By Neil Bennett | on February 15, 2007
Price When Reviewed: 49 . 19 . 99 . 69
Pros: A unique tool at a very low price. Makes matching CG/graphics to footage very easy indeed.
Cons: Output can be tricky to work with directly in After Effects, and the Professional version is required.
PFHoe offers a 3D tracking solution to creatives outside the large post houses.
While The Pixel Farm’s own PFMatch and PFTrack suites, or 2d3’s Boujou meet the needs of the Soho VFX set, PFHoe is of interest to studios looking to composite 3D elements and graphics into their footage realistically, but without breaking the bank.
The software uses some tricky maths to automatically scan a piece of footage and assess both the 3D motion of the camera and where the elements in the scene sit in the 3D space. When it’s done, you can export the camera and layout data to a 3D suite such as Maya, create 3D objects matched to parts of the scene, and render them from the right angles for quick compositing.
Alternatively, you can skip the 3D suite stage, bring the data directly into After Effects, and add matched motion graphics with a minimum of fuss.
PFHoe 1.0 was SD-only, but version 2.0 adds support for HD – following the trend for desktop HD production using compressed formats such as DVCPRO HD and HDV. The upgraded tracking engine is more accurate than before, too, especially with such formats. The upgrade also adds a very accurate focal-length estimation tool.
Free to choose
The choice of output formats is largely the same, but one major addition is support for the freeware Blender – allowing users from a video or graphics background to take their first steps in 3D without having to make any monetary investment.
PFHoe 2.0 is a useful tool for enthusiasts, but most creative pros are going to find the PFHoePro version more compelling. This adds some extra output formats including Apple Shake, and a few manual controls. The Pro version lets you nominate tracking points yourself, so you can line up graphics precisely in your 3D or compositing application.
The workflow to 3D suites is smooth, but importing tracked data into AE is fiddly. You’re essentially importing a Maya (.ma) file – which requires the Professional version of AE. This can give you an overwhelming amount of data that can slow AE to a crawl. Many motion graphics artists would prefer if PFHoePro was an After Effects plug-in to provide more customizable output, though we’re not sure whether the AE architecture would support this.
If at any time you need to composite footage with CG and graphics, you’re going to want a copy of PFHoePro.