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The Plug-In Pavilion

By Ron Seifried

So now that you have acquired your editing, compositing, or animation software, you're ready to get down to some serious production work. In many host applications, not every conceivable tool is available to help fully realize an artist's vision. This is where plug-ins can make themselves indispensable, if not mandatory. A plug-in is a software program that adds more items and functionality to the tool set of an already-existing editing or animation program. Third-party developers create plug-ins based on their own personal needs, or on a growing desire and popularity for certain features expressed by members of online forums. (Frequently, end users have more of an influence on product development than they ever realize.) Some plug-ins are developed by one person programming to the open architecture of the host application, and can occasionally be downloaded for free, or for a nominal donation online. Others are created by companies that develop and release a series of plug-ins, over time, to help simplify and enhance the creative workflow. Today there are hundreds of plug-ins for post-production products, though not every plug-in may be appropriate for you.

One major player in the world of plug-ins is Boris FX, developer of several programs that are compatible with Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Avid, Grass Valley, Media 100, and Sony, each with similar user interfaces for ease of tool-set crossover. Boris FX has been the mainstay of the visual FX world for several years with the foundation of their product line, FX 9.0, a video-effects program that gives realistic lighting, color-correction tools, and advanced keying in one intuitive interface while supporting Adobe After Effects filters. Users can search through the hundreds of filters and effects available, or create their own with the sophisticated vector paint and spline tools. But it's not just effects that can be created; motion tracking and image stabilization features enable users to manipulate unstable video.

Boris FX intuitive interface makes it easier to create three dimensional effects.
Boris FX's intuitive interface makes it easier to create three dimensional effects.

Graffiti 5.1 is a sophisticated 2D and 3D title generator that enables you to create text within most editing programs without importing or exporting files. Hundreds of preset styles and effects are available in the Boris Library Browser. Basic character-generator tools include Rolls, Crawls, Fades, and Zooms and can work in 3D space by creating shapes such as cylinders, spheres, cubes, 3D text with textures, reflection mapping, materials, and lights. Advanced tools include text-on-a-path editing, jitter and randomization, and creating 3D texts with custom bump maps and reflections.

Boris Blue 2 gives post specialists with NVIDIA graphics cards the ability to create 2D and 3D effects with real-time playback of compositions. Easy adjustment of settings in the presence of clients is a breeze. Blue has its own settings format unique from other Boris applications, and is not as integrated with other editing programs, but the hardware acceleration takes the work session up a notch with less time wasted waiting to preview effects. Blue includes animation of multiple objects on spline-based paths, particle engine generation, enhanced extrusions, image processors and deformers, bump maps, and reflections.

Blue's Particle Engine
Blue's Particle Engine

Finally, there is Red 4, several programs rolled into one, including 3D compositing, titling, and effects creation. Features include paint, rotoscoping, and vector object extrusion, and are completely resolution-independent, making the program compatible with SD or HD footage. The unlimited layers in 2D and 3D compositing are designed from the ground up to be easy to handle, for beginners to advanced editors. Advanced features include motion tracking, keying, masking, mattes, vector paint, and rotoscoping. Although similar to Blue, there are some notable differences with Red, including a chart generator, wider graphic-card support, and more integration with other editing programs-and Mac OSX support.

Red 4's chart generator tool
Red 4's chart generator tool

This should give you a sense of a few of the third-party tools on the market which could help you to bring your productions to the next level. Keep an eye out for future articles on other plug-in applications for editors, compositors, and animators.

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to videofeedback@bhphotovideo.com