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The first fully-comprehensive guide to mastering all of the 3rd party plug-ins for After Effects.
This book focuses on the hundreds of plug-ins, filters, and effects for Adobe After Effects, a topic near and dear to my heart. The variety and sheer number of plug-ins available can be overwhelming, especially to artists new to the software. Some effects try to recreate reality, while others produce bold graphics and eye candy. Some merely exist to make workflow smoother and others to fix video predicaments. Many exist in massive bundles of 200 or more, making it difficult to single out the features of a single plug-in in the package. Others are single plug-ins created by a lone developer, and live in obscurity, even when they're extremely useful tools.
How does one navigate through this gargantuan list of choices? At Toolfarm, I helped build the Plug-in Finder, a massive database of video plug-ins for After Effects and other host apps. This database has been a great resource to the book, linking to tutorials, samples, reviews, and more. The Plug-in Finder has been marketed as "doing the legwork for you" with everything in one place. With this book my aim is to take it a step further. I show you how to use the plug-ins (with the help of several generous contributors) and give you hot tips on how to speed up your workflow with unique samples not on the developer's sites and tips not otherwise found on the web. Consider this book a tool to help you decide which plug-in is the best choice for the job, because quite often there are multiple choices for the same type of effect.
What Is a Plug-in?
A plug-in is a mini-application that "plugs into" or expands a host application (like After Effects), allowing it to do more. When trying to explain this to a friend who does not work in postproduction, he came up with a car analogy. You can buy a basic model of a car and upgrade it with an aftermarket exhaust system with dual tailpipes, a GPS, power windows, nice rims, a higher quality sound system ... even fancy wiper blades and all-weather radials. You can detail the car with pinstripes and bumper stickers and cut a sunroof in the top. Adding a remote car starter and airbrushed flames are the equivalent of adding a better keyer and a particle system to After Effects! You're making improvements and expanding the usage of an already great product.
Why You need third-Party Plug-ins
Sure, you do get loads of great plug-ins with After Effects but try building an incredible lens flare like you can in Video Copilot's Optical Flares with the plug-ins that ship with After Effects. You cannot even come close to the speed, complexity, flexibility, and beauty that the plug-in provides. How about removing a moving element from your shot? You could rotoscope it and manually paint the background in, but how long would that take you? With Boris Continuum Motion Key, you can do it in minutes. How about particles? Adobe's Particle Playground, let's be honest, is pretty lame. It can't compare to the awesome power of Trapcode Particular or the ease of use of Wondertouch particle Illusion by GenArts. Your time is valuable. If you are able to save two hours with a $299 plug-in that you can use over and over on different projects, isn't it worth every penny? Plug-ins will save you time, money, and, quite often, your sanity. This book showcases the best of the best: unique, time saving, useful effects that you won't be able to work without.
The director, cinematographer, and screenwriter Anthony E. Griffin summed it up nicely "What is your personal time worth? If you think about it from that perspective, the software is not a crutch, but is a tool to get the work done in a time frame. And if you have a strong story, it can be supplemented by tools to make it more stylish."
Criteria for Choosing what Plug-ins to include in the book
It wasn't always an easy choice of what to include. Some plug-ins complete the same task just as well as another, so I have comparisons sprinkled throughout the book. I chose to include the plug-ins that I consider to be the workhorses; plug-ins that I keep coming back to time and time again. I picked plug-ins for their render speed and that have more options than similar effects that ship with After Effects. I chose plug-ins that are unique—a one-of-a-kind effect that no other company has been able to recreate. I also chose to focus on plug-ins with the capability of creating a wide variety of looks, not just a one-trick pony. Lastly, I chose to include effects that I find interesting or help speed up workflow.
It should be noted that all plug-ins discussed in this book were given to me by developers of the software. I'd like to thank these vendors and Toolfarm for their generosity in helping me to obtain licenses for all of the plug-ins that I needed.
Big suites versus single Plug-ins
This question comes up a lot at Toolfarm: "Should I buy a big suite of plug-ins like Boris Continuum Complete or Trapcode Suite or just buy a single plug-in?" This is not easily answered and will depend on your needs and your budget. Sometimes you may only need a single-purpose plug-in and that will be completely sufficient. Although some plug-ins come à la carte, it often makes sense to purchase a suite. If you don't own many plug-ins, you will instantly have a wide and useful variety at your fingertips. As most of the big bundles go, there will be a few standout, unique effects and many others that are similar to the plug-ins that ship with After Effects, such as blurs, noise removal, and glows. The similar effects will often be faster, offer more parameters, or make up for a shortcoming in the AE plug-ins.
If you don't own many third-party filters and would like to get started with some basics, Boris Continuum Complete, GenArts Sapphire, Noise Industries FxFactory Pro, Trapcode Suite, and Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite are all good places to start. All of these packages have a broad spectrum of effects, including generators, glows, blurs, titling effects, and particles that can be used over and over on multiple projects.
Boris Continuum Complete
If you're looking for a good mix of well-designed plug-ins that help you automate a lot of the work in After Effects, look no further than Boris Continuum Complete, also known as BCC ($995). BCC ships with over 200 plug-ins and 2400 presets. The plug-ins use Optical Flow pixel processing, OpenGL acceleration, and offer deep color support. Many plug-ins in Continuum Complete come with a built-in motion tracker and a Pixel Chooser, which allows you to isolate certain channels, colors, or areas of video, without jumping to another tool.
A few standout plug-ins in the set are:
BCC Lens Flare Adv—a robust lens flare generator
BCC Uprez—upscales footage from SD to HD while maintaining high quality
BCC Motion Key—quickly removes a moving element from a shot without rotoscoping
BCC 3D Objects—an incredibly powerful way to create full 3D text, logos, and shapes within the After Effects interface; the BCC 3D Objects alone are worth the price of the suite
GenArts Sapphire and GenArts Monsters
GenArts Sapphire ($1699), a suite that has been used on many major motion pictures including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Iron Man 2, J.J. Abram's Star Trek, and Avatar, is one of the most expensive suites on the After Effects market, and is highly coveted. Originally broken into four packages, it now combines over 220 effects. With the Sapphire v5 release, GenArts introduced new effects such as TV Damage, Swish 3D, and Lens Flare Transition.
Sapphire supports 64-bit OS and 32-bit color support, uses full floating-point for all internal processing, and most of the plug-ins are OpenGL accelerated, so they're fast, while flexible and very stable. Sapphire's downside is that it's pricey.
GenArts Monsters GT ($999), acquired by GenArts from SpeedSix, includes generators, distortion and warping effects, blurs, and the usual mix of effects. What sets Monsters apart is its unusual generators. M_Luna renders a beautiful moon with the option to program in the exact date or moon phase. M_Night Sky renders a night sky with a pulldown menu of locations around the globe so that the geography of the sky is accurate. M_Paint generates the look of beautiful watercolor and oil paintings, pastels, and chalk pencil drawings.
In 2010 GenArts and The Foundry created a strategic alliance. GenArts acquired Tinder and Tinderbox from The Foundry and have combined the four individual Tinderboxes into a single product named GenArts Tinder ($2000). Tinder contains over 70 After Effects and Autodesk Combustion compatible plug-ins. At this time, GenArts says it has no plans to combine Tinder with Sapphire or Monsters.
Noise industries FxFactory Pro
Noise Industries' FxFactory Pro ($399) has over 150 GPU accelerated transitions, filters, and generators, and more plug-ins are released all of the time. FxFactory seems like it's always being updated. Many filters have built-in masks and numerous presets.
FxFactory is an interesting product because it's not just one company's plug-ins. With FxFactory Pro, plug-ins can be created by anyone, so numerous "fourth party" plug-in developers have popped up (using the FxFactory engine) and created all sorts of interesting effects. A few that I particularly like are idustrial revolution Volumetrix and SupaWipe, and Dashwood Stereo3D Toolbox. FxFactory's software engine is also free so you can download and run loads of free plug-ins and try out the others.
FxFactory Pro is Mac only and a single license will work in After Effects, Apple's Final Cut Pro, and Motion on a single machine.
Trapcode Suite ($899), distributed by Red Giant Software, is a favorite among After Effects artists. Trapcode plug-ins are exceedingly well-designed, and effects such as Trapcode Particular and 3D Stroke are rarely matched by any other plug-ins on the market. Not only are the Trapcode products cool, they also render fast and can be used to create thousands of different looks on a wide variety of projects.
Trapcode Suite includes all nine Trapcode plug-ins, including the highly coveted Particular, Form, 3D Stroke, Shine, Starglow, Lux, Sound Keys, Echospace, and Horizon. All plug-ins can be purchased as single products, but the full suite is worth every penny.
Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite
Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite ($799) is mainly known for Magic Bullet Looks and Magic Bullet Colorista II, both developed by "DV Rebel" Stu Maschwitz. Magic Bullet Looks allows the user to set the mood of the video with over 100 built-in presets—essentially one-touch color grading. Magic Bullet Colorista II is a 3-wheel color correction tool, unmatched for combining power and approachability. Magic Bullet Mojo is another color correction tool that is extremely easy to use and created for the look of action films. The suite also includes Magic Bullet Frames, designed for de-interlacing and high-quality conversion of 60i materials to 24p. Magic Bullet Instant HD is used to scale up video. Version 10 includes Magic Bullet Denoiser, Magic Bullet PhotoLooks, and Magic Bullet Grinder. I'll go into some of the Magic Bullet plug-ins in depth in this book.
Excerpted from Plug-in to After Effects by Michele Yamazaki Copyright © 2011 by Elsevier Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What is a Plug-in?; Big Bundles; Blur and Sharpen; Color Corrections; Distortions; Effects; Generators; Keying and Matte; Noise and Grain; Simulation; Templates; Time; Tracking; Transitions; Utilities; Workflow
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