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Transparency for Camera screen


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#1 mrjoyce

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Posted 14 April 2008 - 02:30 AM

I believe that Java code does not allow us to make the Moviestorm screens transparent, in the same manner which a normal window screen can be made transparent. What I'm after is a means of setting up MS action which would fit a background plate or allow for some degree of accurate placement of other characters for a composite shot.

I've been able to do something like this in the past on a live action set, but then I was using regular film camera to "preview" the action and my Visual Effects crew could adjust background or foreground elements as required. It is not necessarily perfect, but it certainly could save time tweaking in the post production process.

I've seen a number of sites which give Java Code that can make the screen transparent, but I must admit the Java Code might as well be greek to me. I hoping for some guidance here so perhaps I can find another way to spin the composition of our films.
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#2 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 12:44 AM

Are you talking about making the entire MS viewable screen transparent or do you mean MS's "Camera View" with something like this?

In Camera View-

Consider the current view through a camera as "Layer 1". Allow for a second layer behind the first that we will imaginatively call "Layer 2". This layer would be for syncing up shots from different MS scenes or even outside video sources and would not be rendered.

"Layer 1" would have adjustable transparency while "Layer 2" acts as a Primitive Backdrop allowing for placement of images or even video.

#3 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 01:52 AM

Basically your example is what I am looking for. I know that I could use a large primitive and make it run a video. What that lacks is the ability for me to use an outside program for the backround location. Currently, if I wanted to have the backgrounsd a separate element (not put onto the primitive as a video) then I would do the composite work in my editor.
What I would like to do is test the placement of both elements before I render them out for post production work.
If the current camera screen was regular window, I could overlap the camera window and reduce the transparency of the camera screen. This would allow me to make real time adjustments on both sources for the animation and locations, given that I could run two programs in separate windows. If there were a way to get a "web conferencing" situation, where I could share screens and overlap them, that would illustrate exactly what I want.
I know I can composite the two elements by making background test footage and then putting it onto a primative as a video or still. I was just wanting to make the process more flexible.
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#4 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 02:14 AM

For conversation's sake (as well as my own imagination's), are you looking for a way to make Compositing itself more accurate and therefore less time consuming or a new way to do it entirely?

You mentioned "conference call" so I assume that what you'd like is to have one person using one source (Antics, iClone, MovieStorm, SL, etc.) while you use another. In this way you can both be seeing what the other is doing and when they say "Move the couch to the left" you can do it in real-time. Sort of like set building in SL but with every platform.

Is that about right?

#5 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 02:33 AM

On a basic level, I want to make the Compositing more accurate. A long while back I did a test using a still photograph of the cinema building on Main Street in Disneyland. Then I had to work out some green screen set objects likes doors, curbs and walls to match the still photo. I placed the Moviestorm characters on this Greenscreen set. In my editor I then composited the two elemets together. At the time, it required some tweaking and reshoots to get the elements to all line up.

If I could see the background I was compositing too, then I could make the line up quicker, and possible even enhance the MS avatar performance.

While working with someone else at the same time on screen would be a added bonus, if I opened say MS in one window and then opened Second Life in another window, I would like to test the positions of the cameras and the performances together before I rendered the separate elements for compositing.

The idea of a video conference set up was more to illustrate working on two windows at the same time. Two transparent windows, overlapped, but still having the separate programs operating is more to the point for me.

I have seen in my exploration of the Internet that Java windows can be made transparent. But that is about as far as I go in my understanding. I have no prior knowledge of how all these codes work. I'm from the only school of Moviolas and guillotine splicers.

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#6 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 02:56 AM

So you'd need to make MovieStorm, as a whole, transparent. I wouldn't have the faintest idea if this is possible.

Another question though-

The "camera view" or "rendered view" of each source would need to be roughly the same size and in the same postion in order to overlap and use them this way. Is that, itself, even possible?

Edit: Can you even run these two programs together? Is this something you're hoping to be able to do soon?

#7 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 03:12 AM

In answer to your second question, I just ran Second Life and Moviestorm on the same computer, using two differnt windows. The action was chappy, but I am interested in placement and line ups.

And of course the Moviestorm camera/render window is smaller than the Second Life one, but I can adjust the Second Life window down to match the size of the MS one. This idea is for merely making the line-ups more accurate, not for rendering together in one computer output.

My alternative right now is to shoot, say a Second Life location (like I would a real live world location) and then use key frames or video playback on a Moviestorm primitive for placing the MS action.

What brought this about is I have seen a video switcher used in Live Film to check placement of elements and actors. That seems a little pricey for setting up a machinma shot.
"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations" - Orson Welles

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#8 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 03:26 AM

I don't know what sort of system you're running on. MS would crash on me as soon as I clicked the SL icon.

An immediate and not very elegant solution would be to-

Size the windows correctly and then use something like Gimp or Photoshop (assuming that it'll even run with the others in the background) and do a sort of pre-compositing.

Take a screenshot of SL and place it in Gimp. Do the same for MS. Then composite it in the image editor. Adjust each set accordingly and then move forward through the scene.


#9 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 03:35 AM

I'm running a 4 year PC with 3gb of ram and a Nvidia video card. I'm sure I may be pushing it to the limit, but so far so good.

Your suggestion is good, but if I'm using Second Life as the background, I could pull a snapshot off and then outr it into MS on a Primitive as a still. The test of element placement would be about the same. Or of course I could also just take the Second Life snapshot and display it in a window screen and make that transparent. Then overlap on the MS screen for judging what the composite will look like.

Thank you for the suggestions. I will continue to experiment.
"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations" - Orson Welles

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#10 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 03:42 AM

Your welcome. I do believe that the pre-compositing, while slightly more time consuming than your other options, will be the most accurate and the route that I'll take when I get there.

Please let me know how it goes. Any techniques which get the job done easier or better are always worth hearing.

#11 kkffoo

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 08:55 AM

I guess this is why it would be so handy to have a matchmoving facility..these set ups are only going to work 2d..as soon as we move the camera things could be off again.
Ah what fun laugh.gif

#12 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 10:01 AM

So, imagining that it is possible, my idea for two layers in the camera view could help considerately.

Recap-

(AngriBuddhist)
In Camera View-

Consider the current view through a camera as "Layer 1". Allow for a second layer behind the first that we will imaginatively call "Layer 2". This layer would be for syncing up shots from different MS scenes or even outside video sources and would not be rendered.

"Layer 1" would have adjustable transparency while "Layer 2" acts as a Primitive Backdrop allowing for placement of images or even video.


Let me update the idea.

The current "Camera View" is a through the lens view of what MovieStorm will render. This is what we'll call "Layer 1".

"Layer 2" would basically be the same size and shape yet be directly behind "Layer 1". It wouldn't exist unless you turned it "on". Once there, it would behave as a Primitive Backdrop (excepting an image or video).

The idea of "Layer 1" having transparency is good but while I'm imagining let's just have MS do a composite of the layers.

If this were possible, you could simply make adjustments in MS and then check through the camera view/composite to see how it matches up with your other video source.

#13 johnnie

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 11:03 AM

I've been having a think about this over the past few days. I haven't got a perfect solution, but I've come up with a bit of a hack that might work well enough for what's desired here.

Go grab Chaos Crystal. It's a free piece of rather brilliant software that you can use to set transparency on individual Windows applications. Moviestorm is no exception. A brief bit of experimentation with a semi-transparent Moviestorm window on top of SL worked pretty well for me - see the image below. You can use the slider in Chaos Crystal to set the transparency to whatever level you desire.





Note that, although the Chaos Crystal website specifies Windows 2000 or XP as the only operating systems supported, I've manged to run the program under Windows Vista with no problems.

I think that combining this with a bit of industrius alt-tabbing might provide a workable solution.

EDIT: You'll need to run Second Life in windowed mode rather than fullscreen for this trick to work properly.

Elgorithms Software, who write Chaos Crystal, accept donations if you find their stuff useful.
Johnnie Ingram
Co-Author, Machinima For Dummies

QUOTE (The Overcast @ July 23 2006)

#14 AngriBuddhist

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 11:30 AM

Brilliant!!!

#15 kkffoo

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 01:11 PM

This is wonderful Johnnie, thanks for your input.

#16 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 04:20 PM

Johnnie, Thank you very much. I will download and start experimenting. I can see this helping a great deal with intergrating the elements I want to use. Will let you know how it goes.

"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations" - Orson Welles

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#17 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 05:36 PM

Johnnie,
Well I am having a problem here. I have Windows XP so the program should be good. In fact when I use the spotter on a window it goes transparent. But in MS window the scren goes black. The blue header at the top becomes transparent, but I lose all images in the frame.
Is there an order you used in applying the process to MS window?
Many thanks for your help in this.
"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations" - Orson Welles

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#18 johnnie

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 06:23 PM

Strange.

I only tested this on my Vista box, so maybe it's not a functional solution for XP. I'm on an XP box now, so I'll run some tests here and see how it goes. I'll get back to you in a few minutes - don't think I have SL installed on this machine, so I'll have to slap that on first.
Johnnie Ingram
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QUOTE (The Overcast @ July 23 2006)

#19 johnnie

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 06:36 PM

Gah! You're quite correct - this just doesn't work under Windows XP. Although most of the applications I tested it on accept the transparency correctly, Moviestorm doesn't.

Darn it. I really thought we'd cracked it for a second there. I'm not sure what it is about the way Moviestorm renders its graphical output that's stopping this from working properly under XP. I'll throw the problem to the clever chaps in Engineering tomorrow.

Sorry to tempt you with such a good-looking solution and then dash your hopes at the last moment! Don't despair, though. I'm now absolutely convinced that there must be a way to achieve this under XP. We'll crack this yet.

AFTERTHOUGHT: You know, this might be a graphics-card dependant issue. My results under XP were slightly different to the effect you describe mrjoyce. I saw no transparency at all, except when I forced the MS window to redraw, at which point it received full alpha - that is to say, the darned thing disappeared entirely for a second. I'm on a GeForce 8600 on this machine (the XP machine), but I've a feeling my vista machine is actually Intel. I won't know for sure until I go home and check. What card are you running?
Johnnie Ingram
Co-Author, Machinima For Dummies

QUOTE (The Overcast @ July 23 2006)

#20 mrjoyce

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Posted 15 April 2008 - 06:50 PM

Thank you Johnnie for all this help.
My card is a NVIDIA 7300GT. If this can work, I want to experiment not only with Second Life, but programs like Google Earth. It would give me a Virtual Backlot for MS.

"The enemy of art is the absence of limitations" - Orson Welles

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