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In Depth: Plug-ins Suites for Adobe After Effects and NLE’s, Part 1 of 2

There are several great suites for Adobe After Effects and other hosts and I’m sure you probably own one or two. I’m going to cover all the big suites available, give you the pros and cons and compare them.

There are several great suites for Adobe After Effects and other hosts and I’m sure you probably own one or two. Here are the packages I’ll cover, which are the most popular.

Note: This article is quite long so it’s split into two articles. In the first article I’ll cover Boris Continuum Complete (aka BCC), CoreMelt Complete, Digieffects Delirium and Genarts Sapphire and Monsters GT. Next week, Noise Industries FxFactory Pro, Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite, RE:Vision Effects Effections Bundle, Trapcode Suite, and Tiffen Dfx Video/Film Plug-in will be covered.

Software Hosts MSRP Toolfarm Price # of Plug-ins Current Customer Rating Buy Free Demo / Trial
Boris Continuum Complete AE, PPRO, FCP, MTN, AV, ADS 2 $999 $945 200+ starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
CoreMelt Complete AE, PPRO, FCP, FCPX, MTN, FCPE 1 $399 $199 200+ No ratings yet Buy Download
Digieffects Delirium AE, PPRO, FCP, FCPX, MTN, ASH, GVE 1, 3 $299 $284.05 44 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
GenArts Sapphire AE, PPRO, ADC, NK, AV, FCP, OFX 2 $1,699 Node-Locked$2,499 Floating $1,699 Node-Locked

$2,499 Floating

240+ starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
GenArts Monsters GT AE, ADS, NK, SV 2 $499 $499 59 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
Noise Industries FxFactory Pro AE, FCP, FCPX, MTN, FCPE 1 $399 $379 176 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite AE, PPRO, FCP, FCPX, MTN, AV, SV 1, 2 $799 $719.10 9 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
RE:Vision Effects Effections Bundle AE, FCP, ADS, OFX, ASH 2, 3 $889 $844.55 9 No ratings yet Buy Download
Trapcode Suite AE, PPRO, FCP, FCE, MTN 1, 3 $899 $809.10 9 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download
Tiffen Dfx Video/Film Plug-in AE, PPRO, FCP, FCPX, AV 1 $599.95 $569.95 121 starstarstarstarstar Buy Download

1 One license for all supported hosts. 2 Hosts sold separately. 3 Not all hosts supported for all plug-ins and effects

Hosts:

  • AE = Adobe After Effects
  • PPRO = Premiere Pro
  • FCP = Final Cut Pro
  • FCPX = Final Cut Pro X
  • FCE = Final Cut Express
  • AV = Avid
  • SV = Sony Vegas
  • NK = Nuke
  • OFX = OFX Systems
  • ADC = Autodesk Combustion
  • ADS = Autodesk Sparks
  • MTN = Motion
  • ASH = Apple Shake
  • GVE = Grass Valley Edius

Suites FAQ

What is a suite?

A suite is basically a big bundle of plug-ins for your host application. Some plug-ins are available on their own, or bundled to save you money. You can buy Trapcode Particular or Shine on their own, or you can buy the full Trapcode Suite. Others are only available in the bundle, like GenArts Sapphire. Some suites have very specific purposes, such as color grading (Tiffen Dfx). Others are a broader set of plug-ins that give you a variety of different effects.

Why buy a suite instead of individual plug-ins?

First and foremost, you’ll save some cash. You get many more plug-ins per dollar spent than buying them a la carte. Also, some plug-ins are only available with a bundle. The bundles that work in multiple hosts are even more useful.

What are the downsides of buying a suite?

If you’re on a limited budget, obviously you’re going to shell out more at once for the full suite. Second, there will always be some plug-ins that you’ll never use. Some are filler plug-ins which have comparable plug-ins that ship with After Effects and some are generally just not very useful. With that said, most suites have a few stand out plug-ins that make it worth the price of admission.


Boris Continuum Complete v8

Boris advertises Boris Continuum Complete as “Your Swiss Army Knife for VFX” and I agree that this is a fair statement. There are a variety of high quality visual effects plug-ins, including 3D extrusion effects, 3D particles, color grading tools, Optical Stabilizer and more.

Standout Plug-ins:

  • 3D Objects allows users to create extruded objects right within the After Effects interface, complete with integration of the AE lights and camera.
  • Videoscope is the software equivalent of vectorscopes and hardware meters right inside After Effects. No other bundle contains this type of monitoring software (although siimilar products are available as single plug-ins. See the article Plug-in Q&A: An In Depth Look at Software Waveform Monitor & Vectorscope Plug-ins for After Effects for more information).
  • UpRez: Upscale footage from SD to HD. Has sharpness settings that are adjustable. I did some side by side tests with AE’s Scale parameter vs. Red Giant Instant HD and BCC UpRez and the clear winner was UpRez. It kept the footage most sharp and it just looked the best.
  • Motion Key removes a moving element from a shot. When I have demo’d this effect at trade shows and user groups, this is the one that makes the jaws drop.
  • Pixel Chooser – Not so much as a plug-in on it’s own, but this feature is incorporated into many of the BCC plug-ins. Pixel chooser allows users to apply the effect to only a portion of the footage, such as a masked area or a channel. It’s an extremely powerful feature.
  • Motion Tracker – again, not so much as a plug-in on it’s own, but this feature is also built into several of the plug-ins in BCC, allowing you to apply the effect without going to a separate tracker. Depending on the footage, this can work great.
  • 3D Lens Flare – Beautiful and powerful lens flare effects. I’ve compared several on the market and this is my fa
  • Optical Stabilizer – for stabilizing shaky video. It has saved so much footage I’ve shot (yes, get a tripod, I know…)

Pros:

  • Over 200 high quality effects and not a lot of filler
  • Easy to use with a well designed UI
  • An unbelievable depth of options plus loads of presets to get you started.
  • The effects are fast and it has performed for me without a hitch.
  • Free 14 day trial that is unwatermarked so you can fully try it out.

Cons:

  • In the past there were compatibility issues with older versions of the software but this will not affect most users. I asked Peter McAuley, Senior Product Manager at Boris FX, to set me straight on this:

“So here’s the scoop on Continuum and legacy projects: when we released BCC 2, we made a fundamental change to the filters with the net result being that BCC 1 filters were not being seen by BCC 2. We fixed the issue with the next version (BCC 3) but couldn’t get that back into BCC 1, which meant that BCC 1 effects were incompatible with anything above that. Now, or at least this is my understanding of the situation, a filter from BCC 2 should be recognized by any greater version of the product so for users that had a project that used a BCC 2+ filter the filter should come forward as expected. I don’t have a version that far back of BCC to test with but I believe this is the case.

We include both hidden obsolete filters and a visible category of obsolete filters. Hidden obsolete plug-ins are included for situations where filters were changed in such a way that the new version would no longer produce the same default result. In this case, both the new and old filters share the same name, and in many cases the same controls. The obsolete filter is automatically applied by BCC when a legacy project is opened however the obsolete filter is not accessible by the user from the BCC filter palette.

The visible category of obsolete filters were included so that users can still access filters for which we have new and improved versions, such as the Lens Flares or the Glows. In these cases, the filter names were changed and the new filter eclipses the old filter in such a way to render the older filter “obsolete”. The old filters were placed in the new category to impress upon the user that there is a new, improved filter that will produce a better result than the old filter.”

This may have been an issue in the past, but it was several versions ago, so this should not be a problem for any recent versions.

So… is there an actual downside to BCC? Not so much.

Why you need it:

In my humble opinion, this is one of the best packages out there. It’s a strong mix of eye candy filters, blurs, light effects, and things like UpRez and Videoscopes. The 3D Objects alone are worth the price (and they’re also available as a single Unit). I’d compare this one to the GenArts Sapphire package and give this suite the edge due to 3D Objects. If you can only buy one suite, this is the one I would choose because it’s fast, easy to use and its a set you can use on pretty much every project that comes your way.


CoreMelt Complete v2.5

CoreMelt Complete used to use the FxFactory FxEngine but the plug-ins have been rewritten and no longer depend on the Noise Industries product. CoreMelt Complete brings over 200 plug-ins together and one license works in several different host applications on one machine.

  • Price: $199 ($399 MSRP)

Stand Out Plug-ins:

  • ImageFlow FX allows users to create complex and stylized image or video montages. There are tons of great presets Images or video are linked outside the host app (no need to import). Hot tip: if you want images to appear in a certain order, number the filenames.
  • SkyReplace is a fast and easy way to turn your overcast or gray sky into a lovely scene.
  • Polychrome Transitions – distortions, flashes, wipes, dissolves and more. Ever so useful.

Pros:

  • Over 200 plug-ins including ImageFlow FX, transitions, color correction tools and stylizing effects, some of which are unique, meaning you won’t see others like it in any other package.
  • Fun effects
  • Installation is a breeze.
  • Works in several host apps on a single machine
  • A great price!

Cons: 

  • The alpha channel or masks are ignored or made solid with some effects
  • Some filler plug-ins that every package seems to have (Bleach Bypass, for example)

Why you need it:

If you have a limited budget and need some fun effects, this is not a bad choice. It has many plusses. It is not my go-to package for the majority of my work but there are a few filters in there, such as ImageFlow FX, which are so useful and one of a kind. If you’re a Final Cut Pro user, I’d definitely pick this one up because you can use it in After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and more… one license for several hosts.


Cycore FX HD

Now included with Adobe After Effects CS6. As of May 2012 it is no longer available as a separate plug-in suite.


Digieffects Delirium v2.5

Digieffects Delirium is a package that has been around since After Effects plug-ins were invented. Delirium has a nice mix of natural phenomena; special effects filters and compositing tools; distortions; and color, style, glows and lighting effects. The Delirium package is now a collection of the former Digieffects packages, Aurorix and Berserk, as well as Walker FX.

  • Price: $284.05 ($299 MSRP)

Stand Out Plug-ins:

  • Hyper Harmonizer and Visual Harmonizer are plug-ins to make fractally background effects and there is no other plug-in on the market.
  • Crazy Stripes gives the ability to create rolling bars that are animated from a video or image.
  • The Phenomena Pack gives natural effects like Rainfall, SnowStorm and Fairy Dust. The snow even accumulates!

Pros:

  • Lots of presets are included.
  • New speed enhancements in v2.5 really have improved speed on most effects.
  • Many plug-ins auto-animate.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • Fun effects and filters. Fun is important!

Cons:

  • Speed. Older versions have been notoriously very slow, so make sure you have v2.5. Honestly, the Phenomena pack is still on the slow side. FogFactory is a very cool effect but drags. Brandon Smith, the new President & CEO of Digieffects, told me just a few days ago that it is something they are working on for the next release.
  • Some of the effects are pretty old school and don’t look all that realistic.

Why you need it:

It’s a nice selection of a variety of plug-ins and is a good value.

Below is the Delirium v2 Marketing Video. The current version is 2.5 but most of the enhancements in 2.5 were for speed and stability so it’s still very relavant.


GenArts Sapphire v6

GenArts Sapphire offers a variety of high quality, slick looking visual effects plug-ins. This is considered the Rolls Royce of plug-ins suites by many and it IS a powerhouse.

  • Price for AE Compatible: $1699 Node-Locked / $2,499 Floating

Stand Out Plug-ins:

  • 3D Lens Flares / Flare Designer – re-engineered for v6 and it’s a great upgrade. It has a lot of great presets and allows users to design their own. It even has occlusion parameters.
  • Lighting Effects – Several attractive glows, glints and rays. Yes, these types of filters are in other packages, but these just look really nice!
  • Blur/Sharpen effects – there are several and they give high quality and a variety of effects.
  • Transitions – 23 types of dissolves and 24 wipes really extend the capabilities of the host app. These are interesting transitions with lots of options.
  • FieldRemove – Rob Birnholz claims that its the best available… better than the one built into After Effects and better than the options built into Red Giant’s Resizer.
  • Trails and TrailsDiffuse – this is an effect that seems to be needed a lot! This is a great plug-in for temporal trail effects.

Pros:

  • Fast response with effects and previews and render time.
  • Tons of presets and options for effects. You’ll never create the same look twice.
  • Free unlimited render licenses
  • Same license works on Adobe Premiere Pro, and also Apple Final Cut Pro (if used on the same machine)
  • Sapphire can easily be used on a daily basis for a variety of jobs.
  • 21 day unwatermarked trial

Cons:

  • It’s on the pricy side.

Why you need it: 

The effects are high quality and versatile. It’s fast, easy to use and comes with a ton of presets. It’s just full of cool stuff. If you have the money, its worth every penny.


GenArts Monsters v7

Where GenArts Monsters GT excels is it’s realistic looking Natural Phenomena simulation effects. The package includes several artstic and Natural Phenomena effects, film effects, TV Effects Night Looks and more. Just watch the video below!

  • Price for AE Compatible: $499

Stand Out Plug-ins:

  • NightSky and Luna let users put in a city (or longitude and latitude), time and date for accurate astronomical views. The effects are very photo realistic.
  • Aurora is great for creating miscellaneous background effects, not just beautiful auroras.
  • Candle + Smoke FX – Candle makes realistic flames and Smoke FX makes lovely smoke and steam.

Pros:

  • Fast response with effects and previews and render time.
  • Gorgeous photorealistic effects
  • 21 day unwatermarked trial

Cons: No cons. It’s awesome.

Why you need it:

It’s fast and full of interesting effects. If you have only $500 to spend on plug-ins, get this package!

Posted by Michele Yamazaki