In Depth: The Morph –  Elastic Reality, Old School Examples, Plug-ins

Inspirations, Tutorial, In Depth Sep 10, 2014 at 11:43 AM

This started out as a Throwback Thursday post but has grown into something a lot bigger, so I’ve re-coined it as an In Depth article. Updated September 10, 2014 with a quote from Perry Kivolowitz, more morphing tools and plug-ins, pricing and demo information, more tutorials and a table of contents. Enjoy.


It was probably 1996 and I was working at Postworks. I needed to create a 2 second morph between two faces using Elastic Reality. Remember Elastic Reality? I remember that it took 26 hours to render?! Anyway, here are a few prime examples of morphs and some information how you can create your own morphs.

Elastic Reality

Elastic Reality was a warping and morphing software that earned it's creators a 1996 Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. One of these original creators was Perry Kivolowitz, a principle of SilhouetteFX. You may be familiar with the fantastic SilhouetteFX roto tools, which have new, improved algorithm for the morphing techology in Elastic Reality. More on Silhouette FX below.

Originally created in 1994 by ASDG, it was acquired by Avid in 1995 and rebranded as Softimage Elastic Reality. It was discontinuued in 1999.

Here are a couple of demo video from Elastic Reality. They are both crummy quality but I'm sure they were on VHS.

Great Examples of Morphs

Of course, you're familiar with Michael Jackson's Black or White video, which was responsible for the whole morphing craze in the 1990s. Here's just the morphing portion... with a tribute from Glee!

Miller Lite put out a super cool ad in 1991 featuring actors and dancers that morphed across the decades.

Schick had a cool morphing ad from 1993 for Schick Tracer.

Watch the Backstreet Boys morph into each other while dancing with chairs and singing. I will admit that I couldn't stand the BSB at the peak of their popularity but now I have some nostalgia for their pop sense (which was produced by the Swedish, incidentally, who dominate pop music apparently).

Moving on from the 90s, here's a great iPod commerical with morphing t-shirts. 

Morphing Tutorials and Tools

I mentioned Elastic Reality, was discontinuued, but there are still a few ways to create morphs in several host applications and on both live action footage and 3D models. 


In the first paragraph I mentioned SilhouetteFX, created by the developer of Elastic Reality, Perry Kivolowitz.  Mr. Kivolowitz contacted me a few days after this article was first published, thanking me for the shout out. He is a Faculty Associate in the computer sciences department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison as well as a partner at SilhouetteFX and was the cofounder and president at both Profound Effects, Inc. and Elastic Reality.  I asked him if he would mind elaborating on morphing in SilhouetteFX.

"For 14 years I kept coming back to the algorithms behind Elastic Reality's warper. There were several problems that nagged me: Crossing edges and popping among them. I distilled a new algorithm to its crystalline core, a thing of beauty. The warper in SilhouetteFX is faster, smoother and handles crossing edges without issue. Handling crossing edges is critical because roto is done per bone, so to speak. This makes animating macquettes quite straight forward."

More info:
Silhouette FX Silhouette

Silhouette FX Silhouette Node-Lock or Floating License - $1,495.00 (Toolfarm price: $1,420.25) 

Silhouette FX Silhouette Floating License Rental - $250 (Toolfarm Price: $237)

Download here

Host Support:

Tutorials and examples

RE:Vision Effects RE:Flex

More info:
RE:Vision Effects RE:Flex

Price and Host Support
After Effects  - $595.00 (Toolfarm price: $565.25) 

Autodesk Sparks - $795.00 (Toolfarm price: $755.25)

Fusion - $665.00 (Toolfarm Price: $631.75)

Shake - $119.00 (Toolfarm price: $113.05)

Download here

Tutorials and examples

Re:Vision Effects RE:Flex Motion Morph is the way I'd go about creating morphs in After Effects. RE:Flex is also available for Shake, Fusion and Autodesk Sparks. Download a free trial of RE:Flex.

By the way, RE:Flex is also a great way to seamlessly transition between frames where you had to cut out "ums" and "uh"'s from the footage, or to cover bad frames. Try it!

Here's a cool and creepy example of a morph done in RE:Flex.

Boris Continuum Complete BCC Morph

Another option for morphs is Boris Continuum Complete BCC Morph, available in the full Boris Continuum Complete or the Boris Continuum Warp Unit. BCC Morph works in a slew of hosts including After Effects, Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Final Cut Pro 7/X, Apple Motion, and Avid Media Composer. Download a free 14 day trial here.

More info:
Boris Continuum Unit: Warp

Price and Host Support:

Boris Continuum Unit: Warp  - $199
Hosts: After Effects CS4+, Premiere Pro CS4+, Final Cut Pro 7/X, Motion 5, Sony Vegas 12, 11, 10 and Avid Media Composer

Boris Continuum Complete After Effects compatible - $995.00
Hosts: After Effects CS4+, Premiere Pro CS4+

Boris Continuum Complete FxPlug for Final Cut Pro & Motion - $995

Boris Continuum Complete FxPlug & AE Bundle - $1,095

Boris Continuum Complete AVX for Avid DS - $1,995

Boris Continuum Complete AVX for Avid Media Composer, NewsCutter, and Symphony - $1,995

Boris Continuum Complete for Autodesk Sparks - $2,495

Boris Continuum Complete for OFX - $695
Hosts: Assimilate Scratch, Davinci Resolve, Sony Vegas Pro

Download here

Tutorials and examples

After Effects Liquify Tool

More info:
Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects CC for Teams and Businesses - $239.88 (Toolfarm price: $239.88) - One year subscription

Adobe Creative Cloud Complete for Teams & Businesses - $479.88 (Toolfarm Price: $479.00) - One year subscription

Tutorials and examples

In the tutorial below, Mikey Borup explains how to create a morph with the After Effects Liquify tool and no other third-party plug-ins.

Andrew Kramer explains how to morph a person, in this case, Sam, into a demon in After Effects. He uses the After Effects Tracker, Liquify, Expressions and more. 

Greyscalegorilla Transform

If you're a CINEMA 4D user and want to morph one shape into another, Greyscalegorilla Transform is our tool of choice.

More info:
Greyscalegorilla Transform for CINEMA 4D


Transform - $199 (Toolfarm price: $189)

MAXON CINEMA 4D R13 and up

Tutorials and examples

In the video below, Nick Campbell goes over Transform, including how to morph. Yes, I realize this is a bit different from morphing video but I wanted to include it.

CHV Morphing FX (FxPlug)

Morphing FX is really fast and will allow you to work in realtime. It's also very easy to use.

More Info:
CHV Morphing FX

CHV Morphing FX (FxPlug) - $65.00 (Toolfarm price: $61.75)

Host support:
Final Cut ProX, Final Cut Pro 5.1.2, 5.1.3, 5.1.4, 6 and 7, FCP X, Motion 5, Motion 2, 3 and 4, Final Cut Express 4. 

CHV Morphing FX

Unfortunately, I don't have a demo video or tutorial to show you.

Boomer Labs pMorph

pMorph is a 3ds Max plugin that delivers Progressive Morphing – the ability to have the animation of a modified object be driven by the selection of frame(s) from the animation of another object.

More Info:
Boomer Labs pMorph

Boomer Labs pMorph - $95.00

Host Support:
For 64 bit versions of 3ds Max 2010 through 2015.

Tutorials and examples

This example isn't exactly showing a morph but use your imagination.

Di-O-Matic Morph Products

Di-O-Matic has several 3ds Max plug-ins for morphing. Morph-O-Matic "excels where other morphing solutions fail to deliver.  Upgrade your character's morphing setup to Morph-O-Matic and feel the difference instantly."  Morph ToolKit, on the other hand, is designed to speed up morph target creation. It can be used with Morph-O-Matic or other morphing tools in 3ds Max.

More info:
Di-O-Matic Morph Pack


Di-O-Matic Morph-O-Matic - $249.00 (Toolfarm price: $236.55)

Di-O-Matic Morph Toolkit -  $199 (Toolfarm price: $189.05)

Di-O-Matic Morph Pack - $499.00 (Toolfarm Price: $474.05)
Includes Morph-O-Matic, Pose-O-Matic, and Morph ToolKit

Tutorials and examples

See more at Di-O-Matic's YouTube Channel.

Posted by Michele Yamazaki