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For the purposes of this review, I sat down with an artist who has been using Toxik in production so that I could see how the software dealt with real day-to-day challenges. Autodesk referred me to Michael Vaglienty at GiantSteps in Venice. Since Michael has been an expert Flame/Inferno guy since the dawn of time, he had some interesting insights.
Michael showed me the pros of the system, which first and foremost was the speed’which is the result of the hardware and the fact that Toxik uses a caching system to quickly gather thumbnails and proxies for quick comps and perusing, leaving the CPU to handle the grunt work. He also explained the workflow and how Toxik allows multiple users to dynamically update the comps and their elements as the client sits back drinking his non-fat, no- foam latte. This magic is brought to the client through a heavy-duty database which keeps track of the elements and assets. The compositing scheme could be either node- or layer-based, opening it up to artists coming from the node world (Flame, Shake, Nuke) or the layer world (After Effects, Combustion).
We also made some attempts at utilizing the 3D compositing system, setting layers on planes in space, and even bringing FBX models from Maya into the scene. This is a fortunate addition to be sure, but all of the other industry standards also have these features. In fact, I’m not absolutely clear on the utility of bringing in 3D geometry into a composite. For photo-real work, compositing tools don’t have a render engine to calculate the complexities of lights and surfaces, so the element would have to be rendered in another package anyway. Perhaps it would be good for blocking and setting up stand-ins until the renders are done.
I was surprised to hear that with all of Toxik’s interoperability and pipeline advances and sibling relations with other Autodesk products, the system does not play well with Combustion/Flame/Inferno’specifically in regards to roto tools. GiantSteps uses Combustion for rotoscoping, which is the right thing to do. You don’t want junior rotoscope artists taking up your $5,000 Toxik license. The studio’s roto artists saved the mattes out to sequences to be used in the Toxik comp. In my opinion, it would be much more effective if you could save out the roto splines and import them into Toxik so that they could be adjusted later if necessary. If I’m not mistaken, Combustion does do that with its bigger brothers Flame and Inferno.
Don’t get me wrong, Toxik is powerful and fast with the big stuff, and the functions are fantastic. I just feel that the points need to be adjusted before the engine can be considered finely tuned.
Thanks to Michael and GiantSteps for allowing me access.
(You can check out their work at www.giantsteps.us).