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Tuto-6 Advanced possibilities with HFX

Tuto-6 Advanced possibilities with HFX By Jan Molenaar - Last updated on Monday, March 7, 2011
11598 Views :: 1 Comments
Category: Hollywood FX Tutorials / Theory  -  Previous tutorials
Published on Sunday, March 2, 2008
Created on Sunday, August 26, 2007 10:45 PM

Goal of this lesson: going further into the program (Easy FX Editor) and look at some advanced functions of Hollywood FX.

Singular and Plural properties

We have seen that from each object we can change one or more properties. In the example in the previous part, we looked especially at those properties (parameters), which determine the position and size of the object. In fact there are two kinds of properties, which you can adjust. On a number of properties you may want to change the time values. In that way you are able to let the objects move in space. If that was not possible, the effect would be pretty dull. The major part of the parameters is time-limited. In the previous part of this tutorial you have seen, that you can use key frames. You can use the Envelope Editor to change values of objects. For some properties, for example Morph-property, the graphic shows the actual value of that property. Hollywood FX calls that a singular envelope. The counterpart is the plural envelope. The most striking example of that kind of property is the position, which exists from an X-, a Y-, and a Z- component. In the Envelope Editor the key frame does not represent the actual value of the properties, but only the moment in time, in which the values of the properties have been changed.  

The second kind of parameters is not tied to time. That means that the chosen adjustment is valid for the duration of the effect. In the property panel you can recognise them generally because they are designated by a selection button, which you can activate or de-activate. An example of a ‘’non time tied’’ property is the one for showing shadows.


To show your effect as realistic as possible, it may be important to suggest some depth. One of the ways to achieve that is the use of shadows. To work with shadows, you have to select the relevant option in the property panel. First you have to choose the effect in the FX-tree. You can show shadows in different ways (see below). If you choose a ‘’drop-shadow’’, that shadow will always be created at a constant distance from the object, regardless of its position in time. With a ‘’cast-shadow’’ however the shadow will be reproduced against the background. The closer the object is to the background, the smaller is the distance to its shadow.


Shadow on HFX objects
Every object can have a shadow.

The adjustments of the shadow relate to the total effect. But sometimes you don’t want every object to create a shadow. That is why you have the ability to de-activate the shadow for that object. On top of that you can indicate whether a shadow (created by another object) is allowed to fall on the object.

The camera position

Since version 5 of Hollywood FX you can also play with the position of the camera. That was not possible in previous versions, because the camera position was fixed, but now you can place the camera in any position in space. Also the direction of the lens can be adjusted, and even the direction angle is adjustable. With that it is possible to fly in between various objects. Because you can change in time the properties of the camera by means of key frames.

It takes some practice, but in this way you can create spectacular, 3-dimensional effects. For instance a journey through space, where you pass planets left and right besides you.

Spatial illusion and 3D effects with HFX
By changing the camera position you can strengthen the spatial illusion.

Changing the camera position in time you often do as and when you have created the rest of the effect. Objects are moving to and from each other and you as observer are also moving through space.

Object hierarchy

Sometimes it is necessary to combine more objects, so that you can move them as one total object. Hollywood FX has that ability. In the manual for HFX it is called ‘’object-hierarchy’’. Suppose you have created an object, which consists of 3 different objects: two half cones (ConeF and ConeF1) with a Sphere on top. You have used standard-objects from the folder Objects > Shapes. What must be done to move / rotate this figure?


Move and rotation of combined object in Easy FX Editor
To move or rotate a combined object.

You could move or rotate all three separate objects, but that requires that you have to reposition all three objects. That is a heck of a job to get all the objects exactly in the same relationship to each other. To solve this problem, in Hollywood FX you can add a so called null-object. This object has a limited number of parameters, only the ones which control the properties of position and posture. A null-object has, for example, no properties for surface marks, simply because the null-object has no surface. You can best compare the null-object with an (invisible) container. And as the name implies, in that container you can place other objects. If you move the container, all objects within will make the same movement. You create a null-object by clicking in the FX-tree with the right mousebutton to choose that option: ‘’Add Null-objects’’. You can also find this option under the menu ‘’Element’’. You will see that there will be an empty object added to the FX-tree. After that you select one of the objects which you would like to combine. Hold the Ctrl- and Alt-button pushed in at the same time and drag the object to the null-object. Instead of the usual black line you will now see a green line. On the desired place let the mouse-button go. Repeat those steps for all other objects.

Please note that in the preview screen the null-object will be shown as a blue thread-model.
The normal objects will be shown in standard yellow.

Nul object display - FX
Display of a null object

It remains possible for the separate objects to follow their own movements, but at the same time they follow the movements of the null-object. Suppose you have created a small airplane from different objects. You have the propeller turning. That propeller is part of the null-object. This null-object, (that in fact represents the total airplane,) you can move from left to right, whilst the propeller is turning, but it stays on the nose of the airplane.

Motion blur and trailing

So far we have seen a number of techniques, with which you can suggest depth. Also you have seen how you can have objects fly through space. To suggest high speed Hollywood FX offers two extra functions. First there is ‘’Motion Blur’ which creates a blur, which you would expect when an object is passing by the camera at high speed. When you select this option, you can fill in two parameters. In the field: "Distance" you can type in a percentage which is part of the distance between two consecutive frames that must be used for the blur. In the field "Number" you decide how many copies must be shown one after another to build up the blur. You have to consider the higher the values are, the longer the render of the effect will take.  

Second possibility to suggest speed is the option called "Trailing". With that you leave a number of copies of the object behind the object. How many, you can type in yourself. Also in this case, this option influences the render time.


Motion blur and trailing options
Motion blur and trailing


In the previous part, I mentioned render time. That is for an important part due to the complexity of the effect and the options used. You can have some say in this, but that can influence the image-quality. You have to consider that there are two kinds of rendering in Hollywood FX: The preview rendering and the actual rendering at the time of export to an AVI file or to the time-line of your video editor. The options for these two types are independent of each other and do not influence each other.   Preview-rendering you use while building the effect. Most likely you will change from time to time from high to low image quality (or between long and short render times). To judge in a blink of an eye how the effect will be you probably chose a short render time. The lesser image quality is taken for granted. But as you would like to see how for example a light goes over a surface, you will need the higher image quality. You will no doubt accept the longer render time.
In the menu ‘’Preview > Render engine’’ you find a number of possibilities. Which option is valid for your system, depends on the fact of whether your video card is suited for hardware rendering. If that is the case you choose the option: "Accelerated OpenGL". In the other case you choose "Software" or "Software Hi-Res". A second way to influence the speed of software rendering is via the menu option "Preview > Video sources". These options are very useful when you have objects with moving video images. If you choose "proxy-video-source" the objects will be indicated with numbers, 1, 2 etc. (when you use the Studio version, HFX uses characters A, B, etc.) This is the fastest way of preview-rendering and very suitable if you only want to judge the movement of the objects.  

If you choose "still", a frozen frame from the video-image will be placed on the object. If you choose "actual video sources", moving video-images will be projected on the objects. It will be clear that the latter way will be the heaviest on your computer. This option gives you a very good idea of the effect.


Proxy images or real video rendering
Real video source or proxy video

Whichever options you choose for preview rendering, none of them will influence the final result in your video-image. The image quality you decide in another way. When you click on the name of the effect in the FX tree, you see in the property screen the basic options of the effect. At the end of that list you see the render options. Changing these parameters does influence the final image quality. At the "Rendertype" you can choose between: "Smooth", "Flat" and "Wire". If you select these options, you see the differences directly in the preview screen. Further explanation is not needed.

The property "Antialasing" decides in what way the rough edges will be smoothed. Also you have here the ability (if supported by your hardware) to use the calculating power of your graphical card. It seems logical, that you would want to select the highest quality. Because that is what you want on tape or DVD.


Rendering option
Render-options for the final result.

Concerning the rendering, one remark. On top of the preview screen there is a green dot. Sometimes this dot is red. If that is the case, the icon of the effect in the Album has the same red dot. Meaning: the effect is too complex, it cannot be played real-time in the preview-screen. Of course this has no influence on the final result, but in the preview-screen the image will be play somewhat jumpy.

(This tutorial has been donated by Mr. Jos Roijakkers JR-VIDEO)
Translation and adaptation dutch to english by grendet, fine tuning by Loosecannon.

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John By # John @ Thursday, February 10, 2011 5:00 PM
Very, very informative, thank you!

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