Shake 4, Apple’s award-winning, high-end compositing software, has been enhanced with 3D multiplane compositing, optical-flow technology for flawless retiming, motion tracking,image stabilisation, and superior colour-processing capabilities. This said, it has retained – to no one’s surprise – the look and feel of its predecessor.
Shake finally starts to deliver on one of the top requested features: 3D capabilities. MultiPlane, a 3D compositing node located in the Layer tab, can arrange an unlimited number of media in 3D space, preview the scene from different angles and animate the planes as well as the camera. Animating the elements involves setting keyframes or importing camera-tracking data from 3D applications, such as Alias’s Maya, 2D3’s Boujou or Pixel Farm’s PF Track. This new 3D feature is still quite limited, but MultiPlane represents a considerable breakthrough in the simulation of perspective, parallax and other depth effects.
From Final Cut Pro 5 to Shake
Shake 4 follows in the footsteps of other Apple professional applications in its ability to work with Final Cut Pro 5. In the past, compositing artists had to import single clips and manually set up the process tree so that it replicated the cutter’s original edit decisions, in effect reinventing the wheel. Final Cut Pro 5 can relay video clips to Shake 4 in such a way that the edits automatically translate into a process tree. However, the result rendered in Shake must be manually relinked within the originating project.
The solution has other minor shortcomings. Filters, generators, stills, transformations and some other data are not supported by the bridge mechanism. No audio will be imported to Shake 4, be it tracks from the original clips or standalone audio files. As a result, there is no easy way to maintain sync when retiming clips in Shake 4: video will end up being out of sync once the composite is fed back into Final Cut Pro 5.
Refined colour processing
Shake 4 improves colour processing and lowers the expense of colour depth in terms of storage. It adds support for OpenEXR, a high dynamic range (HDR) file format that is emerging as a new standard. OpenEXR can account for over-range values captured by HDR devices, for example on film negative, and annotate files with additional camera information such as colour-balance data. With over-range values preserved, the artist can alter the apparent exposure with minimal data loss and recover previously invisible detail.
Any node can operate at any bit depth. The Keylight and Primatte keyer now work with full 32-bit, floating-point precision at a breathtaking speed. Shake’s support for OpenEXR, Cineon and DPX allows users to avoid white value clipping in the process of keying.
To ensure predictable colour output at every stage in the compositing process, Shake 4 integrates Truelight, a colour-management system from FilmLight Ltd. The Truelight node allows you to preview the project exactly as it will arrive on film before you move on to produce expensive prints. Truelight monitor calibration simulates the output on screen, but it can also be rendered intothe composite for film-like effects on digital projectors.
Living up to its name
Those taking on the challenge of eliminating camera jitter from shots, such as those of a rough ride through the Amazon or an Allied desert mission, will welcome the optical-flow technology behind Shake’s image-stabilisation nodes, and its retiming and motion tracking capabilities. Shake 4 delivers stunning quality frameby frame and spectacular, razor-sharp, slow and fast-motion effects.
In order not to impose dramatic changes on its treasured core customer base, Apple was careful to conform to the expectations of the user community. Shake is a front end to a collection of image-manipulation engines, which can be accessed using a variety of different commands represented by nodes. Several connected nodes form a process tree, a symbolic representation of the composition. The development team managed to preserve the underlying logic of the application while expanding the scope of its capabilities.
Additional display options include the Enhanced Node View, which provides a way to distinguish bit depth and channel information and shows time dependencies between nodes.
At last, Shake supports a second instance of the user interface for the purpose of copying and pasting nodes between projects. However, only the first instance can read from and write to the cache.
Caching, a major source of concern for users of previous versions, has been noticeably refined andcan now be enforced with a dedicated Cache node. Improved navigation capabilities, new ways of adding and connecting nodes and the ability to save display settings contribute to the overall enjoyable experience.
Shake 4 finally gained a 3D compositing node that can arrange and animate objects in 3D space. The release reaps the benefits of Apple’s leading OpenGL implementation with high responsiveness and impressive preview capabilities, while redefining quality standards with its cutting-edge optical flow algorithms. There isno question that the update is a must for existing users. Apple’s move to Intel processors will likely shake up some well-established truths a little. Compositing applications for Windows from Adobe After Effects to Discreet Flame will be directly comparable with Shake for Mac OS X on the Intel platform. Given equivalent hardware, the operating system clearly becomes the most important differentiating factor. So new users can spare themselves the Linux-enabled, cross-platform release and go straight for the Mac-only version.