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After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW

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David Uloth
After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 15, 2010 at 9:36:02 pm

Hi, I'm a complete newbie to After Effects although I know FCP quite well.

I've shot green-screened stop-motion footage (using Dragon Stop-Motion) with the Nikon D90 camera. The files are RAW files, not jpegs.

I would like some help figuring out my workflow for keying and compositing the images in After Effects.

My editing suite only has AE 6.5 and Photoshop CS2 and I don't think either of those programs support Nikon's RAW format. What should I do? Is there a more recent version of AE capable of working directly with Nikon's RAW files? Or do I need to convert them to another file format first? What would be the best (read: highest quality and resolution) format to use if I can't just use the RAW files?

Also, how do I edit the stop-motion footage into a final version of the film before I start compositing the green-screen stuff into a background plate? I would usually edit any video footage in FCP but the program isn't capable of handling the RAW format.

I'm slowly working my way through the AE tutorials on Youtube and Creative Cow but I'd love to get some feedback on my specific needs.


Thanks!

David

Using a Mac Pro, 2.66 GHz Quad-core, 8 GB RAM, OS 10.6.2, Photoshop CS2, AE 6.5, and FC Studio 2, (FCP 6.0.6).


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Dave LaRonde
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:20:05 pm

[David Uloth] "Hi, I'm a complete newbie to After Effects although I know FCP quite well... My editing suite only has AE 6.5..."

Bad news: AE is absolutely nothing like FCP, nor any other editing application. Your knowledge won't help much. To make things tougher, this isn't the kind of software that allows you to learn just one technique just to get you by -- you have to know the basics before you start any kind of project.
And to make it even tougher, you're three versions behind -- there are now very fews handy tutorials on the internet for the AE 6.5 basics!

You would do yourself a giant favor by tracking down a set of Total Training AE 6 DVD's on Ebay or someplace like that. No fooling: it's essential. At least they'll be cheap.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

[David Uloth] "...I don't think either of those programs support Nikon's RAW format. What should I do?"

Unless somebody from Adobe chimes in, I think you'll want to look in the manual; Adobe actually PRINTED one for 6.5. I just don't happen to have it any more. You may be surprised to learn it supports Nikon's RAW format. Look for a phrase like "supported formats". Do this first: if AE 6.5 can't work with your footage, it doesn't make much sense to learn it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

[David Uloth] "...I would like some help figuring out my workflow for keying and compositing the images in After Effects...."

Until you 1) find out if AE can even do what you need and 2) learn the basics, it's not very productive to outline a workflow. You wouldn't understand it.

Here's a sample: you'll probably end up importing your stills as a sequence, conforming them to the desired frame rate, conforming the background video to 30fps, working in a 30fps comp, interpreting the video's field order properly, pulling the key and adding other niceties like light wrap (there's a tutorial on the COW describing the process), rendering in a lossless codec and reimporting the file, conforming the file to 29.97, and rendering in a 29.97 comp, making sure to use the proper field order in the Render Settings.

Whew! There is NOTHING in the paragraph above that is bulls***. See what I mean about the basics?

Despite all the doom & gloom I've portended here, I really do wish you luck. But it isn't going to be the simple deal you may have anticipated.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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David Uloth
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 16, 2010 at 2:51:11 am

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post, Dave. I appreciate it. I do, however, understand your quick run through of the work-flow needed, although I certainly don't know how to effect it in AE. That said, I'm not worried about learning the software. That's actually the whole point of this project. Up here in Canada we're lucky enough to get small grants to research stuff like that so I used my grant money to shoot this stop-motion film in the hopes of learning AE's keying and compositing capabilities. According to the people who own the suite in which I'm working, AE CS4 isn't affordable for them right now...so I seem to be stuck with AE 6.5 unless I go the "A-hoy matey!" pirate route, which ain't kosher.

As for the RAW files, I would love to keep the project as high-res as possible with the possible hope of doing a 35mm blow-up at the end, hence my desire to avoid converting them to JPEGs or TIFFs. I shot the stills "in twos" in a 24 fps sequence (meaning 12fps doubled) and I guess my AE timeline will be in 24fps (with each still doubled). Although who knows, if I don't find the money to do a 35mm blow-up, I'll settle for a 30fps HD video output. The pixel resolution of the RAW footage is 4288 X 2848.

I've been looking for an AE 6.5 manual but haven't yet tracked one down. I've got a Visual QuickPro Guide but it doesn't mention supported stills formats so that's not a help.

I'm familiar with the very basics of AE but as I explore keying the footage (and then compositing it with the background plates) I would like to start off on the right foot. So I obviously agree with you when you say that I need to find out if AE 6.5 supports Nikon RAW. Although I wonder if that's a finicky detail that would be printed in the manual.

Does anyone know when AE started supporting Nikon RAW files? Which version is it? With Photoshop, I think they started with CS3, but I have no idea about AE. Nikon and Adobe have had some issues, it seems...

Thanks again for the help!

d.

Independent Producer/Director
Sure Shot Productions
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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cowcowcowcowcow
Todd Kopriva
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 16, 2010 at 5:34:57 am

After Effects started importing camera raw files in After Effects 7.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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David Uloth
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 17, 2010 at 9:27:49 pm

Does AE 7 specifically support Nikon's D90 RAW files? I hear that since there are some many RAW formats out there, not all are supported by certain versions of AE and Photoshop.


Thanks!

Independent Producer/Director
Sure Shot Productions
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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Dave LaRonde
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 16, 2010 at 5:03:39 pm

[David Uloth] "....Up here in Canada...."

What's the deal with that? Check out my last name: does it not remind you of a certain theme park on l'Isle Ste. Helene? My daughter and I made a whirlwind, spur-of-the-moment, one-afternoon tour of the Old City just this past summer; I grew up outside of Syracuse, which is only 4 hours away.

Since RAW support didn't come until AE8, you'll have to convert the RAW images to something else to use in AE: TIFF, Targa, PCT, PNG would all be good. The virtue of RAW is that you get a wider range of exposure levels, and it's easier to do color correction. It has nothing to do with resolution. Just watch your exposures! And check out the Nikon site for info on conversion.

The concept of "On-twos" is great for motion picture film, but irrelevant for stills. My recommendation is to eliminate the duplicated images, import them as a sequence, and conform to 29.97/2 frames/sec and work in a 29.97 comp. This will be a very good leson for stop-motion animation -- you have to know your frame rates COLD, you have to plan ahead, and you'll have to do a lot of arithmetic to get the motion right.

And I'm serious about getting those Total Training DVD's for AE6 off Ebay: they'll be inexpensive, but worth their weight in gold to you.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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David Uloth
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 17, 2010 at 9:44:52 pm

Maybe I should clarify: There are no duplicated images. I didn't shoot the film in twos, but rather played it back in twos at 24fps (so there were 12 separate images playing a second) to set the animation speed. So basically, the animation runs at 24 fps in twos. I did this because I hope to blow it up to 35mm film and I didn't want to animate it at 30 fps in twos (or 15 individual images per second). I know my animation speed cold or hot...or even luke-warm.

So won't the film run too fast if I set a comp to 29.97 fps when it was planned to run at 24 fps? If working in a 29.97 comp is how you think I should work, is there a way to make a comp in 24 fps (with doubled frames) and then do a telecine 3:2 pull-down to get a 29.97 comp while still keeping the doubled 12 fps speed of the filmed action?

As for converting the RAW files to JPEGs or TIFFS, my DOP insists I don't do that so he'll have more lee-way in the colour-correction. So I'm searching for a machine with AE 7 or later...

And as for the training DVDs, I'll keep eyes open but I haven't seen any on eBay this week.

(And the Canada thing wasn't anything: I've noticed that the Americans I've worked with are very knowledgeable about their own country but not so much about mine...I'm glad to see your an exception, Dave. But I guess I gotta blame your frickin' family for making me puke up all over a McDonald's restaurant entrance window when I was 11 years old after a day at the LaRonde amusement park. Thanks a lot, I've been traumatized for life!)

Independent Producer/Director
Sure Shot Productions
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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Dave LaRonde
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 18, 2010 at 3:08:22 pm

Ah, well, that's something I didn't know: this is for a transfer to film! Yes, you're probably better off importing the stills as an image sequence and conforming to 12 fps. Unless the background has a 24fps frame rate, there is no real necessity to work in a 24fps comp; stick with 12.

And yes, it would be far better to work in a more recent version of AE. I'd do a search for one before I'd get that Total Training stuff.

Sorry about the barfing thing....

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Alan Lloyd
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 17, 2010 at 7:28:25 am

There is a free converter available for download on this page:

http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/

DNG is Adobe's open digital negative format. It is supported by Photoshop CS2, according to their list of supported applications on the page.

It preserves the raw flexibility in the conversion.


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David Uloth
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 17, 2010 at 9:46:47 pm

Thanks Alan for the tip. I had heard about the free download but my DOP insists I keep the files in RAW for his colour-correction...I guess I'll have to track down a newer version of AE... I'm still trying to find out which exact version can handle Nikon's D90 RAW files...

Independent Producer/Director
Sure Shot Productions
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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Todd Kopriva
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 17, 2010 at 10:20:49 pm

> I'm still trying to find out which exact version can handle Nikon's D90 RAW files...


After Effects uses the Camera Raw plug-in to import and manipulate camera raw files. You can update the Camera Raw plug-in separately from the After Effects application (within limits outlined here). So the right question to ask is which version(s) of the Camera Raw plug-in can import those files.

From this page, I can see that the current version certainly can import Nikon D90 raw files:
http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/cameraraw.html



---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 18, 2010 at 10:29:33 pm

[David Uloth] "...my DOP insists I keep the files in RAW for his colour-correction..."

Does that also mean that when you're done in AE, he wants you to render in RAW? Sorry, but I don't think that's possible.

Here's list of supported output formats:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/AfterEffects/9.0/WS3878526689cb91655866c1103a4f...


Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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David Uloth
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 19, 2010 at 12:34:39 am

From what I understand, once I'm finished with the editing of the image sequence, the speed of the action, the keying, compositing, and lighting, he then wants to do his colour correction in AE. Although he could be under the assumption that you can export some kind of image sequence in RAW which he could play around with in Color (or even Photoshop?)...

But that's a good question that I should get him to clarify.

In terms of exporting the final project, if the comp is running in 12 fps, can I get a 29.97 fps export from it (for an HD copy)? Or do I need to render out a 24 fps comp on which I will then do a 3:2 pull-down to get 29.97 fps? Can AE do all of this?

Ideally, once the project is finally done, I would have something running in 24 fps for a 35mm blow-up, as well as have an HD master copy running in 29.97 which I could transfer to HD tape for video screenings (in case the 35mm blow-up never happens). And finally, an uncompressed version (running in, I assume, 29.97 fps) that I would store digitally on my Hard drive.

Thanks for the advice!

d.

Independent Producer/Director
Sure Shot Productions
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


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Dave LaRonde
Re: After Effects and Nikon Camera RAW
on Jan 19, 2010 at 3:45:28 pm

[David Uloth] "...once the project is finally done, I would have something running in 24 fps for a 35mm blow-up, as well as have an HD master copy running in 29.97 which I could transfer to HD tape for video screenings..."

Okay, there's another monkey wrench; fortunately, it's not insurmountable. Call the place that would do the film-out right now. Ask them if they can deal with 23.976 footage -- not 24 fps -- and the answer will probably be yes. But you need to check. Assuming a "yes" answer, do this:
  • Import the image sequence, and conform it to 23.976/2 frames/sec.
  • Work in a 23.976 comp.
  • If you have a capture card that can add 3:2 pulldown (AJA Kona, Blackmagic) render 23.976 footage in the codec you will use in FCP.
  • If you have no such capture card, add the 3:2 pulldown in AE. It's in the Render Settings. You'll have 29.97 video from the 23.976 comp -- very cool. Field order for 1080i is upper field first.
  • At render time, use the Add Output Module command if necessary to create the footage needed by the place doing the film-out.

I hope you didn't think this whole project was going to be a cakewalk....

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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