VideoWall Plugins for After Effects

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One of the most common motion graphics you see on broadcast television, as well as motion pictures, is a video wall. A video wall consists of a grid of multiple videos all playing at once. In many examples, this is usually used to highlight a specific theme or subject, and is accompanied by text or other motion graphic elements. Creating video walls manually can be tedious if you don’t know how to start. But, nonetheless, it can be done. If you opt to go the third party plugin route, below are three plugins/tools from different companies for After Effects that can jumpstart your video wall creation.

Coremelt Video Wall Zoom & Panel Vision

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Within the Coremelt Complete suite are two plugins I use to create a video wall. The first one is Video Wall Zoom from the ImageFlow FX collection. This generator creates a wall of images/movies, one of which zooms in to fill the screen, then zooms back down. Another just zooms in to fill the screen. Not only does it come with enough image/movie placeholders, but it also has an animation option that can be utilized in more ways than one. With the multiple image placeholders and animation settings, it can be used as a standalone motion graphic, or a chapter transition between segments.

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The second plugin from the Coremelt Complete set I would turn to for video walls is Panel Vision. Panel Vision is a part of the Shatter collection, which contains “3D” perspective plugins with interesting effects. Panel Vision allows you to tile up to eight source images randomly into any number of rows and columns. It’s great to use when you want to cram four to five videos into a wall with little effort. You can also combine with other plugins like I did in this tutorial below and get a circular shape.

BCC Wild Cards

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BCC Wild Cards is used to generate an array of 3D cards with interesting and convenient animation options. This filter is a part of the Particles category in the Continuum Complete suite. It can be used to divide up one video into rows and columns of cards, or multiple videos into rows and cards. Below, After Effects guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us the possibilities you can achieve when using BCC Wild Cards with multiple videos.

One of the reasons I like this filter for video walls is the ease and flexibility in the control options. They are very straightforward and can have you up and running in little time. I have used it myself when I made a promo for my Premiere Pro project file giveaway, which you can see below.

I highly recommend giving this plugin a try if you want a quality filter for doing a quick video wall animation.

Red Giant Planespace

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Planespace is a compilation of tools that are made to help manage large amounts of 3D layers in After Effects. Within this compilation are Cubic Distribution, Box Creator, Cylinder Creator, and Matrix Creator. One tool in particular that is great for creating a video wall is Matrix Creator. This tool can set up rows and columns with ease along with predetermined animated parameters. I’ve used this tool a few times when I wanted to create a video wall using 3D layers in After Effects, as opposed to having it contained within a filter. With Planespace, I can use an unlimited amount of layers to achieve the look I want. With this ability comes the caveat of slowing down After Effects if you have too many 3D layers.

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Overall, Planespace is great when you want to push the boundaries of After Effects’s 2.5D layers.

These are just some of the incredible tools and plugins you can use to create a video wall for your projects. Feel free to give them a try and add to your arsenal.

Ways to Glitch Your Videos

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Glitching your videos these days seems to be all the rage. You’ve seen it promos, trailers, tv shows, and web videos. The artistic application of malfunctioning video has become a trend in motion graphics, and it seems there are many options to achieve these effects. I’m going to highlight a few options that give you the ability to glitch your videos without much effort. There are ways to glitch and distort your videos using native filters and more. However, these options I plan to highlight don’t require much from the user.

Rampant Design Tools Distortion Toolkit

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A new toolkit from the talented creators at Rampant Design Tools, you get over 2500 elements to play with, which include the following: 8-bit effects, Heavy Damage, Analog Effects, Glitch Effects, and more. The best part is you can purchase these elements in different resolutions ranging from 2K-4K which gives you more pixel freedom than 1080p. All you have to do with these elements is drag and drop and you are good to go. You can definitely add more creativity to using these elements by doing your own transform and distort effects, and apply clips from the kit to help enhance an effect. The opportunities are endless with this toolkit. Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the impressive promo below to get a taste of how awesome this kit is.

VideoCopilot Twitch

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A plugin created by After Effects guru Andrew Kramer, Twitch gives the user the ability to control the chaos they insert into their videos. Although this plugin only works in After Effects, the options users have available to them are quite astounding. Twitch users can utilize the plugin to create stylistic video effects for motion graphics and visual effects. You can easily create RGB Split effects, transitions, frame distortion, and more. This plugin has been a go to for AE users when they need to introduce chaos into their videos. Watching the promo below will give you a better idea of how awesome Twitch is.

Digieffects Damage

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The folks at Digieffects created this bundle of plugins a few years ago, but people still go to them when they want to non-destructively destroy their perfect footage. The Damage bundle includes:

  • Aged Film
  • Artifact
  • Blockade
  • Destabilize
  • Interference
  • Overexpose
  • Skew

Each plugin has its purpose in messing up your video. With Aged Film, you can make your video look like they were shot years ago. Artifact gives your video a posterized look with analog blocks popping all over the screen. Interference will give your video that static interference your TV gives you when the cable is disconnected. Overall, this plugin bundle offers a great deal of glitch and distortion effects that can act alone or be combined for a great effect.

Red Giant Universe Glitch

A soon to be released plugin from Red Giant under their Universe package, these plugins give users the ability add Glitch to their videos in the form of a transition or an effect. Since it hasn’t been released yet, there isn’t much I can say. However, this video by After Effects guru Aharon Rabinowitz showcases how great Glitch will be when it is released.

These are a great collection of options to glitch your videos. You can go the drag and drop route with Rampant Design Tools or use plugins from Videocopilot, Digieffects, or Red Giant. Overall, you don’t have to try to manually glitch your videos if you are on a deadline. Check out these options for yourself and figure out what works best for your workflow.

Sound Effects

3rd Party Plugin Offerings

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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

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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

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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.

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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

Trapcode Particular Tutorials

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Trapcode Particular, the 3D particle system created by Peder Norrby and sold under the Red Giant banner, is by far one of the most popular After Effects plugins ever created. With the plugin, artists have created incredible effects ranging from light streaks, bokeh patterns, smoke, fire, and much more. The in depth parameters and interaction with After Effects 3D camera easily enhances many compositions across the board. I’m going to share some tutorials I’ve come across that showcase the depth that Particular has to offer.

Recreating the Catching Fire VFX

In this tutorial, motion graphics artist Michael Park shows you how to create a procedural fire effect for your logo, similar to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire title sequence. Michael shows us techniques for using the AutoTrace feature for logos, as well changing After Effects bit color depth from 8 to 32 for a high dynamic range of colors. He also shows us how well Particular and Element 3D from VideoCoPilot work together.

Galaxy Nebula

In this tutorial, author and motion graphics artist VinhSon Nguyen shows you how to create a galaxy nebula using Particular. VinhSon utilizes the After Effects camera, 3D lights, and null objects to guide the particles along with Knoll Light Factory and his Instafilm script to add finishing touches. You can get the result in the beginning of the video using this technique. The After Effect lights and 3D null objects are very instrumental in generating source points and paths for Particular to send particles across the screen.

Creating Water with Trapcode Particular

If you are looking to generate water without using practical effects, then this a tutorial to watch. VFX artist Dino Muhic shows us how to create water around a watermelon using Particular. Manipulating parameters in the Emitter, Particle, and Shading settings, you can generate water particles that can control and animate with other objects. Dino shares some great tips preparing your scene, as well as sculpting the water to look exactly as you want it.

Music to Light Effect

In an effect shown in the NBC series Heroes, one of the characters was able to visualize sound in passing light streams. Renowned motion graphics tutorial author Harry Frank shows us how to create this effect for our videos. Utilizing techniques such as motion tracking, 3D lights, null objects, and Particular, you can have your music turning into light in no time. Harry also shows us other parameters within Particular, such as Opacity over Life and Aux System, which help define the look of the particles. He then shows us finishing techniques to give it a cinematic look.

As you can see from these tutorials, Trapcode Particular is not only a versatile plugin, but an industry standard plugin for many of the motion graphics and visual effects you’ve seen over the past few years. As a user of the plugin myself, it has helped me create many great mograph assets on a variety of projects, and still continues to be a plugin I go to when the situation calls for it. You can try Particular for yourself by downloading a trial, purchasing it as a standalone for $399, or as part of the Trapcode Suite for $899.

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Red Giant Universe

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As a plugin enthusiast, I have always been a fan of the offerings of Red Giant Software. They have industry standard plugins in color correction, particles, lens flares, motion graphics, workflow tools, and much more. Another great thing is that the people behind the products are working veterans themselves; such as Aharon Rabinowitz, Harry Frank, Seth Worley, Simon Walker, and Stu Maschwitz. The tutorials they provide are top notch as well as the promos they create. With NAB around the corner, Red Giant is releasing new products under a subscription based model called Universe. Check out the trailer below to learn more.

Universe is a subscription based community where users will have access to free and premium plugins. These plugins are power-based on the GPU of your computer, and offer near-real time quality. They operate from a tool known as Supernova. According to plugin developer Alex4D, Supernova is a development system that uses a javascript-like scripting language to access the Red Giant Universe Library; a collection of image processing libraries whose code is combined together to make cross-platform Universe plugins. Learn more about Supernova below.

While the concept of a subscription model may sound familiar as with the Adobe Creative Cloud, the folks at Red Giant software put a lot of thought and care into how this community would work so it would be something that everyone can partake in. As of this writing, Red Giant is offering a public beta and will probably change things in the coming weeks. There are four plans that are currently on their site. You can sign up for a free membership, which lasts forever, and gives you access to 31 free plugins and more. The next membership is a monthly plan of $10 a month which gives you access to 31 free plugins, 8 premium plugins, and more. The third membership is a yearly plan of $99 annually. It contains the same features of the monthly plan, but at a discounted rate. So instead of paying $120 over a one year period, you pay $99 upfront for the year. You can also choose to pay $399 for a lifetime subscription plan where you never have to worry about monthly or annual fees.

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The plugin offerings are quite incredible on both the free and the premium side. One premium plugin that stood out to me was the revamped HoloMatrix. This was created by Aharon Rabinowitz to reduce the steps it takes to create holograms. Originally, it worked more as an After Effects script with presets available to change the look. Now, it functions fully as a plugin, but is much more responsive. Take a look at the tutorial below how HoloMatrix works now.

One of the free plugin categories that stood out to me were the glows. I’ve played with many third party glow plugins, and while they each have their strengths and weaknesses, I found these glows to be very responsive to parameter change and easy to process, thanks in part to Supernova programming. Overall, I’m extremely excited for Red Giant Universe. I believe it will definitely be a game changer in the plugin industry and will set the bar for how plugins are created and delivered to the masses. I really appreciate the fact that Red Giant took the cloud concept and made it work for everyone. It’s also cool that they offer a strong array of free plugins under the lifetime free membership option, which I’ll be using quite often. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

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Pulsating Flares & Dual Magnified Bars

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I’ve always believed that with experimentation, you can discover hidden possibilities within your NLE or compositing program. This especially holds up with experimenting in Premiere. It may not possess the depth of FCPX & Motion 5 workflow, but if you tinker with the native or third party filters enough, you can create some great results. That is what the purpose of the NLE Ninja is – to show users how to push NLE software to do things you might normally turn to Motion or After Effects to do. I’ve found this especially true with experimenting with the lens flare filter and Creative Impatience’s Simple Mask filter. The lens flare filter is among one of the most overused filters in After Effects and I can see why. With some experimental tinkering, you can create some incredible effects and transitions. The free Simple Mask filter from Creative Impatience has been a godsend for some of the compositing work I’ve done in Premiere. What used to require a Color Matte or a solid from the title tool with the Track Matte Key, I can now accomplish using a duplicated layer and multiple instances of the Simple Mask plugin. In this article, I will show you how to create pulsating flares using the Lens Flare filter and dual magnified bars using the Simple Mask plugin to create an interesting composite effect. Below is an example of what the final result will look like.

Before you proceed, make sure you download and install the Simple Mask plugin onto your computer by going here.

In the video tutorial above, I use a black video layer to place 2 lens flares above my video clip. I then position them at separate corners of the screen and proceed to keyframe the brightness of each flare over time. I randomize the brightness so that the pulsating patterns offset one another. Next, I changed the composite mode to Add to get rid of the black background. To get the magnify look, I duplicated the video layer on track 1 onto track 2. I scaled up the video on track 2 and apply the Simple Mask plugin. Then, I created a thin bar with the height extending past the dimensions of the video itself. I proceeded to animate the mask across the screen from left to right. I copied the filter and change the composite mode parameter in the Mask filter to add to have 2 instances. I reversed the keyframes so it animates right to left. I added 2 instances of drop shadow with the angles set to 90 and -90 respectively so that the drop shadow appears at the edge of each bar equally. The end result is that you have 2 effects which work fine alone but together create something much more interesting and visually stimulating.

I have plans for future articles and effects which can utilize the Simple Mask plugin as well as other native filters in Premiere to create complex effects like this. I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Sound Effects

Simulate Frosted Breath using a Particle Simulation

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Simulating frosted breath on a warm day is a visual effect widely used in television and movies today. Anyone who intends to get into visual effects or post production should master this technique, and is recommended to have this shown in their VFX reel. Post production houses and studios are not looking for artists with the biggest explosions and visually loudest effects in their reel- rather, artists with the most subtle, transparent, and photo realistic effects tend to stand out and get hired.

For this effect we will be using Adobe After Effects along with Red Giant’s particle simulation plug in, Trapcode Particular. I am going to show you how to create this frosted breath simulation in 2 steps:

  • Step 1: Creating the Particle Simulation
  • Step 2: Key framing the Breathing Pattern

Step 1: Creating the Particle Simulation

First we need to create a new composition with our raw footage —  I am using a 3 second clip of my friend walking aimlessly through the woods.

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From there I will create a new white solid and add the Trapcode Particular effect by going to EFFECT >> TRAPCODE >> PARTICULAR. If we scrub through our footage we will see that this effect first turns our solid into a series of small spheres flying out in every direction. What we want to do is control the direction of the spheres and begin to manipulate the size and motion of the spheres to obtain the frosted breath effect.

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Go to the effects controls. Here we will be changing several settings and I will list them all here and a brief description as to what each setting controls:

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  1. Emitter
    1. DIRECTION >> DIRECTIONAL (from there you can play with the X & Y rotation — this will allow you to control the direction in which your frosted breath emits towards)
    2. DIRECTIONAL SPREAD (this manipulates how wide or condensed your cone of particles emits — you will want to increase or decrease this setting based on what looks the most natural in your particular scene)
    3. VELOCITY (this is defaulted at 100 and controls how far out your particles emit — for breathing you will want to increase this to around 500)

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  1. Particle
    1. LIFE >> limit this to about 2 or 2.5 seconds (This will allow the particles to fade off naturally)
    2. SPHERE FEATHER >> decrease this to around 25 (this ill give a more jagged edge to the gaseous form we are building)
    3. SIZE >> increase to about 38 (this will enlarge your particles and begin to take on the gaseous shape we are aiming for)
    4. SIZE RANDOMNESS >> increase to about 70 (this will ensure each particle is unique and the form does not appear so rigid and predictable)
    5. SIZE OVER LIFE >> Select the small triangle next to this option to drop down the graph >> to the right of the graph you will see different pre made graph patterns — choose the 4th selection down that looks like a small hill (this will give a more natural life pattern to the particles.)

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    1. OPACITY >> drastically decrease this number to around 2 or 3 (frosted breath is a very subtle translucent effect)
    2. OPACITY OVER LIFE >> Select the small triangle next to this option to drop down the graph >> to the right of the graph you will see different pre made graph patterns — choose the 2nd selection down that looks like a downward angle (Frosted breath appears a couple inches away from the mouth as your breath cools down from the air and then dissipates after a short period of time)

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  1. Physics
    1. AIR >> AIR RESISTANCE >> increase to 1 (when you breath the air comes out quick but then is encountered by air resistance which slows down the flow)
    2. SPIN AMPLITUDE >> increase to around 40 (this will give the breath the cloudy rolling form we are looking for)

When you are finished with Step 1, here is what your effect, on a black background, should to look like.

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Step 2: Key framing the Breathing Pattern

Now we are ready to have our particle form follow our actor and begin to match their rhythmic breathing pattern. To do this we first need to go back to our EMITTER setting and check the stopwatch next to POSITION XY and then key frame our particle system following the mouth throughout the entire clip (NOTE: you may also need to key frame the rotation X & Y in case you subject changes direction as mine did).

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No one is breathing outward all the time — so all that is left to complete our effect is to start and stop the particle system to match the inhale exhale motions. Check the stopwatch next to Particles/sec under the EMITTER setting, then set a keyframe for 0 right before the actor begins to exhale. Move up one keyframe and change the amount to 100. Wait until it looks like the actor looks like they have fully exhaled and setting a key frame for 100, move up one frame, then add a keyframe for 0. Your finished, as this will give you your basic start and stop motion, from here you will want to simply adjust and finesse the keyframes based on how rapidly or slowly the actor is breathing.

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