GenArts Sapphire Edge Visual Effects Software Review

GenArts Sapphire Edge delivers a suite of plug-ins and presets that offer a variety of film, television, and lens flare styled looks. Its preview engine lets editors audition presets without rendering for fast, easy workflow.

Sapphire Edge is a totally reworked collection of filter and transition plug-ins for Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7.0+, Final Cut Express 4.0+, and Motion 3.0.2+ and Sony’s Vegas Pro 10.0e and Vegas Movie Studio HD 11. Apple Final Cut Pro X supports Sapphire Edge. Check the GenArts website for up to date compatibility requirements.

Testing Platform

We tested Sapphire Edge on a QuadCore 3.2 GHz Xeon Mac Pro running OS X Lion 10.7.2, 16GB RAM, and an ATI Radeon HD 4810 graphics card, with Final Cut Pro 7 on DVCPRO HD 720p 30fps footage. If you are running an NVIDIA CUDA, GeForce GTX 400/500, or Quadro FX 4000, 5000, or 6000 series graphics card, you’ll get much better performance. Our system did take longer than most other third party plug-ins to render, but we weren’t on their recommended graphics card. GenArts says they may consider adding OpenCL to their render engine in the future if there is enough demand for it. The filters are floating point to help deliver better quality faster, which shows.

Product Tour

So what exactly is Sapphire Edge? It is a collection of filters and transitions with an extensive collection of presets. It includes a preview engine that allows you to test out all the presets you want without waiting for render times. Once installed we had 14 transitions and four filters. There are dozens of presets for each of the filters and transitions and the capabilities these presets provide are pretty impressive. GenArts claims to provide 350 total presets. When you open a filter or transition in the Final Cut Pro’s viewer and go to the filters tab, you’ll find the preset button. That button launches an interface that lists all of the presets for that filter or transition. Clicking on each one runs the actual footage you have it applied to into a short loop so you can get an accurate preview right away. There’s no need to keep applying them, waiting for it to render, play it, remove it, try another. This is a very wonderful feature, considering the number of presets Sapphire supplies.

Once you find a preset that suits you, or is somewhat close to what you’re looking for, you can continue to tweak that filter or transition in the filter tab even more. The controls supplied in the filter tab are extensive and give you some really great control over a lot of parameters, all of which can be keyframed, giving you even more possibilities. The variety of specific looks you can achieve are amazing. The filters deliver top level visual quality, too. There is also a help button in the filter tab that launches your web browser taking you to a page describing all the controls for that plug-in. This is a very pleasant feature to have.

The Good Stuff

The best part of Sapphire Edge is the preview window. It’s easy to race through all of the presets without any rendering and see them actually applied to your specific footage, much like Final Cut Pro X does. It makes working against a deadline a bit more comfortable. The visual quality and sharpness of the effects and transitions are absolutely professional.

GenArts is also offering a free one-year subscription to its FX Central service with the purchase of Sapphire Edge, a $99 value. FX Central is where you can continue to download new presets as GenArts reviews and clears them, meaning you can be assured there won’t be anything too horrible or cheesy posted. Over time, that is a potentially nice addition to Sapphire Edge.


The Down Side

The down side to this great product? Well, we wouldn’t say a down side, but we do have a wish list. It would be nice if some of these packages came down in price. Yes, it has 350 presets, but for only four plug-ins and 14 transitions. You’re doing film looks, worn film looks, TV looks, and lens flares. If you do a lot of film, TV, and lens flare effects often, it is worth the $299, but that’s pushing it. Presets are not filters, let’s be clear about that.

The other issue is that it’s geared specifically toward CUDA graphic cards, and not OpenCL cards compatible with Apple laptops, iMacs, and stock Mac Pros, and not at all with Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5. The good news is that GenArts is considering adding OpenCL support. Let’s cross our fingers. Finally, we’re very disappointed that they don’t let users save their own custom presets. When asked, GenArts said if there is enough demand for it, they’ll consider it. That reply was surprising considering how vital saving your custom presets is to editors doing serious stylized looks, trying to be consistent throughout a project, or across related projects.

Conclusion

All in all, we are impressed with what Sapphire Edge does. It has a niche for the film, television, and lens flare stylized effects it does. Being able to get real time previews of presets is a huge time saver. We’d spend the money if we needed these types of effects and transitions, but would miss not being able to save our own custom presets, especially considering how much time you realistically could spend tweaking things to your own specific needs. If you want fast renders, you’ll have to invest in a pricey CUDA card, too. Yet for what they do, they’re the best there is on the market at this time.

Tech Specs

System Requirements: OS X 10.5 or greater on PPC or Intel CPU, Windows XP with SP2/Vista/7 32/64-bit

Graphics Card: NVIDIA CUDA family (recommended)

Strengths

  • 64-bit processing
  • Real time preview engine
  • Large quantity of presets
  • Excellent image quality
  • Free one year FX Central subscription

Weaknesses

  • NVIDIA CUDA GPU support not compatible for Apple-based editing
  • Limited to only four base filters
  • Can’t save custom user presets
  • No Adobe or Avid compatibility

Summary

The sheer number of presets for extreme film projection, TV screen and lens flare effects, image quality and preview engine are impressive. The price pushes the envelope a bit and getting a fast workflow in the timeline requires investing in an NVIDIA CUDA card for Final Cut users.

GenArts

www.genarts.com

Price: $300

Ben Balser is an Apple Certified Master Trainer, producer, consultant and creates training for macProVideo.com and FilmmakingWebinars.com.

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