For the past month or so I’ve had my hands on the latest version of PFTrack from The Pixel Farm. I’ve used it solely to complete a bunch of commercials, using some of the previous tools and some new.
When I’m working on a show or sequence I tend to keep all my shots in one scene. The reasons for doing this is being able to quickly see all the shots I need to work on, work on multiple shots at once with background processing, being able to quickly link shots together with one ‘User Track’ node or share geometry between shots.
All of this was running perfectly on my 2012 Macbook Pro Retina, even with all the 4k plates!
The commercials I worked on had A LOT of shots, they all needed to be perfectly tracked and cars placed in the scene so that the team could add reflections, change the body colour or even completely replace the cars.
Speaking to the guys at The Pixel Farm they gave me early access to PFTrack 2017 to test on the project. Like before I was able to keep every shot in one scene, organised into groups for each advertisement. I was also given camera data which I just loaded in above each shot for a quick reference to on set notes. Being able to work this way meant I could make changes extremely quickly and see where things are going wrong as I’m able to compare shot information on the fly.
For one of the larger shots I wanted to make sure that I knew the depth for any point in the scene, instead of using locators to figure out where things were I used PFTracks newly implemented zdepth tools that came over from PFDepth.
Having depth tools like this allowed me to quickly project every pixel in the scene and figure out where the cars were placed in the shot. Now the cars themselves aren’t the best use for this tool as depth tools work by comparing the pixels on a per frame basis, as the cars are reflective the colours are changing (due to strong highlights) meaning I would end up with a slightly jaggedy result but I still used it as an accurate enough guide to completely lock down the cars position.
On some shots the cars where simply driving away so a little bit of hand animation done the trick but as any roto-animator will know, the trickiest objects to match are the ones with micro movements, for instance someone throwing an apple would be easier to match than someone trying to hold an apple still.
So for some shots the car was static but then people got in and out so you ended up with loads of micro movements of the car tilting side to side or up and down with the suspension. What I did was used PFTrack again to track some points on the car then used an object solver after my camera solve to get the objects motion. Without this I would have spent hours and hours hand animating, instead it took about 10 minutes.
In conclusion having the new depth tools in PFTrack has been a vast improvement over the previous depth tools and I only tested the tip of the iceberg!