March 19, 1998

March 1998 -- Magazine Review

Video-Effects Software

Plug-Ins Simulate Film, Add Transitions


By Jim Heid

After Effects users, your universe has just expanded. Three new plug-in collections have joined the sizable array of third-party add-ons that tap into Adobe's video-effects powerhouse. DigiEffects' CineLook Broadcast 1.0 simulates the look of motion-picture film, right down to the dust and scratches. Artel Software's Boris FX 3.0.3 creates impressive 3-D and color effects; it also works with Adobe Premiere and Data Translation's Media 100. Finally, Alien Skin Software's Eye Candy 3.0 for After Effects provides a grab bag of visual sweets.

The Look of Film

Videotape and digital video are economical and convenient, but they lack the rich look of film. The grain of a film's light-sensitive emulsion, its unique color sensitivity, and the shutter movement of a movie camera and projector combine to create a richness that makes videotape look harsh and clinical by comparison.

With DigiEffects' CineLook Broadcast, you can give your digital video the look of film. CineLook doesn't just add faux grain--its presets mimic the characteristics of dozens of commercial films from Agfa, Fuji, and Kodak, in color and black-and-white 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm stock. In addition, several offbeat presets simulate old movies and deliver grungy effects suitable for MTV. The Film Damage plug-in, for example, gives clips a vintage look by simulating scratches, dust, and projection stuttering.

You can customize any of CineLook's 52 parameters within each preset to tweak grain size, color balance, shutter motion, and more. You can also use After Effects keyframes to animate the parameters over time and create new presets to recall your favorite settings. CineLook's beautifully designed user interface streamlines the adjustment process.

CineLook Broadcast limits the frame size to 768 by 486 pixels. Thus, if you're outputting to film, you'll need the $1,995 CineLook FilmRes; it supports After Effects' maximum frame size of 4,000 by 4,000 pixels. FilmRes should be available in the first quarter of 1998.

Boris FX Meets After Effects

Boris Effects has long been a must-buy for Premiere and Media 100 users, offering sophisticated motion control, 3-D image mapping and transitions, and color keying (see Reviews, January 1997). Boris FX 3.0 is the first version that also runs under After Effects. The good news is that virtually all of its features have made it into After Effects; the bad news is that adjusting effect parameters within After Effects is less than straightforward. In Premiere and Media 100 systems, Boris FX offers an attractive interface that lets you, for example, drag a 3-D cube to specify its rotation. When you use Boris FX under After Effects, however, you must specify all parameters using After Effects' bare-bones Effects Settings window, which offers no such luxuries.

Still, being able to access Boris FX's arsenal from within After Effects is a boon. Boris's DVE effect, for example, makes short work of creating clips that spin and tumble, complete with feathered borders and drop shadows. Version 3.0 also adds a large selection of curvilinear filters that let you add ripple, bulge, and wave effects, along with color-correction filters for adjusting brightness and contrast, creating tints, and solarizing.


Macworld's Buying Advice

CineLook Broadcast is the most ground-breaking of these three collections, bridging the gap between digital video and film as no other personal-computer-based product has to date. At $695, however, it isn't for casual users. Boris FX 3.0.3 is an outstanding upgrade of an already stellar product, and it's one of the few effects plug-ins that works with Premiere as well as with After Effects. And Eye Candy 3.0 for After Effects offers some appealing filters and effects you won't find in other products.

Boris FX 3.0.3

RATING:4 out of 5 mice PROS: Extremely versatile array of effects and transitions; also works with Adobe Premiere and Data Translation's Media 100. CONS: Native user interface unavailable in After Effects. COMPANY: Artel Software (617/451-9900, LIST PRICE: $495 (Media 100 version, $695).

CineLook Broadcast 1.0

RATING: PROS: Stunning film simulation; superb interface. CONS: No printed documentation. (ED Note: Now includes a printed manual!) COMPANY: DigiEffects (512/306-0779, LIST PRICE: $695.

Eye Candy 3.0 for After Effects

RATING: 4 out of 5 mice PROS: Appealing mix of filters; good documentation. CONS: A bit pricey. COMPANY: Alien Skin Software (919/832-4124, LIST PRICE: $599.

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