Getris' Venice: A Gondola Ride for Graphic Artists

Article excerpt

The layered look: graphics and animation systems are approaching real-time interactivity.

The new random-access nonlinear editors have revolutionized editing. Systems from Avid, Lightworks, Montage and Emc2 all allow editors more time for experimenting and making decisions, with instant real-time feedback, flexibility and a high degree of interactivity. "If only those same qualities could be found in a graphics box," sigh directors, producers and graphic artists.

Well, they can. Nonlinear graphics is alive and well in Venice - not Venice, Italy but the Venice system from Getris, a French company with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. With heavy market penetration in Europe and Asia, Getris has in recent months aimed its sights at convincing the U.S. market that high-level 2-D graphics and animation can be more flexible and powerful than anyone has dared to imagine.

Postproduction houses from Hollywood (Action Video) to New York (Chelsea Studios) have used the Venice to complete jobs for a diverse range of clients that includes Fox Television, Nordstrom's department stores, Microsoft, National Geographic, and The Discovery Channel.

To understand what makes the Getris Venice so unusual in the graphics marketplace, it's first important to understand what makes high-end 2-D graphics and animation such a time-consuming, expensive - and potentially frustrating - proposition.

First, there is the issue of layers. A graphically complex television commercial nowadays can literally have as many as two or three hundred layers. Each element in a single image is added as a new layer. Though digital technology (specifically, D-I component video) permits infinite layering without the loss of quality, each layer is inextricably linked with the previous ones, whether the image is layered in a D-I edit suite or a traditional paint system. That means, for example, that if the operator, at layer 10, decides that the object in layer 2 needs to be moved to the right, he or she must start from scratch and rebuild the entire piece.

Then there's the issue of access, or physical availability, of the elements. All videotape requires a few seconds to shuttle to the desired frame; the edit, as the editor grabs that frame and records it on the master tape, takes another few seconds. Though seconds may sound niggling, a single, very short project can nonetheless require hundreds of edits translating into hours of time and thousands of dollars. Though most high-end digital edit suites and paint systems utilize a digital disk recorder, which allows instant random access of the material and speeds up the process a great deal, digital disk recorders are limited in storage time. Which means that, when the disk recorder is full, the editor has to lay it off on tape for, you guessed it, a future edit.

Mixing 2-D and 3-D animation with live-action footage an increasingly popular styleposes even more difficult problems, especially for the client who doesn't know exactly what he wants or has a hard time visualizing the finished product. Even a simple animation can require hours of "rendering time" (the time it takes for the computer to figure out the equations and create the desired animation). The client has to come back later to see what he thinks he wants. And if he doesn't like what he sees, it's back to square one to try again.

These limitations, imposed on the director, producer and creatives working in 2-D graphics and animation, have, until now, been the industry standard. Though a great number of spectacular graphics have been created by every variety of 2-D paint and animation system, from the lowend desktop variety to the high-end digital editing bay, the process has been time-consuming and cumbersome. When it takes an hour to make a simple change or try something new, the tendency is to leave things the way they are.

The Getris Venice offers some features that dramatically change the way graphic artists work. …