There are only two things that can make any motion graphic artist flinch and that's rotoscoping and chroma keying. Why? Mainly because both processes are time consuming and arm numbing. However despite all these, rotoscoping and chroma keying still remains to be very important in the industry we move in. Which is why, lately, software companies are launching new products that aim to lessen the pain in rotoscoping.
Here we will talk about the Top 5 best rotoscoping softwares currently available that deliver accurate and fast mattes.
1. Silhouette FXSilhouette Roto is a matte power house since its designed only for the matte creation process and uses spline-based tools to cut mattes. Essentially, it's a standalone "rotospline" tool that can work on its own or as a plug-in to other applications such as Adobe After Effects and Apple Final Cut Pro. The standalone app, which is also available for Linux, can load a wide range of file formats, including Cineon and OpenEXR, then export bitmap mattes or splines to other applications including Adobe After Effects, Apple Shake, and Discreet fire, flame, flint, inferno, and smoke. Mattes are automatically applied to the layer in the host app after rotoscoping.
Silhouette Roto gives you the ability to work with an unlimited number of both Bezier splines and b-splines. This rotoscoping tool provides a nice layering palette added with several fantastic tools that lets you create and edit your splines, which definitely lessens the pain rotoscoping. Silhouette Roto also allows you to add feathering anywhere, not just from preexisting control points. It also provides an automatic, accurate motion blur based on the speed and direction the spline moves.
Silhouette Roto is really a “lean mean roto machine”, as described by Silhouette FX LLC in their first press release. I love the rotoscoping tools it offers and its interactivity. Although, I would have to give Silhouette an 8. Why not 10? This matte powerhouse lacks Mocha's plannar tracker. If Silhouette can integrate this feature into its system then this power roto tool would definitely be a 10.
2. Imagineer's MochaMocha is a software dedicated for rotoscoping which uses a planar tracker to help position, rotate, scale, shear and perspective-shift roto-splines. It has several spline tools available, all designed to make rotoscoping a faster and easier task.
Mocha has full spline controls to manipulate the created masks. The tracking date are used to create the tween frames, which helps in minimizing the too many keyframes in the animation however mocha doesn't have the ability to copy the keyframes which proves to be one of its limitation. When the roto is finished you can export the masks and shapes to other compositing programs such as Inferno, Flame, Flint, Smoke, Combustion, Avid DS, Quantel generationQ, After Effects, Shake and Fusion.
Although the software has some few bugs such as its unstability and it crashes most of the time, I would still give mocha a 7, with 10 being the perfect score. Since this software is an infant compared to Silhouette, I do believe that the coming versions are promising.
3. Adobe After Effects CS3AE has been known to be the industry standard in the motion graphics realm. AE CS3 promises to deliver the needed speed, precision and powerful tools to aid you in producing innovative motion graphics and VFX for film.
AE is primarily known for its friendly VFX arsenal. The new AE is packed with several rotoscoping tools that has significantly made rotoscoping easier. You can use RotoBeizer to simplify repetitve tasks through the reduction of control points. AE also has the ability to import photoshop and illustrator paths as masks. You can also turn channels, including alpha channels into vector-based masks wherein you can quickly create animated mask. The smart interpolation roto feature lets you replicate natural motion by taking control of mask transitions. The only limitation of AE is its inability to view mattes directly unlike in Mocha and Silhouette which is why I am giving it an 8.
4. Autodesk's CombustionFor serious VFX designers Combustion is a great tool for your arsenal. Combustion is jam-packed with powerful creative tools such as an in-context access to motion graphics, 3D compositing, color correction, image stabilization, vector paint and roto, text effects, short-form editing, expressions, Flash output, and much more. Since this article's main focus is on rotoscoping we will be discussing Combustion's rotoscoping capability.
Combustion has very nice set of rotoscoping tools. The ease in Combustion's roto tools lie in its point tracking and shape control capability. You can create a shape using B-splines that allow for control point animation, you also have the added weight control, as to the shape and its distance, using handles from the control point. B-Splines work with the edge gradients in combustion which allow you to have independent control over the softness and fall-off of any shape whether it is a shape, mask or selection. This can also be animated and keyframed. The point tracking feature is called, “Point Grouping”. With this, you can group control points together and access the group for easy repetitive task such masking.
Over-all I would have to give Combution a 7 out of 10.
5. Eyeon Digital Fusion
Fusion is a full-featured, node-based compositing system with built-in
backend tools via a powerful scripting engine with ODBC support. Fusion
has a real 3D environment with camera/lights support for leading 3D
packages, it also has a powerful and intuitive 3D particle systems on
the market. Packed with hardware-accelerated 3D capabilities, you can
migrate from pre-vis to finals within the same application.
Fusion is a synergy of 2d and 3d tools for ultimate and hardcore compositing. Its rotoscoping tools areas great as its other compositing tools since it works in a node-based environment. Mask inputs on a tile are generally drawn as blue arrows, though other colors may be used for pre-masks and garbage mattes.
Fusion also has the ability to create edge softness per point by supporting polylines with non uniform softness through the use of double polylines. Double polylines is a new type of polyline that describes variable softness along the edge of a curve using inner and outer polyline curves. A simple polyline can now be converted to a double polyline. Polylines in Fusion can be made of the 'normal' bezier curves, or b-splines. They can have a single shape, or inner/outer shapes. You can convert a single edged polyline into an inner/outer polyline curves. You can even have different numbers of points on the inner polyline than on the outer, or have one as a b-spline and the other as a bezier spline. Over-all I would give Fusion a 7.
There are a lot of rotoscoping tools available and most are really equipped to handle the nasty frame-by-frame rotoscoping chore. However. despite the varied rotoscoping software available the principle or goal of rotoscoping is still the same. I do believe that the software comes next after the principles. Understand and digest the principles of rotoscoping and any roto software will work out for you. Of course, for practicality one would choose a rotoscoping software that makes the work faster, easier and more efficient. But, at the end of the day there is only rule in rotoscoping and that's producing precise articulated mattes.
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