Start Composer by clicking on its icon on the Desktop.
The first thing the user will see is The “Startup Configuration View”. Here we can select monitor(s), on which we wish to display video output(s) from the Composer system.
On each monitor there is an identification tag in the top left corner, that shows, which monitor it is and which graphic card it is connected to. Also, the resolution and the numbering (index) of the video output device are displayed.
In this “Configuration View” we see all connected monitors in numeric order, displayed with its index number. A click on the index here will flash the info tag on the connected monitor as well. This will make the identification of the monitors rather easy.
Here in the “Index” drop-down list, we can specify with what number each monitor will be listed in the system or if we want to use this as an output at all.
Let us now assign index #1 to the monitor number “2” that - I am flashing - in our list. This means that the monitor we see now will be given index #1 and function as output in the system.
But we do not want to assign index #1 for the number “2” output monitor to this display, since we will have the Composer editor on this device. Therefore I assign the #1 to the other external display - this monitor will naturally not appear on this training video. This output signal will be presented in another way.
Another thing that we have to mention is the Sync switches. When a monitor is marked with Sync, the system will align its internal rendering frame rate to that monitor's refresh frequency. At this point that is all, we have to know about this function.
Now that we have set the output device, we can start the application.
In order to do anything with the system, we have to create a new document. In Aximmetry we call these documents: Compounds. We create a new Compound by clicking on the “New” button. In order to see any output image in general, we have to add a module that outputs a video signal.
In Aximmetry, we call them Video Sources. These can be many things in the system such as a photographic image, video file, or live camera. There are also different algorithmic image generating modules available.
Now, for our training purposes, we are using a simple video file here. In order to add a video playing module we simply drag-and-drop the video file into the gray area of our compound.
For this, we call the File Browser to our help. We see our file selection panel on the left. It is worth mentioning here, that we have so-called “project” folders which serve as storage for files and subfolders dedicated to separate projects. Obviously, at the beginning, we do not have many project folders but we can eventually use the folder here called: Common. It contains a set of media files, effects, and textures for general purposes. We are now selecting items here. In the Common folder, we open the folder called Videos, and in this, we select the subfolder called Misc. Here, we can find two general-purpose video files. We select the second one, which contains a video of a flowery meadow.
We select and drag-and-drop this file onto the compound area like this. This will automatically create a video player module, which naturally contains that specific video we have just selected. We can see that this module has several input- and setting options together with several output options. The settings of each input option can be found here on the Pin Values panel. We shall come back to this later and illustrate what can we do here.
Let us now concentrate on the outputs instead. The output we are interested in now is a yellow output at the top right. Aximmetry always allocates yellow for Video type signals and cables.
Now, we just grip on the yellow dot keeping the left mouse button pressed, and draw a line by moving the mouse beyond the right side edge of the Compound area. When releasing the mouse button we are sending our video signal to the #1 Video Output, the one we already have allocated in the “Startup Configuration View” to our number “1” monitor.
Since we cannot actually watch our external, number “1” monitor in this tutorial, we will follow it in the small Preview window here. I will now close the other small Preview panels not to disturb us later.
Also, I will enlarge this Preview panel like this so that we can have a more convenient look. Also, I am closing the File Browser in order to free up more space. There are different ways of doing this. I am showing this too. Either click on this double arrow at the right upper corner of the view or find its own button here with the draw icon which facilitates an easy on/off function for the File Browser View.
Or if we may accidentally close it with the “X” button on the top, making the icon disappear from the icon bar as well. Do not worry, we can always click on the View menu on the Toolbar and the File Browser option there to make the File Browser visible again.
We close it now to make our Compound work area larger. So, what can we do with that Video file that we have cabled as Output then? Aximmetry is housing different processing modules, so-called “Post Processing Modules” which are characterized by having one or more video inputs and one video output. We can add such modules to our video file by making a right click on the grey Compound work area and selecting the “Insert Module” option or just pressing the “Insert” key on the keyboard like this. I will most certainly use this key on the keyboard because it is the fastest. We make an “Insert” module, like this.
The Insert Module panel here is divided into different categories including the available module types. Among these, we are now selecting the “Video Post Processing” modules and I am inserting now a very simple module type, the so-called Blurrer. I am selecting this by double-clicking on it and now the module is visible for us here.
Now we have to lead our Video signals through this module. This can be done like this: dragging a cable from the Video file Output Pin to the Yellow Input Video Pin on the Blurrer module and then dragging a cable from the Blurrer module to the Display output on the right.
Now we see on the Preview window that the video has become slightly blurred. Now I will increase the value of the Blur and we can see the change better.
This is one way of doing it. The other way is more convenient. It is done by keeping the “Ctrl” key on the keyboard pressed while dragging the Blurrer module onto the yellow cable like this. We see that the cable turns white. We now release the mouse button. Since this module has two inputs the system gives us a window to choose input and output. After selecting the Video input and the Out items we click OK to close this window. The wiring is now complete.
Previously, I have shown that each module has designated parameters that can be adjusted in a special window to the right. This Blurred module has a so-called Radius parameter for instance.
This leads us to the explanation of how these switches and buttons can be set in order to adjust the processing of the signal. When we have numeric parameters for instance the “radius of the blur” then we have the following methods to adjust them. One method is to click on the box with the mouse, keep the left button pressed and move the mouse up and down to set a value. In this case the values are changing with small intervals, 1/100s of a unit. In the case we do that while pressing the “Shift’ simultaneously then the intervals will be larger, 1/10th of a unit, and with “Ctrl” pressed the change of values will occur with whole units. Finally when both the “Shift” and “Ctrl” are pressed the change of values will occur with 1/1000s of a unit.
All these adjustments can be done without the mouse. When we click on the field, the up and down arrow keys will allow us to set the desired value by 1/100s of a unit while pressing the “Shift” will change the value by 1/10th, the “Ctrl” will change the value by whole units and while pressing both the “Shift” and “Ctrl” the value will change by 1/1000s of a unit.
Let us try out some other Post Processing modules. We have for instance the “Adjuster”, which allows us to make simple colour corrections. We drag this new module onto the wire in a similar fashion as mentioned before with the Blurrer. Let us decrease the blur value slightly in order to see the Preview image clearer. The “Adjuster module” has well-known, common parameters such as adjustment levels for Brightness, Contrast, Hue, etc..
Also, a very handy module is the “Placer”, which allows the user to move the video signal horizontally and vertically. There are also functions for scaling horizontally, vertically, and for rotating the image as well.
In our Preview window at the bottom, we only see the final result after having applied all processing modules to our video file. But we may want to see the outcome during a work session, after each phase in this modulation chain. This can be performed quite simply by drawing the mouse cursor on a section of a cable while keeping the “ Ctrl” key pressed. This function will show us the actual video signal running in that particular section of the cable. In other words, we can see the video image after Adjustments, Placements, and Blur modules separately. This is not only applies to the cable but to the yellow output and input pin on each module.
It is worth saying a couple of words on terminology here. The different and colourful dots on both - input and output - sides of the module boxes are called “Pin” in the Aximmetry system. So these are the Input Pins and these are the output pins.
When we select a module, we can adjust on the right hand side panel - that we also call Pin Values Editor or Property Editor - the values of the input pins, more precisely the constant values of the input pins. This means, that when we set a certain value, for example, a Horizontal Offset in the Pin Value editor, that value will not change throughout the whole operation time. In this case, 0.7 will be used by the system.
Now we can ask ourselves why we see a couple of value options from the editor appearing as colourful input pins on the Input sides of each module. The reason for this is to enable the module to receive inputs from a wide range of controlling tools for animation and/or automation purposes. For the animations, there are a variety of simple and more complex modules. Here we are going to demonstrate an easy one. It is called LFO and it may sound familiar to some of you from the realm of synthesizers. This module generates a back and forth oscillating signal. We can watch the function of this module by drawing the mouse onto the “Out” pin while pressing the “Ctrl” key on the keyboard. Of course, this is not a video sequence but a continuously changing numeric value.
Its function is to deliver signals of different waveforms so that we can control repeating cyclical movements in any processing module.
If I wire the LFO Out pin into the Horizontal Scale Input pin of the Placer module, for instance, we will generate an open-close effect and by also wiring it to the Vertical Scale, then we will get an increase-decrease effect on our output like this.
Within the LFO module, we can set any intervals for the oscillation effect. The value oscillates between 0 and 1 by default. Now let us narrow this interval a bit to avoid those extra-large movements of the image. Then we can add a similar LFO effect on the Radius pin of the Blurrer module. Let us set the Max Value between 0 and a higher value. We can now watch the cyclical changes in the second LFO effect too. Finally, in the Placer module, let us reduce the frequency of the LFO, resulting in a slower motion of the image. Now let us save everything we have done so far. We select File in the toolbar and click on Save or press Ctrl S.
In this case the Save Compound View will appear, which looks identical to the File Browser View explained earlier. Let us create a new Project for our tentative experiments here by clicking the right mouse button on the Projects window and select “New Project…”. We add a new project name in the “Create New Project View” for example: Practising. We now have added this new Project Folder. We can now single-click on the Practising folder and name the compound file: Test 1.
So far we have used some of the embedded, elementary Post Processing modules to create a more complex signal management process.
The system lets us store these kinds of complex structures as new Compounds and as a result of that, these new Compounds can be used subsequently the same way as our already existing, elementary Post Processing modules.
If we now open the File Browser and the Common project folder and in that we enter Compounds and then the Effects subfolder, we can see that it is already loaded with many complex processing modules similar to the one we have just created.
Let us select one, for instance: Cartoon Sketch. This effect will add a Cartoon like look and feel to the video content. We add this effect simply by drag-and-drop. If we now wire our original video through this effect, we can see how it changes it into a series of simple, handmade drawings…
This Cartoon module is basically a closed one and behaves like the elementary modules. Moreover, it is linked to the file it was originated from. We called these types of compounds “Linked Compounds”. This means that if the file, the Compound was created in changes and the effects are changed there, then this effect here will change, too. It keeps itself updated so to say.
But of course, this effect has its own internal structure and it can be edited too. We can open up the module by right clicking on it and select Edit Compound In-Place. Then we simply enter the module by double-clicking on it. We now see that it contains many other modules in a complex web of interactions. Of course, compounds can be nested within each other, so other sub-compounds could be used within this one.
To leave this Compound View, we double-click on an empty area. When we are back, we can select the “Revert In-Place Modifications” in the right menu, because we have not changed anything. By this action, the module is again closed and behaves like any other elementary module.
We see that this module too has its own parameters. We can for instance change the density of the drawing or the sketch effect itself.
In the case, we want to replace this effect module with another complex one we just either right click and select “Change Import Source” and select another effect or we can directly drag-and-drop the new effect from the File Browser onto the existing box. It will make the change instantly to the new effect. This is also a Cartoon effect but with many more additional parameter options, giving you the tool to create effects more freely. We now set a value we are comfortable with and save it.
Let us assume, that we want to assemble a similar complex Compound effect of our own. How to begin then?
At first, we select those modules that we want to include in our own new compound. Then with the right click on one of the selected modules choose the option “Group Selection” or press “Ctrl” G. This action will pack all the selected modules into one new module while maintaining both the Input and Output channels. We can operate this new “box” the same way as our earlier ones. We can open and edit it by double-clicking on it. In the box itself, we can observe every module item ordered as it was before the grouping action.
Now we want to make this new effect module more controllable from the outside as well. In other words, we do not want to stick to its constant parameters. In order to achieve this, we can make the pulsating frequency of the Placer´s scaling effect - defined by the LFO effect - adjustable by wiring out its input “Frequency” pin to the left hand side edge of the Compound working area like this. We grip the pin with the mouse and drag a cable beyond the left edge of the frame. We have two ways of doing this: one option is to drag slightly beyond the edge and release the mouse like this. Now the Adjustable frequency value option will be created with a name automatically. The name of this input will be identical to the name of the input pin of the LFO module, in our case “Frequency”. Or we stop dragging the cable slightly outside the frame until we see 3 dots in a black field. When we release the mouse button here, the “Expose Pin” dialog becomes visible giving us the option to rename the Input pin value manually. Let us give the: Placer Frequency name to this pin now. In case we choose to exit this Compound, we now detect the new Placer Frequency input pin on our newly created complex effect module, which is also visible as a new function in the module´s own Pin Value editor on the right. Here we can easily adjust the speed of the pulsation.
Let us go back now again by opening the module. We can of course re-name these pins anytime by using the Rename function in the right mouse menu, like this. The operation, when we “wire” pins either to the left or to the right frames in the Aximmetry is called: Exposing.
Now let us do the same thing with the frequency of the Blurrer module and name it Blur Frequency. We see immediately that it has become adjustable. If I adjust the slider up the blurring becomes more rapid.
Eventually, if we want to test how the setting structure of one of our Compound looks like then not only we can see that in the Pin Values (or Properties) view when selecting the module but we can also click on the beige field outside the Compound working area to make its Pin Values visible.
What can we do if we do not want our exposed parameters to appear as numeric values in the Pin Value view? We may want to set a more user-friendly variant, a “Slider” for instance that we can adjust by moving the mouse left and right freely. For this reason, there are a set of Dashboard Modules available to us in the system. These modules will make the parameter handling of Compounds more efficient and user-friendly. Among these Dashboard modules, we can now select the “Dash Scalar” one here. This is called Scalar, mainly because in Aximmetry we call the simple numeric parameters or control values “Scalars”. This is in the contrary to the Vector value-based parameters, which are also often used in the system. We shall come back to this in one of the following tutorial videos.
If we cable our one of our Pins, for instance, the Placer Frequency, through this Dash Scalar - let us do that now - then it does nothing special with the signal, it just provides us with a slider instead of numeric values for setting the Placer Frequency option in the Pin Values panel.
As default, the Dash Scalar gives us an interval between 0 and 1 but of course, it is sometimes not appropriate. In our case, we would like to obtain much higher frequencies here. To achieve this, we have to use the Minimum and Maximum parameters for the Dash Scalar module. Let us set the maximum value to 10. In this case, we are able to adjust the frequency between 1 and 10. If we now set the maximum value we can see how fast the image moves in the Preview.
Now we have created a complex effect for our new project compound. We may now give it a name. We can use the Pin Values editor to write its name, for example, Oscillating, like this.
Now how can we go ahead if we decide to use this new effect module in other compounds, or in other projects as an independent effect? Well, we right-click on the module box and select “Save Compound And Link...”. We can save it freely, anywhere basically, but let us now save it into the Practicing project, the same way as we did with our main compound. The system allocates automatically the name of the box as the name of the file. We can change this obviously now or anytime later. With that, we have created an independent Oscillating compound.
Two things have happened here, first, the content of the box was saved into the file, and second, it is linked now to the file meaning that if the file is altered from outside, it will then alter the behavior of our main “Test1” compound, also.
In the case that we want to terminate the linking of the compound with the file then we right-click and select the “Unlink Compound” option. We keep everything as it is in the inside of the box but when altering the file it was previously linked to, it will not change its content here in this “Test1” compound.
In a similar way, we can also reverse the “packaging” or the Grouping of the compound by selecting the “Ungroup Compound” option after right-clicking. We can now see how we get back the original wired module structure.
Now, I would like to go on and show some mixing options in Aximmetry. So far we have watched post-processing modules that basically have only one input and one output port. But there are some other modules, which have more input ports and mix these inputs in some way. I wish to show you a couple of examples here. One of the most simple of them is the Switch video module. In this box, you can cable in quite a lot of videos. Let us wire our oscillating video and the Cartoon video into this Switch video module like this.
This Switch video has a parameter called: Selected. This parameter determines which one of the many inputs will go to its output. I am now exposing this input to the left side for more convenient access to it.
Well, I forgot to mention that if we expose a pin in the top-level compound, then it will be presented in a separate, so-called Dashboard panel. This means that whatever other modules I may select, their pins will appear in the Pin Values panel but the Dashboard panel will remain unaffected by these module selections at all times. Here in the Dashboard panel, all pins exposed in the top-level will remain visible. From now on the Dashboard panel can be used to change the selected video.
Let us take a look at another mixing module. Since we can only make sharp cuts with this Switch video module between the pinned inputs, we may eventually need a tool for making soft cuts with a fade effect between them. One solution is to bring in the new module and manually wire all cables to their exact former pin location again. This is an excruciating method. Luckily there is a better solution to this. We right-click on the Switch video module and then select “Change Module Type”. In the displayed Insert Module view we choose another one, for instance, the “Switch Video Smooth” module. With this action, we change the module type while keeping the existing wiring. Wiring to pins with the same name and type will be retained. Our control ability through the “Selected” parameter in the Dashboard panel will also remain unchanged. The only difference will be the soft or smooth change between the processed images.
Also, we have the ability to change the characteristics of the change. We can set a much slower transition, a 5 sec. transition for example. We see in the Preview, how slow it becomes. Also, we can change the type of the fading in the parameter called: Mode from the default “Cross” value to an “Out In” value. This mode means that one signal is fading “Out” and then the other is fading “In”. Let us watch this with increased “Fade Time” as well. Fade out for one and fade in for the other, like this.
The third type of mixing method that I want to demonstrate here is called: Blending. For this task, we have a so-called Blender module. Let us wire now the output signals of the two different videos into this Blender module and these videos will be mixed here in a certain way.
We can stop at this point since I wish to show you a useful shortcut. We see how the wiring is done from the Blurrer. A cable is drawn with the mouse from the Out pin of that module to the next box. In this case, when our connecting box is at the distance may be far out in the left and we can only see its cable already drawn to the next connection. We can use this existing connecting cable and clone a new one for us and cable it to our Blender module. We do this by holding the “Alt” key down while pointing to the selected cable with the mouse and then draw the mouse to the desired “In” pin on our Blender module like this. We can repeat this step from the Cartoon module but wire it into another pin this time.
Let us wire the whole Blender module into our “Video 3” pin on the Switch Video Smooth module. Then I set the Selection parameter to 3 in the Dashboard panel. We now see the output of the Blender module. More precisely, we see only the No.2 Input of the Blender module because we use Normal Blending Mode in the Pin Values panel. Let us change this to something more exciting, for instance, the one called: Exclusion. We now see how this blending mode mixes the two videos into one another.
At this point, it is worth mentioning a useful technique related to changing the type of control button in the Dashboard panel. We can see that the top “Selected” pin of the “Switch Video Smooth” module is wired out to the left to the Dashboard. Now we have a highly inconvenient control associated with it with only distinct numeric values. We have a solution to this as well. Let us open the Insert module panel. Search for “Dash Integer”. We cannot use the “Dash Scalar” module here because we do not have a continuous numeric value here. On the contrary, we operate here with distinct, whole numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc… Also, we cannot just simply drag this module on the cable since this cable is an integer type - light gray line - and the input pin of the Dash Integer module is a Scalar type. Unfortunately, we have to unwire the Selected pin from the left and thereby terminating the Exposure of the “Switch Video Smooth” module. We wire the Out of the Dash Integer into the top Selected pin of the Switch module and wire the Dash module to the left edge. It gets the name “In” but we rename it to “Switch” here to make things easier.
After this step, we see that the Preview image is lost. The reason for this is that the Default value of the Dash Integer Out pin is 0. And if we send 0 or a higher number than 16 into a Switch module then we get an empty image. We should not panic, this is a normal scenario.
We set the maximum and minimum values on the Dash Integer now. We have 3 video signals coming in here, so we set the Minimum parameter to 1 and the Maximum to 3 like this. When this is done, we can see how the new Slider control button in the Dashboard panel changes behavior. When it is set to the left we see the Video 1 output, when it is in the middle we see the Video 2 signal, and when on the right we see the Video 3.
And this concludes the explanation of the basic functions of the Composer. Obviously, there are many more post-processing, mixing, and graphical functions available in the system. These will be demonstrated in the following video.