You can’t miss it these days, whether on TV, in film or even in those airline safety videos we all watch before a flight- that popular effect that transforms a regular live-action shot into a line-drawn, highly detailed animation. Digital Anarchy introduced ToonIt! at NAB 2007 as a plug-in for Premiere Pro, After Effects and other packages, allowing mere mortals access to this wonderful effect.
I tried ToonIt! with Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, on an HP xw8400 running two dual-core 3.0 GHz Xeon processors, 3 GB of RAM, an ATI X1800XT Pro 512 MB graphics card, an 80 GB SATA system drive and two 160 GB SATA drives in a RAID 0 configuration for video. I also tried it in Adobe’s Premiere Pro and AE CS3, and Final Cut Pro 6 on a similarly equipped Mac Pro with running two dual-core 3.0 GHz Xeon processors, 3 GB of RAM, an ATI X1900XT Pro 512 MB graphics card, an 500 GB SATA system drive and three 500 GB SATA drives for video. This is a very fast machine, but we’ll get back to speed in a moment.
ToonIt! gives you four different "cartoon" looks to start with: "ToonIt! Backlight Edges," "ToonIt! Goth," "ToonIt! Outlines only," and "ToonIt! Roto Toon." Each style has a very distinct look and would be very useful in any editor or effects artist’s arsenal. What’s great about these four primary styles is that you can create a range of customized versions with any of the 40 effect parameters included.
When you change the default color from pink to white in the "ToonIt! Backlight Edges" filter, your video will look like a reverse charcoal drawing. With a little work you could make it look like an animated version of the black-scratch crayon projects you may have done in second grade. In the right context, this effect could be very dramatic.
“ToonIt! Goth” kind of reminds me of the movie posters from Scarface, although instead of low detail black and white images, red is added to represent other colors, making an interesting black, white and red image.
"ToonIt! Outlines" turns your footage into a very cool, animated charcoal drawing. I have made this effect before by combining one of Boris FX BCC 5 filters with the Adobe B & W filter, but ToonIt! makes it a one-step process. Plus, I saw more detail with this version.
"ToonIt! Roto Toon" mimics the effect that I’ve been seeing on TV a lot lately, most recently in the Charles Schwab "Talk to Chuck" series of commercials (in actuality the work of animator and rotoscoping software developer Bob Sabiston). With ToonIt! you simply apply this filter and your video looks like a hand-colored cartoon. If you want your video to look like a 3D animation straight out of the studios of Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks, you’ll need a much different animation package (and a lot more time).
No other plug-in out there does this cartoon look as well as Digital Anarchy’s ToonIt! I recently reviewed Boris Continuum Complete 5, which has a "Cartooner" filter. "Cartooner" is a very useful filter, but you will get much more sophisticated results with ToonIt!
|Rendering 1 sec clip ||PPro CS3 (Win) ||FCP 6 v1.1 ||PPro CS3 (Mac)v1.1 ||AE 7 CS3 (Mac)v1.1|
|ToonIt! Backlight Edges|
|SD – DV ||(v1.0) 55 sec* ||15 sec ||19 sec ||25 sec|
|HD’ HDV 1080i ||4 min 01 sec ||1 min 0 sec ||44 sec ||1 min 48 sec|
|SD – DV ||0 min 45 sec ||12 sec ||16 sec ||25 sec|
|HD’ HDV 1080i ||3 min 32 sec ||53 sec ||38 sec ||1 min 47 sec|
|ToonIt! Outlines Only|
|SD – DV ||0 min 52 sec ||40 sec ||24 sec ||32 sec|
|HD’ HDV 1080i ||4 min 03 sec ||2 min 42 sec ||57 sec ||2 min 22 sec|
|ToonIt! Roto Toon|
|SD – DV ||1 min 24 sec ||54 sec ||39 sec ||54 sec|
|HD’ HDV 1080i ||6 min 19 sec ||3 min 33 sec ||1 min 31 sec ||3 min 38 sec|
|Ã¢Â€Â¢ *v1.1 the effect wasn’t functional yet|
So what’s not to like? As soon as I tried out an effect, I wanted to see how it looked rendered and in motion. At first, ToonIt! 1.0 brought the HP speed demon workstation to a near stand still (I didn’t have a Mac for testing 1.0 at the time, but DA told me the results would have been similar). In testing on the Mac Pro, I got more interesting and speedy results with the 1.1 beta. The Mac version of beta 1.1 was in much better shape than the Windows beta 1.1. When released, the Windows version should have similar results to what you see on the Mac side. So as a courtesy to my readers, I rendered one second (30 frames) of SD DV video and HDV 1080i video with each of the four filters, so you can calculate the time you’ll have for your next coffee break, or, as it were, five-course meal. (DA says the render time for HD doesn’t really matter if it is HDV or anyother format, it should be relativly the same).
A quick view of the chart (at left) will show you that while in two SD tests, FCP beat Premiere Pro CS3 by 4 sec/frame, Premiere Pro beat everything else, and by quite a lot in some places. According to the testing I did, it will take about 45 minutes to render a 30-second spot in Premiere Pro CS3 for the Mac. If you are in love with ToonIt!, you may want to consider Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 as an editing application, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of HD work.
Based on these numbers, I’d explain to any clients that there is going to be some render time involved with applying these cool effects. If you decide to use the Roto Toon for a 30-second HD commercial, edit and do all of the overlay graphics first. According to my tests, it will take about three hours and 45 minutes to render that spot! Standard definition would render in about 50 minutes.
Despite these rendering considerations, I love what you can do with ToonIt! Other companies have come up with posterization filters that approximate the "cartoon effect," but none come close to the quality results you get from this plug-in. Digital Anarchy ToonIt! gives you a unique and useful addition to your collection of video filters and it should only get faster with successive version upgrades. I highly recommend it!