DIGITAL COMPOSITING is the creation of an image by manipulating and/or combining one or more sources using image processing software. Within most digital compositing applications, these 2d image manipulation processes, filters, and effects can be quickly and easily accomplished on a single frame and, perhaps more importantly, just as easily on moving image sequences of video or animation (batch processing). Footage types can include those captured from a real-world camera, rendered computer graphics, or any combination of the two. So, what is the advantage of adding digital compositing to your 3ds Max production pipeline?
As it relates to design visualization, the goal with digital compositing is often to combine real world photography or moving video with rendered CG buildings, vehicles, bridges, and so forth. In this scenario, the artist wants to make it appear as if the final result was a photograph or video taken with a single camera. Alternatively, there are times when compositing will focus solely on CG rendered frames. That is, no real-world photographic plates are utilized in the creation of the final piece, and every pixel is computer generated. These images’ types can range from stylized realism, technical illustration, to photorealism.
Whether you want to add CG objects to real-world photography, or you are creating 100% synthetic images, there are reoccurring advantages to using digital compositing in the production pipeline. Since compositing tools are essentially a series of effects and filters applied to 2d raster image frames already rendered out of 3ds Max, the effects can be considered 2d operations and are, therefore, exponentially faster for the CPU to process and calculate. Depending on your hardware and software configuration, you can often make changes in compositing applications and see the results in real-time with no rendering lag. This means you can have many versions and variations of a final deliverable, with each of them originating from a single, “true” 3d render out of 3ds Max. When it comes right down to it, compositing can save you significant production time (money) as well as visually take your work to the next level in a matter of minutes.
With careful forethought, you can open the floodgates of options that result from one carefully-planned digital compositing session. Regardless of the type of design visualization project at hand, it almost always goes without saying that even the slightest bit of careful compositing on the primary 3d renderer can very quickly, easily, and dramatically change the look of the final resulting image(s). Some examples of compositing techniques that we'll take a look at include selective color correction, motion blur, and depth of field applied to 3d CG renders originating from within Autodesk 3ds Max. First, we will address an in-depth discussion of several options within 3ds Max that you can use to help facilitate a compositing pipeline.
It should be mentioned at the outset that while the examples in this chapter were created using Autodesk Combustion as the primary compositing application, the concepts and examples described herein were created with the goal that most current compositing software could be utilized to apply the vast majority of effects described in this chapter. Care was taken whenever possible to use terms as they relate to a wide variety of software solutions.
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