Effects Suite 11 from Red Giant is a group of nine effects plugins that will provide everyone from After Effects veterans to novice designers with new avenues for creativity. These effects have been used in feature films such as Avatar and Super 8 and television shows for years.
In total there are nine separate packages with over 70 different tools. The packages are Image Lounge, PlaneSpace, Text Anarchy, Toonit, Warp, Composite Wizard, Psunami, Holomatrix, and Knoll Light Factory. To do this product justice, I will break this up into several parts. In Part I will look at PlaneSpace, Image Lounge, and Composite Wizard.
PlaneSpace is a plugin that allows you to arrange and animate 3D layers quickly and easily. Managing many 3D-enabled layers in After Effects can be a tedious process especially when you get past 75 to 100 or more layers. PlaneSpace is a collection of keyframe assistants which work in a similar way to the keyframe assistants that come with After Effects.
PlaneSpace comes with 10 primary tools divided into two groups; Distribution Assistants and Creator Assistants. Six of the tools have lite versions, which brings the total number of tools in the plugin to 16. The Distribution Assistants distribute the selected 3D layers throughout the 3D space, and the Creator Assistants are designed to create the primitives out of the layers that you select.
One Distribution Assistant is Linear Assistant, which distributes layers in a straight line on the X, Y or Z-axis of a composition. Another is Planar Assistant, which distributes in a straight line in the same way Linear Assistant does, but with the ability to distribute on a two-dimensional plane as well.
A third is Cubic Distribution, which lets you work with layers within a 3D space defined by a cube or rectangular area within the cube. Here you select the 3D layers in your composition that you wish to distribute within a cube, and the layers are placed through 3D space and along all three axes limited only by the boundaries of the cube, with restrictions added through distance values. A fourth is Spheroid Distribution, which functions on layers in a space defined by a elliptical area or sphere. It works much like Cubic Distribution, but the layers will only be distributed within the sphere.
The fifth is Cylinder Distribution, which works on layers within a cylindrical space. Here the layers revolve around the center of the cylinder. This results a corkscrew or fan effect, which is different from the rest of the Distribution Assistants. Finally, Pyramid Distribution functions on layers within a pyramid shape, otherwise similarly to Cubic Distribution.
The first Creator Assistant is the Matrix Creator, which creates a wall of images also called a matrix. It is quite like the functionality of the Planar Assistant, but this tool is great if the desired result is a uniform wall of images.
The Box Creator distributes layers on the surface of a cube. It can be used to create cubes, boxes, tunnels and walls. This is different from the Cubic Distribution, which works inside a cube.
The Spheroid Creator works by distributing layers based on the surface of sphere or ellipsoid, as opposed to the Spheroid Distribution which works within a sphere.
Finally, the Cylinder Creator works on the surface of a cylinder, as opposed to the Cylinder Distribution which works within a cylinder.
Working in PlaneSpace is pretty straightforward and the tool is quite powerful. There really are no limits to the number of layers that you can apply it to, and in fact you can replicate your layers and turn 10 layers into a thousand easily-managed layers. Just remember that layers need memory, so if you take your thousand layers and repeat them another 10 times, you could, in theory, run out of memory.
This plugin is incredibly powerful, and for someone who does do a lot of complex animation, PlaneSpace would be invaluable. To see what I mean take a look at an example of what can be done with PlaneSpace: Watch this title sequence from the movie The Hit List.
Image Lounge is a plugin that contains powerful tools for creating effects like fire, water, clouds, shadows and more. It also contains design tools for broadcast and music video applications. These are effects that would take a lot of time and effort to build by hand into a project.
With the Image Lounge you get over 20 filters that allow you to add realistic touches to your videos such as shadows, color mapping, and camera blur and focus effects. Image Lounge has 64-bit compatibility providing important performance capabilities.
While I won’t go into all of the effects, I will highlight the ones I found most useful. The Alpha ramp creates a circular, curved, or linear ramp directly into the alpha of your current effect. You can use it to create text transitions/wipes and to add a gradation from transparent to opaque within the effect.
The Effect Blender lets you apply a series of effects to a layer within a controlled region of the image. You can build up your text, color treatment, and other effects and then use Effect Blender on the finished results within a certain region of the image.
Fractal Brimstone is a particle generator. It allows you to create fire, smoke, fog, twisters, and distortion field animations realistically. This filter gives you a lot of control over dozens of parameters so that you can create literally thousands of styles of effects.
Fractal Clouds lets you control fractal noise and thus create all kinds of clouds, oceans, water ripples, planet surfaces and other such objects.
Fractal Fire takes fractal noise and lets you create a nearly endless variety of fire effects – solar flares, smoky oil fires, napalm, etc.
Fractal Tunnel creates tunnel effects that are perfect for whirlpools, wormholes, and the like. And Grunge is a style tool that creates organic distressed edges on the inside of the alpha channel of your layer. This is really good for creating corrosion, the look of torn paper, and anything else “grungy” and rough.
Hall of Mirrors lets you create multiple reflections of a layer. It also provides controls on how to affect the reflection within your animation. Hall of Time does the same thing but from the aspect of time. In essence it drops your image into a time warp with cascading images from a clip over a time range. And Mirage is a powerful tool for creating mirages, heat waves, and other thermal-based currents that result in distortion patterns.
Real Shadows gives you the ability to add realistic shadows to any layer that has an alpha channel, and Text Scroll takes a standard text file and creates scrolling titles, making easy one of the most common broadcast design tasks. Text Typewriter simulates multi-line text and makes it look like it is being typed on the screen.
A few TrueCamera effects simulate motion blur and a rack focus effect. There are three turbulence effects: one for distortion, a second for a more simplified version of distortion, and one to distort the edges of an object. Then there is Ultra Displacer which provides a way to more predictably use displacement maps. Video Feedback creates multiple iterations of the layer, using a time-slipping compositing algorithm, and IL Video Feedback simulates the effect of pointing a video camera at its own monitor, creating an infinite reflection.
While there are a number of these effects I probably will not use much, I can see many uses for the Fractal effects, the Effects Blender, Real Shadows, the TrueCamera, and the Text effects. Therefore I really like this plugin.
Composite Wizard lets you create composites using After Effects quickly and easily when working with green/blue screen. Its tools give you a great deal of control when working with edge control, element color correction, and professional compositing features.
When working with blue/green-screen footage or layers with alpha channels, most problems occur in a few areas. First, the edges may be tattered, aliased, overly sharp, colored or fringed. This is especially true when using a simple keyer on badly-lit blue/green screen footage.
Next, you may have footage that is poorly shot with uneven lighting, colors that are off, stains on the screen, or even rigs or wiring in the way. And finally, when creating advanced composites, there may be problems accurately matching color and tonal range between layers, creating blurs between multiple layers, simulating interactive lighting between layers and eliminating noise caused by keying or reflection.
The whole purpose of Composite Wizard is to address each of these issues. With over 20 filters you have a lot of tools at your disposal, broken down into three basic groups; the Edge Control group, the Element Correction group, and the Advanced Compositing group.
The Edge Control group contains five plugins that will control and soften your layers’ edges, giving them that organic look. They include Edge Blur and Edge Blur EZ which correct ragged edges, Matte Feather and Matte Feather EZ, and Matte Feather Sharp that corrects dirty or ragged layer edges.
The Element Correction group contains seven plugins to correct and integrate layers to make composites that look world-class. Alpha Cleaner will help you fix grain, holes, and other problems in a matte, a Wire/Rig Zapper that cleans up unwanted objects on a matte, Super Blur creates blur, Denoiser cleans up film and video noise, Smooth Screen cleans up poorly lit blue and green screen, and Spill Killer and Spill Killer EZ correct for color spill from bounced light.
The Advanced Compositing group gives you seven plugins to integrate layers professionally. They are Composite Color Matcher which will help you keep consistent color, Light Wrap lets you keep seamless layer integration, Deluxe Edge Finder and Deluxe Edge Finder EZ create a precise border of a layer’s alpha channel, Compound Blur lets you set the blur intensity by a control layer, and Re-Matter applies a matte image in the RGB channel to the original layer image.
As I have been getting more and more into green screen, I have found several of these tools to be helpful right out of the box. They are very easy to use and work really well. In effect they become a safety net, especially when you have to work with assets that you did not create, and there are plenty of people who film green screen who provide poorly lit images and less than desirable footage. That is where this set of tools will come in handy.
Overall, I liked the three plugins reviewed here. The biggest problem I have had is that the manuals show their age. The screen shots are from old versions of Adobe After Effects and should be seriously updated. They do provide the information needed so from that perspective they work. The software itself is what really matters and I found that easy to incorporate into my work.
I don’t do much in the way of 3D and I generally don’t get above six to ten layers, so PlaneSpace is not something that I would deal with much. Image Lounge and Composite Wizard I really liked working with, and can see that I will have a lot of need for them going forward. So far I have found Effects Suite 11 to be quite appealing.