Thursday, April 16th, 2020 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk ships Flame 2021

Autodesk has released Flame 2021, the next update to its compositing, finishing and effects software, adding a new machine learning-based tool for automatically isolating individual facial features within a shot.

The release also introduces support for authoring content in Dolby Vision HDR format, a GPU-accelerated Physical Defocus effect, and the Explorer, a new environment for storing effects and grading set-ups.

New AI-driven keyer automatically identifies and masks individual regions of the face
Flame 2020 builds on the machine-learning based Semantic Keyer introduced in Flame 2020.1.

The tool automatically identifies parts of a frame containing specific content – initially just the sky area – and generates a corresponding matte, making it possible to apply effects or colour corrections selectively.

Flame 2020.2 added the option to isolate human heads: now further subdivided into 20 facial regions.

As well as facial landmarks like the eyes, nose and mouth, the list includes regions that often require touch-up work, including crow’s feet, eye bags, mouth creases and the shine zone of the cheeks and forehead.

Support for authoring Dolby Vision HDR content
The other headline change is support for the Dolby Vision HDR format for home cinema systems, now supported by major content providers including Amazon, Apple and Netflix.

The technology makes it possible to output HDR content with accompanying scene-by-scene metadata to properly tonemap it to both conventional Standard Dynamic Range and HDR displays.

There isn’t a lot of written documentation, so the only information we have comes from Autodesk’s press release, which says that the implementation “enables XML metadata import/export for collaborative workflows; adds Dolby analysis trim and target display viewing within Flame; and introduces eCMU, iCMU and HDMI metadata tunneling for viewing HDR content via SDR monitors and Dolby enabled TVs”.

Flame’s edit timeline also now includes a HDR track to keep Dolby Vision metadata in sync.

New defocus, colour infill and depth normalisation Matchbox shaders
Other new features in Flame 2021 include PhysicalDefocus, a GPU-accelerated Matchbox shader for creating depth of field effects using the same engine as the existing PhysicalBokehSFX and Convolve.

Users can choose between preset Physical and Action Camera defocus models, or a Custom mode that enables near and far defocus levels to be set manually.

The update also adds a new InfillBlur Matchbox for replacing a region of a frame with a uniform colour, and DepthNormalizer, for normalising Z-depth values.

Improvements for working with effects set-ups and broadcast monitoring
Workflow changes include the Explorer: a new dedicated library panel for Timeline FX presets and grabbed references, replacing the Media Panel in Flame’s Effects environment.

The Explorer should make it easier to save, browse and retrieve effects and grading set-ups.

The update also adds the option to send only the viewing area from the Player or Viewer to a broadcast monitor, making it possible for clients to see pan and zoom modifications on the monitor.

Artists can also use new keyboard shortcuts to control broadcast monitor type and preview mode.

The update also features the usual list of new input and output formats, performance updates and bugfixes. You can find a full list via the link at the foot of the story.

Pricing and availability
Flame 2021 is available for CentOS 7.4/7.6 Linux and macOS 10.13-10.14 and macOS 10.15.1+ on a rental-only basis. Subscriptions now cost $550/month or $4,415/year, up $210/year on Flame 2020.

Of the other products in the Flame family, the cut-down editions of Flame, Flare and Flame Assist, have also been updated. We’ve contacted Autodesk to check their prices and will update if we hear back.

Updated 29 June 2020: Autodesk has now posted an online changelog for the final product in the family, colour grading software Lustre. See what’s new in Lustre 2021.1 here.

Read an overview of the new features in Flame 2021 on Autodesk’s blog

Read a full list of new features in Flame 2021 in the online documentation