If you have a Steven Spielberg imagination but are currently on a recession budget, the right software filter or plug-in could be your wallet's best friend.
Filters and plug-ins can transform your video from ordinary to extraordinary with a few clicks of the mouse. With the right filter or plug-in you can impress your clients and friends with spectacular motion graphics, titling and video manipulation. But before you begin your search for the right software for your project there are countless filters and plug-ins to consider. Some filters distort, glow, blur or can give you a grainy, old film look. Others specialize in organic transitions or titling. And then there are the more challenging and advanced plug-ins that can produce stunning 2D or 3D compositing and titling with motion tracking. Whatever your creative taste buds desire it can usually be fulfilled with the right filter or plug-in. However, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Do you want your video to bend, twirl, spin or dissolve or maybe even explode? Let's do a little research to find out what's right for you.
What are you Hoping to Create?
Let's say you've been given a project to produce a two-minute corporate video complete with motion graphics and some cool effects and transitions for your newly found client. By the way, that client has been watching a lot of television lately and wants some of the same "razzle dazzle" effects seen on his favorite sports channel over the weekend. To satisfy your client you have to keep in mind that not all filters and plug-ins are created equal. Your budget and editing aptitude will probably dictate how creative you hope to be. Let's look at a couple of price-point options.
The makers of Boris Continuum Complete could be considered the high end of filters and plug-ins. Boris Continuum Complete boasts more than 200 filters for Macintosh and Windows platforms. Some of the features include color filters with built-in keying and masking tools, a video noise reduction tool, a spline-based warp filter, an audio-driven keyframe generator, and still and video morph technology. Boris says the Continuum Complete is the Swiss Army Knife of Visual Effects, giving compositors and editors the most comprehensive and useful plug-in suite.
Now, if you're fairly new to video editing these features can make your head spin. There's so much to choose from and study. But if used properly, fine products from companies such as Boris could possibly help enrich that video project for your client.
Can Your Wallet Keep up With Your Imagination?
You can generally expect to invest from $1,000 to $2,000 for Boris products. But if that's a little too rich for your budget, Boris has several other filter and plug-in options for a few hundred dollars or less. Keep in mind before making a purchase, Boris is just one brand of dozens to consider.
Pixelan could be another option at the lower end of the price-point. Pixelan has been around for more than a decade and claims to have what they call affordable effects plug-ins for your video production needs. Their software is showcased in several different product choices and one is called "CreativEase." CreativEase is a set of 12 plug-ins that provide hundreds of effects to your projects. It includes manipulation of color, blur, depth, grain, and time-based effects. It also features selective softening without tedious masking to remove blemishes or to create beautiful dreamy looks; generating color-accurate, smooth-edged animation directly from video; producing glossy 3D titles; adding subtle filmic looks and film grains; cropping edge noise without stretching or bordering the image; and more. What can also be a bonus is Pixelan says their plug-ins are completely customizable.
CreativEase is just one creation in the Pixelan arsenal. There are additional products where you can customize effects and transitions, animate titles, backgrounds, and graphics. You can even add hundreds of 3D transitions that include page-turns and rolls/slides, particle transitions such as bursts and swirls, depth effects and 3D distortions, and 'natural' transitions that use wind, gravity, or other organic progressions to reveal the next scene.
Pixelan's mantra is affordability, and in today's economy that's something many are considering. If you are looking to buy a package deal from Pixelan it can cost close to $200. You can also invest in individual filters or plug-ins for as little as $10.
A Sea of Software Filters and Plug-ins to Choose From
There are many other software filter and plug-in makers that fall between the price-points and features of Boris and Pixelan. I would suggest you investigate popular products from Red Giant's Trapcode series to GenArts' Sapphire Plug-ins and everything else in between. All of these product offer opportunities to possibly boost your production creativity. It all depends on your editing skills and how wide you're willing to open your wallet.
Are They easy to Install?
Whether you download your software directly from the manufacture's website or get the boxed version, most filters and plug-ins can be installed directly into your Mac or PC with little difficulty. Some software filters and plug-ins allow you to enhance your favorite non-linear editing or motion graphics program as a preset for easy access from your effects menu. This is a cool option because it allows you to flow uninterrupted during the editing process without having to open a separate program to import later.
Then there are those software programs that offer stand-alone versions, so you can work outside your editing program and import the finished product later. One example of this is Zaxwerks' ProAnimator. ProAnimator specializes in creating stylish 3D animations with eye popping logos or titles using vivid colors and textured materials. Like many other filter and software manufactures, Zaxwerks gives you two platform options, either as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in. ProAnimator costs around $650.
Whether you download from a website or manually install these programs, chances are you probably will not run into many installation hiccups.
Can Your Computer System Handle the Truth?
Your computer's muscle and memory can determine whether or not your filter or plug-in will render within seconds, hours or decades. As I have learned from editing over the past two decades, speed and power can make all the difference in keeping the editor happy.
When purchasing your filter or plug-in check out the manufactures' system requirements on their website. There is nothing worse than getting all excited about the bells and whistles of your new product and missing your deadline because your computer either crashes from conflicts or can't handle the RAM demand. For example, the latest version of Adobe CS5 products calls for a 64-bit operating system. If you do not have a 64-bit operating system while using CS5, Adobe says you will have to upgrade your operating system to a 64-bit version of the Mac OS or Windows Vista/Windows 7.
Adobe's CS5 system requirements are obviously not true for all software products, but as you well know the computer industry is an ever-evolving machine, and software manufactures are constantly looking for ways to re-engineer their products for 64-bit operating systems and OpenGL acceleration. So, to avoid the headache, do your homework before you buy.
It's Time to Get Plugged In!
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of what to consider when purchasing filters or plug-ins for your Hollywood inspired project. It's all about what you need to consider before deciding how to "razzle dazzle" your clients and friends, and how much pain, if any, you're willing to inflict on your wallet. Check out our associated manufacturer's listings for websites of most of the companies offering plug-in and filtering software.
This buyer's guide looks at the filter software one would use within their editing programs; to find out more about lens filters hardware, read our associated story Lens Adaptors and Filters Buyer's Guide
Click here to download a PDF of Videomaker's Software Filters and Plug-ins Buyer's Guide
Ron Jones is a freelance writer and experienced news reporter, videographer and editor.