PFTrack Takes The Wrap

23 Jun, 2016 | CUSTOMER SUCCESS STORIES, PFTRACK

PFTrack can inspire students to turn their creative dreams into a reality. This is certainly the case for Roman Kaelin, Florian Wittmann and Falko Paeper; the three Animation and Visual Effects students behind the creation of the award winning short film, Wrapped.

The trio were first introduced to PFTrack 4.1 at their school, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2010 and throughout their education they learnt to rely on PFTrack to deliver VFX productions of an exceptional standard.

In their final year at the school, the trio started work on the their finest production of all, Wrapped. Combining time-lapse and CG, the VFX short film explores the unexpected forces of nature clashing with the existing structures of civilization. Beginning with the death of a rat, the catalyst for the post-apocalyptic scenes, the short takes you on an accelerated journey through the demise of a city as it is taken over by the destructive forces of burgeoning nature.   

Again, playing an integral role and at the core of their VFX pipeline was PFTrack, used for all 3D tracking of the time-lapse and live-action shots.

Lapsed Time

“Our workflow consisted of converting 5k raw image sequences into HD-proxies, which we used for our tracking source and after setting up the camera parameters, we undistorted the plate using PFTrack’s un-distort tools.” Roman and Falko explain.

In order to achieve the most accurate results and heighten the chances of a successful track, they increased the number of trackers generated and used by the Auto Track node. By enabling Auto Track’s Illumination setting, they were able to compensate for the lighting changes in the shots; an issue that was prevalent in the footage due to its time-lapse nature.

However, tracking time-lapse and live-action footage caused expected problems, as the heavy movement or low amount of parallax occurring in a number of the scenes was proving unsuitable for solving the camera with standard trackers. In order to overcome this obstacle and tackle the remaining footage, the trio had to rethink their tracking methods.

Track Solved, Camera Wrapped

Turning to PFTrack’s renowned Geometry Track node to tackle these challenging shots provided the accuracy and flexibility required for the more complex tracking scenarios.

“One of the most challenging shots to track,” Roman explains, “was a time-lapse we shot in Brooklyn, New York on a camera slider.”

In this shot, a vast amount of foreground movement was present in the scene, such as cars and pedestrians, and also the fast moving sun in the centre of the frame. This, in combination with the large lense flare produced by the sun, which on two occasions entirely fills the frame, created the matchmovers’ nightmare as it would normally require time-consuming manual tracking and rotoscoping.

Roman states, “we therefore rebuilt most of the environmental geometry, which we needed to do anyway, and fed that into the Geometry tracker in PFTrack. This gave us a perfect track and meant that there was no need to go through the entire sequence, frame by frame.”

The trio were also presented with the challenge of tracking the live action handheld footage shot on a DSLR. In the scene which overlooks Brooklyn bridge, the only objects close to the camera were the bridge itself, and the moving water.

“The lack of foreground elements and therefore the low amount of parallax,” Roman explains, “made it impossible to solve a decent 3D track. Luckily, with an accurate 3D model of the bridge, we were able to use the incredible Geometry tracker in PFTrack to solve a perfect camera track.”

Again, by building their own geometric models and importing them into the Geometry tracker, the trio were able to track the complex time-lapse and live-action footage quickly and efficiently.   

“What we loved about PFTrack,” says Roman, “was how so many of the shots were, as if by magic, perfectly tracked, even with the heavy flickering time-lapse footage. In the shots with too much movement occurring, we used the Geometry tracker, which finally tracked the remaining shots perfectly.”

Through strategic integration of PFTrack into their Wrapped workflow, they were able to successfully tackle the footage, both simple and complex, quickly and efficiently and to a standard reserved for the most esteemed VFX companies.

“With PFTrack,” Roman concludes, “the whole process was smooth and easy.”

Always Use The Right Tools…

Roman, Falko and Florian demonstrated how successful use of PFTrack, combined with creative imagination and determination can lead to great achievements. Since its completion, Wrapped has gone on to win a significant number of awards;

  • Best Experimental / LA Shorts Fest
  • Best Student Project / Computer Animation Festival Siggraph
  • VES Award / Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project
  • Animago Award / Best Young Production
  • Best Experimental Film / Cinemaiubit
  • First Place Animation College Competition / The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
  • International Student Film Bronze Award / ISFVF
  • Best Technical Application / 14th Animation Academy Award Beijing
  • Next Generation Short Tiger / FFA & German Films
  • 3D ArtFutura Show Award / ArtFutura
  • Mention Short Animation / Guanajuato International Film Festival
  • Vimeo Staff Pick

“Because PFTrack helped us so much in the past with tons of challenging VFX shots, there is no alternative for us when it comes to professional 3D tracking in visual effects productions,” says Roman.

And that’s why Wrapped is a perfect example of what can be achieved when the right tools are chosen to support the project. PFTrack’s intuitive, focused workflow can save hours, if not days, when creativity without limitations is the driving factor.

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