In this tutorial we’ll discuss the case when we work in a home or small studio, basically we have a camera, a microphone, a green screen and a PC, and we want to perform all the operations on the PC without any auxiliary studio equipment. Let’s see how Aximmetry can help us in this case.
We’ll start with the same scene we used in the VR Camera tutorial. It’s Control Boards were assembled in a way that we could receive the picture of 3 physical cameras, and we could put these images onto 3 billboards in order to place them into the virtual space. What if it does not particularly suit us, for e.g. we want to work with only a single camera, and don’t want to work with the overcomplicated 3-camera Control Boards?
As I noted before several templates are available for this purpose. How can we switch to another one? If we return to Flow Editor, we can see a compound here with a complicated name starting with VirtualCam. This is the one that adds these Control Boards to the scene, and implements the operations related to camera handling and billboard rendering. The name of the compound consists of several parts. VirtualCam designates that we’re dealing with virtual camera motions without any tracking system. A-B designates that the camera motions can be defined as linear paths between A and B endpoints. There can be other implementations for this, for e.g. we have templates that are based on Sequencers that give a more flexible way to define the motion paths. But for many shows the A-B solution is perfectly enough. Preview designates that we are able to display all 3 outputs simultaneously in a matrix view. The last part of the name shows the number of cameras available.
So this is a 3-camera system, and that’s what we want to change now. The related templates are found in the Common_Studio project under the Compounds \ VirtualCam folder. Here are the similar templates we’re looking for. The smallest one we can see here is for 2 cameras, so we’ll use that one now. We simply drag and drop it onto the existing compound. The template has been replaced, while all our setting for the first 2 cameras have been retained. We can see that now the Control Boards only contain elements for 2 cameras and 2 billboards.
Let’s continue. What else do we need during the show? We might need a channel logo, and we want to start videos either in fullscreen or on the virtual screen here. There is another template compound to help us with these. In Common_Studio, within Compounds \ Overlays folder we can find a compound with another long name that informs us about the features it has. Let’s drop this into our scene. We can see a new Control Board named OVERLAYS immediately appears. It contains a panel type we haven’t seen before. This is the video menu that enables selecting between preopened video files using thumbnails.
The first one here is the VIDEOS panel. Here we can collect the videos we want to play in fullscreen. The collecting itself can be done by simple drag-n-drops. Let’s pick some videos from Common. These can be added either one by one or in groups by using multiselection.
In order to actually display these videos on the output we have to make a few connections. I remove a few modules to make some room. So our new compound has an Overlays pin, this will output the contents that should be added fullscreen to the final composite image. We simply have to connect it to the Overlays input of the VirtualCam compound. From now on I can play the fullscreen videos by simple clicks on their thumbnails. Switching back to the LIVE button takes us back to the virtual studio picture.
The bottom panel named VIRTUAL SCREEN obviously collects the videos we want to play on our virtual screen. There is another output pin for this on the Overlays compound, named Virtual Screen. Where shall we connect it? Well, it depends on the virtual set we’re working with, because there can be differences between their structures. In this particular case we have a module named LCD Screen 2 here. Its pin named VIDEO is the one that is routed to the background virtual screen. So let’s connect our videos here. We can see that the screen turned black, since we’re not playing any video currently. Let’s load a few. Drag and drop the same videos we used before. From now on I can start the videos on the screen by clicking.
The channel logos can be displayed using the LOGOS panel here. We can drop still images here. I prepared three Aximmetry logos for this purpose. Let’s drag and drop them here. By clicking one of them it appears in the corner with a smooth fading. Of course the location and size of the logo can be adjusted. If we select the LOGOS panel we can see its Offset and Scale properties.
The next feature we might need is the INSERT. These could be videos containing graphics or inscription sliding in and out, and usually reside in the lower third of the screen. These type of animations can be assembled in Aximmetry itself as well using its text rendering and animation functions. But if we already have some spectacular templates for e.g. in Adobe After Effects, and we can render alpha videos from them, we can easily use these videos with the INSERTS panel.
I prepared some of them as well here. Let’s drag and drop them onto the panel. However, an extra adjustment is needed here. These videos have an incoming and an outgoing part. We have to manually specify the start time of the outgoing part. For e.g. the out point of this second insert is at about 7 seconds. So let’s set the Out Position 2 property of the panel to 7. We can see that the video jumped back a bit. From now on if I switch off the insert, the outgoing part will be played. If I choose the insert again, the video is played from the start, but until the specified Out Position, and it pauses there.
The GREEN panel is useful if you do not want to produce the virtual background on-the-fly. Instead we record all the talents in the green screen, and later we render the show in a post-production using these recordings. In order to operate this we have to connect the Green 1, 2, 3 pins of the Overlay compound to the Test Input pins of VirtualCam.
As we can see currently some video players are already connecting to the Test Input pins. The reason for this is that I’m cheating right now, and using pre-recorded materials for this tutorial. So I delete these videos first. As we can see the talent is gone. So now I connect the Green 1, 2 outputs to the Test Input 1, 2 pins. On BILLBOARDS we have to turn on the TEST switches in this case to enable displaying the pre-recorded materials instead of the live inputs.
Now we have to drag and drop the recordings onto the GREEN panel. Let’s use the same recordings I’ve used so far. They are found in Common, under the Videos \ Green folder. Let’s drop these two men. Working with them looks like this: we stop the playing, and start it when we begin the recording of the show. After that we can switch between cameras and motion paths as if we did it in a live show. Of course, we can pause and continue the playing at any time.
At this point we might face a serious inconvinience. Here we have our video handling panels, while the camera handling panels reside on another Control Panel. During a live show it can be inconvinient to constantly switch between Control Panels. Wouldn’t be nicer to have all the controls related to the live show on a single Control Board?
Usually all virtual sets have a MAIN Control Board where we can find the settings specific to the virtual set. In this particular case for e.g. we have a panel for switching between different lighting presets. It would be the most convenient if we could collect all live show related controls to this MAIN board.
We can do it easily. Let’s go to OVERLAYS and select all the panels we need. Right-click one of them, choose Add To Control Board and click MAIN. In MAIN we can see that the panels are added. They are a bit mashed with the panels that already were there, but we can fix it in a moment. So from now these panels can be found both in MAIN and OVERLAYS, we can control them from either of the two boards. If after all we want to remove some of them from MAIN, just select the panel and press Ctrl+Delete. The other way to remove is to go to the original Control Board, right-click the panel and choose Add To Control Board again. We can see there is a little checkbox beside MAIN designating that the panel is added to the MAIN Control Board. If I click MAIN again, the checkbox goes away and also the panel is removed from MAIN. Let’s bring back both panels to MAIN by a couple of undos.
What’s missing still from MAIN is the camera controlling. Let’s go to CAMERAS and select the three orange panels. Right-click and choose Add To Control Board then MAIN. They appear on MAIN, and also need some rearranging. Let’s put them at the bottom.
From now on we have all the controls we need during the show in one place. We can switch between the videos, the virtual screen contents, the motion paths, cameras, and the lighting presets.
Our third big topic is the recording of the shows on the same PC. Another template compound is available for this purpose. It’s found in Common_Studio under the Compounds \ Record folder. Here we have a 1-Audio and a 3-Audio version of it, designating the number of allowed independent audio channels. Now we’ll use the 3-Audio version. Let’s drag and drop it into the scene.
We have to make a number of connections here. First of all we have to lead both the Preview and the Out wires through the Record compound. Let’s do it. It can be useful if when we start the recording the currently selected camera motion path would restart as well. This can be achived by connecting the Rec Started trigger to the Restart Cam pin of the VirtualCam compound. Rec Started will signal when the recording is about to start, thus making the camera restart.
We have to decide the way we want to receive audio in. But first let’s examine the newly added Control Board named RECORD. We have 3 AUDIO panels meaning that we can receive audio signal from 3 different sources simultaneously. Let’s see one of them. There are two ways of receiving audio. It can come from the camera, or more precisely through the same input port we receive the camera picture from. It can be an SDI or a HDMI port. The other way is to use an independent audio input device of the PC. For e.g. we plug it into the Line In socket, or use a USB digital interface.
In the latter case we have to choose a device here in the AUDIO panel’s Input Device property. Now I select the same microphone device I’m using for recording this tutorial. We can see here on the level meter that I’m speaking.
In another case, if we want to receive the audio file from the camera input, we have to turn this camera switch on. Also we have to make further connections. If we extend the VirtualCam compound we find the Audio 1, 2 output pins. These represent the audio signals coming from the two different cameras. We have to connect Audio 1 into Cam Audio 1. If we have an independent audio from the second camera we have to connect Audio 2 as well. Of course, in this case we have to turn on the AUDIO 2 panel and its camera mode button.
By using the AUDIO LEVELS panel we can adjust the recording level of the incoming audio signals independently.
We’ve arrived to the core panel named RECORDER. Using its properties we can specify a destination file for recording. First we choose a folder. To make it simple let’s select Downloads for now. We can also specify a filename. But this name will be extended with a serial number at each recording session. Each time we start a recording a new serial number is added, thus avoiding overwriting of the previous recordings.
We have to choose a Video Format. For professional quality recording choose DNxHD. But a H.264 format also can be suitable. Select a higher bitrate if you want to edit the file later.
Then we choose the Audio Format. In the case of an MP4 video this have to be AAC. But when using DNxHD it’s also worth to set audio to Raw PCM for uncompressed quality.
We can choose H.264 also with AVI container. In this case Raw PCM audio is allowed.
Further video formats are available as well, for e.g. we can use uncompressed RGB or YUV fomats, or MJPEG. It depends on our PC’s CPU and disk writing performance which format will work and which will not.
The audio input usually comes from a microphone, so it’s worth to change the Audio Channel mode to mono.
Now let’s start a test recording at last. We choose the DNxHD format. Note that the DNxHD only works with a few fixed bitrates. But we can specify any bitrate here, for e.g. 98 Mbps, Aximmetry will correct the value automatically to the nearest allowed one. Let’s start the recording. According to our wiring, the camera motion restarted in the moment of starting recording. In the Messages panel we see information about correcting the bitrate to 145 Mbps. It’s perfectly suitable for us now.
Let the recording run for a while. Now click the Stop button. Let’s see the results. We enter the Downloads folder, and we can find the Talk_Show video file with the serial number 1. Let’s start it, and we see the recording was successful.
There’s one more thing that is worth doing. The same way we collected the camera and the video handling controls to the MAIN board, let’s do the same with the RECORDER and AUDIO LEVELS panels, since these will be used as often as the others. Select them and choose Add To Control Board then MAIN. Switch to MAIN and make a minor arrangement. This way we truly have everything that is needed for a single PC recording.
Of course, the functions provided by the OVERLAYS Control Board in its current form may not meet our exact needs. We may want to use more videos, different type of logos, different controlling methods and so on. Obviously it’s a template only, so if we become more familiar with the features of the Composer, we can easily extend or modify the functionality of the compound. If we enter it, we can see that there are no extremely complex things in there, so we can alter it even with a moderate knowledge of Aximmetry.
This concludes the discussion of the all-in-one studio.