Morph Cut Transitions

NLEs

Jump cuts can be a pain to deal with when cutting interviews and other types of video projects. Sometimes your talent talks too long or you need to hide unnecessary motion. All conventional wisdom says the best way to hide a jump cut is to use a cutaway or b-roll. I wholeheartedly agree and use that wisdom quite often in my own work. However, there are times when those options don’t exist and you are left with jarring jump cuts that can distract or interrupt the piece. Thanks to technological advances in editing software, there are ways to hide a jump using a Morph Cut transition. I’m going to highlight how each of the three top NLEs on the market are able to do this.

Avid Media Composer Fluid Morph

The Fluid Morph effect predates any other morph cut transition that has been brought to the market lately. In this tutorial, GeniusDV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how to use the Fluid Morph effect to hide jump cuts on an interview clip. First, he makes blade edits at certain points, and then adds the Fluid Morph effect. In the Effect Mode panel, he changes a few parameters and sets the duration to three frames long. After a quick render, you see that the Fluid Morph was able to hide the jump cut in the interview. From what I know about diehard users of Media Composer, this effect exists in many of their favorite effects bins.

Adobe Premiere Pro Morph Cut

Introduced back in April 2015, the new Premiere Pro Morph Cut transition works to hide jump cuts between edits. Located in the Dissolve category of Video Transitions section, this transition analyzes in the background and attempts to morph frames together to create a seamless transition from multiple frames. From personal experience, I’ve found this transition works best on interviews with static backgrounds and not a lot of motion from the talent. Otherwise, it can be a hot mess when applied. Overall, I see this transition getting better with time as Adobe engineers improve the code base.

Final Cut Pro X mMorph Cut

This recent release from MotionVFX brings Morph Cut transitions to the world of Final Cut Pro X. For just $59, you can salvage interviews from long pauses, stutters, and mistakes. The transition works fluidly to fill gaps and instantly smooth out shots. I haven’t had a chance to try it out myself, but based on the demos I’ve seen, this seems like a must-have for editors who do a lot of interview work. With all the innovation that FCPX has brought to the table, I was a bit surprised that it took this long to finally get this plugin. I’ve seen tutorials where it was possible to do this but it seemed rather tedious in execution. It’s good to see that FCPX has this ability.

From what you have seen here, the Morph Cut method of hiding a jump cut can work depending on the footage and the circumstances on which you use it. While not perfect by any means, it is a method that can be called upon to smooth out an interview or other type of video project. Try using the Morph Cut method on your next video project and see how it effects your final edit.

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FCPX to AE & Avid to AE

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Very often in the editing process, we get to a point when we need to shift from cutting and assembling our edit, and into the stage of refining it with motion graphics, visual effects, or color grading. Most modern NLEs have the tools that can do such tasks, but depending on the complexity of these finishing techniques, you may need to turn to a program like After Effects. It’s no secret that After Effects is one of the industry standard compositing/motion graphics applications that professionals of all tiers use to complete a project. Getting timelines or footage from Premiere to After Effects is an easy task that can be accomplished in multiple ways. However, if you an editor who uses Final Cut Pro X or Avid Media Composer, getting your timelines into After Effects may be a bit of challenge. However, there are dedicated workflows and applications available for editors of those programs.

FCPX to AE (Automatic Duck XImport)

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This new plugin from Wes Plate brings the functionality of bringing Final Cut Pro X timelines into After Effects. The original Automatic Duck plugin allowed users to send Final Cut Pro 7 & Avid Media Composer timelines to After Effects for polishing and other effects. The process works by creating an XML in Final Cut Pro X. From there, open up After Effects and navigate to Import>Automatic Duck Ximport AE. A dialogue menu will appear and you can navigate to the location of your XML file. Select your XML file, decide whether or not to modify settings, and hit Return. The translation will produce a folder and composition based on what you named your timeline in FCPX. Open the composition and you can see what transferred and what didn’t. This plugin will read third party plugins like Boris FX, Coremelt, and others. The ones that probably won’t carry over are any FCPX Motion template based plugins, like those from MotionVFX, Ripple Training, or Pixel Film Studios.

I personally haven’t had a project to test this plugin, but when I do, I plan on trying this workflow to see if it is another solution I can have in my arsenal.

Avid Media Composer to AE

In this video tutorial, post production guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us how to roundtrip Media Composer sequences to After Effects and back. First, he right clicks on his sequence in the project panel and selects Export. In the Export settings, he selects Options and chooses AAF along with AAF Edit Protocol. He also selects Include Video/Data Tracks, enables the Link option, and sends the AAF file to the desktop. Inside of After Effects, he goes to File>Import> Pro Import After Effects. In the dialog menu, he navigates to the AAF file and modifies the settings to accommodate his file. This allows for After Effects to create a composition that looks identical to how his timeline was cut. From there, he breaks down how to export from After Effects using the DNxHD codec. Once he exports it out, importing it back in Media Composer is a smooth process based on the DNxHD codec he used.

I’ve cut on Media Composer in the past, and from what I see here, this is a very similar process to getting FCP timelines to After Effects. The only difference is the name of the file intermediate you use to get your timelines from one place to another. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of how Avid has compositing situations and its continual lack of blend modes boggles my mind. However, this tip is handy for anyone who deals with Media Composer on a regular basis.

From what you can see here, getting your timelines from FCPX and Media Composer to After Effects is not as hard as it looks. Knowing how to use these methods can be beneficial for those situations when you need to hand off your timeline to a visual effects artist or animator. There are probably other methods than the two I highlighted here, so feel free to find those so you have a backup plan.

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Best Drones for Filmmaking

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In this new era of filmmaking, getting complex shots has become much easier thanks to technological advances made by vendors across the world. It’s more affordable to get a rising shot thanks to jibs and cranes that are accessible to even the most low budget filmmakers. Getting stabilized shots are easier now thanks to amount of rigs available. Aerial shots have now become cheaper due to the influx of drones available on the market. I want to highlight some drones you may want to consider adding to your filmmaking kit so that you can increase your production value.

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional $1,3000

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This aerial drone is a new release from DJI and can capture great high quality footage from great distances. What makes this drone so popular is the following:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal camera which shoots HD (for the Advanced model) or 4K (for the Professional model)
  • Captures photographs at 12 megapixels
  • Live HD camera view via smartphone or tablet attached to the remote controller through the DJI app
  • Vision positioning through visual and ultrasonic sensors
  • Intelligent Battery with battery level indicator
  • Worry-free AutoPilot

As an owner of the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, I can attest to the incredible media captured with this camera. Within three days of learning to fly this drone, I was capturing great aerial shots that I would have had to pay a helicopter pilot to capture. With a $1,300 price tag, it is a steal for what you get from this drone. I would personally recommend this model for any prosumer or high end shooter who needs to capture aerial shots of client locations.

 

DJI Inspire 1 $3,399

 

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The DJI Inspire 1 is the more advanced and expensive model of the Phantom models offered. This drone is designed with strong carbon fiber arms and gives the user a full 360 unrestricted view when in flight. The Inspire features:

  • 3 axis gimbal 4K camera which shoots up to 30 fps, or 1080p up to 60 fps and takes photos at 12 MP
  • Optional dual remote control function
  • Powerful propulsion system
  • HD wireless video transmission
  • Vision Position system
  • Intelligent Power Management system

If I had the expenses, I would have considered investing in this. I would definitely say that this model is meant for high end, big budget filmmakers that have the funds to afford it.

3DR Solo Quadcopter $999.95

 

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The 3DR Solo is an all-in-one personal drone with a great ease of use and powerful new features. Within these powerful features are the following:

  • Computer assisted cinematography through the Solo app
  • Attach a GoPro to gimbal harness and stream HD video from your GoPro to your iOS or Android mobile device, at ranges of up to half a mile.
  • Easy to use aerial photography controller
  • Powerful smart battery which displays remaining time
  • Up to 20 minutes of flight time with GoPro attached

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this drone, but based on the preview video above and the feature list, it has a lot to offer. With the ability to mount a GoPro, you know what type of quality you are getting. With a price tag of $1,000, you are getting an advanced video production tool that will give see a greater return.

Overall, these three drone models are great if you want to add aerial videography to your business and skill set. I’ve only began my journey into aerial photography, but already I feel that it has added much value to my current projects. I look forward to seeing what I can do next.

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Lower Third Tutorial Round-Up

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Lower thirds, supers or CGs as they are also called, are those graphics you see on the screen when someone is being identified. You see them on reality television, the news, sports games, and documentaries. They usually have one to three tiers which can have the person’s first and last name at the top, and at the bottom, an occupation, residency, or position they occupy. Another characteristic of lower thirds is that they are placed in the title safe area of the screen so they don’t get cut off (these are usually network specifications). One thing about lower thirds is that they are by far the most sold item on motion graphics marketplaces. You could go to a variety of sites and look at galleries of lower thirds which you can purchase for your own videos. However, you may not always have the luxury of purchasing lower thirds, so it helps to know how to create these from scratch to keep costs down. In the three videos below, I highlight tutorials for how to create lower thirds from scratch for programs such as After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Motion. After you take a look at these videos, you can apply some of the knowledge you’ve learned and get to creating your lower third graphics.

Lower Third (After Effects) Tutorial

In this After Effects tutorial, Phil Ebiner shows us how he creates simple and clean lower thirds. As he states in the tutorial, he looks to other sites for inspiration before he starts creating. Utilizing a combination of solids, masks, and shape layers, he is able to create a lower third that would work in just about any occasion. When creating lower thirds, it takes a lot of layers to achieve the ideal look so be prepared for using precompositions, parenting, and lots of keyframes to maintain a clean and organized timeline.  What I like about this tutorial is that it has nice pacing, and within less than 20 minutes, you can have a lower third that can be used and modified to your needs. If you are using After Effects CC, you can turn this lower third into a LiveText template for use in Premiere Pro. If you aren’t as skilled in After Effects and prefer Motion instead, you can learn to create lower thirds there as well.

Lower Third (Motion 5) Tutorial

In this Motion 5 tutorial, author HalfGlassFull shows us how to create a complex lower third for broadcast. He first sets up his placeholder text layers in the position he wants. From there, he begins creating different shapes as a background for the text layers. Once he sets up the design of the lower third, he begins to implement behaviors to animate elements of the lower third to his liking. To finish it off, he shows you how to publish the lower third for use in Final Cut Pro X. Overall, this is an easy to follow tutorial and really helps reduce the learning curve that some people may have when using Motion for the first time. Also, the ease at which Motion projects can be integrated into Final Cut Pro X for multiple uses. As great as it is to create lower thirds in graphics programs like After Effects and Motion, sometimes you want the ability to do it without leaving your NLE. Let’s see how to do this in Premiere Pro.

Lower Third (Premiere Pro) Tutorial

In this Premiere Pro tutorial, VideoSchoolOnline shows us how to create modern and sleek lower thirds in Premiere Pro. Now, most people wouldn’t look to see if Premiere was capable of this, but a seasoned user would know better. Using layers in the Title Tool, they are able to create a simple two-tier lower third which identifies the talent on the screen. To give it movement, they use position keyframes with a manipulated interpolation. To keep the timeline clean, he nests the lower third into its own sequence. I can tell you from experience that creating simple lower thirds in Premiere is easy. The one caveat is when you need multiple version, it can be a real hassle to deal with, so plan ahead. Overall, it is rather easy to create a quick lower third from scratch, even if you only have your NLE to rely on.

As you can see, creating lower thirds from scratch is a fun exercise and a useful skill to have as an editor. There will be situations where purchasing one seems more viable than creating one from scratch. Depending on the project and client, it benefits you to know how to create one, but also know where to purchase one. Feel free to seek out other tutorials which show you how to create even more complex lower thirds so you can impress your clients.

Sound Effects

Third Party Green Screen Keyers

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Green screen, or chroma key compositing, has been around since the 1930s. Developed by filmmakers at RKO Radio Pictures, it was used as a method to create complex visual effects that were before its time. Over the years, the process went from a painstakingly analog method to a digital method that can now be done on computers. Programs such as Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, and the like all have the ability to do basic greenscreen/bluescreen keying if your footage is in the optimal conditions. For complex and intricate situations, post professionals turn to programs like After Effects, Motion, Autodesk Smoke, or Nuke. Despite the programs that have greenscreen keying capabilities, there are many third party companies who have developed plugins to handle even the toughest keying processes. Let’s take a look at a few and see what each have to offer.

Primatte Keyer/KeyCorrect

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Primatte Keyer is Red Giant’s premiere keyer solution for post professionals. Within its array of features are some of the following: auto compute algorithm for pulling a perfect key, key correction tools for refining mattes and backgrounds, and color matcher feature for matching the subject to their background. This plugin is one of the most trusted keying plugin on the market amongst professionals in film (Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man) and television (Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and Disney). This plugin is compatible on Mac and PC with programs ranging from Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Motion. I can personally attest to its strengths and abilities as I’ve used it in my work quite often. I find it great to use when Keylight may not be enough to get the job done. For the price of $499, it is definitely a keyer solution to consider if you do a lot of it. Just take a look at its capabilities below.

If you are fine with keying with Keylight, you can get the tools of Key Correct to assist you. Key Correct lets you create perfect keys from an image shot against a colored background. These tools include a Rig/Wire Remover, Light Wrap, Color Matcher, Alpha Cleaner, and many other tools. I’ve personally used Key Correct’s tools on many projects and found it to perfectly complement Keylight when I may have challenging keys. Having both Key Correct and Primatte Keyer are definitely tools you should consider in your post production pipeline.

Boris Chroma Key Studio

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Within the Boris Continuum Complete set is the Key and Blend unit. This unit automates the creation of precise keys with a minimal amount of adjustment. These filters strip away the complexity of chroma keying by automating matting, edge softening and refinement, and light wrapping and reflections to produce seamless composites each and every time. One plugin that stands out is the Chroma Key Studio. The Chroma Key Studio is an all-in-one keying suite similar to Primatte Keyer. It can do everything from screen enhancement, auto-garbage matte and masking, chroma key, matte cleanup, matte choker, foreground color correction, and light wrap into a single filter. In the tutorial below, Kevin P. McAuliffe demonstrates how versatile this plugin is and why it is a suitable solution for keying within your NLE. I’ve used it myself a few times and it is definitely a time-saver if I’m working in Premiere Pro or Media Composer as opposed to shipping it out to After Effects for chroma keying.

PHYX Keyer

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The final keyer plugin on the list is the one from the Phyxware folks. Phyx Keyer 5 is a set of 10 plugins designed to give you even faster and more accurate keys than ever before. These plugins include the FastKeyer, ScreenCorrector, Lightwrap, and SkinTools. These tools have been used by companies such as AT&T, Autodesk, and Fox Sports. These plugins were also used on the feature film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. In the tutorial above, you get to witness how versatile and fast these set of plugins are, whether you are in an NLE or compositing program. One thing to note about these plugins is that they function on Mac only and are installed through the FxFactory software engine. I’ve personally used the Keyer and other tools in this set, and I have to say that it is top notch. They really have tools to handle even the most difficult keying scenarios.

You’ve seen these industry leading third party keyers and what they can do. Feel free to download a trial and see what the hype is all about. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Sound Effects

Valentine’s Day Theme Tutorials

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be nice to share a few free tutorials for those of you involved in post production. These free items service a variety of programs such as After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Cinema 4D, and more. Feel free to scoop these up before Valentine’s Day so you can make a special video for that special someone.

Creating Flying Hearts with Boris FX

In this Valentine’s themed tutorial, Imagineer Systems Product Specialist, Mary Poplin, shows you some quick ways to get particle effects into your workflow with Boris Continuum Complete. If you are a fan of using particle effects, then I strongly recommend using plugins from the Continuum Complete particle collection. I can honestly say that they are on par with Red Giant’s offerings of Trapcode Particular and Form. On top of that, this tutorial shows you how to take a vector image created in Illustrator, and extrude it in 3D space. With some post effects like vignettes and color grading, you are able to achieve quite an animation. What I found very interesting about this tutorial is that it looked complicated in design but easy to follow. Feel free to download a trial of Continuum Complete and create this animation for your V-Day sweetheart.

Create a Valentine’s Day Themed Animation in Cinema 4D

In this tutorial from AE Tuts, motion graphics artist Stefan Surmabojov shows us how to create custom Valentine’s theme animation using Cinema 4D and After Effects. Starting first in Cinema 4D, we create the heart shape and ending text. Using Cinema 4D’s camera tools and effectors, we are able to produce the emitting hearts and animation in 3D. Before we send it to After Effects, we can touch it up in Greyscale Gorilla’s HDRI Studio Pack to give it a photorealistic look. From there, we refine the look of animation in After Effects using Optical Flares and Trapcode Shine. This particular tutorial can seem daunting if you are not used to Cinema 4D, but it can help leverage your learning curve by showing you how to create something complex in an efficient manner. If after following the tutorial you are not getting the results you want, you can download the files from it and modify it to taste.

Valentine’s Day Particle Animation

In this tutorial by motion graphics artist Abdul Kabir, he shows us how to make another Valentine’s Day animation utilizing Photoshop and After Effects. He starts in Photoshop by creating miscellaneous shapes he will need down the line. With those shapes, he turns them into particles which form a heart with the help of Particular. With a camera added along with a null object, he is able to finesse the animation further. From there, he adds a gradient background and a lens flare reveal to tie everything together. What I liked about this tutorial is the collaborative nature of Photoshop and After Effects. I’ve found in some situations that it may be easier to create assets in Photoshop than in After Effects. Using them together is a powerful combination which I encourage users to do as much as possible.

These are just a small collection of tutorials you can use to create a gift for that special someone in your life. I’ve found that people really appreciate the effort you put in when you use a video over a physical item. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

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Media Composer Tips & Tricks

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Of the non linear editing systems I blog about, I rarely discuss Avid, unless I’m comparing it to other NLEs or highlighting new features in updated versions. I decided, that for this article, I want it to be Avid-centric with tips and tricks because there are a ton of them available. In fact, I can honestly say there are more tips for using Avid Media Composer than there are for other editing software. I’m going to highlight a few that stood out to me while using the program. Professionally, I’ve only used Avid about five times, and, in most situations, it was because it was a freelance job that required it. Currently, I don’t use it as much, but I have a lot of respect for those who do, considering it is used to edit major episodic television shows and Hollywood feature films. So, let’s learn some tips and tricks of using Media Composer.

Create Quick Transitions Bin

In this quick tutorial, Genius DV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how easy it is to create a bin for commonly used transitions. First, choose a transition of your liking and apply it to your edit point. If you want, you can customize it in the Effect Editor window. Next, navigate to the Bins tab and create a new bin called “Quick Transitions.” Make sure you type this out case sensitive or else this process won’t work. In the Effect Editor window, drag the custom transition into the Quick Transitions bin. With that in place, you can click on the Quick Transitions button, click on the drop down menu, and you’ll see you custom transition there.  I have to say that this is one feature I wish Premiere and FCPX had emulated. I know in Final Cut Pro 7 you could create favorites bin and put effects/transitions there, but to have a button able to call them up whenever you’d like would be a timesaver.

Batch Rendering Sequences on Export

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This is a handy tip for those projects that have multiple sequences that need to be rendered. With the work I do for a living, multiple sequences are an every project occurrence. To batch render sequences on export in Media Composer, select all your sequences in their respective bin. Open the Export Settings window and select Quicktime Reference Movie. Click on the Render All Video Effects and hit OK. Now, all your sequences will be rendered in a small Quicktime file to check if things are correct or need to be fixed. You can create a preset out of this in the Export Settings window to save time in the future.

Mapping Editing Workspaces

In this informative tutorial, editing guru and Lynda.com instructor Ashley Kennedy breaks down how to map the Media Composer workspace to your needs. She shows us how to create a custom editing workspace, as well as a workspace for audio editing. Saving a timeline view is as simple as a click at the bottom of the timeline, clicking on Untitled, and choosing Save As. From there, you are presented with a dialog window where you can name your timeline view. She goes into detail explaining how managing the Settings tab can assist in workspaces you may use at various stages of the edit. In my opinion, this is a great video to reference for the times when you step away from Media Composer and forget how to manage workspaces effectively.

Overall, this is a small collection of tips and tricks you can find out about Media Composer. With their active forums and user groups across the internet, you can easily get more acquainted with Media Composer than most NLEs out there. In my opinion, it pays to know Media Composer if you have plans to edit episodic television or major feature films. It is still the dominant editing platform when it comes to delivering those type of projects, and for good reason.

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Quick Blemish Removal in After Effects CC

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Most people, including myself, have some sort of blemish, scar, or imperfection they wish they could keep from showing up on camera. After Effects CC has developed a new matte tracking process that makes removing unsightly blemishes a breeze. In this tutorial I will show you how to complete the effect in three simple steps.

–       Creating the Matte

–       Tracking the Matte

–       Removing the Blemish

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CREATING THE MATTE

To start, lets create a new composition with our footage and take a closer look at what needs to be retouched.

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In this clip I can see we need to do some blemish removal in the cheeks and along the jaw line. Additionally, if you notice near the right ear (stage left) there is a long stray hair we can also quickly take care of with this technique. For now, let’s focus on his right cheek (stage left).

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Essentially, the process is simple but time consuming. We need to focus on each blemish individually, and create a sample clean area that matches the blemished area to be superimposed and smoothed over on top to create a seamless appearance. To do that, first DUPLICATE THE SOURCE FOOTAGE. We will need to duplicate the source footage EACH AND EVERY TIME we need to create a new blemish cover. Then, create a mask that isolates the blemish and the extends out to take a sample of the clean surrounding area; just as this picture shows in detail.

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TRACKING THE MATTE

By isolating the blemish in the matte it creates a great tracking marker for the program to follow. Now, RIGHT CLICK on the matte and choose TRACK MASK.

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A window in the lower right will now appear with TRACKER CONTROLS

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The default method tracks position, scale, and rotation which will be fine for this example. Next to ANALYZE, select the forward arrow and allow After Effects CC to track the mask throughout the duration of the clip.

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In your timeline, this will create a series of keyframes tracking the mask to your subjects movement. It is important to have a perfect track in order to ensure the blemish cover moves along with the subject to create a seamless and clean appearance. If the track was unsuccessful, some helpful tips would include:

–       Analyze frame by frame and move the mask manually back on point when it loses its subject to ensure a locked track.

–       Start at the end of the timeline and analyze backwards (sometimes starting with a different point in time helps the computer algorithm lock on better and understand your point of focus).

REMOVING THE BLEMISH

Once you have a mask sampling a clean area of the skin and tracked that mask to the subjects face throughout the duration of the clip, it’s time to get rid of that blemish! Using the directional arrows on your keyboard, or clicking and dragging with your mouse, move the mask on top of the blemish area

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You are probably saying, “That just moved the blemish over with the mask! It didn’t fix anything!” – well – we’re not done yet. At this point, open up the mask tools by having the mask selected in your layer window and hit MM on your keyboard to open up the entire tool set.

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REDUCE the MASK EXPANSION so that the blemish sample disappears and you just have a small sample circle to use.

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INCREASE the MASK FEATHER to smooth out the sample’s circle edges, thusly blending it into the face, creating a smooth and clean finish that follows the face throughout the clip.

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You now just successfully removed ONE blemish. Depending on your subject, you may have more to go. Just repeat the process as described as many times as necessary to create the final retouched image.

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Timelapses & Breakdowns

 

A Team NLE

The craft and method of editing is what drew me to filmmaking. Knowing what editors, visual effects artists, and others are capable of doing to tell an intricate story is quite incredible. They are responsible for weaving, manipulating, and inserting assets into frames that help and/or invigorate a story. The best way to see the what the post production process is like is through behind-the-scenes clips on DVDs, or making of featurettes, online. In this article, I’m going to highlight some VFX breakdowns and timelapsed video edits that showcase how much work it takes to bring a film or a video to the masses.

VFX Breakdown #1: X-Men Days of Future Past

One of the top blockbusters of 2014 saw the X-Men mythology returning to top form with this entry into the ever expanding saga. Set in a dystopic future where most of mankind and mutant kind have been eradicated by man made machines know as Sentinels, the remaining X-Men rally together to change the past to ensure a better future before it is too late. To bring the sentinels to life, as well as showcase the various mutant powers that were brought to the screen, required 372 visual effects shots. In the breakdown above, the talented folks of MPC, led by visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, took upon the task of creating the visual effects of the future mutants and sentinels. Utilizing techniques such as match-moving, rotoscoping, matte painting, chroma keying, and more, they were able to bring various elements to life that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible using practical effects. The photo-realistic effects featured in this film were essential to bringing the audience into this universe.

VFX Breakdown #2: The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3, the third entry into Sylvester Stallone’s homage to classic action films, included more actors, as well as more insane action sequences. We saw everything from insane stunts, more explosions, and combat sequences. For this sequel, the folks at Worldwide FX were responsible for about 1200 VFX shots. In the breakdown above, the Worldwide FX team used a lot of matte painting in certain scenes as well as animating 3D vehicles, like the Expendables’s airplane and helicopters. Watching the breakdown, it is surprising how much green and blue screening was used to set up certain shots. Thanks in part to the efforts of the artists, they are able to seamlessly work with the actors involved. The one thing that caught my eye is how well they are able to rotoscope and integrate objects into scenes with lots of moving parts.

Timelapse Edit #1: SNL “Testicules”

This timelapsed edit session done by SNL film editor Adam Epstein features a short starring actor/producer Andy Samberg. Edited using tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adam takes footage coming DSLRs and RED cameras, and puts together a digital short that has the look of a short film. During the rigorous 48 hour edit session, Adam is responsible for all aspects of post which include sorting out takes, multi-camera editing, color correction, motion graphics/visual effects, and audio selection. The crazy part is that he can still be editing and making changes while SNL is airing and get it uploaded just before it ends. The thing that impresses me about watching his edit session is the amount of quality he is able to pack into his shorts in a 48 hour timeframe. Essentially, cutting an SNL digital short is the equivalent of doing a 48 hour film race every weekend for six months. Anyone who can endure that is a masterful editor.

Timelapse Edit #2: Red Productions Christmas Video 2014

For their annual Christmas video, the folks of Red Productions did a timelapsed edit session on their latest video. Just like Adam, they utilized tools from the Adobe Creative Cloud and completed this video within 24 hours. This video featured greenscreen footage, composited objects and explosions, motion tracking, and many other post production facets. What interested me about this timelapsed session was that they were able to turn around a comedic piece in 24 hours. From what I have seen in editing comedy, it may take a little longer as you need to account for pacing and timing of the humor to occur. Cutting all this in a 24 hour timeframe is impressive to say the least. What stood out to me was how easy they made their visual effects look. They had a plethora of visual effects you’ve come to see in internet videos, and it looked really clean.

Those are just a few breakdowns and timelapsed edit sessions that are floating online. It’s always amazing to see how films and television shows achieve such high level visual effects, as well as watch the talented artists put it all together.

Royalty Free Music

Setting Up Multi-Cam in your NLE

A Team NLE

As an editor, I’ve been in many situations where I have to cut a project that was shot by multiple cameras. If production sets up their cameras so that I can easily match things up and cut like a technical director, my job is much easier. If they don’t, however, it can be a painstaking task trying to figure when each camera is in sync with one another. You can’t always control the method to which you receive footage from multiple cameras, but it is an essential skill to know how to set up your timeline to do multiple camera editing, also known as multi-cam. I’m going to briefly breakdown the steps it takes to set up a multi-camera edit in popular NLEs such as Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro X, and Adobe Premiere Pro.

Avid Media Composer Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, editor Jon Christenson shows the basics of setting up a multi-camera edit in Avid Media Composer. This type of edit in Media Composer can be set up using timecode, in & out points, or the start of clips. In his example, he uses a clap from three clips to set a sync point for all clips. From there, he uses multiple bins to sort out his clips he wants in the multi-cam, as well as a bin for grouped clips. Utilizing the Fast Menu in the bin, he chooses Group Clips to create his multi-cam edit. Once he has his multi-cam clip set up, he sets up his buttons to make the multi-camera edit more streamlined and efficient. Then, he can do a multi-cam edit by pressing a key mapped to a specific angle. Although I don’t use Media Composer as much as I should, I have to say they have a robust system for multi-camera editing.

Final Cut Pro X Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, Apple certified and GeniusDV trainer Jon Lynn shows us how to set up a multi-cam edit in Final Cut Pro X. In this program, you first select the clips you want. Then, you right click and select a new multi-cam clip which brings up a dialogue menu. Once you have your settings, use the Angle Viewer and click on the angles you want to cut to while playing back the multi-cam clip. In my experience, I found this multi-cam system very fluent and easy to use in comparison to Media Composer. Although it has a different paradigm than other track based editing systems, the multi-cam functions in FCPX are extremely robust.

Adobe Premiere Pro Multi-Cam

In this video tutorial, Lynda instructor Jeff Sengstack demonstrates how to set up a multi-cam clip in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. There are two ways to set up multi-cam clip in Premiere Pro. I typically set it up from the timeline level where I have my clips set up as needed. The other method is doing it from the project browser, which is the method Jeff uses. With the clips he has selected in the project browser, he right clicks and selects Create Multi-Camera sequence. From the dialogue menu, he can choose how to sync his clips. Once that is taken care of, you should get a new sequence clip in the browser. Now, he can begin cutting the multi-cam clip in his timeline using the available tools. I’ve found Premiere’s multi-camera abilities to be the best of the track based NLEs. I have used Final Cut Pro 7’s multi-camera function before and found it hard to wrap my head around. Premiere’s multi-cam function always seemed to work for me.

As you can see from these videos, multi-camera editing is relatively easy to set up, depending on your NLE of choice. Trying to cut without multi-cam functions is possible, but can be tedious and frustrating in longform projects. I know from earlier experience, I tried to bypass using multi-cam editing and wasted hours fixing things that could have been addressed sooner had I learned how multi-camera editing works. I highly recommend you learn multi-camera editing in your NLE and save yourself some time on those long and complex edits.

Royalty Free Music

How to Create Nested Sequences

A Team NLE

Timelines, or sequences as they are known in certain NLEs, are the foundation for editors to arrange their footage into a comprehensive narrative. Timelines allow us to insert video, audio, titles, transitions, and more to take us from point A to completion. However, there comes a time when you are editing in your preferred NLE and having a lot of tracks or connections clutter your timeline. In a situation like this, creating a sequence within a sequence, or nesting, will consolidate your assets into one. Every major NLE has the ability to create nested sequences, or compound clips as they are called in Final Cut Pro X. With the video tutorials below, I will highlight this technique so that it can become a part of your skill set.

Avid Media Composer

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In Avid Media Composer, the act of nesting is known as collapsing. As Avid guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us in this tutorial, when your timeline gets heavy in effects and clips, collapsing items in a sequence can be much more effective than using video mixdowns. In order to collapse your video/audio assets, select all that you want to include and hit the collapse button, or a custom keyboard shortcut. Once your assets are collapsed, you can step into the collapsed sequence, or double click and modify your clips as needed. If you are a Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro editor, Media Composer’s method of nesting may seem a bit confusing at first, but with time and practice it starts to make sense. One of the drawbacks of a collapsed sequence in Media Composer is that you can only see one timeline at a time.

Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro CS6

Adobe Master trainer Maxim Jago shows us the process of nesting clips into a sequence in this PeachPit tutorial. Nesting sequences in Premiere is very similar to Final Cut Pro Legacy’s process. Select the video and audio assets you want, go to Clip> Nest and it will ask you to name your nested sequence. Once you’ve given it a name, it will appear in the timeline as one clip, as well as the project browser. I like this form of nesting because I can cycle between open sequences with ease.

Final Cut Pro X

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In Final Cut Pro X, the process of creating nesting sequences is called creating compound clips. In this tutorial, master trainer Jon Lynn shows us the process. You can create compound clips from the timeline as well as the Event browser. Select the clips you want in your timeline and go to File -> New Compound Clip (press option + G). You can also select your highlighted clips, right click and select new Compound Clip. Similar to Avid Media Composer, I would have to “step in” to see the assets in the compound clip, and since FCPX doesn’t allow you to see multiple timelines at once, we’ll have to wait for further improvements.

Overall, the art of nesting a lot of content into its own sequence is something that comes in handy on small and large projects. Even with all the innovations made by these primetime NLEs, nesting is a technique that won’t be going away anytime soon. I strongly recommend you learn how to nest content into its own sequence in whichever NLE you use.

Royalty Free Music

Creating a 3D Opening Card in After Effects CC

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The image of an opening book or card in a movie, TV show, or commercial is nothing new. With the advancement of visual effects, this can now be created in a variety of dedicated 3D modeling programs or, in this case, advanced compositing programs such as Adobe After Effects CC.

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I will show you how to achieve this effect in three simple steps:

–       Source Images and Setup

–       Creating and Rigging the Card

–       Animating the Movement

SOURCE IMAGES AND SETUP

First, you will need to find images that can be combined together to create the final look of your card. Therefore, since a card is paper, you will need an image of paper. You can source your image by doing a quick GOOGLE search, or if you are working on a professionall project and need royalty free images, you can take a photograph of the paper you will be using yourself or join a royalty free stock image site such as thinkstockphotos.com or photobucket.com.

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In After Effects, once you find the images you will be using, create a new composition (I made mine 1080 HD and five seconds long). If you have a background image, you will place that first (scale and position to fit) and possibly add a light vignette to the overall composition.

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CREATING AND RIGGING THE CARD

At this point you can place the first paper image (scale and position as needed) into your composition.

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It looks a little flat so why don’t we first add a black solid (LAYER>NEW>SOLID). Use the rectangle masking tool to create a shape slightly larger than the paper image, feather the edges, and place it underneath the paper to give a subtle shadow effect.

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This first page will be our inside page. We can add now add some text (Use the text tool in the toolbar > color and font at your own preference).

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Now we can create the top cover page that will be animating open in just a moment. Simply duplicate the first page (Command+D on the image layer) and move it to the top in the layer panel.

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Create more text that will go on the cover, and then you will be ready to move towards animating the card.

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ANIMATING THE MOVEMENT

Turn both the cover page and cover text into 3D layers. We will be controlling the cover page for the animation, so go ahead and parent the cover text to the cover page using the pick whip.

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With the cover page selected, you will see the page has an XYZ axis in the middle.

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This is the anchor point of the image and it will act as the hinge where the page will bend. Using the Anchor Point Tool (From Toolbar or shortcut key ‘Y’) move the anchor point to the far left of the page (place the green Y axis arrow right along the edge of the page).

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Open the rotation controls on the cover page (have the layer selected and hit ‘R’), and key frame the Y axis increasing over the time of the composition in order to create the visual effect of the card opening to reveal the inside contents.

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New Features coming to Avid Media Composer and Adobe Cloud

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With IBC taking place in Amsterdam last weekend, users of Adobe Creative and Avid Anywhere were greeted with a slew of updates from their favorite programs. These updates include an interface overhaul, native support for many 4K formats, codec releases, and more. Although, currently, we are hearing more about the production side of things from IBC with new camera releases, I believe the next iteration of programs from Avid and Adobe will definitely make things more competitive for professionals in post. I want to highlight the updates coming for Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere in the coming months.

Avid Media Composer

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It was announced by Avid that they are bringing Resolution Independence to the next iteration of Media Composer. What that means for editors is that they will be able deal with 4K media faster and much more efficiently than before. Based on their new Resolution Independence architecture, editors will have the most complete and flexible end-to-end workflows when in post. Below is a list of new features coming to Media Composer that will definitely make it a viable option for 4K offline/online editing:

– AAX plugin support.

– Ability to mute individuals clips (similar to enabling and disabling clips in Premiere and FCPX).

– Disabling video tracks.

– Copying and dragging video segments.

– End of trim indicators.

– AMA media associated with projects.

– A new codec known as DNxHR (Digital Nonlinear Extensible High Resolution). It will support formats of 2K, 3K, 4K, and Ultra HD. There are five flavors of this codec which include DNxHR LB (low bandwith), DNxHR SQ (Standard Quality), DNxHR HQ (High Quality), DNxHR HQX (10 bit), and DNxHR 444.

– Proxy timeline which allows editors to change resolution more fluidly from your original media (and render your effects to proxy media) from full quality to either 1/2, 1/4, or 1/16.

– 4K Full screen playback support.

– Features to come include: background rendering, enabling Mac GPU acceleration, in addition to the existing Windows based GPU acceleration support. Seeing the list of features that are coming to Media Composer, Avid is showing that it is committed to maintaining their spot as the NLE of choice for high end post production. Looking at some of the features from the list, some of them have existed in FCP legacy and Premiere Pro for years. Some of these new features may be requests from switchers who felt that Avid needed to evolve to stay competitive with rival programs Premiere and Final Cut Pro X. I don’t know if that is for sure, but I know the features that are coming to Avid will alleviate the headaches that users may have endured over the years.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC 8.1

Premiere Pro CS6

Avid isn’t the only NLE that will see a massive update in features. Announced last week, Premiere (as well as other video/audio applications) will see a UI refresh, as well as a bundle of new features for high end workflows. Here is a list of features coming to Premiere Pro CC from the Adobe website:

– Search bins for allowing editors to build new bins automatically, based on metadata searches within a project, with results showing as aliases of the original project items.

search-bins

– Timeline search improvement which makes it simple to find and select clips within a sequence based on specific criteria, such as Clip Name or Marker comment.

– Multiple project workflows utilizing multiple Media Browser panels which can be open simultaneously, allowing fast browsing of other Premiere Pro and After Effects projects for easy access to their media and sequences.

Multiple-Project

– Source Monitor Timeline View allows editors to preview sequences from other projects, getting direct access to their components to quickly bring into the current active project. Editors collaborating over shared storage will find working with each other’s projects is now a great deal easier.

– Consolidate and transcode project for archiving purposes

Project-manager

– Render and replace clips and After Effects compositions when dynamic linking.

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– GoPro Cineform codec as an intermediate codec between platforms.

– Support for many 4K and Ultra HD workflows.

– Improved masking and tracking with a free Bezier path tool.

Without trying to sound to biased, I’m someone who leans more on the Premiere Pro spectrum than the other NLEs, and I’m especially excited for these new feature updates. Within four months of this new release, the Adobe team has provided lightning fast updates which shows the community that they are committed to making the user experience the best it can possibly be. Features I’m really interested in are the improvements to the Mask and Tracking feature, and the Render and Replace option. Being able to apply masks using the Pen Tool is a dream come true. The Render and Replace option will allow users to bring AE comps into Premiere and render them into codec without having to go to the render queue. Also, I’m interested in trying the multi-project workflows so I can bring in other timelines from other projects in read only mode and take what I need. That will definitely provide a better user experience in the long run. Overall, we’ve seen that the people behind Avid and Adobe are bringing updates that embrace a future of high resolution and efficiency for the post production community. Each have added features that will make the user experience more bearable as we embrace the 4K reality and beyond.

Sound Effects

Animating Numbers in After Effects CC

after_effects_cs51

Sometimes you need to create a motion graphic showing numbers increasing or decreasing for a percentage, calculation, statistic, or whatever the reason may be. There are many programs that can help you achieve this effect. However, in my opinion, I would argue After Effects is your best program to create this animation. As much as After Effects is known for its post production compositing abilities, it was originally created as a motion graphics program. Today, I will show you how to increase numbers in an animation using After Effects CC in three simple steps:

  • Create Placeholder Text
  • Add the Slider Effect
  • Add the Expression

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CREATE PLACEHOLDER TEXT

First, we need to create a placeholder text before we begin. It’s a placeholder because the Slider Effect we will be applying next will eliminate anything we type in. Select your TYPE TOOL from the tool bar. Choose your font and size from the text assets window, and then type in your placeholder text.

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To clarify, this text is broken down into three sections where only one of them is changing. The first sections is ‘CALCULATING.’ The next section is ‘100,’ which is the PLACEHOLDER text – this is the only bit that is important in completing this motion graphic effect. The last section is ‘%,’ and the reason I did not combine this section with the ‘100’ is to reiterate that once we apply the slider effect, it will eliminate anything we type into that section.

ADD THE SLIDER EFFECT

Now that you have your placeholder text, go to the EFFECTS & PRESETS window and type in SLIDER. CLICK AND DRAG your slider effect and add it to your placeholder text.

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At this point, go to your layers window. Open the settings on your placeholder text layer by twirling open the triangle icon next to the sections TEXT and EFFECT > SLIDER CONTROL.

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Go to your SOURCE TEXT and ALT CLICK on it.

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You will immediately notice your canvas preview has disappeared and new icons in the Source Text controls will appear. The WHIRL icon will allow you to CLICK AND DRAG your SOURCE TEXT and PARENT it to the SLIDER CONTROLS.

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You can now go to the Effects window for your slider controls. Notice that your placeholder text will follow whatever you set the slider to.

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Your source text and slider are tied together and can be keyframed and animated to increase and decrease as you see fit. The only issue here is, by default, the slider animation (when tied to the source text) will additionally add in a decimal system.

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ADD THE EXPRESSION

If you only want to display whole rounded numbers, you will need to make one final adjustment. In order to resolve the decimal issue, first ALT CLICK on the SLIDER CONTROL STOPWATCH in order to pull up the effects natural input expression.

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So the natural expression is this:

effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”)

In order to round the system of numbers to the nearest whole number, you need to alter the expression to look like this:

Math.round(effect(“Slider Control”)(“Slider”))

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PLEASE NOTE, the ‘M’ in Math MUST be capitalized in order for After Effects to properly interrupt the expression coding.

There you have it! A number system you can keyframe and animate to increase and decrease as you see fit.

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3rd Party Plugin Offerings

ATeam icons

One of the many things that led me to post production were the tools I would have available to craft and weave the final product. In particular, I was enamored with the 3rd party plugins and compositing software that were available for NLEs. Over the last seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to play with quite a few plugins from various developers, and have noticed how their form of delivery may be different from one another. I’ll examine a few developers whose delivery of plugins is unique to the user experience, and offer my opinions and critiques as well.

Boris FX/Red Giant

boris_logo

Boris FX offers a variety of cross platform products from Continuum Complete, Final Effects, RED, and more. Continuum is offered as either a complete set or a la carte. Within this set, editors and artists have access to a plethora of effects that handle a multitude of areas in post production, such as: color correction, motion graphics, and visual effects creation. I’ve been using this set myself for over four years and it’s one I’ve come to rely on quite a bit. About two years ago, Boris FX decided to break up the Continuum suite into 16 separate units so that customers could pick and choose, as opposed to paying for a full suite of plugins.

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In my opinion, I think this was a smart move as I’m sure not a lot of professionals are willing to shell out $1,000 or more for a suite of plugins when only a select few will get used. If I only want to use the Continuum transitions, I can pay $200 and save $800 in the process, which can be put towards other endeavors. As cheap as the units are to purchase, there is a nice comfort in having the complete Continnum suite. If a dire project situation should arise, it could be easily fixed by using a rarely used plugin, rather than going through the process of purchasing another unit just for the sake of one project. I believe having options within the Continuum Complete suite definitely makes it flexible for the customer. Red Giant, on the other hand, is also unique in their approach to plugin offerings.

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From what I’ve observed, it’s cheaper to buy a suite and install what you need, as opposed to buying a la carte. I’m not sure why that is the case with Red Giant products, but it seems to get the job done. This approach has allowed them to become a popular developer in the industry. One of their new additions, Universe, uses the subscription model, where users can sign up for a free or premium membership. With either membership, the user has access to a variety of free plugins, as well as premium grade plugins, which you get if you sign up for a premium membership. In my experience, this approach has been pleasant because Red Giant keeps users in the loop with the option of voting on upcoming plugins, as well as giving them more free plugins with each update. In my opinion, I feel this will have some influence on how plugin developers offer their products.

FxFactory

Noise_Industries

The developers at Noise Industries offer groundbreaking and revolutionary plugins that maximize a users creative ambitions, as well as minimizing the need to think to far outside the box. With their FxFactory application, users are presented with a catalogue of plugins that they can choose from. This is similar to how iTunes catalogues their music and video options.

fxfactory-product-management-app

Personally, I like this approach to plugin offerings because I can pick from a catalogue of developers to test, or purchase, what I need at anytime and have immediate access within seconds. If I need transitions for FCPX, I can chose from Luca Visual FX, Idustrial Revolution, or SugarFX to gain some incredible and creative options. If I need lower thirds, I can download some from Stupid Raisins. Overall, having a catalogue of options from various developers definitely makes the user experience much more pleasant.

After seeing how companies like Boris FX, Red Giant, and the developers amongst FxFactory offer their plugins, it’s great to know that there are unique options that users can choose from. If you want a suite of products for a particular function of post production, Red Giant offers great money saving suites. If you want more of an a la carte option from a suite, you can choose from the units in the Continuum Complete set. If you want a catalogue of plugins you can download within seconds, FxFactory is incredible for that. Choose that which offers you the best bang for your buck.

Sound Effects