At NAB 2010, The Foundry revealed its work on a plug-in to bring 3D camera tracking directly into Adobe After Effects. Their Camera Tracker plug-in, currently in pre-beta, looks set to provide long-missing functionality to After Effects, and once it has been added, it will likely transform the type of work seen from After Effects artists.
3D Camera tracking provides the means to recreate the movement of an actual camera in virtual a three-dimensional model. Although it is most commonly used to match 3D models in animation created in software such as Maya to a background plate shot, After Effects has long had the capability to work with this data in its own 3D comp world using the Maya .ma format.
However the process has always involved leaving After Effects to track the shot in a third-party application, be it the fully featured PFTrack or the more modestly priced but powerful Syntheyes. There is an investment not only of money but of time to learn the workflow of these applications – while most of them offer something like a “one-button” solution (in Syntheyes it is literally a big green button) there is an entire discipline in visual effects devoted to matchmoving using this software.
Camera Tracker looks promising to save After Effects artists time and money in a couple of ways. First of all, it is implemented as a plug-in which can be accessed directly in the application. Because it has to work with the After Effects API, its UI will be more unified and less complicated than the multi-panel approach typical to the more complex stand-alone alternatives. And assuming it can deliver a result in a majority of cases, its projected $250 price beats the competition.
Jim Geduldick from Off Hollywood (and the NYC After Effects User Group) demonstrated the software in the Foundry booth. “Having camera tracking available directly means huge time savings for anyone working entirely in After Effects and unlocks the possibility to work directly with a large selection of other third-party plugins that understand 3D camera data.” These include Trapcode Particular, which is also apparently on its way to Nuke as a third-party plugin.
Anyone interested in participating in the Camera Tracker beta can register here. Target date for release is late summer or early fall of this year.