By Brady Betzel
As every editor and VFX artist knows, the toolset shouldn’t define you as an artist, however, in today’s visually intensive world any and all help is welcome in my eyes.
In addition to a couple of After Effects scripts like Newton 2, TypeMonkey, and any Trapcode plug-ins, there are two products that I feel are must-haves being an editor and working in VFX: Video CoPilot’s Element 3D and the Rampant Design Tools entire drag, drop, and go visual effects library.
The entire RDT library can now be purchased as the Rampant Design Tools Extreme Drive — a 1TB, USB 3.0, bus-powered, portable hard drive (Mac or PC). The Rampant Design Tools Extreme Drive even has the RDT logo etched on the top — it looks and feels awesome! Once you plug it in and see what’s inside you will understand my excitement. If you would rather download the products you can, but in my opinion, the drive is where it’s at.
Over the past few years I have used and watched the Rampant library expand and evolve. From the Soft Light Overlays to FlareFX, Rampant Design Tools has created one of the most visually compelling and complete sets of drag, drop, and go visual effects in the industry. I review a lot of awesome post toys, so its no surprise that I love the RDT products; everything they sell is worth a purchase. If you are creating a promo and you need a quick light flare to transition to your next scene, or you need a quick color overlay to give a soft wedding, light leaky feel, Rampant Design Tools has what you need.
First off let me say that there are competitors in the drag-and-drop-effects market, but none with the quality and heart that Rampant puts into each library. I will go further into exactly what effects they offer, but a good place to start is www.rampantdesigntools.com and click on Support > Community. This will link you to their LinkedIn Users Group where there are plenty of real-world examples of how Rampant products are used in many professional mediums — from broadcast to weddings and even promo spots. You can also check out the short video I made with examples from some of Rampant’s newest product offerings (http://youtu.be/wgw1QtL-lvg). After you watch my masterpiece click on Shop > ALL RDT Products, this is where you can see exactly what each product does in detail.
All right, now to the actual products that Rampant Design Tools has created: One of the original product lines RDT created is the Style Mattes collection. The Style Mattes are a bunch of unique and geometrically interesting mattes. The best way I can describe them is like if an origami piece, honeycomb, or strips of paper were unfolded and used as a video transition. Rampant includes all alpha channels necessary with the style mattes, however, if you want each section of the style matte to reveal a different video layer you will have to do some of your own down and dirty matte work.
They just need to be imported and dropped over the video layer you want to be affected (Track Matte > Alpha or Luma Matte, when inside of After Effects). I started with the Style Mattes because some Rampant Design Tool effects are literally drag, drop, and go — with the alpha channel info built into the QuickTime. If your NLE can’t handle alpha channels well without the use of Boris Continuum Complete or other third-party plug-ins (Here’s looking directly at you Avid Media Composer!) Kevin P. McAuliffe (@KPMcAuliffe) and Kes Akalaonu (@NLE_Ninja) are both people you need to follow on Twitter immediately. They have great tutorials on how to use Rampant Design Tools in many popular NLEs and VFX programs. Go to http:// tuts.rampantdesigntools.com and you will find these and many other great tutorials (not just Rampant Design Tool tutorials).
In addition to LightFX, FlareFX, Hard and Soft Light Overlays, FlashFX, Screen Damage, Glitch Transitions, Animated Type and Icons, InkFX, Music, and even Adobe Premiere and After Effects Color animation presets, Rampant has released the latest and greatest in their VFX libraries: Text Backs, MonsterFX, GrungeFX, Darklight, Stage Light Transitions, Speed Lights (my personal favorite), Light Impacts, Gradient Overlays, and Cinematic Flares. Keep in mind that the Rampant Design Tools Extreme Drive contains everything in this review plus tons more.
First up in the newly released RDT library is GrungeFX Cinematics. This collection contains of over 100 QuickTimes loaded with dirty backplates and dusty overlays that are the building blocks of creating grungy titles in seconds. There are even some dirty elements that can be layered in the foreground and background, adding some nice depth to your creation. The GrungeFX go well with the GlitchFX and Film Dirt and Scratches collections to create the grungiest titles and elements.
My favorite Rampant Design Tools are the ones that I can integrate without completely taking the viewer out of the emotion contained in the scene I am cutting. Some of those happen to be the overlays and light impacts. I like to layer them, adding layers of colorific drama, burning intensity, or even cotton-like lightness to any scene. Rampant has created a series of overlays, including Soft Light, Hard Light, Gradient, Light Impacts, XFilm and Darklight — a great new set of dark and gritty light overlays from Rampant.
The Darklight collection has over 665 1080p HD aggressive light elements. This is one of my favorite new additions because of its hard and fast feel. I love to make people feel energized and a little bit on edge when they are watching something I’ve edited and the Darklight series makes viewers feel on edge (think America Horror Story opening titles).
Another new product is the MonsterFX: Undead drag-and-drop creature kit. This is pretty cool, albeit mainly because I like zombie and horror things. While there may only be a small niche of projects you can apply these to, it’s an awesome tool to have in your VFX toolbox.
MonsterFX contains over 575 body parts like gangly teeth and torn noses along with really gritty skin textures. You can use Photoshop to apply a dead zombie appearance to any still photo and take it to the next level with a little tweaking of your levels/curves. These files are all PSDs by the way, so they integrate well into any compositing app. If you want to go even further you can bring the body parts into After Effects, track the footage (Imagineer’s Mocha works great), apply the tracking data to a null object and parent your body parts to your hearts content. With a little tracking knowledge you can make your footage like The Walking Dead, well maybe it will take a few more hours of coloring, compositing, and tracking to get it like Walking Dead but Rampant has made it pretty easy to achieve a similar look without filming on 16mm and millions of dollars in the budget for makeup and VFX.
Moving on from the VFX brings us to Text Backs. Text Backs are backgrounds great for use in main titles or anything that you need a great looking background to balance your foreground. If you need a brick wall it can be found in the Grunge Brick category, if you need an ornate wallpaper background check out the Simple Wallpaper category, and my personal favorites are the Curved Wall Animated Backgrounds.
The Curved Wall backgrounds are great when you want to have some depth of field without straining your CPU in Maxon Cinema4D or After Effects to make a seamless curved wall. The Antique Radial Tex Backs beg for an industrial revolution title treatment while the Simple Soft backgrounds would be great for a simple and clean interview backplate. Each set comes with 100 1080p 1920×1080 QuickTimes.
I know I’ve talked a lot about my favorite Rampant products in this review, so for those following along with my favorites or if you are starting a new twitter about how many Rampant products are my (@allbetzroff) favorites (see what I did there)…my most favorite favorites are the Stage Light Transitions and Speed Lights. These two collections are physical representations of lights moving fast and slow from left to right and right to left. All that needs to be created is a quick Alpha Matte and you are off to the races. Many of you might be thinking in your head, hey, I can make stage lights in Cinema4D and/or After Effects. Well, yes, with some ingenuity and Red Giant’s Trapcode Suite you could… however, Rampant Design Tools will save you hundreds of dollars and hours upon hours of your time with their new Speed Lights and Stage Light Transitions (This isn’t to say that the Trapcode Suite isn’t worth the money, it is).
On the TV show I edit, Bad Girls Club airing on Oxygen, I was recently tasked with the job to create a show opening for an upcoming casting special where I can’t tell you too much but I can tell you that I ran Rampant with Speed Light FX.
Rampant not only makes VFX products, they also offer royalty-free Music such as the high-intensity Cinematic Tracks and even The Streets, some great hip-hop tracks when you need to “thug-up” that edit.
Yes, I’m a Rampant Design Tools fan boy — they have me in their corner. Just go to www.rampantdesigntools.com already and see all of their examples for yourself, you will be hooked too. They are always having sales and great bundle deals that can be purchased as a self-contained portable hard drive for Mac or PC or downloaded (These are big files so make sure you have a beefy Internet connection, I’m talking 20 – 1GB downloads for some libraries).
Pricing ranges from $99 for a single product to their full library collection at $999 during a sale, which they have often. Check out their site for up-to-date pricing http://rampantdesigntools.com/product-category/rampant-drives.
Personally, I would buy a drive ‑you not only get a great library of life altering effects, but you get a sweet USB 3.0 drive to keep! If the Extreme Drive is out of your price range, take a look at all of their options, such as the Rampant Cine Drive or the Rampant Effects for Editors Drive, both contain most of what I talked about in this article plus tons of extras like Film Clutter (random film stuff like leaders and physical shots of film). If one of the pre-configured drives doesn’t suite you create your own drive with up to eight products you choose! If you still are on the fence about Rampant products, check out their user group on LinkedIn and you can see their products in broadcast action.
Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions (www.bunim-murray.com), a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. You can email Brady at email@example.com.