Ever need an old-fashioned, scratched-up film effect? How about a beauty filter that would selectively soften only skin-tones? GenArts Sapphire 7 is a great package that accomplishes that and much more. With a large selection of highly customizable filters and transitions, it’s a commercial-grade visual effects playground.
Setup and Systems
The full version of GenArts Sapphire 7 downloads as a single 70.9MB application file, is a deceptively small package for all that’s inside. Open it up and a setup wizard installs the necessary files, activates the product, and you’re ready to go. The GenArts Sapphire software folder includes an online manual, an update checker, an uninstall option and a program that lets you custom design your own lens flares. Getting Sapphire 7 installed is pleasantly easy.
During the review process, the full version of Sapphire 7 ran without any hiccups inside Adobe After Effects CS4, on a Windows 7 laptop with an Intel Core i7-2820QM 2.3GHz CPU, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M video card. Results tend to vary by system so it’s a good idea for prospective buyers to check the GenArts website and make sure their system meets the requirements. Sapphire is compatible with a number of host platforms such as Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Autodesk Smoke, Avid Media Composer, The Foundry Nuke, Sony Vegas Pro and open source platforms. It’s also capable of running on Linux, Mac and Windows, operating systems. Again, check the compatibility notes on the website for more detail.
Mixing to Taste
Upon opening After Effects, there are nearly 250 visual effects and transitions distributed among nine new category folders in the “Effects & Presets” pane. Just drag and drop them onto a layer and you’re in business. If there’s a learning curve, it starts with the adjustments you can make to each one. The average effect has a dozen or more controls to spin, slide and tweak. Most have intuitive labels; a few require some creative messing around. There’s also a reset button to bring the default settings back in case the fun gets out of hand. Overall, the level of customization is enormous.
The variety of effects is also quite impressive. You can find bleach bypass, film damage, laser beams and even some that require long and hard thought for a circumstance you would use them in, such as the DogVision effect. While an advanced user might be able to duplicate some of the filters, the time and effort spent doing so is not nearly as cost-effective as the Sapphire 7 plug-ins. Additionally, a good amount of the effects are unique or complicated and would require a programming degree to duplicate. The new Beauty filter greatly simplifies the process of enhancing and blurring skin tones with just a few clicks. Looking through the list, there are effects for old-time movies, music videos, spy films, sci-fi projects and more. Each one is just a drag and drop away from your video. Sapphire 7 is quite the Swiss Army Knife of effects and transitions in regards to variety and professional quality.
A free 14-day, full-featured trial period is available if you’re prepared to try before buying.
The Price Tag
Even with all of its amazing qualities, Sapphire 7 distances itself from casual users with its price tag. For first-time users the price is on the heavy side with a new After Effects license going for $1,700. For Sapphire 6 users, the upgrade price is considerably less at $499. There are also different rates for floating licenses, ones not bound to a particular computer, and rental licenses. The big question is: Can you make it pay for itself? For freshly minted amateurs, enthusiasts without a real budget or those who aren’t buying it for professional purposes, perhaps not. But if editing and effects are your bread and butter and time is indeed money, Sapphire 7 is an investment definitely worth checking out. A free 14-day, full-featured trial period is available if you’re prepared to try before buying. And who knows? Perhaps after getting lost in the demo, it could motivate you to kick your video business into gear.
No Pixie Dust Here
Remember, there’s no magic dust to sprinkle on a bad video that will make it into the next cinema blockbuster. Tools are only as good as the person using them. Passion, creativity, patience and professional pride are qualities you can’t buy, yet will show in your video projects. And while good quality tools like Sapphire 7 can expand your horizons, it won’t work miracles all by itself. Be your own pixie dust.
Check It Out
GenArts is a professional product that effectively gets the job done. While a pricey tool, its selection and quality is both convenient and time-saving. Professional video businesses and serious enthusiasts should check it out. It’s well worth the look. It’s also a lot of fun!
GenArts Sapphire 7
Version reviewed: 7.02 for Adobe After Effects
Operating System: Windows XP or greater (32/64-bit), Mac OS 10.6 “Snow Leopard” or greater
Host Platform: Adobe After Effects CS4 or greater
Multiprocessor Support: Yes
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 400 or 500 series or Quadro 4000, 5000, or 6000 graphics card required for maximum performance
Trial Version: 14-day
Manual: Yes (digital only)
Good learning curve
Excellent variety and quality of visual effects
Wide platform compatibility
Price makes it somewhat exclusive
Mike Houghton is a freelance videographer and an independent filmmaker.