Tag Archives: flicker free

De-flickering Bix Pix’s Stop Motion Animation Show ‘Tumble Leaf’ with Flicker Free

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One of the challenges with stop motion animation is flicker. Lighting varies slightly for any number of reasons causing the exposure of every frame to be slightly different. We were pretty excited when Bix Pix Entertainment bought a bunch of Flicker Free licenses (our deflicker plugin) for Adobe After Effects. They do an amazing kids show for Amazon called Tumble Leaf that’s all stop motion animation. It’s won multiple awards, including an Emmy for best animated preschool show.

Many of us, if not most of us, that do VFX software are wannabe (or just flat out failed ;-) animators. We’re just better at the tech than the art. (exception to the rule: Bob Powell, one of our programmers, who was a TD at Laika and worked on Box Trolls among other things)

So we love stop motion animation. And Bix Pix does an absolutely stellar job with Tumble Leaf. The animation, the detailed set design, the characters… are all off the charts. I’ll let them tell it in their own words (below). But check out the 30 second deflicker example below (view at full screen as the Vimeo compression makes the flicker hard to see). I’ve also embedded their ‘Behind The Scenes’ video at the end of the article. If you like stop motion, you’ll really love the ‘Behind the Scenes’.

From the Bix Pix folks themselves… breaking down how they use Flicker Free  in their Adobe After Effects workflow:

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Using Digital Anarchy’s Flicker Free at Bix Pix

Bix Pix Entertainment is an animation studio that specializes in the art of stop-motion animation, and is known for their award-winning show Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime.

It is not uncommon for an animator to labor for days sometimes weeks on a single stop motion shot, working frame by frame. With this process, it is natural to have some light variations between each exposure, commonly referred to as ‘flicker’ – There are many factors that can cause the shift in lighting. For instance, a studio light or lights may blow out or solar flare. Voltage and/ power surges can brighten or dim lights over a long shot. Certain types of lights, poor lighting equipment, camera malfunctions or incorrect camera settings. Sometimes an animator might wear a white t-shirt unintentionally adding fill to the shot or accidentally standing in front of a light casting a shadow from his or her body.

The variables are endless. Luckily these days compositors and VFX artists have fantastic tools to help remove these unwanted light shifts. Removing unwanted light shifts and flicker is a very important and necessary first step when working with stop-motion footage. Unless by chance it’s an artistic decision to leave that tell-tale flicker in there. But that is a rare decision that does not come about often.

Here at Bix Pix we use Adobe After Effects for all of our compositing and clean-up work. Having used 4 different flicker removal plugins over the years, we have to say Digital Anarchy’s flicker Free is the fastest, easiest and most effective flicker removal software we have come across. And also quite affordable.

During a season of Tumble Leaf we will process between 1600 and 2000 shots averaging between 3 seconds and up to a couple minutes in length. That is an average of about 5 hours of footage per season, almost three times the length of a feature film. With a tight schedule of less than a year and a small team of ten or so VFX artists and compositors. Nearly every shot has an instance of flicker free applied to it as an effect. The plugin is so fast, simple to use and reliable. De-flickering can be done in almost real time.

Digital Anarchy’s Flicker free has saved us thousands of hours of work and reduced overtime and crunch time delays. This not only saves money but frees up artists to do more elaborate effects that we could not do before due to time constraints, allowing them to focus on making their work stand out even more.

If you are shooting stop-motion animation and require flicker free footage, this is the plugin to use.

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For a breakdown of how they do Tumble Leaf, you should definitely check out the Behind the Scenes video!

I even got to meet the lead character, Fig! My niece and nephew (4 and 6) were very impressed. :-)

Hanging out with Fig at BixPix Entertainment

Cheers,
Jim Tierney
Chief Executive Anarchist
Digital Anarchy

Speeding Up Flicker Free: The Order You Apply Plugins in Your Video Editing App

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One key way of speeding up the Flicker Free plugin is putting it first in the order of effects. What does this mean? Let’s say you’re using the Lumetri Color Corrector in Premiere. You want to apply Flicker Free first, then apply Lumetri. You’ll see about a 300+% speed increase vs. doing it with Lumetri first. So it looks like this:

Apply Flicker Free first in your video editing application to increase the rendering speed.

Why the Speed Difference?

Flicker Free has to analyze multiple frames to de-flicker the footage you’re using. It looks at up to 21 frames. If you have the effect applied before Flicker Free it means Lumetri is being applied TWENTY ONE times for every frame Flicker Free renders. And especially with a slow effect like Lumetri that will definitely slow everything down.

It fact, on slower machines it can bring Premiere to a grinding halt. Premiere has to render the other effect on 21 frames in order to render just one frame for Flicker Free. In this case, Flicker Free takes up a lot of memory, the other effect can take up a lot of memory and things start getting ugly fast.

Renders with Happy Endings

So to avoid this problem, just apply Flicker Free before any other effects. This goes for pretty much every video editing app. The render penalty will vary depending on the host app and what effect(s) you have applied. For example, using the Fast Color Corrector in Premiere Pro resulted in a slow down of only about 10% (vs. Lumetri and a slow down of 320%). In After Effects the slow down was about 20% with just the Synthetic Aperture color corrector that ships with AE. However, if you add more filters it can get a lot worse.

Either way, you’ll have much happier render times if you put Flicker Free first.

Hopefully this makes some sense. I’ll go into a few technical details for those that are interested. (Feel free to stop reading if it’s clear you just need to put Flicker Free first) (oh, and here are some other ways of speeding up Flicker Free)

Technical Details

With all host applications, Flicker Free, like all plugins, has to request frames through the host application API. With most plugins, like the Beauty Box Video plugin, the plugin only needs to request the current frame. You want to render frame X: Premiere Pro (or Avid, FCP, etc) has to load the frame, render any plugins and then display it. Plugins get rendered in the order you apply them. Fairly straightforward.

The Flicker Free plugin is different. It’s not JUST looking at the current frame. In order to figure out the correct luminance for each pixel (thus removing flicker) it has to look at pixels both before and after the current frame. This means it has to ask the API for up to 21 frames, analyze them, return the result to Premiere, which then finishes rendering the current frame.

So the API says, “Yes, I will do your bidding and get those 21 frames. But first, I must render them!”. And so it does. If there are no plugins applied to them, this is easy. It just hands Flicker Free the 21 original frames and goes on its merry way. If there are plugins applied, the API has to render those on each frame it gives to Flicker Free. FF has to wait around for all 21 frames to be rendered before it can render the current frame. It waits, therefore that means YOU wait. If you need a long coffee break these renders can be great. If not, they are frustrating.

If you use After Effects you may be familiar with pre-comping a layer with effects so that you can use it within a plugin applied to a different layer. This goes through a different portion of the API than when a plugin requests frames programmatically from AE. In the case of a layer in the layer pop-up the plugin just gets the original image with no effects applied. If the plugin actually asks AE for the frame one frame before it, AE has to render it.

One other thing that affects speed behind the scenes… some apps are better at caching frames that plugins ask for than other apps. After Effects does this pretty well, Premiere Pro less so. So this helps AE have faster render times when using Flicker Free and rendering sequentially. If you’re jumping around the timeline then this matters less.

Hopefully this helps you get better render times from Flicker Free. The KEY thing to remember however, is ALWAYS APPLY FLICKER FREE FIRST!

Happy Rendering!

Flicker Free and the Bloody Beetroots feat. Tommy Lee

I think the most exciting thing about Flicker Free plugin is that people are willing to let us talk about it when they use it. Beauty Box Video gets used all the time on very high profile projects but no one wants to admit it publicly. It’s not worth some video editors job to say so-and-so pop star doesn’t have the flawless skin it looks like she has.

Flicker Free isn’t even officially released yet and we’re getting producers emailing us, letting us know it saved a shot (or shots) in their video AND they have no problem with us posting it. It’s awesome!

Such is the case with the music video from the Bloody Beetroots featuring Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue fame). One of the LED lights on the set was causing severe strobing in some shots. This isn’t regular flicker, it’s sort of rolling bands. It’s something we’ve seen only from LED lights and possibly electrical interference (the iPhone example in the FF demo reel is a good example of the problem). Flicker Free was the only thing that got rid of it. Just another big problem the plugin can solve. You can check out the final video below.