Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Review: Boris Continuum Complete 6 from Microfilmmaker

BCC Box Publisher: Boris FX
Platform: Windows & Mac
Description: Plugin suite for FCP, AE, Premiere Pro, & Avid
MSRP: $995.00
Download Demo: Click Here
Buy it
Expected Release: Available Now
Review Date: September 1, 2009
Reviewed By: Nikc Miller

After Effects offers a lot straight out of the box, but when getting serious with Motion Graphics you may want to migrate out of what After Effects gives you and invest in a supplementary suite of effects. One reason for doing this is that a lot of designers use the AE effects out of the box and end up coming up with similar looks. Migrating to a new suite can give you a new interface to work with and open your mind to new looks. In any case what you want to look for is value. Until now, I have used the Sapphire suite for my supplementary effects. I've continually upgraded functionality by adding effects plugin from Zaxwerks and Trapcode among others.

Being so used to the much more expensive Sapphire package, I was skeptical that Boris Continuum Complete 6's (BCC6) effects could be any better than what I am currently using. Upon investigation my first thought was "Wow, there is a lot here!" I was right and that was just the beginning.

Figure 1. AdvLensFlare: This is a preset called Big Hoops. This plugin is great for adding depth with real customizable light effects.

Figure 1a. AdvLensFlare: Look at the breakdown of everything you can add, takeaway, or customize in just this one effect.

Ease of Use
As I've immersed myself in BCC6, I've come to truly discover that Boris FX are GREAT at the default level. Most of them work great the minute you apply the effect. BE WARNED! You will be tempted to use these effects at default and end up a week later seeing the same look on a cheap TV spot on The CW. Boris should not be faulted for this. It seems as though they design the effects for quick-use. That being said, they add a plethora of customizable options to each effect.

Although I don't have enough space to write about each individual effect, I do want to give a brief run-down of some of the effects that immediately made me jump out of my seat and drop kick the first person I saw in a fit of joy. (Hey, we all have our own special ways of expressing our joy! Mine is just a bit more aggressive than others.)

1. Advanced Lens Flare: For the love of God, someone has finally done it. They've perfected the Lens Flare! Each and every feature of a standard Lens Flare is customizable, addable and subtractable delivering believeability and depth to any element you add it to. Forgive me if someone did it before Boris with this much control and I haven't run across it, but this effect is ESSENTIAL.

2. Generators: I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted in Photoshop recreating rock, wood floor, fire or any other sort of texture over and over again. This sounds really stupid I know, but this kind of stuff comes in handy time and time again.

3. 3D Effects: Previously only available through Zaxwerks, Boris Continuum Complete includes a full 3D extrusion suite. This alone is worth the price of admission. (check out some of the examples at )

4. Cartoon Look: For years I've admired the look of movies like Waking Life and to a lesser extent those Charles Schwab commercials where the people are cartoon characters for no particular reason. Boris includes an effect that imitates this look with stunning precision.

Figure 2. Generators: Just a sample of a few of the generator plugins. This can save you hours of messing around in Photoshop.

Depth of Options
One of the problems that I've had with other effects suites is that even when you get a plethora of options, they don't necessarily play well with other After Effects functionality, rendering them pretty much useless. In the Sapphire suite, this comes into play sometimes when using a mask. And at times, similar third party effects don't get along with the After Effects 3D environment. In the case of BCC6, not only do they give you A LOT of options for each effect, but there seemed to be no conflicts with my workflow.

Figure 3. PixelChooser: When you select PixelChooser (available in many of the effects) The functionality is nearly doubled.

In the case of masks, BorisFX's exclusive PixelChooser option allows you to integrate masks into the effect or avoid them entirely by using preset in-effect masks for quick use. As an added bonus EVERY effect comes with about two dozen really well thought out preset modes. Not just static presets but pre-keyframed animated presets that will automatically stretch to the length of your clip if you want them to.

Figure 4. Presets: A snapshot of the insane amount of presets available. Each folder is filled up like this one.

From my in-depth tests and immersion in this software I've found that the Boris suite does exactly what it sets out to do effectively and efficiently. In the realm of 3D, if you are looking for speed, Zaxwerks still beats Boris. However, Boris comes through so much stronger in features and real deal functionality with the AE 3D environment that it really is worth the extra time. (And I didn't have the crash problems that I sometimes have with Zaxwerks.)

Figure 5. The Cartoon Look applied to a Swish Pan move.

Figure 6. Misalignment: The BCC Misalignment effect offers a RGB effect similar to that of Video Copilot's Twitch. But with presets like this, "Crossing Route," you can quickly create background elements for trailers and DVD menus

One thing to note before buying: Double check the system requirements for the 3D effects. These simply won't work on some older systems.

Figure 7.Rays Ripply: The Rays Ripply effect offers a visual effect not unlike Trapcode's Shine, but with built in auto-animation for a more dynamic effect.

Figure 8. LED: With the BCC LED effect you can mimic everything from a Lite Brite to a Fisher Price PXL2000.

For low-budget filmmakers, a $995 investment may seem like a lot of money. I recommend taking some time to think about the value you are getting for that money. Many effect suites sit around the thousand dollar mark, but on top of getting all the great features of blurs, lighting effects, generators, and particle systems, you also get great features not found anywhere else (other than in very specific and costly plug-in sets). For example, to just get into real 3D extrusion effects, the Zaxwerks Proanimator plugin costs $695.00 to do just that. On top of that, you also get plugins that mimics Trapcode's Shine and 3D stroke (while these effects are somewhat different from the Trapcode options, they do the trick in a pinch). You even get a 3D Layer Deformer, which would cost you about $300 for Digieffects Freeform AE (see last month's review).

Figure 9. Damaged TV: Damaged TV has a ton of auto-animating presets that run the gamut of bad reception looks. This works especially well for customizable transitions too.

Not only do I recommend getting the AE suite, but, if you have a Mac, I also suggest putting down an additional $100 to add on the Boris FXPlug in-editor effects as well. Available for Premier Pro (Mac only) or Final Cut Pro, Boris FXplug gives you quick use of the same effects plus additional effects that you might find useful. For instance the Swish Pan transition makes quick use of an often used Hollywood camera trick.

Figure 10. Prism: Prism provides a lot of cool playful RGB effects, good for music video stuff like this . But also very practical color blurs.


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