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Category Archives: motion graphics

ESPN’s NBA coverage gets a rebrand

The bi-coastal studio Big Block recently collaborated with ESPN to develop, design and animate a rebrand package that promotes their NBA coverage. With nearly a year of design development, the studio’s role expanded beyond a simple production partner, with Big Block executive creative director Curtis Doss and managing director Kenny Solomon leading the charge.

The package, which features a rich palette of textures and fluid elegance, was designed to reflect the style of the NBA. Additionally, Big Block embedded what they call “visual touchstones” to put the spotlight on the stars of the show — the NBA players, the NBA teams and the redesigned NBA and ESPN co-branded logo.

Big Block and ESPN’s creative teams — which included senior coordinating producer for the NBA on ESPN Tim Corrigan — collaborated closely on the logos. The NBA’s was reconfigured and simplified, allowing it to combine with ESPN’s as well as support the iconic silhouette of Jerry West as the centerpiece of the new creation.

Next, the team worked on taking the unique branding and colors of each NBA team and using them as focal points within the broadcasts. Team logos were assembled and rendered and given textures and fast-moving action, providing the broadcast with a high-end look that Big Block and ESPN feel match the face of the league itself.

Big Block provided ESPN with a complete toolkit for the integration of live game footage with team logos, supers, buttons and transitions, as well as team and player-based information like player comparisons and starting lineups. The materials were designed to be visually cohesive between ESPN’s pre-show, game and post-show broadcasts, with Big Block crafting high-end solutions to keep the sophisticated look and feel consistent across the board.

When asked if working with such iconic logos added some challenges to the project, Doss said, “It definitely adds pressure anytime your combining multiple brands, however it was not the first time ESPN and NBA have collaborated, obviously. I will say that there were needs unique to each brand that we absolutely had to consider. This did take us down many paths during the design process, but we feel that the result is a very strong marriage of the two icons that both benefit from a brand perspective.”

In terms of tools, the studio called on Adobe’s Creative Suite and Maxon Cinema 4D. Final renders were done in Cinema 4D’s Physical Render.

Wacom’s Intuos Pro Paper Edition lets artists sketch old-school

Do you miss the days of just pulling out your sketchpad and letting your creative energy flow? Well, Wacom has a new solution for you that bridges old-school paper-and-ink drawings with portable digital technology.

Wacom is at CES showing its new Intuos Pro and Intuos Pro Paper Edition pen and touch tablets. While the two products have similar functionality, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition gives artists the ability to incorporate paper into their workflow — and when not used with paper, this version will also function as a regular Intuos Pro.

The tablet allows ink-on-paper drawings to be captured and stored digitally on the Intuos Pro Paper Edition so they can be refined later on the tablet with any compatible layered raster or vector software application. This means no more scanning.

“The Paper Edition lets artists secure a paper on the device and sketch, draw or write with an real ink, analog pen, while it captures the information digitally because it is seated on our Electro-Magnetic Resonance board and stored for later use,” explains Wacom’s Doug Little.

Little also emphasizes that while the Paper Edition does function as a Intuos Pro when paper isn’t involved, the newest Intuos Pro is “thinner and lighter and features our new Pro Pen 2 (4x the pressure-sensitivity of our previous pen). It also features the same ExpressKeys for creating shortcuts and modifiers.”

Wacom Intuos ProThe new Intuos Pro is less than half an inch thick but offers the same sized active area in a smaller overall footprint. It comes equipped with anodized aluminum backing, a smaller pen stand with 10 nibs and a new pen case. Both sizes of the Intuos Pro, Medium and Large, use a TouchRing, Multi-Touch and eight ExpressKeys for the creation of customized shortcuts to speed up the creative workflow.

The Paper Edition adds a Paper Clip (to attach the artists favorite drawing paper), pressure-sensitive Finetip gel ink pen and the Wacom Inkspace App to convert drawings for use with leading creative software applications. The Inkspace App environment also allows users to easily store and share their artwork.

The new Wacom Pro Pen 2 comes with both the Intuos Pro and Intuos Pro Paper Edition. This new pen features 4X the pressure sensitivity than the former Pro Pen, delivering 8,192 levels of pressure to support a natural and intuitive creative process.

The recently released Wacom Finetip Pen, included with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition, provides smooth-gel ink. Designed for those who begin their creative process on paper, the Finetip lets users visually depict ideas that are automatically digitized. Users can also select a Ballpoint Pen as an optional purchase.

Available in medium and large models, Intuos Pro is Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with Macs and PCs. The Intuos Pro Medium ($349.95 USD) and Large ($499.95 USD) will be available this month.

Intuos Pro Paper Edition will contain added features as a bundled package to enable paper-to-digital creation. The Intuos Pro Paper Edition Medium ($399.95) and Large ($549.95) will be available this month as well.

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New Wacom Cintiq Pro line offers portability, updated pen, more

Wacom has introduced a new line of Wacom Cintiq Pro creative pen displays: the Cintiq Pro 13 and Cintiq Pro 16. The Wacom Cintiq Pro features a thin and portable form factor, making them suitable for working on the road or remotely.

Cintiq Pro’s new Pro Pen 2, according to Wacom, offers four times greater accuracy and pressure sensitivity than the previous Pro Pen. The improved Pro Pen 2 creates an intuitive experience with virtually lag-free tracking on a glass surface that produces the right amount of friction, and is coated to reduce reflection.

Additionally, the new optical bonding process reduces parallax, providing a pen-on-screen performance that feels natural and has the feedback of a traditional pen or brush. Both Cintiq Pro models also feature multi-touch for easy and fast navigation, as well as the ability to pinch, zoom and rotate illustrations, photos or models within supporting 2D or 3D creative software apps.

Both high-resolution Cintiq Pro models come with an optimized edge-to-edge etched glass workspace. The Cintiq Pro also builds on its predecessor, the Cintiq 13HD touch, offering the ExpressKey Remote as an optional accessory so users can customize their most commonly used shortcuts and modifiers when working with their most-used software applications. In addition, ergonomic features, such as ErgoFlex, fully integrated pop out legs and an optional three-position desk stand (available in February), let users focus on their work instead of constantly adjusting for comfort.

The Wacom Cintiq Pro 13 and 16 are compatible with both Macs and PCs and feature full HD (1920×1080) and UHD (3840×2160) resolution, respectively. Both Cintiq Pro configurations deliver vivid colors, the 13-inch model providing 87 percent Adobe RGB and the 16-inch, 94 percent.

Priced at $999.95 USD, the Cintiq Pro 13 is expected to be available online and at select retail locations at the beginning of December. The Cintiq Pro 16, $1499.95 USD, is expected in February.


Super Hero music video gets Aardman Nathan Love treatment

The Aardman Nathan Love animation studio recently finished design and animation work on director Kris Merc’s music video for Super Hero, the leadoff single from Kool Keith’s new album Feature Magnetic that is a collaboration with MF Doom.

The video starts with a variety of hypnotic imagery, from eye charts to kaleidoscopic wheels, with Doom’s iconic, ever-rotating mask as its centerpiece.

“Being a huge fan of both Kool Keith and MF Doom for years, and knowing our studio had capacity to help Kris out, we couldn’t not get involved,” recalls Aardman Nathan Love (ANL) founder/executive creative director Joe Burrascano. “Kris was able to let his imagination run wild. ANL’s team of designers, 3D artists and technical directors gave him the support he needed to help shape his vision and make the final piece as strong and unique as possible.”

According to Merc, who’s helmed notable projects from music videos for hip-hop pioneers De La Soul to spots for HTC during his lengthy career, the Super Hero production afforded him the space to realize his vision of bending and manipulating pop aesthetics to create something altogether mysterious and otherworldly. “I wanted to capture something that felt like a visual pop travesty,” explains the director. “I wanted it to visually speak to the legacy of the artists, and Afrofuturism mixed with comic book concepts. I’m a fan of the unseen, and I was obsessed with the idea of using Doom’s mask and the iconography as a centralized point – as if time and space converged around these strange, sometimes magical tableaus and we were witnessing an ascension.”

To help develop his concepts, Merc worked closely with Aardman Nathan Love in several key stages of production from the idea and design stage to technical aspects like compositing and rendering. “Our specialty lies mainly in CG character animation work, which typically involves a lot of careful planning and development work up front,” adds ANL CG director Eric Cunha. “Kris has a very organic process, and is constantly finding inspiration for new and exciting ideas. The biggest challenge we faced was being able to respond to this constant flow of new ideas, and facilitate the growth of the piece. In the end, it was an exciting new challenge that pushed us to develop a new way of working that resulted in an amazing, visually fresh and creative piece of work.”

Zbrush was used to create some of the assets, and Autodesk Maya was Aardman Nathan Love’s main animation tool. Most of the rendering was done in Maxwell, aside of two or so shots that were done in Arnold.


FCPX Creative Summit keynotes announced

Later this month, in Cupertino, California, Apple Final Cut Pro X editors and potential users will be attending the second annual FCPX Creative Summit. The three-day event will take place October 27-30.

The keynote line-up consists of two panels: the first features directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, along with editor Jan Kovac. The trio worked together on two of the first feature films edited in Final Cut Pro X — Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

The second panel includes two-time Emmy-winner Chuck Braverman, Supersphere VR executive producer Lucas Wilson and creative director Duncan Shepherd.

Organized by Future Media Concepts (FMC), in collaboration with Apple, this year’s event will take place next door to the Apple Campus. In addition to the keynote presentations, there will be 30-plus sessions focused on editorial, motion graphics, workflow and case studies.

postPespective readers can save $125 off of registration with code: POST16.


Trippy Empire of the Sun music video mixes live-action and animation

NYC’s Roof Studio recently partnered with Australian music duo Empire of the Sun on their music video High and Low, a surreal visual journey into a psychedelic trip, which captures the song’s celebration of the innocence and boldness of youth. The lead single from the band’s upcoming Two Vines LP, “High and Low” follows a small group of people as they are guided by a Shaman into the forest to indulge in the experience of mind-changing substances. Using a mix of live-action and animation, the video shows the group’s trip experience — the Empire of the Sun members serve as “emperors.”

Roof and Empire of the Sun previously worked together on the Honda Civic The Dreamer spot via ad agency RPA, which combined Roof’s visual language and direction with the band’s “Walking on a Dream” track.

“We recognized that there was something special in our initial partnership,” says Vinicius Costa, Roof Studio co-founder/director. “[The band] wanted a psychedelic film with a strong connection to nature to visually, yet indirectly, represent the mind-bending journey. However, they were open to our ideas on execution.”

The only constraints Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore had were not to take a too-literal approach to the visualization of the lyrics. In contrast to the duo’s previous album’s desert landscape art direction, this time around they wanted to explore a tropical environment. Initially, Roof sought to create the entire film in CG, however, due to the limited timeframe of three weeks, they felt it was best to combine live-action with animation in order to focus on providing more than 40 realistic CG shots. This shift in direction spurred the studio to develop the natural and psychedelic narratives that tie together.

“The band came to us with a clear point of view, even referencing aspects of some of our previous work,” says Guto Terni, Roof Studio co-founder/director. “From there, we created a loose narrative based on the right balance of live-action and post production visuals. As directors, we engage in every step of the process, from concept to storyboarding and pre-visualization to shooting, and finally, post production and finishing. This project really showcased our full range of capabilities.”

Roof’s directors, Costa, Terni and Sam Mason, were on set for both live-action shoots, including the band shoot in a Los Angeles studio, and the actors and extras shoot in Costa Rica, which provided the tropical aesthetics. Roof had one week to plan and facilitate both shoots and then two weeks to execute the ambitious CG animation.

Roof used a 3D scan of Steele and Littlemore through a technique called photogrammetry in order to create the telescope shot featured in the video. This process created multiple images of the band in which the studio was able to generate a 3D version of its members. From there, Roof added cloth simulation in CG to mimic wind blowing their clothes for more believability. The result is a fantastic shot in which only the band members’ faces are real and the remaining is CG.

Roof used a mix of technology, including Nuke, After Effects, Maya, Modo, 3D Max and Corona to blend of live-action and animation.


The creative process behind The Human Rights Zoetrope

By Sophia Kyriacou

As an artist working in the broadcast industry of almost 20 years, I’ve designed everything from opening title sequences to program brands to content graphics. About three years into my career, I was asked to redesign a program entirely in 3D. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over two years ago I was working full-time at the BBC doing the same work as I am doing now, broadcast designer and 3D artist, but decided it was time to cut my time in half and allow myself to focus on my own creative ventures. I wanted to work with external and varied clients, both here in the UK and internationally. I also wanted to use my spare time for development work. In an industry where technology is constantly evolving it’s essential to keep ahead of the game.

One of those creative ventures was commissioned by Noon Visual Creatives — a London-based production and post company that serves several Arabic broadcasters in both the United Kingdom and worldwide — to create a television branding package for a program called Human Rights.

I had previously worked with Noon on a documentary about the ill-fated 1999 EgyptAir plane crash (which is still awaiting broadcast), so when I was approached again I was more than happy to create their Human Rights brand.

My Inspiration
I was very lucky in that my client essentially gave me free rein, which I find is a rarity these days. I have always been excited and inspired by the works of the creative illusionist M.C Escher. His work has always made me think and explore how you can hook your viewer by giving them something to unravel and interact with. His 1960 lithograph, called Ascending and Descending, was my initial starting point. There was something about the figures going round and round but getting nowhere.The Human Rights Zeotrope Titles

While Escher’s work kickstarted my creative process I also wanted to create something that was illusion-based, so I revisited Mark Gertler’s Merry-Go-Round. As a young art student I had his poster on my wall. Sometimes I would find myself staring at it for hours, looking at the people’s expressions and the movement Gertler had expressed in the figures with his onion-skin-style strokes. There was so much movement within the painting that it jumped out at me. I loved the contrasting colors of orange and blue, the composition was incredibly strong and animated.

I have always been fascinated by the mechanics of old hand-cranked metal toys, including zoetropes, and I have always loved how inanimate objects could come alive to tell you a story. It is very powerful. You have the control to be given the narrative or you can walk away from it — it’s about making a choice and being in control.

Once I had established I was going to build a 3D zoetrope, I explored the mechanics of building one. It was the perfect object to address the issue of human rights because without the trigger it would remain lifeless. I then starting digging into the declaration of Human Rights to put forward a proposal of what I thought would work within their program. I shortlisted 10 rights and culled that down to the final eight. Everything had to be considered. The positioning of the final eight had their own hierarchy and place.

At the base of the zoetrope are water pumps, signifying the right to clean water and sanitation. This is the most important element of the entire zoetrope, grounding the entire structure, as without water, there simply is no life, no existence. Above, a prisoner gestures for attention to the outside world, its environment completely contradicting, given hope by an energetic burst of comforting orange. The gavel references the rights for justice and are subliminally inspired by the hammers walking defiantly within the Pink Floyd video, Another Brick in the Wall. The gavel within the zoetrope becomes that monumental object of power, helped along by the dynamic camera with repetitions of itself staggered over time like echoes on a loop. Surrounding the gavel of justice is a dove flying free from a metal birdcage in a shape of the world. This was my reference to the wonderful book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

My client wanted to highlight the crisis of the Syrian refugees, so I decided to depict an exhausted child wearing a life jacket, suggesting he had travelled across the Mediterranean Sea, while a young girl at his side, oblivious, happily plays with a spinning top. I wanted to show the negativity being cancelled out by optimism.

To hammer home the feeling of isolation and emptiness that the lack of human rights brings forth, I placed the zoetrope into a cold and almost brutal environment: an empty warehouse. My theme of the positivity canceling out negativity once again is echoed as the sunlight penetrates through hitting the cold floor in an attempt to signify hope and reconnect with the outside world.

the-human-rights-zoetrope_gavel-shotEvery level of detail was broken up into sections. I created very simple one-second loops of animation that were subtle, but enough to tell the story. Once I had animated each section, it was a case of painstakingly pulling apart each object into a stop-frame animated existence so once they were placed in their position and spun, they would animate back into life again.

My Workflow
For ease and budget, I used Poser Pro, a character-based software to animate all the figures in isolation first. Using both the PoserFusion plug-in and the Alembic export, I was able to import each looping character into Maxon Cinema 4D where I froze and separated each 3D object one by one. Any looping objects that were not figure-based were all modelled and animated within Cinema 4D. Once the individual components were animated and positioned, I imported everything into a master 3D scene where I was able to focus on the lighting and camera shots.

For the zoetrope centrepiece, I built a simple lighting rig made up of the GSG Light Kit Pro, two soft boxes, that I had adapted and placed within a NULL and an area Omni light above. This allowed me to rotate the rig around according to my camera shot. Having a default position and brightness set-up was great and helped to get me out of trouble if I got a little too carried away with the settings, and the lighting didn’t change too dramatically on each camera shot. I also added a couple of Visible Area Spotlights out of the warehouse pointing inwards to give the environment a foggy distant feel.

I deliberately chose not to render using volumetric lighting because I didn’t want that specific look and did not want any light bursts hitting my zoetrope. The zoetrope was the star of the show and nothing else. Another lighting feature I tend to use within my work is the combination of the Physical Sky and the Sun. Both give a natural warm feel and I wanted sunlight to burst through the window; it was conceptually important and it added balance to the composition.

The most challenging part of the entire project was getting the lighting to work seamlessly throughout, as well as the composition within some of the camera shots. Some shots were very tight in frame, so I could not rely on the default rig and needed additional lighting to catch objects where the 3-point lights didn’t work so well. I had decided very early on, that rather than work from a single master file, as with the lighting, I had a default “get me out of trouble” master, saving each shot with its own independent settings as I went along to keep my workflow clean. Each scene file was around a gigabyte in size as none of the objects within the zoetrope were parametric anymore once they had been split, separated-out and converted to polygons.

My working machine was a 3.2GHz 8-core Mac Pro with 24GB of RAM, rendered out on a PC — custom-built 3X3 machine — with an Intel Core Processor i7 5960X with water cooling, 32GB RAM and clockable to 4.5GHz.

Since completion, The Human Rights Zoetrope titles have won several awards, including a Gold at the Muse Creative Awards in the Best Motion Graphics category, a Platinum Best of Show in the Art Direction category, and a Gold in the Best Graphic Design category at the Aurora Awards.

The Human Rights Zoetrope is also a Finalist at the New York Festivals 2017 in the Animation: Promotion/Open & IDs category. The winners will be announced at the NAB Show.

 

Sophia Kyriacou is a London-based broadcast designer and 3D artist.

My first trip to IBC

By Sophia Kyriacou

When I was asked by the team at Maxon to present my work at their IBC stand this year, I jumped at the chance. I’m a London-based working professional with 20 years of experience as a designer and 3D artist, but I had never been to an IBC. My first impression of the RAI convention center in Amsterdam was that it’s super huge and easy to get lost in for days. But once I found the halls relevant to my interests, the creative and technical buzz hit me like heat in the face when disembarking from a plane in a hot humid summer. It was immediate, and it felt so good!

The sounds and lights were intense. I was surrounded by booths with baselines of audio vibrating against the floor changing as you walked along. It was a great atmosphere; so warm and friendly.

My first Maxon presentation was on day two of IBC — it was a show-and-tell of three award-winning and nominated sequences I created for the BBC in London and one for Noon Visual Creatives. As a Cinema 4D user, it was great to see the audience at the stand captivated by my work. and knowing it was streamed live to a large audience globally made it even more exciting.

The great thing about IBC is that it’s not only about companies shouting about their new toys. I also saw how it brings passionate pros from all over the world together — people you would never meet in your usual day-to-day work life. I met people from all over globe and made new friends. Everyone appeared to share the same or similar experience, which was wonderful.

The great thing about having the first presentation of the day at Maxon meant I could take a breather and look around the show. I also sat in on a Dell Precision/Radeon Technologies roundtable event one afternoon. That was a really interesting meeting. We were a group of pros from varied disciplines within the industry. It was great to talk about what hardware works, what doesn’t work, and how it could all get better. I don’t work in a realtime area, but I do know what I would like to see as someone who works in 3D. It was incredibly interesting, and everyone was so welcoming. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday evening, I went over to the SuperMeet — such an energetic and friendly vibe. The stage demos were very interesting. I was particularly taken with the fayIN tracker plug-in for Adobe After Effects. It appears to be a very effective tool, and I will certainly look into purchasing it. The new Adobe Premiere features look fantastic as well.

Everything about my time at IBC was so enjoyable. I went back London buzzing, and am already looking forward to next year’s IBC show.

Sophia Kyriacou is a London-based broadcast designer and 3D artist who splits her time working as a freelancer and for the BBC.


Designer Mitch Monson joins mOcean as creative director

Mitch Monson has joined LA-based mOcean as creative director/client partner. An Emmy-winning designer, Monson has collaborated with the likes of ABC, Al Jazeera, Canal+, Comedy Central, Fox, HBO, Showtime, Canon, IBM and Nike. He was also instrumental in creating the iconic Love Symbol for The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

Prior to joining mOcean, Monson was creative director at Trollbäck + Company in New York, where he led the rebrand of the BBC master brand; brand identities for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics for NBC Sports; and the original Mr. Robot show packaging for USA Network.

“I’m excited about my new role at mOcean and the opportunity to combine more filmmaking and in-camera work with motion design and animation,” says Monson. “It’s been amazing to jump right in with so many clients that represent the top entertainment brands in film and television. Plus, it is great to have the strength of mOcean’s directing, editorial, design and key art capabilities all in one team. There is just so much creative and executional depth to their narrative process and it’s inspiring to be a part of it!”

 

Review: Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite 13, Part 1

By Brady Betzel

Have you ever watched a commercial on YouTube and thought, how in the world do these companies have the budget for the VFX and motion graphics work featured? Well, many don’t, but they do have access to talented artists with access to affordable tools that bring pricey looks. Most motion graphics creators have a toolbox full of goodies that help them build great-looking products. Whether it’s preset transitions, graphic overlays or plugins — there are ways to incorporate high-production value without the million-dollar price tag.

Particular

One of those tools that many Adobe After Effects motion graphics artists have in their toolbox is Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite, which is currently in version 13. While it isn’t cheap, if you are focused on that style of motion graphics, it can definitely pay for itself after just a few jobs. Inside the suite are magical plug-ins like the famous Trapcode Particular, Trapcode Form, Trapcode Mir, Trapcode Tao, Trapcode Shine, Trapcode Lux, Trapcode 3D Stroke, Trapcode Echospace, Trapcode Starglow, Trapcode Sound Keys and Trapcode Horizon. Holy cow, that is a lot.

The complete Trapcode Suite 13 works with After Effects (CS6 through CC 2015 officially, including the latest 2015.3 update, just make sure to download the update installer from Red Giant since it might not appear in your Red Giant Link updater), as well as a couple like Shine, 3D Stroke and Starglow that will also work in Adobe Premiere (the same version compatibility as After Effects). A good resource to get your feet wet is on the Red Giant tutorial page where you can find a lot of info and in-depth tutorials from the likes of the master Harry Frank (@graymachine) and Chad Perkins (@chad_perkins).

That being said, if you have no idea what the Trapcode Suite entails, buckle up. It is one of the most useful but intricate plug-ins you will see with a $999 price tag to match ($199 if you are upgrading). Of course, you can pick and choose the product you want, such as Shine for $99 or even Particular for $399, but the entire suite is worth the investment.

Particular

Particular

As an editor, I spend the majority of my time inside of a nonlinear editor like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer/Symphony — probably 80 percent if I had to estimate, the other 20 percent is divided between color correction solutions and VFX/graphics packages like After Effects, Blackmagic Resolve, and others. Because I don’t get a lot of time to play around creatively, I really need to know the suite I am working in and be as efficient as possible. For instance, products like Mocha Pro, Keylight in After Effects and Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite 13 are enhancers that help me be as efficient as I can be as an editor without sacrificing quality for time.

In the latest Trapcode Suite 13 update, Trapcode Particular 2.5 seems to have been updated the most while Trapcode Tao is a new addition to the suite, and the rest were given modest enhancements as well. I will try to touch on each of the products so this will be a two-part review.

Particular
Trapcode Particular is one of the plug-ins that most After Effects nerds/aficionados/experts have encountered. If you have been a little wary and intimidated of Particular because of its complexity, now is the time to dive into using Red Giant’s incredible particle building system. In the 2.5 update, Red Giant added the Effects Builder, which seems to resemble the Magic Bullet Looks builder a little, and I love that. Like I said earlier I don’t typically have eight hours to creatively throw darts at a particle system in hopes of creating a solar system fly-through.

Luckily, the new Effect Builder allows you to easily create your particle system and be emitting (or exploding) in minutes. While it isn’t “easy,” per se, to create a particle system like those featured on Trapcode creator Peder Norrby’s (@trapcode_lab) website, the Effects Builder, along with some tutorial watching (mixed with some patience and love) will send you down a Trapcode rabbit hole that will allow you to create some of the most stunning artwork I’ve seen created in After Effects. Don’t give up if you find it overwhelming, because this is one of those plug-ins that will make you money if you can grasp it. One thing I did notice was the Effects Builder interface was tiny and did not scale with the resolution I was using on my system (2560×1440), but After Effects appeared fine.

If you are an experienced user of Trapcode Particular you should be happier with the updated graphing system that lets you set size and opacity over the life of your particle by directly drawing points on your graph, smoothing, deleting and even randomizing. I really loved using this graph. I immediately saw results that mimic using color curves against an RGB Parade and Waveform on a color scope. Particular has also bumped its particle count up from 20 to 30 million, which will matter to someone creating fireworks back plates for the Fourth of July, I’m sure.

Shine

Shine

Shine
Second on my Trapcode Suite 13 hit list is Trapcode Shine, which might not be the most obviously glamorous update to many people, but still has its merits. The largest update is the ability to attach Shine to After Effects light sources easily. Before you would have to do some fancy footwork that most editors don’t have the time or interest in doing, but as long as your light is named “Shine,” with proper spelling and capitalization, your light now controls the light rays produced by the Shine plug-in.

One thing that most After Effects users know to be a staple is the use of Fractal Noise. Whether you are trying to replicate light rays with realistic and organic effects or a fancy text reveal where you use a Fractal Noise mask as your transition, Fractal Noise is a must use effect. Trapcode Shine has Fractal Noise built into the plug-in now, including the use of 3D fractal noise to create a type of parallax within your light ray work. Simply, parallax is the way the foreground moves in relation to the background. Think of a camera on a slider as it moves from left to right your foreground might stay in relatively same position while the background moves much more — this is your parallax.

One thing that you will always use when applying Fractal Noise is animating the Evolution to add realism. Plus, adding the script “*time” to multiply the evolution factor is an easy way to move the fractal noise along its path. Shine has an “Evolution Speed” under the Fractal Noise heading that allows you to easily adjust the evolution without any scripting (I love this!). Being able to quickly add fractal noise into your light rays really improves my efficiency when a client asks for “that fancy text with those light rays poking through,” but wants to pay exactly zero dollars and zero cents.

Lux and Starglow
Trapcode Lux and Starglow are some other light-focused plug-ins that can add that subtle or dramatic detail to your work setting you apart from the rest of the general motion graphics population. Lux is a fast and easy way to add volumetric drama to point and spotlights. Much like the other plug-inStarglows, you need to apply Lux to a new solid, adjust the specific parameters for the spot or point lights in your composition and, my favorite part, tell Lux if you want to apply to lights named anything, “Lux,” “Front” or “Back.”

Simply, instead of just seeing the emanating light from an After Effects light source, you will now see the physical light source when Lux is added. Lux really shows its power when you need to add a light source to something like an after burner on a jet or the tip of a comet-like fireball. Adding physical light points so easily really opened up my way of thinking. It’s a relatively small feature, but it’s similar to knowing how to do something, but also knowing it takes four hours to accomplish it, so because of diminishing returns you just move along. Now I can do that same thing in little to no time and add that finishing touch easily. This makes me more money and makes the client more confident.

Trapcode Starglow is a small-yet-powerful plug-in that gives life-like glow to bright objects. Think of the star or cross-hatch streaks that can appear on stars or street lights in TV shows and movies. Included in all of the Trapcode Suite are presets, and Starglow is no different with 49 presets, each containing various ray length, color, ray direction and more — all of which are the starting points I like to use when figuring out just what type of Starglow I want to go with.

So far, I’ve covered four of 11 plug-ins contained in the Trapcode Suite 13, all of which are amazing and full of ideas that will undoubtedly elevate your work to a higher level. Something I have noticed over the last few years is a lot of amazing work that comes from those using After Effects; most of it, though, has the scent of a preset and/or tutorial that someone watched, duplicated and exported for their display. One tip that will overstep that ordinary look is to double- and triple-stack effects (in particular the same effect) to add varying levels of depth, color and detail that you couldn’t get with just one instance of a plug-in.

In Part 2 of my Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13 Review, I will tackle the rest of this behemoth plug-in set: Trapcode Form, Trapcode Mir, Trapcode Tao, Trapcode 3D Stroke, Trapcode Echospace, Trapcode Sound Keys, and Trapcode Horizon.

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.