Let's Boujou It!

2d3's boujou software makes tracking shots where natural and CG elements need to be combined, much easier than hand tracking. Here's what three studios have to say about the product and how it fits into their pipeline.

These days, you might hear VFX artists talking enthusiastically about boujou. No it's not some new French food trend. It's software designed by 2d3, which allows CG companies to accomplish what was previously painstaking work in record time, and with relative ease. boujou (boo-zhoo') is the industrys first fully automated camera calibration and tracking system.

This Emmy award-winning software has been used in many major feature films including Scooby Doo, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Sum of All Fears, Black Hawk Down and the VES Awards sweeping Dinotopia mini series. Also used extensively in commercials, music promos and in architectural and industrial visualizations, boujou offers complete automation, accuracy and the ability to track difficult material. Now, VFX supervisors no longer cringe when a director conceives of a seemingly impossible tracking shot or special effect. Instead they say, "Bring it on. Let's boujou it!" We asked three VFX specialists for their opinion of the software and why they're fans of it.

Casey Conroy of Ring of Fire Advanced Media recalls how boujou tracked through a plane of leaves to save the day on a Toyota commercial.

Casey Conroy of Ring of Fire Advanced Media recalls how boujou tracked through a plane of leaves to save the day on a Toyota commercial.

Casey Conroy, Senior VFX Producer for Ring of Fire Advanced Media

As a visual effects boutique consistently working on high-end commercials, television, feature films and music videos, we frequently need to integrate photo-realistic CGI work into live-action material. This is an area where boujou really helps. boujou is also a great tool for complex tracking in 2D composites. In fact, it has become a verb in the jargon at Ring of Fire: "Let's boujou it!"

When we receive a backplate with a large perspective move, one of the first things we do is to set a camera track in boujou. We use the software for everything from the hardcore to the mundane, from spots for Toyota, Sony PlayStation 2 and Bud Light to TV episodics to music videos. It's an invaluable tool and an accepted part of our workflow.

boujou allows users to track through shots automatically, eliminating tedious hand tracking.

boujou allows users to track through shots automatically, eliminating tedious hand tracking.

A recent project example involving boujou was a Toyota commercial filmed in Prague. The concept was that the Toyota Avalon gives you a lot of personal space. So the spot featured a man walking through an open courtyard lined with trees where leaves clear away around him as he goes by. The practical plates were shot with a big, booming camera move and several different motion control passes. To round out the shot, the agency wanted to put leaves across the entire ground plane not just where they had existed during the actual location shoot. We created a new plane of leaves in Inferno with production elements and used boujou to track this with the ground plane. The track in boujou was spot on from the get go, and the shot looked beautiful and totally natural. It was a great "save" by boujou, completed in under a day.

A recent episode of The Drew Carey Show presented a similar situation, where we had this big camera move and needed to add CG elements and new practical elements to the original live-action plates. The storyline featured office workers having a bit of fun doing the Riverdance on the street below while other office workers heave computers off the building above, causing computers and monitors to go smashing to the ground around them. As the scene developed, the producers wanted to add more and more computers. We created a number of CG computers and also shot computers practically striking the ground and shattering. boujou tracked the scene very quickly. Our expectations are pretty high with boujou and we were happy to see that the additional practical computers tracked in perfectly, giving the clients what they wanted.

boujou offers a big benefit for expediting completion of these and other complex scenes. We are constantly amazed at what the application is able to track. Even with wild perspective moves, tracking can be done automatically within a couple of hours not days, as is the case with hand tracking. And with boujou, we dont have to tie up one of our Inferno suites to do the tracking work, which really maximizes our efficiency and gives us more time to finesse the shots.

Because of the ease of boujou's automated tracking abilities, Dave Funston of Zoic Studios encourages his clients to be as creative as they'd like with their camerawork.

Because of the ease of boujou's automated tracking abilities, Dave Funston of Zoic Studios encourages his clients to be as creative as they'd like with their camerawork.

Dave Funston, CG Artist for Zoic Studios

Zoic Studios completes CG, compositing and other effects work for a range of primetime television shows that includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. One tool we use to help meet the tight schedules and creative requirements of these programs is boujou by 2d3.

boujou is an extremely easy to use piece of software, yet it does amazing things. The beauty of the application is that is just does what it needs to do: produce a moving camera from film or video material without the need for the artist to track input manually.

One example of an instance where boujou performed beautifully for us was on a recent episode of Angel. The scene involved a camera move pushing into a jail cell and the director wanted to push all the way through the jail cage, and its metal door, to a close up of the character being held inside. To enable a move on screen that was impossible to create physically, we needed to take the 600-frame, all hand-held shot and reproduce the camera driving right through a digital element we had created for the door. Because we needed the scene done within a week, hand tracking was not an option, so we loaded the plates into boujou and had the shot fully tracked and locked down in just one hour and with just one pass.

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boujou allowed Zoic Studios to push through a prison door for the TV show Angel on short order. On the left is a shot without CG, and on the right is the image with a CG door that the camera will "push" through in the scene. Angel courtesy of Zoic Studios.

With these automated tracking capabilities, we can actually encourage shows to be as creative and cool as they like with their camerawork. This runs the gamut from enabling one-off effects like the one above to facilitating effects that are used several times within an episode, or are recurring from episode to episode. On Buffy, for example, whenever a vampire gets dusted, or killed -- which happens a lot! -- this calls for a specific type of handheld camera shot effect. Here, the reliable setup in boujou has helped us generate great results, and inspired the production to make these moments even more daring and dramatic.

Most shots are plug-in-and-go, but even when a shot is not so straightforward boujou provides integrated internal tools that let you tell the application more about whats happening. For a challenging spot -- lets say something with a lot of talent in it and perpetual camera motion -- boujou offers features to help discern that the actors are not part of the scene geometry and that the backgrounds should be kept clean from any disruptions. Its great to have tools to get around problems that are unavoidable, especially in television where re-shoots almost never happen and its up to you to make the effect work on the material youve been provided!

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According to Kevin Baillie of The Orphanage, using boujou lets them employ fewer people to accomplish the same job as quickly as larger studios.

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The Orphanage used boujou to help produce this time lapse shot of a New York high rise which builds itself in the Cher video for Song of the Lonely. © Warner Bros Records.

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This time, a turn of the century building rises up by itself with the help of boujou in the same Cher video. © Warner Bros Records.

Kevin Baillie, CG Supervisor for The Orphanage, Inc.

boujou has been a mainstay for us from the day we bought the software, whether for television or motion picture projects. By contrast to studios where dozens of people will be working on match moves for weeks, we have one or two artists, depending on the show, who use boujou to track shots reliably in a few hours.

On a recent film, the upcoming sequel Jeepers Creepers 2, we used boujou to track in a CG creature during a nighttime chase scene successfully. The live-action footage featured actors in a speeding car, shot from a moving truck. With irregular terrain and grass flying by, the scene would have taken an inordinate amount of time to track by hand. We fed the material into boujou and the application then calculated a perfectly accurate solution to allow us to place the CG character into the scene. On long, complex shots like this, using boujou can cut two to three weeks off of the completion time.

A music video we created for Chers single Song for the Lonely required us to replace New York City structures shot in frame with CG replicas that were animated as if they were building themselves up from scratch in time-lapse fashion. We took HD footage of the camera panning up on the buildings, removed the buildings and rebuilt them digitally. boujou was used to track the shots to place all of the digital elements correctly, as well as to solve for the motion of what the camera was doing for shots involving a green screen set.

As you can imagine, 3D match moving is incredibly intense. Its complexities have often relegated directors to doing locked-off shots instead of interesting camera moves and sweeps. Here is where the availability of software like boujou is making a big difference for whats being attempted and achieved. From the artists perspective, we dont really think, Oh, no! when we get a shot that has some crazy camera move. We actually get excited because it inspires us to test and push the envelope. If we didnt have new enabling technologies on hand, we might never push ourselves and our jobs would just become boring over time.

Darlene Chan is managing editor of Animation World Magazine. After receiving a bachelor's degree from UCLA, Darlene happened into the motion picture business and stayed for 14 years. She served as a production executive for Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Davis Entertainment and Motown. She produced Grumpy Old Men (1993) for Warner Bros. In 2001, she joined Animation World Magazine.

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