REVIEW: AUTODESK TOXIK 2009
PRODUCT: Autodesk Toxik 2009
PRICING: Windows/Linux subscription, boxed ($4,090);
Windows/Linux no sub, boxed ($3,495);
Windows with sub, electronic download ($4,090);
Windows no subscription, electronic download ($3,495)
We founded Bling Imaging in 2006 to offer clients in film, television and Web media a more "realities of the set" approach to computer-generated imagery. We'd noticed an overabundance of digital artists lacking on-set filmmaking experience, so formed our team from artists comfortable both behind the camera and the computer screen. This foundation has enabled us to meld the worlds of live-action and CGI in completely believable photoreal ways; whether setting creatures on fire for a film, or giving a fake chicken a beauty makeover in a commercial.
Of course, digital tools also play a big part in making magic happen, and one of our workhorses is Autodesk Toxik 2009, the latest version of Autodesk's compositing and visual effects software package for 2D effects artists working at HD, 2K, 4K or above.
Often at Bling, we bring Maya files into Toxik, make the needed adjustments, and then shoot the files over to Flame via Wiretap for previewing with the client. We can make changes on the fly with several people doing things simultaneously, which allows us to go from a single operator to a multiple operator solution.
We have found mastering in Toxik very smooth. That's largely because with Toxik's user interface, we can view in either a layer- or node-type set-up, so if artists are coming over to Toxik from another compositing application, they can easily customize the UI to how they're used to working.
Additionally, Toxik is blazing fast. As long as you follow the recommended hardware setup - we're running Toxik with a RAID on an 8-processor Intel Xeon system, with an Nvidia Quadro FX card - you'll be amazed. Part of the reason behind this speed is Toxik's incredible caching system, which uses tiles and auto-proxies to store files onto a local disk, thus freeing up CPUs to perform more complicated tasks. And the media cache delivers realtime clip playback, which even applies to extremely large files and heavy composites, like stereoscopic 3D (S3D) footage in 2K.
One of Toxik 2009's most exciting features is its S3D workflow. We recently developed content for the Alioscopy auto-stereoscopic 3D display, a monitor for viewing S3D content without glasses. Toxik streamlined S3D content creation by allowing us to import Maya layers, easily pass elements in and out, process images from eight cameras simultaneously via a single node with the Multi-Stream feature, and store everything as EXR files.
Also new to Toxik 2009 is the Pixel Expression Language (PXL) tool, which lets us create our own plug-in effects. It's relatively easy to learn and we're currently using the PXL to script modules for quickly adjusting the camera interocular, as well as obtaining realtime feedback in S3D on the Alioscopy screen.
Another great feature is Reaction, Toxik's 3D compositing tool. Reaction enables us to work in a full 3D environment by basically treating the footage as textured planes, so we can work with full cameras and make matte paintings and set extensions that move with the scene. We can also import FBX geometry and models right out of Maya or 3DS Max (Autodesk Softimage is compatible too). It makes tasks more intuitive because instead of the outdated concept of layering everything as "a" over "b," we can now move things in space and see spatial relationships between different items. Reaction is a must-have, especially if you do motion graphics work.
Toxik's Versioning system, which lets you save unlimited versions of a composition, has proven to be a truly life-saving feature. It's common for artists to accidentally hit "save" instead of "save as," accidentally overwriting the work. Toxik auto-versions everything so we can't mess up. In fact, with Versioning, we can literally go back in time.
For a Foster Farms commercial, we recently made over the infamous Foster "Imposter" chicken into a caricature of a beautiful, fresh chicken. This chicken was actually a human-sized puppet requiring two puppeteers, shot on greenscreen, and enrobed entirely in green so we could key them out. We then animated the chicken as it was "beautified," and recreated a faux image software interface, before tracking the chicken at the end and placing it onto a billboard in a pull-out shot. Toxik handled this all with lightning speed and with great results - we recently won a Mobius Award and were short-listed at the London International Awards and at Cannes for the spot.
To sum up, if you're going to work in S3D or if you're a quick turnaround shop and need speed, Toxik's a no-brainer. And if your facility is already standardized on Autodesk tools, Toxik fits seamlessly into the pipeline, resulting in a robust, powerful and efficient workflow that lets your work truly shine. At Bling Imaging, we've been beta-testing Toxik on the Mac platform, and love the possibilities of having Toxik on-set on our Macbooks as a complement to our core Toxik systems at the studio.
Paal Anand is Co-Founder /VFX Supervisor at Bling Imaging (www.blingimaging.com) in West Hollywood.