By Brady Betzel
If you have ever watched After Effects tutorials, you are bound to have seen the people who make up Red Giant. There is Aharon Rabinowitz, who you might mistake for a professional voiceover talent; Seth Worley, who can combine a pithy sense of humor and over-the-top creativity seamlessly; and my latest man-crush Daniel Hashimoto, better known as “Action Movie Dad” of Action Movie Kid.
In these videos, these talented pros show off some amazing things they created using Red Giant’s plugin offerings, such as the Trapcode Suite, the Magic Bullet Suite, Universe and others.
Now, Red Giant is trying to improve your visual effects workflow even further with the new VFX Suite for Adobe After Effects (although some work in Adobe Premiere as well).
The new VFX Suite is a compositing focused tool kit that will compliment many aspects of your work, from green screen keying to motion graphics compositing with tools such as Video CoPilot’s Element 3D. Whether you want to seamlessly composite light and atmospheric fog with less pre-composites, add a reflection to an object easily or even just have a better greenscreen keyer, the VFX Suite will help.
The VFX Suite includes Supercomp, Primatte Keyer 6; King Pin Tracker; Spot Clone Tracker; Optical Glow; Chromatic Displacement; Knoll Light Factory 3.1; Shadow; and Reflection. The VFX Suite is priced at $999 unless you qualify for the Academic discount, which means you can get it for $499.
In this review, I will go over each of the plugins within the VFX Suite but up first will be Primatte Keyer 6.
Overall, I love the Red Giant’s interface and GUIs, in addition they seem to be a little more intuitive for me allowing me to work more “creatively” as opposed to spending time figuring out technical issues.
I asked Red Giant what makes VFX Suite so powerful and Rabinowitz, head of marketing for Red Giant and general post production wizard shared this: “Red Giant has been helping VFX artists solve compositing challenges for over 15 years. For VFX suite, we looked at those challenges with fresh eyes and built new tools to solve them with new technologies. Most of these tools are built entirely from scratch. In the case of Primatte Keyer, we further enhanced the UI and sped it up dramatically with GPU acceleration. Primatte Keyer 6 becomes even more powerful when you combine the keying results with Supercomp, which quickly turns your keyed footage into beautifully comped footage.”
Primatte Keyer 6
Primatte is a chromakey/single-color keying technology used in tons of movies and television shows. I got familiar with Primatte once BorisFX included it in their Continuum suite of plugins. Once I used Primatte and learned the intricacies of extracting detail from hair and even just using their auto analyze function, I never looked back. On occasion, Primatte needs a little help from others, like Keylight, but typically I can usually pull easy and tough keys all within one or two instances of Primatte.
If you haven’t used Primatte before, you essentially pick your key color by drawing a line or rectangle around the color, adjust the detail and opacity of the matte and boom you’re done. With Primatte 6 you now also get Core Matte. Core Matte, essentially draws an inside mask automatically while allowing you to refine the edges — this is a real time saver when doing hundreds of interview greenscreen keys, especially when someone decides to wear a reflective necklace or piece of jewelry that usually requires an extra mask and tracking. Primatte 6 also adds GPU optimization, gaining even more preview and rendering speed than previous versions.
If you are an editor like me — who knows enough to be dangerous when compositing and working within After Effects — sometimes you just want (or need) a more simple interface without having to figure out all the expressions, layer order, effects and compositing modes to get something to look right. And if you are an Avid Media Composer user you may have encountered the Paint Tool, which is one of those one for all plugins. You can paint, sharpen, blur and much more from inside one tool, much like Supercomp. Think of the Supercomp interface as a Colorista or Magic Bullet Looks type interface, where you can work with composite effects such as fog, glow, lights, matte chokers, edge blend and more inside of one interface with much less pre-composing.
The effects are all GPU-accelerated and are context-aware. You can think of Supercomp as a great tool to use with your results from the Primatte Keyer, adding in atmosphere and light wraps quickly and easily inside one plugin and not multiple.
King Pin Tracker and Spot Clone Tracker
As an online editor, I am often tasked with sign replacements, paint-out of crew or cameras in shots, as well as other clean-ups. If I can’t accomplish what I want inside of BorisFX Continuum while using Mocha inside of Media Composer or Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, I will jump over to After Effects and try my hand there. I don’t practice as much corner pinning as I would like, so I often forget the intricacies when tracking in Mocha and copying Corner Pin or Transform Data to After Effects. This is where the new King Pin Tracker can ease any difficulties, especially when performing corner pinning on relatively simple objects but still needing the ability to keyframe positions or perform a planar track without using multiple plugins or applications.
The Spot Clone Tracker is exactly what is says it is. Much like Resolve’s Patch Replace, Spot Clone Tracker allows you to track one area while replacing that same area with another area from the screen. In addition, Spot Clone Tracker has options to flip vertical, flip horizontal, add noise, and adjust brightness and color values. For such a seemingly simple tool, the Spot Clone Tracker is the darkhorse in this race. You’d be suprised how many clone and paint tools don’t have adjustments, like flipping and flopping or brightness changes. This is a great tool for quick dead pixel fixes and painting out GoPros where you don’t need to mask anything out. Although there is an option to “Respect Alpha.”
Optical Glow and Knoll Light Factory 3.1
Have you ever been in an editing session that needed police lights amplified or a nice glow on some text that the stock plugins just couldn’t get right? Optical Glow will solve this. In another amazing simple-yet-powerful Red Giant plugin, Optical Glow can be applied and gamma adjusted for video, log and linear levels right off the bat.
From there you can pick an inner tint, outer tint, overall glow color aka Colorize and set the vibrance. I really love the Falloff, Highlight Rolloff, and Highlights-Only functions that allow you to fine tune the glow and just how much it shows and affects. It’s so simple that it is hard to mess up, but the results speak for themselves and render out quicker than other glow plugins I am using.
Knoll Light Factory has been newly GPU accelerated in Version 3.1 to decrease render times when using the over 200 presets or customizing your own lens flares. Optical Glow and Knoll Light Factory really compliment each other.
Since watching an Andrew Kramer tutorial covering displacement, I always wanted to make a video that showed huge seismic blasts but didn’t really want to put the time into properly making chromatic displacement. Lucky for me, Red Giant has introduced Chromatic Displacement! Whether you want to quickly make rain drops appear on the camera lens or you want to add a seismic blast from a phaser, Chromatic Displacement will allow you to offset your background with a glass or mirror-like appearance, or even add a heatwave appearance quickly. Simply choose the layer you want to displace from and adjust parameters such as displacement amount, spread and spread chroma, or if you want to render using the CPU or GPU.
Shadow and ReflectionRed Giant packs Shadow and Reflection plugins into the VFX Suite as well. The Shadow plugin not only makes it easy to create shadows in front of or behind an object based on alpha channel or brightness, but best of all gives you an easy way to identify the point where the shadow should bend. The Shadow Bend option lets you identify where the bend exists, what color the Bend Axis should be, but also identify the type of seam and seam size and even allows for motion blur.
The Reflection plugin is very similar to the Shadow plugin and produces quick and awesome reflections without any After Effects wizardry. Just like Shadow, the Reflection plugin allows for a bend to be identified. Plus, you can adjust the softness of the reflection quickly and easily.
In the end, Red Giant always delivers great and useful plugins. VFX Suite is no different, and the only downside some might point to is the cost. While $999 is expensive, if compositing is a large portion of your business, the efficiency you gain may outweigh the costs.
Much like Shooter Suite does for online editors, Trapcode Suite does for VFX masters and Universe does for jacks of all trades, VFX Suite will take all of your ideas and help them blend seamlessly into your work.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.