paint* 2.0

Discreet Logic’s paint* 2.0 was previously known as ILLUMINAIRE Paint in version 1. Then Discreet Logic took ILLUMINAIRE, chopped it up and repackaged it as separate products: paint* and effect. As the painting tool of Discreet’s New Media product range (New Media is the group of products into which paint and effect* belong) , paint* has been described as Photoshop for digital video. But as we found out, paint* 2.0 is a lot, lot more…

The product interface is a cross between Lightwave and Photoshop. Some buttons/tools are clearly labeled with text, and others with symbols. It’s almost like someone started designing the package with text buttons and half way through decided to use symbols. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The tools/buttons that are symbol-based are quite easy to understand, whereas the text-based tools/buttons are the kind of things that might have been difficult to find had they been symbols. The only thing I would like to see in future versions of the software is text on mouse-over on all symbol-based buttons/tools. Sometimes you can have problems working out what a symbol is – text on mouse-over would save you having to ht the manual to find out what your pressing.

The tools, tool options, picker and brushes palettes are very similar to their Photoshop counterparts. If you already use Photoshop (and who doesn’t?) then this flattens the learning curve immensely. The only problem with the tools palette is, as mentioned earlier, it is all symbol-oriented. There are plenty of brushes that come with paint. They are divided into four main groups: default brushes, airbrushes, solid brushes and FX brushes. If you can’t find what you’re looking for amongst those then you can always create your own brush, or even a whole set of brushes. paint’s tools for creating new brushes aren’t incredible, but they do offer much more flexibility than Photoshop’s do.

paint* 2.0’s timeline is text based, which makes it ten times easier to use than 3D Studio MAX’s Track View. All objects that you have created/painted in the scene are on the left hand side, and the timeline is on the right. From the palette you can modify objects, add or remove them from the scene or specific frames, edit colours and much more.

paint’s painting tools are, as could be expected from a program called paint, extensive. The vast range of brushes aside, paint’s paint modification and creation tools are great, and specially suited to be used for film. Every stroke is animatable, modifiable, and vector based. This means you don’t have to fuss with the creation of layers in-case you need to go back and change something. paint automatically creates each operation as a separate entity from the last, and everything is listed in the timeline.

There are several tools you can use for painting. Besides the standard paintbrush, there is a fill paint brush, which will fill in the area around which you paint. And there are also several shapes – a square, circle and a filled polygon. The filled polygon is great – it not only allows you to use straight lines but it will quickly and efficiently turn lines into a bezier curve (simply by holding it down after you have drawn a line). In addition there are: a flood fill tool (like a paint bucket), an eye dropper and an eraser. The standard selection tools as in Photoshop are also there.

The great thing about paint* is that you can actually paint effects onto a frame in realtime (using the realtime playback/update with the RAM Player). The effects are in the modes palette, and by selecting a brushing and changing the mode from paint to something else (there are many to choose from, including negative, additive, emboss, burn, saturate, difference, multiply, mosaic etc.) you can actually paint the effect right onto the image. You can change the source of the brush to any of the following: solid (paint a colour right onto the image), a gradient, rub through (a type of cloning, create a stroke on a target image that reveals the source image), clone aligned (another kind of cloning, use it to repaint an image with a different size brush or to paint different parts of an image onto another), clone (clone one part of an image to another image or part of the same image). These options make paint* a great tool for not only matte painting, but also wire and rig, person and body part removal.

Text Effects
As well as letting you paint, retouch or rearrange images and film, paint* also has some great text features. Like everything in paint* text is animatable. You can make it fly from corner to corner, resize itself, squash, stretch, flip rock and roll and just about anything else you can think of. Like paint operations, text operations can also be created with predefined effects and they will happen in realtime on the frame.

Text animation is fairly straight forward. Like everything in paint* it is vector-based, which makes setting up a simply motion path quite easy. Just set a starting point, move to the last frame and set a finishing point. You will then be presented with a motion path (a straight line) between the two points. You can edit the path, add points and create bezier curves. You can also edit the text, spin it around flip and stretch it. As well as that you can break it up. All the letters will be represented separately in the timeline so you can modify them individually. You can set the letters on their own motion paths and then rejoin them with the rest of the word afterwards.

Colour Correction & Motion Tracking
paint’s motion tracking utility is very precise. The system uses a spline-based edge tracking system which can track position, scale and rotation. Just about anything that can be keyframed can be tracked in paint, which makes it a useful tool for wire and rig removal; simply clone out the wire, tract the camera and apply the data to your already animated cloned area of image. This way the area you cloned will stay with the wire throughout the entire camera movement. You can also import or export motion data between Discreet Logic programs (for example between paint* and effect*).

No complaints about the colour correction tools. Hue, saturation, contrast, gamma, gain and offset adjustment; they’re all there. Also included are colour correction tools for PAL and NTSC limiting. You can also manipulate colour correction, which means it doesn’t all have to be serious. Playing with the tools and creating very strange lighting effects in a scene can be fun!

Effects Filters
paint* boasts numerous effects filters all of which are animated. The effects filters are divided into several groups – 3D post, blur/sharpen, channel, colour correction, distort, keying, noise, stylize, stabilize, and transitions. The 3D post filters are brilliant. You can add depth of field to an image, a lens flare or 3D glow. These filters proved to be very useful perhaps if you render a 3D scene and then delete the file, but realize afterwards that the depth of field is out. Pop it into paint* and add the 3D effect to your 2D render. Fantastic!

The distortion tools are also excellent. You can use them not only to distort images in strange ways, but also to create subtle effects that look very real. You can, for example, use the ripple effect to create ripples in a pond, perhaps creating the impression of fish below. By using the colour correction tools along with the ripple filter you could create a very convincing effect.

Most of the filters have their uses. They are all very well implemented and usable. They are all animatable and can be applied to entire images or specific objects over time. You can also use more than one effect simultaneously.

Discreet Logic have designed paint* so that it can be used alongside other Discreet Logic and Kinetix products, which is extremely useful as one product can rarely complete a project. effect* and edit* are Discreet Logic’s other two New Media products, and as can be expected paint* works well with both of the above. You can use paint* to get rid of some scratches on your film, and then pop the shot into effect* for compositing, then send it to one the edit* bins ready to be cut into your movie. There is a little overlap between paint* and effect* (both tools have motion tracking utilities etc.) but nothing worth complaining about. The products work very well together as we will find out in next month’s review of effect* 2.0.

paint* can also be used in conjunction with Kinetix’s 3D Studio MAX (only version 2 or higher). Using PhtoShop or any other paint package (besides paint), you could create a texture map for an object, save it as a TGA or TIF, load MAX and apply the texture to an object. Oops! You had some text on your image map and you made a spelling mistake (don’t worry, it could happen to anyone). No problem, just load your paint program back up, make the correction, re-save the texture and re-apply it in MAX. You then decide that the text might look better if it was slightly bigger, or maybe a different shade of blue. Spend several hours switching between paint programs and MAX – et voila – it looks perfect, and it only took you 4 hours. With paint you could have saved three and a half of those hours – since it is fully integrated into MAX you can paint your texture directly onto the object and see the results in MAX in realtime. This could save the busy animator hours of getting textures to look right.

paint’s rendering engine is extremely fast and of very high quality (what more could you expect from a product aimed at visual effects artists). Quantel VPB sequences and ElectricImage formats are supported, as are most of the usual file formats (video for windows, BMP, TARGA, TIF sequences etc.). Sub-pixel positioning for smooth motion and high quality anti-aliasing All in all, the rendering options are as could be expected, excellent. paint also has a frame buffer option for broadcast output.

Discreet Logic have done a great job with paint* 2.0. Other than a few minor interface complaints the program is superb…much more than anyone could ask for. And what’s more, paint* can be used for everything from colour correction to the creation of a title sequence. It may be worth noting that paint* eats ram for breakfast, so the more powerful the machine you have the better. This is, however, professional software. The price alone is a clear sign for hobbyists to steer clear, and the wide range of industry standard and high-end visual effects features clearly position paint* 2.0 in the hands of people who make a living out of digital video and visual effects creation.