Back in mid-May, we explored how to recreate Star Trek’s transporter effect on just about any computer video editing platform. DigiEffects’ new “Damage” applet solves another piece of the puzzle for those who wish to play Gene Roddenberry at home: the view screen.
Actually, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but only slightly. Star Trek: The Next Generation and its successors have often taken advantage of video effects similar to this one, to make otherwise pristine video footage appear like it's been traveling for light years or breaking up because of an incoming ion storm or two.
DigiEffects' Damage is designed to is generate video effects that replicate the sort of faulty picture common in videotapes and traditional over-the-air television. Compatible with Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects as well as Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Autodesk’s Combustion 4, and Red 4 by Boris FX, the names of the four separate plug-ins included under the Damage give a sense of what they do: Artifact, Blockade, Interference, and Skew.
You can get a sense of what the individual plug-ins look like on the Damage homepage. Artifact generates a heavy dose of thick squares, simulating tape drop out, or “laser rot”, for those who remember laser discs. Blockade simulates, more pervasive tape drop out effects, as well as snow and other forms of terrestrial interference. Interference is an even more intensive-appearing effect, adding a thick layer of black artifacts over the picture — think of that UHF channel you could only barely get in, and only when atmospheric conditions were absolutely perfect. Skew adds a combination of simulated electrical interference (that pesky slow rolling bar over a TV image) and snow. In its most intense setting, the underlying video is only intermittently recognizable.
DigiEffects’ motto for their Damage plug-in is “You have great footage. We can fix that.” And indeed, they certainly can. But why would you want to “Damage” that footage in the first place? Actually, there are a variety of applications for Damage once it’s part of an editor’s toolkit. For simulating the look of material shot in the last 30 years or so, video artifacts could make an effective substitute for the cliched black and white, scratched film or sepia-toned look that Hollywood typically uses when it wants to telegraph "old medium." (I recall watching an ESPN segment on failed NFL draft picks a few years ago, that used sepia-tone and scratches to age material that was obviously shot on color video only a decade or so ago).
For those shooting drama and want to make it obvious that the material being viewed is on a monitor or TV (“Sir, we’ve just recovered this videotape of the rescue mission to the Amazon whose flight crashed in 1992!” “Put it in the VCR now, sergeant!”) Damage is an excellent plug-in. Additionally, for those who need to insert newly shot footage into old video, running those new shots through Damage could help them blend much more easily. And for those who wish to spice up their transitions, it could be combined with the usual fades, wipes, and dissolves, to simulate a TV being switched on or off.
Unlike some of DigiEffects earlier plug-ins, Damage need be registered only once to clear the plug-in out of demo mode, which places a DigiEffects logo in each shot. (Some earlier DigiEffects plug-ins require uploading the product’s password for each effect, a slightly tedious, albeit one-time chore, when dealing with a plug-in with 20 or more individual effects).
Once an effect is loaded into a video track’s effects bin, clicking on the DigiEffects name brings up four presets, each of which, once selected, can be tweaked further in the settings below. The effects range from subtle videotape-style artifacts to heavy interference that renders a shot nearly unrecognizable.
Also, unlike some of those earlier effects and many video effects in general, there’s no waiting patiently for shots to slowly render to see the effect in action. Just drag one of the Damage plug-ins from the shared effects folder to the effects bin of the track you’re working on, and its individual, err, damage, is plain to see.
So are these plug-ins right for you? If you're a video editor who's made it to the end of this article thinking about all the ways you can "Damage" your footage, that answers your question! And for $99.00, it's certainly worth experimenting with. Those producing a sci-fi or high-tech drama should likely get plenty of use out of Damage. Screen on, Mr. Sulu!