretch the image accordingly in the canvas. Basically, we'd lose a little bit of the top or bottom of the frame - or both - but with the warp step in SA you can adjust each shot individually.
Did you do all the Studio Artist work yourself?
Mostly, yes - though I had a couple people help for a week here and there. Unfortunately, the film's budget was too low to hire a team of people.
What percentage of the auto-rotoscoped footage was touched up via hand painting using the Studio Artist canvas movie features?
I'd say around 30%. We were able to achieve some wonderful and interesting effects via the auto-rotoscoping. I would have liked to have done more hand/detail work but we simply ran out of time.
Any words of advice for someone looking to put together a rotoscoped animated film project? Any technical issues to be aware of?
It's very important to shoot progressive live-action footage. I did not, and the subsequent de-interlacing took a lot of time and effort.
Also, if you plan to work with uncompressed HD footage, as we did, you'll need a RAID array to handle the data transfer for playback; firewire won't cut it.
Further, if it's a high-def project, I would highly recommend working in HD 720 (1280 x 720) rather than HD 1080 (1920 x 1080) for any rotoscoping work - a 1080 frame size is simply too unwieldy to manage. Render times go way up and there isn't the ability to play around and experiment the same way.
It would be interesting to see if you felt the same way about working directly at 1080 when working with Studio Artist 4 on modern intel machines. I find myself gravitating towards larger frame sizes these days when designing paint action sequences for effects due to the increased processing speed of Studio Artist 4 running on todays macs. Even Studio Artist 3.5 runs faster in emulation mode on a modern intel mac than it does on an older PPC machine.
What in particular did you like about working with Studio Artist?
The range of possible visual styles you can create with Studio Artist is basically infinite. One can go very organic and flowing with the look. And there's room for an incredible amount of experimentation. With Year Of The Fish, I was a bit timid with the look. On the next film I do with Studio Artist, I would go even more dreamy and painterly - I'd take it really far out there.
What are you working on now?
I've just finished a science-fiction short film for PBS called "PLAY." It's about video games in the future. Now I'm writing what I hope will be my next feature film. My website www.kaplanworks.com has information about my various projects.
We'll keep you informed on the upcoming DVD release for Year of the Fish.
You can check out a larger Quicktime version of the Year of the Fish trailer video here.
Here's a set of technical specs for all of the equipment David used when working on Year of the Fish.
Tech specs for YEAR OF THE FISH.
- shot on miniDV DVCAM (Sony PD-170)
- edited standard-def on Final Cut Pro
- picture locked
- rotoscoped at 720p24 HD resolution via Studio Artist to create HD digital master
- sound mix, titles, and final color tweaking
- transfered to HD tape and 35mm film for projection
- Final Cut Pro Studio (v. 5.1)
- Synthetik Studio Artist (v. 3.5)
- Sony PD-170 video camcorder
- Sony DSR-11 DVCAM deck
- Power Mac G5 Dual 2.5 GHz (4 GB RAM) (for standard definition editing)
- 4 other Macs (for HD rotoscoping/rendering):
- Power Mac G5 Dual 2.7 GHz (4 GB RAM)
- 2 Power Mac G5 Quads 2.5 GHz
- Mac Pro Intuos Quad
- (all the macs had about 4 GB RAM and good graphics cards like the ATI radeon x850 XT 256MB)
- Xserve RAID (14x400GB) (for HD editing and storage)
- Fibre Channel PCI-X card (to connect to RAID array for fast HD data transfer)
- Blackmagic HD Pro 4:4:4 Card PCI-X
- Blackmagic HDLink (for HD monitoring)
- Apple 23" Cinema Displays (for each station)
- Sony PVM-14L5 Analog Studio Monitor (for color correction)
- 2 Wacom Intuos 3 9x12 tablets (for rotoscoping)
Monday, February 1, 2010
Studio Artist provides a large number of different tools you can use to build a wide variety of different photo mosaic or photo montage effects. The example above shows an adaptive photo mosaic effect, rendering one large image using a collection of different sized smaller sub images.
This tutorial will discuss some approaches you can use when working with Studio Artist to build photo mosaic images where the sub images are adaptively sized. Working with adaptive sizing is visually interesting, and can also lead to more representational photo mosaic effects where the placement of smaller sub images is used to better represent edge structure in the large mosaic image.
All of the examples we'll be discussing in this tutorial were generated using the Studio Artist 4 paint synthesizer. The paint synthesizer is an extremely flexible environment for creating an endless variety of different paint effects and associated artistic styles. Building photo mosaic imagery is just a small part of the wide range of artistic effects the Studio Artist paint synthesizer is capable of creating.
You can create photo mosaic style imagery in Studio Artist's paint synthesizer by working with movie brushes. A movie brush is a paint preset that incorporates a Quicktime movie file into the paint brush. When used to construct photo mosaic imagery you can think of the movie brush as being a container for a collection of images. Each frame in the movie brush is a single image in the image collection.
There are many different approaches you can take to putting together an image collection for use in building photo mosaic imagery. The images could be organized to present some kind of visual theme. The theme could be based on the representational content in the images, the textural or color qualities of the imagery, or the images could be totally random. It all depends on what artistic effect you are trying to achieve in your final output. And how you are going to possibly process the images internally in your paint synthesizer movie brush preset.
Traditional photo mosaic effects use the coloring of the individual collection images to reproduce color for local areas of the large output image. But Studio Artist does not restrict you to working this way. You can use the original coloring of the images in your movie brush to build your final output image. But you can also use the power of the paint synthesizer to appropriately colorize the component images of your movie brush as they are being positioned in the final output mosaic image.
One approach to colorizing your movie brush images on the fly as they are painted is to use the paint synthesizer's Brush Load control panel. There are a large number of different image brush load colorization algorithms available to choose from. The screen snap below shows the use of the Paint Color Mean Shift algorithm.
The extreme colorization example below shows a photo mosaic built from one self similar image that is recolorized as it's positioned throughout the mosaic. It was generated using the paint synthesizer's Paint Brush Load control panel settings shown above.
If you want to not colorize your image collection then you should choose the overall set of component images so that they appropriately reproduce the coloring of the larger image you want to represent in the photo mosaic. If you are recolorizing your movie brush images, then you can potentially ignore your individual component image coloring when putting together your image collection. Recolorizing is a powerful Studio Artist feature that gives you much more flexibility in putting together thematic collections of images since you can just focus on the content and not have to worry about also generating the appropriate color distribution in the image collection to accurately reproduce your output image.
The simplest approach to building a photo mosaic image is to build a regular rectangular grid of smaller images that are positioned to represent the larger image. The example below shows off this particular approach. If you compare it to the adaptive grid photo mosaic image at the top of this tutorial you can see that the adaptive grid approach does a much better job of reproducing the source detail of the larger image we are trying to represent in our photo mosaic.
One of the simplest ways to build an adaptive grid photo mosaic is to work with multiple passes of the same movie brush preset. In each subsequent pass the brush size is reduced. If you want your smaller images to sub tile your larger images then you would want to reduce the size by 50% for each additional reduced size pass.
You have the option of working by painting in your additional reduced brush size passes manually or automatically. If you are working with manual painting, then you can turn on Studio Artist's transparent onion skin display option to bring some of the original source image into the draw canvas as a transparent overlay. The source onion skin can be a useful aid when manually painting in smaller mosaic blocks at reduced sizes to build up edge and feature detail in your adaptive grid photo mosaic.
The paint synthesizer has automatic tiling parameter options you can turn on to insure that your manual painting will match up properly to your original tiling grid. The paint synthesizer screen snap below shows the Path Application control panel option called Mode set to the rectangular tiling option. Turning this option on forces the brush placement to automatically tile as you paint.
Manual painting can give you a lot of control over the final appearance of the adaptive grid photo mosaic. but it can be time consuming. An alternative approach is to use auto-painting for all of the reduced brush size passes. You can edit your movie brush paint preset so that it will focus drawing on source edges automatically, only drawing in those areas and ignoring other parts of the canvas as the reduced brush size auto-drawing takes place.
One approach that can be used to focus painting on the source edge locations in your paint canvas is to turn on the paint synthesizer's path start Texture Range control option. The setting shown above focuses painting on source edge features. By increasing the Texture Min setting you focus painting on stronger images while ignoring weaker edge and flat regions of the source image.
To generate the automatic adaptive grid photo mosaic image shown at the top of this post i used 3 reduced size paint passes with my original grid tiling movie brush preset. For each of these subsequent paint passes i reduced the brush size by 50%. I also turned on the path start Texture Range option shown above, and increased the Texture Min setting for each of the subsequent paint passes. So progressively smaller brush tiles were painted at progressively stronger edge feature locations in the photo mosaic.
The example below shows another adaptive grid photo mosaic image automatically generated using the paint synthesizer movie brush techniques described above.
As mentioned above, the Studio Artist paint synthesizer is extremely flexible and is capable of creating an intense range of different stylistic effects. An alternative approach to building adaptive grid photo mosaics is to use the paint synthesizer's path start regionize features to position variable sized image blocks to build the adaptive photo mosaic. The example below is one example of using the paint synthesizer's adaptive block regionize path start generator to build an adaptive photo mosaic image. Note that using path start regionize generators to build your adaptive grid leads to a different kind of adaptive grid and associated flatter visual look.
For more information on building photo mosaic effects in Studio Artist you can check out this post.
For some example paint presets you can use to build photo mosaic effects check out this post. These examples show off applications of the paint synthesizer's path start regionization features.
Here's another post on photo mosaic art.
Here's a Studio Artist 4 tip on how to build a movie brush from a folder of images.
A paint preset you can use to build the adaptive photo mosaci effect described in the first part of this post can be downloaded here.