Improvements to the GMask Object
Various improvements have been made to the Action's GMask object in the 2012 Extension 1 release:
- Vertex Animation support: It is now possible to choose between Shape-based or Vertex-based animation for all types of GMask object channels. The new button is located below the Lock button within the GMask Object Mask sub menu. When Shape Animation is selected, all keyframes are grouped into a single channel called "shape." When Vertex Animation is selected, all the keyframes are located on their respective channels.
- GMask Plane: This new object available from the Action Node bin is a single, straight spline that is opaque on one side and transparent on the other. The spline does not have any vertices and cannot be altered, however you can add as many Gradient points as desired. This object can be used to perform a number of tasks, including creating wipe effects or to have better control over reflection effects. It can be oriented in 3D space in the same way you would orient a flat image surface. See GMask Plane.
- GMask Ellipse and GMask Rectangle: These new creation presets are available from the Action Node bin. They are used to create rectangular or elliptical shapes that can be modified. Once a mask has been finished, it behaves like a regular GMask object that has explicit vertices that can be manipulated and offers all the functions and settings of a normal "free hand" GMask. See Gmask Preset Shapes.
- The new Edit Box function allows you to make shape transformations to a GMask after it has been finished.
- A new post processing option is available in the Mask menu, which allows you to choose whether to use the mask as a mask or as an occluder when encountering post-processing effects. In addition, you can now include or exclude a Lens Flare, Ray, or Blooming node with the selective GMask link.
- A new tangent mode called Equal Length is available in the Vertices menu that, when enabled, sets tangents on either side of vertices to be the same length (based on the proximity to the next vertex).
A new relighting effect is introduced in Action: Blooming. Similar to the workflow of Lens Flares and Rays in Action, a Blooming node is attached to a light in the scene to help define highlight areas that generate a glowing effect. You can also add textures to stamp a blooming node with particular patterns, such as streaks and glints.
See Relighting: Blooming.
Improvements to the Lens Flare Object
There have been various improvements made to the Lens Flare object:
- Existing Lens Flare presets have been simplified to reduce the number of objects needed to create the same results. Also, new creative lens flare presets, such as car lights and spotlights, have been added.
- Border FX Scale: You now have the ability to scale the borders of the Border FX so that the Border Gain is not necessarily at the edge of the Action resolution gate, but inside or outside of it.
- Additional Pivot controls: You now have In and Out parameters for the Pivot in the Border FX so that it gives better control on the fade in/out of the Pivot Gain.
- Additional Lens Flare controls: New parameters are available in the Lens Flare object itself, as well as in the various texture patterns. These added controls greatly reduce the need to use multiple Lens Flare objects to create different Border FX per pattern. They also extend the range of effects achievable with Lens Flare, beyond optical flares, and even allow for particle-like effects.
- The Lens Flare Object now offers the same In/Out controls for both Pivot and Box Border FX (these controls were previously only available for the external box border). This provides much better control over boosting effects, or conversely, complete fade-off effects occurring in the optical center.
- Centre X and Y: Allows you to offset the centre of rotation, scale and ratio of the patterns. It also has a Variance and a Seed if there is more than one pattern (number > 1) of the current type.
- Ratio before/after Rotation: Allows you to decide whether the Ratio transformation is done before or after the Rotation transformation. It's especially useful when combined with the Lock To Light feature.
- It is now possible to affect the Centre and Spread transformations using the Border FX settings of a specific pattern. Gain and Variance controls were added for all transformation types as well.
Improvements to the Rays Object
The Rays object can now be completely slave-controlled by the parent light and its parameters. In this mode, the Rays will follow the orientation of the light, its spread and fall-off, creating a visible spot-light effect in Action's 3D space. In order for the light to control the spread, the falloff and the orientation of the Rays, you must disable the Free option under the Pivot of the Rays object. The pivot will no longer control the orientation of the rays. Instead, its relative distance to the light will affect the distribution of intensity within the "cone of light" drawn by the Rays.
If Free is enabled, the pivot point position is completely free and is dictated by Pivot X, Y and Z parameters (as was the case in the previous version).
Improvements to the Media List Workflow
There are various improvements made to the Action's Media List workflow:
- Load Material as Media: It is now possible to add a Media list entry for all the Materials associated with an imported Geometry. To do so, you need to enable Create Media from the Import File Browser's Material Options section before you load the Geometry. This will result in the Texture being added to the Action Media List as well as on your Desktop.
- Load same Clip as Front and Matte from the Library: It is now possible to select the same Clip as Front and Matte when Media is added from the Library. The first selected clip will inherit the mention "Front" within its Clip thumbnail. To select the same clip as the Matte, you need to hold down the Ctrl+Shift hotkey while you select the same clip again. The mention "Matte" appears next to "Front". Finally, you need to press the Load button to complete the operation.
- Copy, Clone and Paste improvements: In previous versions it was possible to Copy and Paste Media attributes between entries. This workflow has been improved as it is now possible to select whether you want to copy selected attributes using the Paste FX functionality, or duplicate a Media entry using Clone.
Improvements to the Shape Tracker
The performance of the Shape tracker in the Action GMask object has been improved. It's now faster, more robust, and resistant to occlusions and antagonistic motion.
Improvements to the Photoshop Blending Modes
Dissolve, Lighter Color, Darker Color, Vivid Light, and Linear Light have been added to the list of supported Photoshop Blending modes in Action. They are properly set when importing a .psd file with layers using them as Blending Modes.
GPU-based Displacement Mapping
Displacement mapping in Action now offers a GPU hardware mode in addition to the already existing software mode (which remains unchanged). In the Displacement menu, a pop-up allows you to switch between HW Displace and the legacy SW Displace. When in HW Displace mode, the UI options are aligned with the controls available in other texture maps. Adjusting the parameters in Hardware Displacement is also faster than in Software, especially when using low resolution values in an image surface (high polygon count).
Diffuse Map: Using an External Texture
In the Diffuse menu, you can now load an external single-frame image file to be used as the diffuse map texture. This can be especially useful when using a high-resolution image as a diffuse map for 3D objects. This file is not added to the Media list.
2-Sided Lights in Action
In the Surface and Geometry menus in Action, you can enable the new Force 2-Sided button to have lights in your scene light both sides of a surface, or the inside and outside of a geometry (provided that shading is turned on).
Action Camera Live Target Mode
Action cameras now have a new Parenting Offset option along with Origin and Target: Live Target. Live Target sets the image to the current viewplane distance based on the FOV.
Perspective Grid in Action
Use Action's new Perspective Grid node to help you with perspective alignments in your Action scene. See Action: Perspective Grid.
New Outputs in Action
You are now able to output the Specular, Reflection, and UV maps of the objects included in an Action output. These new outputs can be found in the Output Options Type box in the Output menu.
Ambient Occlusion in Action
Ambient occlusion refers to the blocking of indirect or diffuse light on an object. It refers to the darker areas of the object, typically creases, cracks and crevices. Ambient occlusion is caused by indirect light's inability to bounce around and illuminate areas that are blocked by a nearby object that absorbs the light rays. These subtle variations in lighting are visual clues for our eyes to detect surface details and distinctions that would otherwise be washed out and unnoticeable. Ambient occlusion adds realism to your scene by adding shadows in crevices, nooks and crannies, and so on. For each surface point, it calculates how much light is blocked by other geometry.
You are now able to output the ambient occlusion of objects included in an Action output using the AO output type. This output type creates a grayscale output that is dark in areas light cannot reach and bright in areas where it can.
Snap Objects to Surface
A new preference is available in the Action Setup menu. Located in the Snap To Surface section, you have the ability to enable Shift-Snap. When enabled, holding Shift while moving an object that has axis data (transformation data) will force the "Z" parameter of the object to match the depth of the pixel under the cursor. This effectively looks as if the axis is constrained to "glide" on the surface of the underlying objects in the scene.
Action Output Naming Conventions
New preferences in the Action Setup menu allow you to set default naming conventions for your Action outputs.