Review: SynthEyes 2011
This keenly priced match-moving update offers an improved tracking workflow and distinctive features
The Tracker Radar features a visual display of a circle which pulsates in size as you play the shot, with the size directly proportional to the error
• £247 / $399 / €345
• £370 / $599 / €518
Windows / Mac
- SimulTrack view
- New analysis tools
- Enhanced mesh-generation tools
- High-quality texture generation
- Stereoscopic toolset
The match-moving market has a few big names that larger production houses regularly use, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Each supervisor has their personal favourite. The thing that tends to distinguish the popular software packages from each other is that most seem to have a novel feature: PFTrack with its optical flow technology, say, or boujou with its automatic hands-off approach.
This is probably why larger production facilities usually have a few licences of each.
SynthEyes’ biggest strength has always been its outstanding price. Don’t let the low price fool you, though: the feature set is incredibly rich.
It’s been a couple of years since the last major upgrade, and Andersson Technologies has really paid attention to some of the needs of the VFX pipeline.
There are new tools for evaluating trackers and solves, and useful improvements in the software’s stand-out
feature: the use of photogrammetry to generate and texture meshes.
A simultaneous view of all the keyframes of a supervised track. You can re-correct the track and see all the swatches update in real time
Supervised tracking is a technique used in all match-moving software: it enables the user to specify features to fix problems and guide the solve.
Accurate placement is essential for a good solve. Depending on the type of shot, making and analysing these manual tracks can be a time-consuming process.
It’s common to place manual keyframes and track the feature between these keyframes.
Once these are made, it’s usual to go through and check that the feature doesn’t drift, as any errors will put off the final result.
This often requires watching the features through, to check and see if everything is well.
The big picture
SynthEyes 2011’s new SimulTrack view is a spreadsheet of swatches that show all the keyframes of a supervised tracker simultaneously.
This is a great idea: it makes the visual inspection of how well a tracker follows its feature almost instant.
As you look across the swatches, it’s easy to see if they are all tracking the same feature. If any of the keyframes are misaligned, you can just drag them to a new position.
If you click between the swatches, the view expands and shows all the frames between the keys, so you can see if the motion between them is correct.
If not, you can move the swatch and a new keyframe is made. The great thing is that the frames before and after are updated in all the swatches, so you can directly see how your changes affect the path as a whole.
This really helps to make the supervised tracking experience fast and accurate.
Another nice touch in this view is the ability to strobe. This is based on the technique of centring the view on a tracker and quickly switching back and forth between keyframes to compare the movement.
If there’s minimal movement, then you’re accurate. SynthEyes does this flicking between keyframes in the SimulTrack view, so you can see these shifts easily.
You can move the keyframe around while strobing, until the movement between the keyframes is minimised.
Any auto track can be converted to be analysed in this way.
Checking the accuracy of the solved 3D point against its tracked feature is another time-consuming task on tricky shots.
The normal approach is to analyse graphs to find out where the problem areas lie.
The graph tools are still a weakness in SynthEyes: selection and navigation are a bit clunky compared to the competition.
There is now the ability to colour features based on the RMS (root mean square) error, which is worked out from the difference between the second feature and the 3D point.
Green is good, yellow is a caution and red is a bad error.
PFTrack uses a similar colour scheme, which makes visual inspection in the viewport easier.
SynthEyes also offers another approach in the form of Tracker Radar, a display of big red circles whose size is proportional to the RMS error.
This is a great visual aid: when you play the sequence, you see these red circles pulsating in size, so it’s easy to spot the problem areas.
The feature that sets SynthEyes apart from its peers is in its approach to photogrammetry.
This is the ability to generate geometry from 3D features, as well as generating UV maps and high-quality textures based on the footage.
This has many uses in a VFX pipeline, from extracting elements from a background to set extensions.
Making meshes is done through the perspective view. Here you get new menus that offer movement and selection options.
Lasso-selecting 3D features in SynthEyes 2011 allows the creation of a mesh based upon those points. The mesh can be re-edited, providing great flexibility
You can lasso the features you’re interested in and after a couple of operations, you triangulate the mesh.
This is a bit convoluted: it might have been an idea to make the initial mesh generation a separate option instead.
All meshes can be edited, and the points tied to the solved points.
These relationships can be fed back to the mesh even if you change the solution, allowing great flexibility.
The big new feature is the ability to make high-quality textures based on the footage.
This needs special UVs, and a variety of options allow the mesh to be used for many purposes.
In rolling front-projected mode, the UVs change frame by frame, ensuring that the mesh is invisible but can still be used for shadow catching; while frozen front-projection mode makes the UVs on the first frame and keeps
the image changing, which is great for using animated patches for rig and object removal jobs, for example.
The final mesh and texture can be exported in a variety of formats. The Export menu could do with a little bit of organisation, though
The new texture extraction system uses camera mapping of many frames, based on the solve, to create high-resolution textures with reduced noise.
This has several advantages over traditional camera mapping techniques: the process is greatly simplified, while the textures generated can be at any resolution and are relatively noise-free.
For high-resolution work, as in production, big textures are required and this process is memory-hungry, so a 64-bit system is recommended.
There are a lot of feature changes in SynthEyes 2011, but the quirky interface remains.
Some areas are hard to navigate, and it can be awkward to select components, for example in the graph editors. But this can be forgiven when you realise that, for a small price, you have access to powerful features that can not only help speed up your work, but also aid in so many other jobs around the facility other than just solving shots.
• Amazing price
• Great visual analysis tools
• Make meshes from tracked features
• Extracting high-quality textures from video footage
• Quirky interface
• Not available natively on Linux
• Scripting not in Python like other software
A keenly priced piece of software, considering the powerful and production-proven match-moving toolset
on Monday, June 20th, 2011 at 1:58 pm under Applications, Reviews.
You can subscribe to comments.
You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.
Tags: match-moving, review, software, Syntheyes 2011