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Craft Animations releases Craft CameraFx

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 | Posted by Jim Thacker

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The trailer for Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Ubisoft Toronto created camera moves for the game’s cinematics using Craft CameraFx, now released as a commercial MotionBuilder plugin by developer Craft Animations.

Craft Animations has released Craft CameraFx: a new MotionBuilder plugin for creating and editing realistic virtual camera moves, developed in collaboration with Ubisoft.

The tool is Craft’s first new product in several years, although Craft Director Studio, its suite of vehicle and camera animation rigs, is in use at clients including Pixar, EA, NASA and General Motors, while individual components of the suite have been integrated into 3ds Max, Maya and Softimage since 2010.

Control virtual camera moves with the mouse or an Xbox controller
CameraFx enables user to create virtual camera moves directly, controlling the MotionBuilder camera with the mouse, keyboard or an Xbox controller; then apply effects like Perlin noise to mimic real-world camera shake.

Users can set up their own hotkeys to control recording, and can advance through the timeline and move the camera independently.

The tool offers a fairly standard layer-based interface, with the option to offset or retime camera moves and effects by dragging sliders, although it doesn’t go down to a Bezier level of control for animation curves.

Refined on Splinter Cell: Blacklist
CameraFx was developed in collaboration with Ubisoft, which used pre-release versions of the tool to record the cinematics for its recent action-adventure title Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

“We relied on Craft CameraFx to help us achieve realistic camera animations,” said Ubisoft Toronto camera specialist Randy Yuen. “[It] saved time [and] helped our team deliver animations at a very high level of quality.”

Pricing and platforms
As well as games, Craft tells us that it is targeting the VFX and previz markets, and expects to support other host software in future. The firm also plans to release an API to enable users to hook up other input devices.

Craft CameraFx is available for MotionBuilder 2012 and above, although currently only for Windows, not Linux. It costs $1,995 – not cheap, but equivalent to the middle of the price range of the editions of Director Studio.

PRESS RELEASE (Excerpts)
Animation has a reputation for being tedious and complex. That’s why Craft Animations™ is proud to announce Craft CameraFx™, a powerful new animation tool for users who’d prefer it to be simple and intuitive. Designed specifically for camera animation, Craft CameraFx presents users with a layer-based workflow that helps them create a dynamic sequence in a matter of minutes.

Craft CameraFx was inspired by Craft Director Studio’s “driving” workflow, and incorporates new abilities to manage cameras within a 3D scene. Traditionally Craft Director Studio users would have to use several cameras if they wanted to string together different effects. Now they can add multiple layers to the same camera and see changes directly from a set view to streamline the animation process. The software even lets users modify a sequence after it’s made. No more re-staging and re-recording if you don’t get it right the first time.

“Traditional methods like spline animation always come with a stiff workflow,” says Michael Belin, co-founder and developer at Craft Animations. “With CameraFx, it’s simple. Want your camera to shake at a precise moment? Simply add a noise effect. Set the start and end times. Bang.”

Tailored for easy customization and rugged professional use, effects in Craft CameraFx exist as small modules within its new layer system. Module movement characteristics are generated in real-time and several can be stacked together for scenes that require complex animations.

For example, a user might quickly set up a crude path for an object using a rough spline animation or other basic input. Adding one of CameraFx’s offset effects will then smooth out and extend curves on the path without actually modifying the source animation.

This system was refined from specifications and requests from the Ubisoft Toronto team during the development of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist, giving Craft CameraFx a true trial-by-fire in the AAA game market.

Through elements like recording feedback, precise customization, and a variety of effects options, artists of all levels can now have unprecedented control over their animations.

Additional key features of Craft CameraFx include:

  • Streamlined Animation Workflow: Intuitive controls make camera animations easy to create and tweak
  • Real-time Feedback: A constantly active system applies changes in real-time so users have the freedom to change animations and view results right away
  • Simple and Smart Controls: The unique layer system and user-friendly interface makes advanced combinations of effects easy to achieve
  • Powerful Effects: A collection of specific camera effects includes the most common camera characteristics to easily achieve advanced animation techniques

Pricing and Availability

Craft CameraFx is priced at $1,995, and is available now for users of MotionBuilder 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. A purchase includes a perpetual license for the specific platform and host version of Craft CameraFx, as well as first tier support from Craft Animations.

Read more about CameraFx on Craft Animations’ website
(Includes download link for 30-day trial and a non-embeddable demo video)

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