iPhone AR tech can improve amateur CGI

CamTrackAR uses iOS' AR know-how to make adding effects easier.


Match Moving is the process of anchoring a CGI object inside a real-world space, so that the camera treats it as if it was really there. If you’ve seen anything where a camera flies past a movie’s title like it was a road sign, then you’re familiar with how it looks. The process is commonly used in film and TV, but even as it’s gotten a lot cheaper, it’s still difficult to achieve without rotoscoping. HitFilm developer FXHome thinks that it’s found a way of harnessing the iPhone camera to make Match Moving accessible even for rank amateurs.

CamTrackAR is a new app from the British developer, which uses the iPhone’s superior augmented reality skills to simplify the process.  When you start the app, you need to look around a space until it identifies the floor, at which point you can start placing nulls. Nulls are essentially the anchor points within a space that will help VFX artists later add in the CGI elements to the live action. And by doing it all inside the app, you no longer need to manually rotoscope or otherwise tinker with the footage -- such is the hope -- before dropping in the effect. The fact that it does all of the camera tracking within the app means that even a rank amateur should be able to do it without fuss.

You can then output two files: the raw video, and the co-ordinate data in a separate file, that can be combined in HitFilm proper. Let’s say that you created an animated robot in Blender, for instance, you just need to import the model and textures into HitFilm. Then, you can include your live video scene along with the data from CamTrackAR, and from there, HitFilm will join the two together, letting you focus on adjusting the lighting and other factors to make it perfect. Now, if you’re using HitFilm or Blender, then you can access the feature for free, although After Effects users will need to pay for the privilege.

The HitFilm team caters mostly to amateurs as part of its quest to democratize the costly special effects that are normally the reserve of Hollywood. It also offers its services to studios looking to create pre-vis; rough and ready VFX shots that help directors and editors plan their real effects shots ahead of time. This is really where something like CamTrackAR will earn its keep, especially if VFX artists can use it to take a lot of needless fiddling out of the process of building and testing these shots.

CamTrackAR is available now from the App Store and is free with one anchor point, with exports to HitFilm’s own products and Blender. Those looking for more anchor points and exports to After Effects will need to upgrade to the premium version for $4.99 a month, or a lifetime purchase of $29.99.

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