Best Buy
  • Price: 260

  • Company: Silhouette FX

  • Pros: A streamlined, easy to use and powerful dedicated roto-spline package that takes a lot of the drudgery out of rotoscoping work.

  • Cons: A number of minor interface issues cause a little bit of irritation, but this is still only a 1.0 release.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Despite the relentless progress in automating difficult post-production and visual effects tasks such as matchmoving, image-stabilization and even the removal of unwanted objects from image sequences, there is still a place for rotoscoping.

This is the manipulation of individual frames in a film or video sequence. This method defined visual effects work in the days before computers took over. Still, there are situations where the only sure-fire solution to a particular production problem is to do it by hand, frame-by-frame, and to this end Silhouette FX has designed a tool to make this kind of work as painless as possible.

Silhouette Roto comes in two versions. There’s a plug-in for various motion-graphics and editing applications, such as After Effects and Final Cut Pro, and there’s a standalone application, which is what we have on test here.
On first approach, the program seems quite straightforward. Roto is not a painting program – indeed, there are
no painting tools. Instead Roto focuses on the essence of rotoscoping, and to some degree visual effects in general
– matte creation.

Roto allows you to create animated splines using traditional keyframing and interpolation, both of the transformation of the spline object (translation, rotation, and scale) and of the spline points individually. This is what you would expect. What’s different about Roto, and new in this Standalone version, is the integration of image-stabilization through 2D auto-tracking. Brilliantly simple to use, the stabilization means that you don’t need to animate the transformation of the spline at all. You only animate the spline points and other parameters.

 border=0 />You place tracking points in the area of interest, and tell Roto to track the frame range. You can then stabilize the shot so that the object you are rotoing stays put in the viewer. If more than one tracking point is used then you can correct for rotation and scale too. Importantly, Roto doesn’t apply the stabilization to the image sequence, it keyframes the viewer itself so there’s no pixel processing to slow down the process. It’s so quick and simple to use that you wonder why no one thought of it before.
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In terms of tools, Roto offers splines in the form of B-Splines and bézier curves, plus there are two tools for creating squares and ellipses. There are some great features, such as the ability to select and edit the points of multiple independent splines. The spline’s effect can be set to Add or Subtract mode, which is useful when creating mattes that overlap as one object passes behind another, so that you can cut out the foreground object from the matte area as it passes in front. An Intersect mode would be a good idea though. 
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<b>Plucking good</b>
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Another great feature is the way the program handles matte feathering. You can vary the blurriness of the matte around the spline edge, but unlike the usual trick of using the actual spline points as the nodes for the blur values, Roto lets you add feather nodes independently of the spline itself. Just select the Feather tool and Alt-click anywhere on the spline edge to drag out the degree of feathering. Add as many feather controls as you like and slide them to any position. The actual feathering is shown on-the-fly, but it’s visualized with a green line showing the feathering extent around the perimeter. 
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Like spline points, feather nodes can be animated too, and have their own track in the timeline, plus you can control the amount of feathering globally as well as locally to allow you to animate the feather amount as a whole. Roto approaches perfection in its solution of variable matte feathering and control.
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Most motion graphic and editing programs have the ability to create animated splines and extract mattes, so at first glance Roto may seem redundant. However, companies with high-end editing systems from the likes of Discreet can help to optimize productivity by shifting time-consuming roto work to desktop machines running Roto, freeing up their expensive editing systems for the jobs they were really designed to do. 
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Roto is far and away the best solution for rotoscoping we’ve seen and the stabilized roto approach means that the process of creating complex mattes is often much faster using this dedicated system. Integration with other systems is good too, so Roto will slip right in to most production pipelines with ease.
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The few limitations of the program include the lack of editable function curves for animatable parameters – you just get a handful of keyframe interpolation modes instead. There are a few interface glitches, too. However, there’s not a lot to fault with Roto, and in use it’s a real joy.
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