March 5th, 2014
Behind The Scenes And Tutorials
Last week we gave you a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating the Zaxwerks software you know and love. This week we're giving you more!
In "made for the little guy" learn what brought Zax to the breaking point and why 3D ProAnimator was created in the first place.
In "poses and transitions" find out why keyframes needed to be re-invented and how that created a system that was faster and easier than anything done before.
As an extra bonus we've made a tutorial showing you exactly what Poses and Transitions are, how they compare to keyframes, and how to work with them in the timeline.
Every Feature Has A Story: Made For The Little Guy
Every Feature Has A Story: Poses and Transitions
Tutorial On Poses & Transitions Vs. Keyframes:
February 28th, 2014
Behind The Scenes And Tutorials
This week we are giving you a behind the scenes look at what goes into the Zaxwerks software you know and love. We interviewed Founder Zax Dow to find out why ProAnimator is so different from other 3D software. He gives us a rare insight into the challenges that animators face and reveals that 3D ProAnimator is more than just a collection of features. Each feature was designed to solve a particular animation problem. In fact, every feature has a story.
The first video is the story behind the Ease Controls. That doesn't sound very sexy but this interview gives you a peek as to why this control needed to be re-invented, and how a re-think can produce some startling changes in productivity and ease of use.
The second video is the story behind motion paths. Until 3D ProAnimator, motion paths were just the byproducts of keyframe placement. This is the story of how motion paths were re-invented so their shapes could become design elements, and an object's motion could become much more interesting to watch.
Accompanying these interviews are tutorials showing you how to master the Ease and Path controls and get more advanced effects with your 3D ProAnimator software.
Every Feature Has A Story: Ease Controls
Tutorial showing how to use the ease controls:
Every Feature Has A Story: Motion Paths
Tutorial showing how to master motion paths:
January 29th, 2014
FREE VALENTINE'S DAY PACK!
It's never too early to get your Valentine's day on. To help you get in the mood we've created a pack filled with Valentine's day-related models and flares. It’s yours for free. A romantic gesture showing our undying love for our customers. What? That just got weird. Okay forget that, just download it and go impress somebody.
Flares and Lighting rigs are only compatible with
3D ProAnimator v7.0.1 and 3D Invigorator v7.0.1
To download the most current version of the software click here.
Watch the tutorial on how to work with the Valentine Puzzle model.
January 22nd, 2014
This video from Scott Novasic shows what can be done with Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator and a little creativity. With the exception of the particles, the entire animation was done in 3D ProAnimator v7. Pay special attention to the massive amount of moving objects, flares and lighting.
As you probably know, 3D ProAnimator doesn't use keyframes. So the huge number of objects flying around, building and revealing the 3D scenes, were fast to set up, easy to change and completely custom. True, this isn't your everyday title animation and Scott is nothing if not dedicated to his craft, but the idea here is that ProAnimator gives a user tremendous power without having to deal with the technical side of things.
Scott is an LA based animator and visual effects artist. He can be reached at 909-915-9950. Or you can click here to send an email to Scott.
December 5th, 2013
Today Zaxwerks has released 3D Invigorator PRO v7. This award winning plug-in for Adobe After Effects adds 3D stage lighting which greatly extends what's possible in 3D inside of After Effects. Easily controlling and animating hundreds of lights, visible light beams, lens flares, and the automatic modeling of trusses and light fixtures are the highlight features of this new release.
In 3D Invigorator PRO 7 great attention has been paid to making 3D lighting as easy and realistic as possible. Multiple lights can be created inside a single Light Set making it easy to set up concert and theater style lighting. Lens flares respect camera angles so they fade in/out as the light shines into the camera lens. Light beams come with many atmospheric looks and a menu of choices can produce streaky, puffy or hazy looks.
Another exciting new feature of 3D Invigorator PRO 7 is the ability to apply light beams, flares, trusses and fixtures to After Effect's own 3D lights. This means that AE lights no longer have to float in 3D space. Giving them real light fixtures, trusses and light beams anchors them in reality and dramatically increases the realism of a scene.
3D Invigorator PRO is a very powerful 3D program that works as a plug-in for After Effects. This gives it a unique advantage over standalone 3D programs because there is no time wasted due to "round tripping". All 3D models are created, textured and animated directly inside of After Effects for the fastest possible workflow.
3D Invigorator PRO also excels where familiarity is concerned. Since it works as a plug-in, everything about it is quick to learn and use. If you already know how to animate in After Effects you already know how to animate in 3D Invigorator PRO. If you know how to draw Bezier curves you know everything you need to know to create models in 3D Invigorator PRO.
Strong familiarity coupled with integrated workflow, fast rendering and attention to detail makes Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator PRO an outstanding value, and a superb addition to your motion graphics toolset.
Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator PRO 7 is available now from the Zaxwerks
website and from selected resellers. For more information go to
November 27th, 2013
Black Friday Sale! Get two great plug-ins for the price of one! When you buy Invigorator 6 you get 3D Serpentine and 3D Invigorator 7 for free when it is released.
November 14th, 2013
Getting your first project started can be a little daunting. To help guide you, Zaxwerks offers our Safety Net service. We will help you get going on the right track and offer advice and assistance throughout your project so you aren't doing it alone.
The Zaxwerks Safety Net service gives you direct access to Zaxwerks experts. You'll feel as if a knowledgeable friend is working with you. We can either walk you through the project step by step, or answer questions along the way. Either way you will feel safe knowing we've got your back.
To see if Zaxwerks Safety Net is right for you either visit the Safety Net Page here or call us at 1-626-309-9102.
October 24th, 2013
Eugene Gonzales is the art director for WTKR, a television station in Norfolk, Virginia. As art director he handles news graphics, promotions and commercial production. With all of these time sensitive jobs Eugene counts on Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator to get the job done.
"I was first introduced to Zaxwerks software nearly ten years ago. One day my boss comes up to me and says 'I need you to do 3D titles so here's a product I just bought'. He handed me 3D Invigorator and told me to get started. I was amazed at how fast I got up and going because I was already familiar with After Effects and I got to stay inside my comfortable environment the entire time."
Eugene is the type of guy that doesn't like jumping from program to program. 3D Invigorator gave him the chance to stay right in After Effects, use his key frames and get amazing looking 3D animations. It also gave him the chance to use other tools that he was familiar with.
"3D Invigorator came naturally to me because I came from an art background and knew how to do my designs inside of Illustrator. I could then take those designs and import them directly into 3D Invigorator which turned them into fully beveled and extruded objects without wasting time modeling."
Some of Eugene's friends didn't see 3D Invigorator as a real 3D program. They didn't understand that 3D Invigorator is a specialized tool that can get the job done the fastest.
"I can't even count how many times I've been talking to my friends and they go 'Wow man that looks amazing. What 3D program did you use? Maya? Cinema 4D?' And I say No way! I did this directly inside of After Effects using Invigorator, and I spent about a tenth of the time that you would have."
Eugene doesn't see himself as a "program snob." Instead he sees himself as a guy who wants to get the job done the fastest while still making great art. He says "It's not about the price, it's the tool. Once you've done a few jobs you realize that expensive products aren't always best. It's all about the output."
Eugene loves Zaxwerks products because they can do things that other programs just can't do. He integrates 3D Serpentine and 3D Flag into his broadcast animations to give them that extra something. He finds he can do animations that make people's jaws drop. For instance, "I use Illustrator and 3D Invigorator to do layer cycling animations all the time. I tried doing that in Element 3D and 3 days later I gave up and switched back to Invigorator. Once I switched I got it done in an hour."
Eugene recommends 3D Invigorator frequently because he strongly believes that without 3D Invigorator his life would be a lot harder. "I am good at using other 3D programs, but they take so much time. If there is ever a deadline I use 3D Invigorator."Click to see his Featured Artist page
October 23rd, 2013
In this tutorial, Andrew Devis introduces Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator and gives an overview of the simplicity and speed of the application as well as showing how to render out the final animation as an image sequence and then how to bring that (or any) image sequence into Sony Vegas Pro for final compositing.
October 16th, 2013
Kevin McAuliffe, host of The Post Podcast, sits down with Zax Dow, President of Zaxwerks, and talks about the evolving role of 3D in post production. They go into depth about why the difficulty of normal 3D programs drove Zax to create a better program, why a well designed workflow can be your best friend and the new features of ProAnimator 7 that made Kevin's mouth fall open when he first saw them.
Listen to the free podcast at:
October 15th, 2013
Got a few minutes with only your smartphone, and want to catch up on the latest tips and tricks in the Zaxwerks world? Then you're in luck! The Zaxwerks website is now accessible through your mobile device. No more squinting to read the tiny text. Dial up zaxwerks.com and you will be automatically redirected to our mobile-friendly site, formatted for your viewing pleasure.
October 3rd, 2013
Going to the Motion 2013 conference? The show is held October 4, 2013 in Albuquerque, NM.
Come and talk to us! This is the perfect time to check out 3D ProAnimator 7 in person. See live demonstrations of what our new lighting system is capable of. We'd love to show you how easy it is to setup professional looking stage effects including trusses, lighting fixtures, flares, and moody light beams.
September 24th, 2013
The days of difficult to manage 3D lighting are gone! Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator has invented new technology to make advanced lighting design and animation capabilities much easier than before. Using the same procedural animation engine that 3D ProAnimator has become famous for, you can now create moving, flowing lighting sequences, coordinating the motion, brightness and color of hundreds of lights at the same time.
Real lights all come from somewhere, so with the click of a button, 3D ProAnimator 7 will create the pipe, truss and lighting fixtures. No modeling required! It will also automatically animate the fixtures based on where you tell the lights to point. The light beams are visible and come with many atmospheric looks to choose from.
What are lighting effects without lens flares? In 3D ProAnimator 7 when you point a light at the camera you'll see lens flares. The program comes with over 50 gorgeous flare styles and an editor to create your own.
As an added bonus, 3D ProAnimator 7 comes with over 100 free professionally designed materials. These include granites, marbles, gradients, leathers and metals, making it easy to create professional looks.
To top it off Zaxwerks introduces a new pricing structure for all its products. To make it more affordable 3D ProAnimator 7, which has its own modeling, animation system and large shader library, is now available as either a self-standing motion graphics application, or as an After Effects plug-in, and is only $399 making it an unbeatable value for someone adding 3D motion graphics to their tool set.
For more information visit www.zaxwerks.com.
Many Lights - One Track
Typical 3D programs put each light on its own track. This makes it very inefficient when adjusting multiple lights and time consuming to create animations with coordinated motions. Because of this, lighting in 3D motion graphics tends to be plain and uninspired. Something not at all appropriate for the dynamic motion graphics expected by today's sophisticated audiences.
Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator 7, for the first time, puts dynamic lighting into the hands of the average person on a deadline. A single track can handle many lights, and you have control over those lights in ways that produce flowing, coordinated motion with little effort.
Automatic Light Animation
Creating animations of multiple lights moving in sequence is very difficult. ProAnimator, using its advanced procedural animation engine, lets you create amazing moving light animations without needing to set keyframes and without even having to render the animation to see what you're getting.
You can create blinking lights, color change animations, light chase sequences, and movement animation such as search light motion or high impact dance club motion.
3D ProAnimator's automatic light orientation can make lights follow objects, create fanned arrays, or point in random directions, at your command.
All of this is done without setting a single keyframe, yet totally under your control.
Visible Light Beams
Seeing the beams of a light can make your animation look more exciting and real. 3D ProAnimator 7 does just that! You can make beams with hot centers, fat washes, patchy atmosphere and streaky smoke. Switching between the looks is just a click. A dozen attractive looks come with the program and you can always modify them or create your own.
Automatic Truss creation
In the real world light fixtures are hung from pipes and truss. 3D ProAnimator creates the models for your trusswork automatically. You choose the layout, straight, circular or rectangular, the arc and size of the truss, and ProAnimator will create the trusswork, hanging the lights for you. As with all things Zaxwerks you can change any part of it at any time and the program will rebuild and make adjustments so you can keep working at top speed.
Automatic Fixture creation
In the real world light bulbs are held in lighting fixtures. 3D ProAnimator creates the fixtures for you too. Choose from a variety of industry standard lighting fixtures such as Altmans, Vari-Lites and Martin Macs. ProAnimator will insert them into your 3D scene, attach them to the trusswork and even animate them for you. Building elaborate lighting rigs has never been so fun and easy!
Once your lights are set up you can save them as Lighting Rigs. Rigs are multiple lighting tracks saved as a single swatch or thumbnail image. A rig contains everything it takes to recreate an entire lighting animation: position, number of lights, trusswork, color, right down to the movement and the actions. A rig can be added to any project by simply clicking on the picture.
Lighting Rigs are very powerful ways to reuse animation, or add professionally designed lighting animations to your project giving you high quality results while under deadline pressures.
One of the most dramatic parts of motion graphics these days is the lens flares. All lights in ProAnimator 7 can create flares when pointed at the camera. These are true 3D lens flares so they automatically become smaller as the light goes into the distance. They also fade out if other objects move in front of them, and bloom as they go out of frame.
The program comes with 50 professionally designed flares. You can use the flare editor to customize the presets or create your own.
100 Material Presets
Another time consuming part of production is creating the materials that color the surfaces of your objects. ProAnimator 7 includes 100 materials that you can drag and drop onto your objects for instant gratification. All materials include specular maps and most have bump maps for professional and realistic quality.
Lighting design is a difficult field. Most 3D animators don't even try it because doing lighting in 3D is a major pain. 3D ProAnimator 7 has a long list of innovative new features that puts professional lighting design and animation into your hands. It makes it accessible. It makes it real. It makes it something that you can use to up your game.
Make your motion graphics look fantastic with Zaxwerks 3D ProAnimator.
For more information visit the ProAnimator page:
August 5th, 2013
Here is another example of just one of the amazing things that ProAnimator 7 will allow you to do. Check out the other Sneak Peek here.
July 24th, 2013
The forthcoming ProAnimator v7 has lighting controls that are so easy to use yet so powerful. Here is a preview tutorial showing how to build a Hollywood Searchlight, including the rigging, the fixtures, the visable light rays, and the animation. All in under 5 minutes.
July 15th, 2013
ProAnimator 7 is coming soon, and it's filled with features you won't want to miss. Check out the sneak peek now.
June 26th, 2013
Think you've seen what the 3D Flag can do? Take another look. We think you'll be impressed.
With our electrifying new user reel, see never been seen effects and many creative uses for flags, banners, transitions, and even creating your own virtual sets. This is only the tip of the iceberg in what you can do using the Zaxwerks 3D Flag.
Special thanks to Brent Willet and Scott Novasic.
June 21st, 2013
Our friends over at The Anvel are hosting their first ever Motion Graphics Lab User Group! The meeting will be held June 27th in Atlanta and lab leader, Dean Velez, will be showing off his mad skills at After Effects, Zaxwerks and other software.
Dean has posted this video on his site as a teaser for the user group, and will be deconstructing the project during the meeting.
Warning: No Zombies were harmed in the production of this clip!
As you can see, Zaxwerks 3D Flag was used to great effect as the title, mood setter and transition into the live action. (Wait, would that be "dead action"?)
If you are in need of After Effects training be sure to book yourself a working holiday and go to Atlanta for Dean's personal instruction. His Motion Graphics Lab is super cool, and shares space with Magick Lantern studio so you can view production from the inside out. He offers several different classes and you'll learn tons of stuff about whatever it is you are there to study.
June 6th, 2013
Summer is almost here. To help kick off the Summer, we have just released our new Summer Bundles! It's our lowest prices ever. This is your chance to pick up some of the best plug-ins for After Effects for a fraction of the price.
We are also introducing two new bundles, which are the ProAnimator & Flag bundle, and also the 3D Invigorator PRO & Flag Bundle.
Check out our new bundle prices here and Save BIG!
You can also find all our newest bundles in our web store:
June 4th, 2013
The 4th of July is coming soon and there is a glaring question: Do you have the right tools to make your graphics shine by the dawn's early light?
Pardon the puns. This is my favorite season and 3D Flag is one of my favorite products. Have you heard about 3D Flag? It's probably the easiest way possible to create really cool graphics.
Any picture can be turned into a waving, rippling, eye-catching flag with the click of a button. Flags react to wind and gravity. You can create pennants and banners. You can even wave the flag pole back and forth and the cloth will follow the motion.
It's amazing. It's super-easy and for the month of June it's 25% off!
Here's a short list of highlights.
Check out a demo on our website and raise your flag factor today!
To receive the 25% discount, use the code: CoolFlag when you checkout through our web store.
To watch how easy 3D Flag is to use click here.
Like us on FaceBook and receive an additional 10% off your Flag order. That's 35% off total!
April 12th, 2013
Joe Mason, Mike Gulley and Zax Dow at the Zaxwerks Booth at NAB 2013
NAB 2013 comes to an end! It was great to see everyone, thanks for stopping by! It was a lot of fun to talk to everyone and show off what we have in store for ProAnimator 7.
We're very excited about all the new features of ProAnimator 7 and are working diligently for its release. We'll post more information regarding the release date as soon as we have more details. Be sure to check back. For those who want to jump in this very moment, purchase ProAnimator now and receive the upgrade to ProAnimator 7 for free when it releases!
In the mean time, for people who didn't get a chance to attend NAB, check out this cool lighting animation! And by the way, for anyone who hates modeling, rest assured that you don't have to create a single object in ProAnimator. All the light fixtures, stage pipes and trusses are pre-made in ProAnimator 7. Just use your creativity to create the stage of your dreams.
The event was a big hit and we hope to see you next year!
All the best,
The Zaxwerks Team
Zax and John Dickinson with their game faces on.
March 28th, 2013
ProAnimator 7 is all things lighting, done in ways you've never seen before. If you like the super fast and easy way ProAnimator can animate dozens of objects, imagine what that same power will do when turned loose on lights!
Create amazing rock concert or theater-style light shows with easy to use controls. Quick creation and positioning, motion control, fans, flickers, chasing lights, lens flares and visible light cones. And what are lights without the pipes and truss that hold them? One button can create box truss straight or in a ring or arc and puts each light into its own light fixture. The fixtures will even auto-animate as the lights move and rotate. If you've ever wanted to give your graphics a spectacular look, Zaxwerks ProAnimator 7 will help get you there.
March 14th, 2013
Click to watch Brent Willett's Demo Reel
Brent Willett works for Mediacom, a local cable television provider in Des Moines, Iowa. "Mediacom has it's own television station called MC22, and I am the graphic designer for the channel. A big part of MC22's programming is our coverage of local high school, college, and professional sporting events, but we also produce a handful of community interest related programs."
"I was first introduced to Zaxwerks software almost ten years ago, when I was working at KCNC, the CBS station in Denver, Colorado. I was creating news graphics on a daily basis, and our department purchased 3D Invigorator to help take our daily graphics production to a new level. What impressed me the most, and what made Zaxwerks the most useful, was the fact that they allowed users of After Effects to create 3D elements right inside of After Effects."
"3D Invigorator was great because it allowed me to use the After Effects interface that I was familiar with to animate 3D objects, so the learning curve was very low. And being able to bring in an Illustrator file was a great way to model something quickly. I soon discovered that there were a lot of objects I could model in Invigorator by creating simple shapes in Illustrator, and then putting them together with different depths, edge profiles, and orientations to create what I needed."
Like many users, Brent soon realized that Invigorator is just the start of the journey in creating 3D using Zaxwerks products. "A few years later I moved on to ProAnimator version 4. What I liked about ProAnimator was the ability to use it inside After Effects, but also as a stand-alone program. And with it having its own timeline, it was much easier to create more complicated animations. Then version 5 came along and it was a huge step forward. The new features like being able to create shapes right in the program, and being able to warp objects in different ways were two huge additions. And now, version 6 has added even more fantastic features. I love the new materials and lighting options such as ray-traced reflections, refractions, and ambient occlusion. Being able to break objects into pieces in various different ways, and being able to control ProAnimator tracks with After Effects nulls are two more great additions."
"In a recent open I did for an MC22 show called Cyclones Extra, I wanted to make as much use of the new features in ProAnimator version 6 that I could. I created some icons and simple shapes in Illustrator and brought them into ProAnimator. Then I added different edge profiles to the shapes, some that I created on the fly using ProAnimator's modeling capabilities to get the looks that I wanted. I added different levels of reflectivity and textures to different materials, turned on some shadows and ambient occlusion, and I was ready to animate. I used After Effects nulls to control the movement of the icons as they fly through the scene to make it easier to match their movement with the After Effects camera. Then I just added a few flares and other effects to enhance the overall look, and came up with a short-but-sweet open that was constructed almost completely in ProAnimator."
Zaxwerks Plug-ins have become a major backbone in Brent's animations. "I use a Zaxwerks plugin in almost all of my projects, so it's pretty much always the right software to have. Usually it's Proanimator, if only to create a nice 3D logo. But sometimes I'll use Flag, or Serpentine, or Reflector, or any combination of these."
"The Zaxwerks products are great because they add 3D right into After Effects. That by itself is great for workflow, because I don't have to go outside of After Effects to create the elements that I need. I also love the fact that all of the Zaxwerks products, including ProAnimator, Flag, and Serpentine can make use of the After Effects camera, allowing all of these products to be used together in the same 3D space."
What Brent likes most, is that he is able to produce all the 3D elements he has come to expect of major 3D programs, and then some. "Zaxwerks software allows me to do things that I haven't seen any other software do, like Flag for instance. I can't think of any other plugin for After Effects that can create a realistic looking textured flag blowing in the wind."
With so many different 3D programs out on the market, Brent discusses why the Zaxwerks ProAnimator is his go-to program. "Recently Video Copilot's Element 3D came on the scene, making it extremely easy to integrate 3D models into After Effects projects, but one thing it can't do easily is modeling. You can put together some cool looking things using layer masks, but it's cumbersome to do. So for the same reason I mentioned above, if your business is to create animations with 3D client logos, Zaxwerks ProAnimator is the way to go."
"What really gives ProAnimator the edge is what it can do for the cost. It is a very affordable program, as are all the Zaxwerks products. For designers who deal with many different clients, being able to put together and animate a 3D logo quickly, can be extremely important. ProAnimator excels at that."
"So if you need to create a full 3D motion graphic scene, but cost and time are issues, once again, Zaxwerks ProAnimator is the way to go."
Feburary 8th, 2013
Click on the image to watch the video.
Want to check out some of the new features of ProAnimator? Check out our new ProAnimator Ad!
January 11th, 2013
Zax was a production guy when he got the idea for his software. Find out why ProAnimator is the ideal tool for Bread & Butter 3D and why that's so important for you.
This post is going to be a little long but it explains why I created Zaxwerks and why our software is so valuable even if you already have another 3D program. 3D work can be divided into two main categories: Bread and Butter work, and Custom work. Everyone would like to get custom work but it's the bread and butter work that keeps food on your table. The big mystery here is why most people use custom software on bread and butter jobs? Do they even realize there is a difference? Doing that is like drawing animation by hand; the result can be completely custom but boy does it take a lot of time and skill to do.
I've done all phases of production work from the most grunt jobs to directing and producing. If you've been in this business for any length of time you know the key is to work smarter not harder. Are you getting paid by the hour and trying to eat up time, or are you trying to do your work fast enough to finish on time, on budget and maybe have a life outside of work? If you keep an open mind every once in a while a new technique or a new piece of software comes along that changes the whole way you work. Maybe that breakthrough will come for you today.
Most times 3D software creates more problems than it solves. 3D programs are typically bloated monsters that take months to learn and a technical degree to operate. It's not unusual for someone to get excited about 3D, go take a class, and then find that if you don't use the software every day you start forgetting how things work and end up pushing the program off to the side because it's too frustrating to use.
The problem is not the user. If you're editing video or doing graphics on computer you're already one of the smart people. The problem is the software. You shouldn't have to make a thousand mouse-clicks, in just the right order, to make a 3D title animation. You shouldn't have to rebuild animations from scratch just because the client makes a change. It's a computer, dang-it. It's supposed to be doing this work for you! No, the problem is not with the user, the problem is with the software.
What's needed is a better 3D program. A few years back I starting thinking about what a perfect bread and butter 3D program would be. I didn't need to make dancing dinosaurs or shiny spaceships. I didn't have time to waste. I was working for a living, had a job to do and wanted that job to get done as quickly and as easily as possible. I also saw that 3D graphics really upgraded my image and made people take my work more seriously. I could charge more when I could offer 3D graphics. I could attract higher-end work and higher paying customers. Most importantly was that almost every client these days wants a little 3D and if I couldn't give it to them I'd end up losing them.
The problem was that even as an expert 3D artist, it took a long time to do the bread and butter work. You had to build the models, light them, color their surfaces, set up the motion, on and on, and the work had to be repeated for every animation. Even when doing title animations, you couldn't reuse your work and client changes caused a domino effect of fixes and rebuilding.
Customers didn't understand that little changes were going to cost hours of rework, so to keep the client happy I would often work "off the clock" trying to keep the change fees in line with expectations. In other words I would work for free just because the software didn't have the ability to handle changes. This made me angry. I didn't like that I was being forced to work late and didn't get to see much of my family. I didn't like that my attempt to offer a new service for my clients was becoming a frustrating nightmare. And I didn't like how my stupid 3D program couldn't handle simple changes without causing me to work unpaid overtime!
Again, the problem was the software. I was using software made for custom work. But what I needed was a 3D program that was specialized in handling my bread and butter work. One I could use to knock out things like 3D title and logo graphics so I could get on to any of the million other things I had to do. So I looked around and I found that no professional level 3D software had tools specialized for titles and logos. Sure they can all make a 3D model out of a font but none of them have really nice tools for making text models or for speeding up production and handling changes.
Fortunately I had a little programming experience and I realized that if I wanted such a tool I was going to have to make one myself. But it couldn't be just another 3D program. This one had to serve a purpose and solve problems. There were some pretty stiff requirements this new program had to live up to. I began imagining what a perfect 3D bread and butter program would be like.
1 - First off the program had to be really easy to use. Workflow is key so the fewer keystrokes needed the better. A typical 3D program requires hundreds if not thousands of keystrokes to create a full 3D animation. I had my sights set on ten. If I could create a whole 3D animation in ten keystrokes I'd like it very much. That's about the same number of steps as it takes to scramble an egg. Besides, the simpler it is to create an animation the faster it'll be to learn.
2 - It had to be really easy to learn. Most 3D programs take a long time to learn and a special sort of geek-brain to use. I know a lot of people who bought really expensive programs that are gathering dust on their shelves because they didn't have a few free months to learn how to use them. I didn't mind a little training but things needed to be pretty obvious. If I forgot how to do something I wanted to be able to scan over the controls to figure it out without having to searching for options hidden two or three windows down.
3 - You had to be able to change anything at any time without causing a bunch of rework. Clients make changes, boy do they make changes, so I needed a program that would handle those changes without making me stay late at work to do them. Also, being human, I make mistakes too and being able to correct a mistake without having to rebuild half the project made this feature a high priority. In typical 3D programs one little mistake will cost you a couple hundred keystrokes to correct. "Change anything at any time." Yeah, I like that.
4 - The program had to handle multiple versions. I don't know who designs 3D computer programs but they seem to think you only do one animation per client. With bread and butter work, you'll create an animation and then need fifty different versions of it. A version for each day of the week, a version for each corporate office, a version for each athlete in an event. The ideal program is one where you could set up an animation once and then each new version would be a few keystrokes away.
Also, I didn't want to have to stick to some pre-canned set of moves. Even if I was animating every single letter in the graphic I still wanted the program to handle new versions easily and efficiently. But how was that possible? Everyone knows that to animate an individual letter it has to have its own keyframes and be on it's own track. How could a program take an animation created for 10 letters and turn it into an animation of 15 letters? There's got to be a way. It just hasn't been thought of yet.
5 - The program had to work really fast. There is nothing that kills your workflow more than doing renderings or RAM previews to see what your animation looks like. I wanted a program that worked in real time, at least during the creation stage. One that would play my animation over and over while I was still making changes, so I wouldn't even have to stop the playback to make a change. That would give me the fastest feedback so I could craft the animation and get it to where I liked it without wasting time waiting for previews.
6 - The program had to be flexible. To speed up production many programs offer templates, but the problem with templates is they never do exactly what you want. Then to change the template requires as much skill at using the program as the person who created the template in the first place. The ideal program would have plenty of templates but the program would be so easy to use that you could customize the template with a couple of clicks. Also, the program had to be able to create animations that looked just as good if not better than what you see on TV. You can speed up production by restricting an animation to a few pre-canned moves, but that just ends up looking sad. The ideal program would enable you to create animations that looked unique, flowed beautifully and could be customized to fit the latest trends in motion graphics.
7 - Finally the program had to create world-class images. The fanciest program in the world is just a waste of money if you can't use the final output. So this program had to make beautiful pictures that would stand up against any other program out there. It also had to create perfect alpha channels so I could composite the 3D elements over a background video without causing halos or keying problems.
OK, so these requirements looked like a pretty tall order. No computer software I knew of even came close to living up to these standards. In fact several of the requirements seemed to be at odds with each other. How could you make a program that was very flexible, yet was really easy to use and required little training? Hmmm. So I started to think, and designed mock ups, and threw them away and thought some more. It took two years before I found the perfect solution. The perfect mix of flexibility and ease of use; of beauty and speed.
What we created was the Zaxwerks ProAnimator. ProAnimator is an interesting beast. It is the first, honest-to-god, hands-down, solution to the problem of: "I have a boat-load of graphics to make, and an impossible amount of time to get them all done."
It's easy to learn and it works startlingly fast. It took the most time-consuming and complicated task in post production, that being the creation of 3D graphics, and turned it into one of the fastest and easiest things to do. We did a test in a public school and within an hour had a class of seventh graders each creating their own custom 3D animations. It solves every one of my big seven requirements. It's fast, flexible, it excels at creating multiple versions, and you can change anything at any time without causing yourself nightmares. It helps you work smarter, much smarter, and rewards you with beautiful images, more time, happy clients and hopefully a fatter wallet. For this, Videomaker magazine awarded it the Best Animation Software of the year.
I'm very happy to have one day gotten tired of working late. I'm happy that I got mad enough to decide to do something about it rather than giving up on doing 3D graphics. I love 3D graphics. I think 3D graphics lend a punch and an attraction to videos that are hard to match. A good graphic at the opening of your video makes people perk up and pay attention. It helps put you in a different game from those who don't have 3D, and it helps to keep your clients from wandering.
In this day of marketing hype, your ears clamp up when you hear about how "wonderful" and "revolutionary" a new piece of software is. But in every true sense of the word, the ProAnimator is a revolutionary product. It will literally change the way you think about 3D graphics. You may even find that you get a little of the old excitement back which you first felt when you thought about adding 3D graphics to your work. 3D graphics are possible. You can do them. ProAnimator is what you've been missing.
March 15th, 2012
Click on the image above to watch the animation
ProAnimator is a system for animating lots of objects without having to try very hard. What you're looking at are over twenty five hundred different objects in motion. Each one is moving along its own animation path with its own timing, ease and rotations. But unlike other 3D programs, where each object would have to be animated on its own track, this animation used only 18 animation tracks.
ProAnimator is what you use when you need to get the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Animation by Scott Novasic www.supernovavfx.com
August 18th, 2010
We received so many comments about last month's User Story we decided to bring Mike back again. This time he's going to give us some insight into his working environment and where he fits into the production pipeline.
ZW - So Mike, one of the things that intrigued our readers was that you work right at the arena.
MG - The QTV Productions offices are located on the Event Level of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The event level is basically the bottom level of the building and is the same level upon which you will find the playing court, ice, field or concert stage depending on the event of the day.
The QTV crew.
ZW - Do you take part in the play back of your graphics?
MG - I do not have game-night responsibilities that would confine me to the control room so I often observe the games from the press seating or even better from the SkyBox at the top of the arena. It is from there that our LED operator plays back my fascia board content, while the remainder of my full-screen content is played out from the control room on our video clip server.
ZW - What the heck is a fascia board?
MG - A Fascia Board is the ribbon-like LED video screen that goes around the interior of a sports arena. All sorts of graphics and animations are displayed on them from game stats to corporate signage to game prompts.
Fascia Boards are 32 pixels tall and over 16,000 pixels wide.
ZW - What's it like to design for a screen that is really really wide and not so tall?
MG - Designing for the format is certainly something special, most people have a square or rectangular working space to design for, but when I'm designing for the fascia boards I'm dealing with resolutions of 28 x 3552 pixels and 32 x 16,032 pixels! It took quite a bit of getting used to but I'm quite comfortable with it now.
ZW - Since your office is near the locker rooms do you get to rub elbows with the professional basketball and hockey players that play at your arena?
MG - We often bump into players but we've got to keep it cool. You know, we can't really just freak out and jump them for autographs! But nonetheless it's cool enough to just get to say 'what's up?' to these players on a regular basis.
ZW - Are the players available for new graphics whenever you want?
MG - We really only interact with players on media days, which is where we get each player for 15-20 minutes and we try to shoot everything we can think of that we might need for the upcoming season: voice-overs, shout-outs, promotional reads, psych-ups, etc. We also get a second media day when the Playoffs roll around.
ZW - Once the season starts are you pretty much done for the year?
MG - Oh no we're handling changes and doing special event graphics all season long. The most work however, is done for the opening of the regular season and the playoffs. That is serious crunch time and an amazing amount of work from the whole team is produced in just over a week. We keep on tweaking the product as long as possible until it's time to do the pregame run-through.
ZW - Can you give us an idea what it's like to work at your production facility?
MG - You bet! Here's a video giving you a behind the scenes look at QTV.
ZW - What's the best part of your job?
MG - Without a doubt it has to be the beginning of the first game of the season when you finally get to see all the effort unfold out in the arena. Nothing will ever top the feeling of the first time when your Video Open plays out, along with the accompanying LED fascia board animations, in front of 20,000 people. It gives you chills and a rush of emotions because we put our hearts and souls into these projects and once it starts it's just a very overwhelming emotional experience for us all. I absolutely love our work here.
The Quicken Arena, where Mike Gulley goes to work.
July 15th, 2010
Mike Gulley is the Motion Graphics Coordinator for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. "This is my third season working with the Cavaliers and my role has expanded as time has gone on. I initially started here as the in-house LED Fascia Board designer. At that point most projects were out-sourced but over the years more and more projects became an in-house affair, and therefore became my responsibility. We produce content for the in-game Jumbotron, also for the in-arena video screens, outdoor video screens and broadcast promos. The workload has become such that more members of our production team began contributing to the motion graphics as well. Having other artists on-board also helps to mix up the content we create. Each individual brings their own style and ideas to the table."
Mike works at the arena. His office is on the same level as the game floor, near the locker rooms so he often bumps into basketball or hockey players the halls. "Our QTV group is a full-fledged production department from pre-production to post. We do it all around here. We are dedicated, passionate, efficient and effective. The QTV team really knows how to engage the crowd."
Mike first heard about Zaxwerks software in college. "What really brought me to Invigorator and then ProAnimator was the fact that I could branch out into 3D without leaving the familiar Adobe environment. Learning any new program is usually daunting and quite time consuming, so the ability to use a Zaxwerks plug-in to do 3D within the same pipeline I was used to, was reason 'numero uno' and still is. Plus, 3D just looks cooler!"
Now in his work with the Cavaliers, Zaxwerks products have become part of Mike's everyday workflow especially ProAnimator. "I've read the manual at least 6 times, no Joke. I've got sticky notes everywhere with all the cool things in ProAnimator I have yet to try. ProAnimator is quite a robust piece of software in which I can pretty much make anything I desire. I learn something new in ProAnimator every day. I'm at the point where if I have an idea I can make it happen in almost any case, and now with the imminent release of ProAnimator 5 I'm absolutely psyched up beyond comprehension, and my team is ridiculously excited, especially after my colleagues saw it in action at the National Association of Broadcasters Conference."
"We often combine ProAnimator and 3D Flag. 3D Flag is easy to learn and it yields some truly beautiful results. I wanted to make an animation for SHAQ with a SUPER-SHAQ cape blowing in the wind and voila! 3D Flag took care of that wonderfully!"
"ProAnimator's interface is brilliant. It takes complex tasks and brings them down to earth in a way where a single artist can create a brilliant piece of content. Other 3D programs are so complex that you need a team of 4 or 5 individuals working on the project to get anything of substance done that and a huge render farm! ProAnimator inside After Effects equals one happy artist when it comes to speed of rendering and quality of the graphics."
Not too long ago Mike's team needed to create an animation for Zydrunas Ilgauskas a beloved player for the Cavaliers. "Everyone likes Z. I had to make something really cool, so I busted out ProAnimator and made a snazzy Z-Nation animation."
"ProAnimator is really excellent at keeping our workflow fast. Whenever the season is about to get underway we have to redo all the NBA team logos. That's a lot of 3D graphics, but it goes pretty quick thanks to ProAnimator. Zaxwerks products have seriously sped up the motion graphics pipeline as far as going from concept to content. And in the ridiculously fast-paced world of the NBA basketball we need a program that is speedy but yields high quality results."
March 10th, 2010
As the saying goes: “Your results may vary.” But one lucky guy credits ProAnimator for starting the journey, which ended with him finding his true love! Daryl Young, from Mad Cow Films, considers himself primarily a video editor but wanted to expand his business. He added ProAnimator to his toolbox and got rave reviews from his clients, an edge over his competition, and he found love. Here's how it happened.
"I was given a challenge to help a company look bigger than it was. I thought I could help them by giving some life to their logo, and maybe boost the entertainment value. I had never done animation in my life, so I was looking for a 3D program I could use. I did some research and I saw the demo video of ProAnimator and of course I was sold straight away!”
“The first animation was easy, that’s where I learned the art of animating an individual letter or character. I learned about the timeline and keyframes. By the way the behaviors in ProAnimator are brilliant. It made my imagination very easy to achieve.”
“The second animation was more of a challenge. There is a lot more movement with every character, and getting the characters to appear like they are reacting with the others. I found a lot of thought had to go into the characters. I had to think like that character and feel how they would move.”
“The third animation was the hardest; it involved multiple camera angles and camera animation. I planned it out carefully; story boarded it to see what the main frames would look, and to see if I could do it. But in the end I conquered it. I feel pretty much invincible. If I have an idea, I can set it in motion. ProAnimator has made me look better than I really am, for which I’m very thankful. Thank you Zaxwerks.”
ProAnimator made it very easy for Daryl, to achieve professional work without hours of training. “The tutorials helped me understand other aspects of image creation, even with Photoshop, a program I was convinced I knew a lot about.”
Daryl has now enlisted ProAnimator to do logo designs in Illustrator and Photoshop, He also uses it on Final Cut and Motion.
“I love the workflow, it’s always quick. I can save my movies with alpha channels; I can change text that has already been animated. I can make adjustments on the timing and resolution very quickly, and I love the fact that I can send previews within minutes to my anxious clients, although I actually wait before sending them, as I try to make it appear that I spent a fair bit of time on it…naughty huh!”
“Thanks to ProAnimator. I can let my creative juices flow, and experiment with different ideas, without the long hours and fuss. But what I love the most is that it’s very profitable.”
And then there's the love angle. Because of his venture into the new world of animation, Daryl found the girl of his dreams. During production, he realized he needed a voice for the "characters" in the animation. He put out a call and found Erin who captured the spirit of the animation and captured Daryl's heart too. They didn't meet face to face until after the project was over, but soon they did meet, began dating and eventually got engaged.
Daryl is a very, very happy guy these days. "You just don't know where ProAnimator will take you."