Price When Reviewed: £3,525 plus VAT
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The process of inserting 3D objects into live-action footage is far from trivial. Not only does the 3D sequence need to be rendered with the exact same camera movement that the live footage was shot with, it may also need to have the same lens distortion for it to be totally believable.
One way to do this is to create the 3D sequence first, then export the camera movement to a motion-control camera to shoot the live action which is accurate, but expensive and not ideal for location shots. Or you can use MatchMover to extract 3D camera motion from almost any type of footage. It requires no on-site measurements, special markers or any kind of data at all, just the footage.
The way it works is you load the live footage then define a number of tracking points - high-contrast areas in the scene than can easily be followed. The software then tracks the locations of these points in 2D. Once enough points have been tracked to cover the sequences, the 3D tracking can be extracted from the relative movement of these 2D points.
To improve the 3D tracking, you can define a co-ordinate system from selected points that you know lie on certain planes. You can also add ‘constraints1 between two or more points to help guide the tracker to the correct 3D solution. Setting the constraints can be tricky, and it would be handy if MatchMover displayed the user-selected co-ordinate system over the image. On good footage though, MatchMover does a very good job all on its own.
It can be difficult to track fast pans where detail becomes blurred, but if you can get good data either side, you can manually insert keyframes for trackers to help MatchMover. Helper images also aid the process. These can be stills or extra footage of the same scene taken with any type of camera, but from a different angle. This helps to introduce extra parallax effects that are the fodder for MatchMover1s algorithms.
This second release of the software features improvements in several areas, notably the 2D tracking, which is much faster than before - at least four or five times in our tests.
Version 2 includes a graph editor so you can manually edit the camera parameters to make fine adjustments. Tabbed palettes have also been introduced, making it easy to switch between the Track view, Graph Editor and Track Status panels.
When you1re happy with the results, you can export the scene to Softimage, Maya, Max, LightWave, and also Cinema 4D scene formats. The 3D scenes include an animated camera plus Nulls for the tracked points. You can also export in the RealViz ASCII format should you need to.
As a side note, Avid has done a deal with RealViz to distribute a version of MatchMover specific to Softimage. This is important since Maya Unlimited has its own built-in match moving software (Maya Live), whereas Softimage has none.
The downside to MatchMover is that it1s very expensive. At £3,525, it1s not something that many will be able to afford unless match moving and 3D is their bread-&-butter work. There1s a pay-per-use version £700 buys you a copy of MatchMover with five exportkeys. One key lets you work on a single project of any length. You can export the data as many times as you like until it1s correct, but you can1t use the key again on another project. That said, Match Mover is quick and easy to use - as such, it1s recommended if your project justifies the cost.