Flicker Free Watercolours like in "Year of the Fish"


I'm new to this forum and this is my first discussion. I've been using Studio Artist for a while now and like everybody here, I'm loving it. I'm trying to remove flicker from my watercolour renders, but have only just reduced it. I want to eliminate it completely or come as close to it as possible. I've already tried various solutions suggested in the documentation and on tutorials here, but they don't seem to work for me. To let you guys know, I'm taking video footage I shot and applying Image Operations to it (as opposed to using the Paint Synthesizer) such as the Geodesic Filter.

I've recently seen the trailer for "Year of the Fish" and was blown away by it. Does anyone know how they were able to reduce their flickering?

Any bit of advice would be greatly appreciated.

David Lei

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David Kaplan is a member of the user forum, so i'm sure he can give you some specific advice. Year of the Fish is a beautiful film that shows really well on large screens. I consider it a real showcase of what someone can do with Studio Artist.

I think he used ip ops like Simplify and Smooth quite a bit. i think he also used something like the Color Palette Map ip op to incorporate specific color palettes derived from source photos or art with specific moods into his animated output.

Some Ip Ops use random numbers internally. Often you get better results when movie processing if you use the same random number seed for each frame. You can set this by setting the Random popup in the ip op secondary randomization control panel to 'use seed'.

You can use the Mix control to mix in some of the previous output frame as a way of introducing some temporal continuity from frame to frame.

When using the paint synthesizer, you might want to reduce or eliminate any color randomization.

A great way to reduce flicker using the paint synth is to incorporate some form of overdrawing. By overdrawing i mean overdrawing on the previous frame image. Or overdrawing on a modified version of the previous frame image. Modified could be as simple as using a Fixed Color ip op with a 40% mix setting to fade the previous frame image, or using something like a geodesic recursive growth ip op to feather the previous frame image, or using a wet drip paint preset to melt the previous frame, or an interactive warp op to warp the previous frame image slightly. There are really an infinite number of ways to modify the previous frame image in an artistic way.

Reducing your frame rate to more closely match a traditional frame rate is also a way to reduce flicker. If you video is 30 frames per second, try animating at 10-15 frames per second.
Thanks John,

Actually, I've already used Simplify and Smooth quite a bit and they have helped, but only a little. I did also tried keeping the random number seed the same for each frame. It did help more, but the flickering is still far from gone or even minimized like in "Year of the Fish". However, I think I'll try the Mix control you suggested. I didn't know you could use it to mix in some of the output of the previous frame for temporal continuity.

I think for my next experiment, I'll try using the Paint Synthesizer and overdrawing instead of using Image Ops and see what I can get.

Thanks for your help.
hey david -

there are many ways to reduce flicker and there is a trove of information on the old studio artist forum at digital media net (http://www.dmnforums.com/cgi-bin/displaywwugindex.fcgi?endday_index...) - you could do a search for "flicker" or something like that. you'll get a ton of information that way.

as john mentioned, reducing the frame rate also goes a long way. we did year of the fish at 12fps, down from the 30fps of straight live-action video. we also used a bunch of image ops as our basic PASeq structure and then text synthesizer and then painted on top of those frames. the image ops gave the frame a more static but abstracted image to build up from.

also, for our purposes, a certain amount of flicker was what we wanted. it gave it more of a hand-drawn, frame-by-frame feeling.

hope this helps and let me know if you need more info or more detail. basically, you need to experiment a lot to get the most out of studio artist and really learn the program.

Hi David,

Thanks for your reply to my post. I've read through many of those old posts already and unfortunately they didn't quite help me because they were mainly for reducing flicker by overdrawing (like John mentioned) with a Paint Synthesizer and I'm actually using Image Operators instead. Since both you and John have both mentioned reducing the frame rate, I think I'll give it a shot. I was kind of hoping to keep 30 fps or 24 fps.

Two questions:

1) When you reduced the frame rate, did you do it before you took the movie into Studio Artist? Like in Final Cut Pro? Or did you reduce the frame rate in Studio Artist?
2) You mentioned you started with the image ops first as a base to build up from and painted on top of those frames. What did you use to paint on top and did it help with the watercolour look?

Thanks for your helpful suggestions. They've given me more to think about and play with. I have to mention that I just loved the work you did on "Year of the Fish". It looks absolutely beautiful! I've only seen the trailer, but as soon as I can I want to see the entire film. The look I'm trying to do is similar, but rougher, more impressionistic.

Thanks again,
David Lei
You can skip frames and duplicate frames when processing in studio artist by setting the appropriate controls in the process settings dialog.

Also, i know some people use morphtween with no bezier curves so you get a fade transition between processed frames to take reduced frame rate processed footage and bump it back up to a higher fps.
as john says, you can skip frames in SA. therefore you can load in a 30fps source video and set SA to skip 1 frame and it will churn out a 15fps movie. or skip 2 frames for a 10fps movie. or start with a 24fps movie and skip 1 frame for the 12fps we used on 'fish'. each frame rate has its own feel and i recommend trying them all out. i know some users here have worked at even lower frame rates such as 8fps with interesting results.

when you want to import back into FCP or another editing program, you can avoid rendering there by running your new shots through Compressor to convert them back to 24fps or 30fps or whatever frame rate you want to work in. this will simply double the frames again so that a 15fps movie will go back to being a 30fps movie and a 12fps movie will become a 24fps movie.

note that all of the above works best with progressive-scan movies as opposed to interlaced video, so if you have interlaced source footage you may want to consider deinterlacing it before you load it into SA. you can also deinterlace within SA but it will merely drop out one of your fields instead of the various deinterlacing choices you might have in a program like Compressor.

as for your second question, using image ops first followed by painting was just a stylistic choice. we needed to decide on a particular approach that would then be more or less consistent throughout the film. starting with 'simplify', for example, gave a nice color base from which to work. i also used color simplify, watershed regionize, smart contrast, etc. then perhaps a bit of texture synthesizer to roughen things up, or geodesic watershed, or geodesic recursive growth, or all three. after that, i would go back into the paint synthesizer and use some kind of edge sketch and paint strokes to give the whole thing an organic, hand-painted feel.

one big breakthrough was the simple realization that i could paint on the wacom tablet in the areas i wanted to focus on and not have to rely solely on the 'autopaint' settings which are either completely random or follow a fixed pattern such as a spiral from center to edges. by using some kind of edge sensitive paint stroke, perhaps with a wet flowing paint, in a specific area of one frame with my wacom pen (with each paint stroke being recorded as part of my PASeq), i was able to focus this 'overpainting' in the areas i felt needed it and it was often delightful to see how these strokes came alive and adjusted themselves to subsequent frames in the output movie. i hope this makes sense. it allowed me to keep the 'chaos' of the really painterly stuff somewhat contained and focused - hence less 'flicker'.

that said, if i were to do another big film using SA i would probably try out something completely different. that is one of the inherent joys of this program - the possibilities are indeed endless. and i suspect that i didn't really play to its unique strengths - getting REALLY painterly and messy with it. i think i was a bit timid in my approach because i was concerned with holding together the narrative coherence of the film. but in retrospect i think i could have pushed things a lot further and i encourage you to do so.
Hi David,

if one records paint strokes in a PASep they always appear at the some spot or place. That means that you (at least partly) did the painting in your film frame by frame. Is that right? If I am right then my next question is why or wherefore did you record the paint process?

it depends on the type of paint stroke. if you use some kind of edge stroke, autopaint, or flowing paint, then it will adapt itself, automatically frame-by-frame, to the changing source image. examples would be the 'global evolution' or 'edge sketch' from the 3.0 tutorial presets. so you only have to do one frame as a part of your PASeq (where you record all your steps) and then watch it go as it works on the entire movie. of course you never know exactly what you're going to get.
Got it! Good to know. Shows me that I have to get back to the tutorials more in detail ...
You can also setup the paint synth to restrict path start locations to the current selection. So you could animate a moving selection matte behind the scenes as a part of a paseq and then use auto paint strokes that have this part start restriction as another alternative approach to creating an 'influence zone' in a painting.

You can do this with path end conditions as well. what's nice about using path start is that you then get a natural full length paint path, they just all happen to start where you want them to start.

As David pointed out, just keyframing a manually drawn set of paint strokes using something like 'autodraw interactive' pen mode is probably the easiest way to do this. I've also seen this technique used in films with a soft source clone brush to bring some original source detail in facial regions into an otherwise very abstract paint animation.
That sounds interesting too. I'll give it a try soon. Thanks again.
is there a setting "record after each paintstroke?" it sounds familiar but i can't find it anywhere


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