Review: Rampant Design Tools FCP X plug-ins

By Brady Betzel

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been diving into FCP X and testing out some new tools that work within the editing system, including Rampant Design Tool’s FCP X plug-ins. Rampant Design helps you add value to your project, like adding video enhancements including light leaks, glitch effects, transitions, moving matte overlays and much more.

To back up a second, I have been reviewing Sean and Stefanie Mullen’s Rampant Design products for years, and they regularly create products that directly make me money in my freelance editing. That is the truth, plain and simple. If you make content that needs to grab someone quickly, like a sizzle reel, promos or anything for that matter, Rampant Design tools will help. They will add instant pop to your footage as well as save you so much time that you will be able to concentrate on the story you are trying to convey.

Check out Sean and Stefanie’s Facebook and YouTube show: www.RampantLive.com, a weekly live show that covers topics ranging from dealing with clients all the way to managing stress. It also includes interviews with industry pros like @FilmRiot’s Ryan Connolly (@ryan_connolly), Kevin P. McAuliffe (@KPMcAuliffe) and even me. They not only sell products, but they contribute to the entire post ecosphere by creating actionable and engaging content.

Digging In
Ok, enough background on to the products at hand. Some of the latest releases in the Rampant Design Tools catalog are FCP X plug-ins and Edit Essentials. Edit Essentials are a pack of 220 ProRes QuickTime light leaks, film effects, flares and more that were shot on Red cameras in 4K resolution.

While I am not going too deep into Edit Essentials in this review you can check them out here. Edit Essentials contains many similar products to the FCP X plug-ins, and are QuickTime-based — with a simple composite mode switch to something like Add or Hard Light you can be off and running in Adobe Premiere.

The Rampant Design Tool’s FCP X plug-ins are individual plug-ins that can be adjusted inside of FCP X’s Effects Panel. The downloadable FCP X plug-ins are Hard Light Overlays, Soft Light Overlays, Gradient Overlays, Style Mattes, Film Effects, Film Leaks, Flash Transitions and Glitch Transitions, all of which priced at $29 per set, a very reasonable price considering these are extremely customizable inside of FCP X.

I tried a few of these and created a quick demo on my YouTube channel. I used the Hard and Soft Light Overlays, Flash Transitions, Style Mattes, and Film Leaks combined using different compositing modes (which thankfully FCP X has built in).

What I really liked about using the FCP X plug-ins from Rampant were the ease of use and customization of each effect. Inside of the different effects, such as the overlays and flash transitions, you can customize hue, saturation, rotation and much more. If you like the way a certain light leak feels but you need it to be red instead of green, you can easily change the hue in the Effects Panel. With many of the effects plug-ins you can preview the effect inside the Effects panel or even preview the effect on the actual footage in your timeline and then click and drag onto your clip in the timeline.

style mattesThere is a trick I like to try with these effects: combining different compositing effects on top of each other. With Overlays I’ll apply a Hard Light composite mode to the clip with the Soft Light Overlay on it and place another video clip on a track beneath it. You can achieve a really unique look that is helpful when building sizzle reels and main title sequences. If you combine that like I did with the Style Mattes and you can achieve some high-level, professional-looking results. It really can give you an edge.

I’ve told this story before, but at one point I was an assistant editor looking to make the jump to editor, and I remember seeing the first iterations of Rampant Design Tools (which I still have on DVD by the way), ordered them and now I honestly believe they helped me get a promotion to editor.

One set of FCP X plug-ins that I mentioned earlier is the Style Mattes. I really love using these when doing fast-paced, more modern videos that need a shape-based look. If you troll YouTube for inspiration, like I do, you will most likely stumble on a 15-year old-kid doing a tutorial (that will probably make you jealous) on how to use composite modes and also how to work in diamond shaped patterns with displacement mapping from some drawing made in Adobe Illustrator and After Effects. If you want that look without all of the After Effects hassle, Style Mattes are where you need to be.

In my demo video, I used the Style Mattes X plug-in in FCP X along with hard light composite modes to give a sharp and blown-out look. Rampant Design has tons of variations on matte shapes and motions that you can expand upon by resizing, cropping, re-timing and any other way you want to affect your footage. Style Mattes can also be used as transitional elements between clips or layers of clips, this may take a little tricky transition-building by you, but if you customize a wipe to the timing of the style mattes you can quickly make your own unique shape-based transitions.

Glitch Transitions
The last plug-ins I will touch on are Glitch Transitions. Sure you can throw glitches over a clip, I mean who hasn’t at this point? But what really gets me is the ability to change the displacement values in the Effects Palette. You can instantly modify and create amazing glitch effects with a few button clicks, all starting with Rampant Design Tool’s awesome base — if you screw it up go ahead and reset it.

The Glitch Transitions allow the editor to truly customize each transition if they feel so inclined, or leave the plug-in alone and walk away. I would suggest that you customize your Glitch Transitions if possible, even if it is a little time remapping, doubling up on transitions to get a layered look, or even just modifying the saturation a little. A little customization goes a long way, and without the Rampant’s FCP X plug-ins it would take a few more steps to make such a personalized effect.

If there is one criticism I have with the FCP X plug-ins, it’s the installation process. Installing the FCP X plug-ins is a little cumbersome. They do give a very detailed video and PDF along with your download that explains step by step with arrows how to install them, but a nice simple installation would go a long way in my book. For an awesome plug-in that is priced well below many other plug-ins out there but rivals any of them, I can let a little drag and drop installation slide — I’m probably just lazy.

Summing Up
In the end, I always seem to love what the team over at Rampant Design Tools comes up with. Sean and Stefanie output so many high-end products, it gets hard for me to keep up! I even heard through Rampant Live that they are about to start work on a blood pack, which got me excited thinking about the combination of possibilities when you combine that with their Monster Toolkit.

I have never been disappointed with Rampant Design Tools and continue to be impressed not only by their incredible products but how the Mullen’s approach selling their products. Check out their www.RampantLive.com show and you will understand.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Earlier this year, Brady was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.

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