All plugged in

Not much going on in the After Effects world these days because everyone is waiting for CS6 and wondering if Picasso really comes – or on the other hand, like me, dreading it, depending on how resilient your taste buds are to extruded Comic Sans and Arial, but occasionally there is still some movement here and there. One such minor tippy-toe step is Dark Corner which promises some (screen space) ambient occlusion trickery based on depth maps. Sounds a bit like Z-Born Toy and a similar PixelBender shader, but if this new plug-in avoids the flickering issues and otehr problems of these tools, it might be worth checking out. After all, ambient occlusion has been the new pink in 3D for a few years and when used sparsely and with restraint can indeed make things look more interesting, so any chance to get it without massive 3D rendering times is no doubt welcomed. In fact this might be quite useful even if you only use After Effects‘ 3D-ish plug-ins like FreeForm Pro and want to add this kind of shading. Hell, even Element is going to have some of that built in and with luck, you may actually be able to get a consistent look. I think my jaw just dropped to the floor (though I’m still as skeptical about all that GPU stuff as I always have been). The website is a bit funny at the moment and seems to have a security problem, as I can’t imagine they really are running a cosmetic surgery on the side that does boob jobs, and their PayPal page comes up in Turkish, but they have been informed and will sort it out.

Now all that fancy post-processing stuff aside, there’s still a world of "serious" 3D and that one for me is currently heavily on the Cinema 4D side at the moment. Just like any program it has its strong and weak points and while it has actually already 2 built-in particle systems or even 3, if you count MoGraph, this kind of work isn’t its strong suit for the simple fact that those haven’t been renovated in years and lack simple things like proper temporal sub-sampling for correct motion blur (and good collision detection). That might now get a bit better with X-Particles, just released today. I’ll admit that it looks daunting and convoluted, but then again most of that stuff is. However, the price is right and nothing’s lost by giving it a try. And while I don’t have much time to play with it at the moment, I’m sure it will all fall in place when I do. As a minor, it might really offer a way to trick/ bypass/complement/ replace Thinking Particles‘ collision detection, which would already make things 200% more useful. Can’t count how many ideas fall apart just because you can’t contain your particles properly. The plug-in also promises to integrate with MoGraph, opening up further venues. Speaking of which, you might wanna consider these additional effectors. Especially the selection one is infinitely useful.

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