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Things you plug in

It’s 4 in the morning and because I could no longer sleep for the last 2 hours already due to some severe pain in my chest (probably yet another lung infection brooding), I decided to get up and type something into my blog in a week that seemed rather uneventful. My new most favorite software developer, Satya, started a short comment on the Xeon Phi card on the After Effects Mailing List which inevitably brought up some discussion on various computing models but suffice it to say that this card is most likely not going to be anything like your favorite CUDA card any time soon. It would be nice to be able to afford such a card, plug it into your computer and have it complement your other processor(s), but we’re not there yet. Just look at CUDA – it’s now at version 5, yet it took 10 years to get there and nobody started using it in earnest until 3 or 4 years ago with version 3.

The plug-in monicker of course has become synonymous for all sorts of extensions to all sorts of programs and don’t we all love those? Some of the more nerdy ones come from RevisionFX and usually feature some pretty heavy math under the hood. Their latest, RE:Match seems no exception and looks quite promising for matching colors automatically across different types of shots. I’m still not sold on all that stereo 3D stuff, but there’s plenty enough conventional scenarios where this might come in handy like those rushed event camera jobs where you just don’t have the time to calibrate everything to the same colors or even normal location shoots where one camera is your super-expensive rental cam and the second a cheap AVCHD.

On the matter of After Effects plug-ins, there’s still Toolfarm‘s annual competition running and since we’re already there, let me give you my views on this year’s favorites and not-so-favorites.

Best Plug-in: Plexus 2

Coming out of nowhere, this little tool has quickly become my most beloved for the simple reason that it’s very “deep” and once you set your mind to it, the possibilities seem endless. I haven’t had as much fun with one of those “creative” plug-ins since the first version of Particular. Its modular approach manages to give you complexity, but only when you want it, but you can just as well do simple things by clicking together a quick point cloud. Funnily enough, it also borrows a few ideas from Form and implements them better. On the other hand of course it has its issues like the facet renderer flickering quite a lot, but this may become better in time.

Worst Plug-in: Knoll Light Factory 3

Sadly, and the numbers in my comparative chart speak volumes, this must be the worst plug-in that has come out this year. Next to After Effects CS6 itself it’s one more example of how software quality management can fail almost completely. Some features just don’t work and the performance is not there. I honestly don’t know what drove Red Giant to release it in this form. The opportunity for true innovation has been squandered by holding on to old paradigms and it just looks pale compared to competing products.

Most questionable Plug-in: Trapcode MIR

Yepp, that one strikes me as useful as tits on your forehead (though Marion Cottilard may prove otherwise). It literally does nothing that you couldn’t do with Plexus, FreeForm Pro, Atom Kraft or even a 5 minute excursion into a 3D program. As someone said on mograph.net, it’s a one trick pony and the novelty will wear off so quickly, it’s kinda scary. It makes you wonder why it ever came into being. If anything, perhaps it’s a playground for toying with hardware acceleration, but even then it doesn’t live up to what I have come to expect from  Trapcode plug-ins – rich, unique tools that you haven’t seen yet. A displacement grid is not that, given the plethora of alternatives that offer even more versatility for the same price.

And finally, the best 3D plug-in is…. Whoa, got you there! Yes, AtomKraft and Element are somewhere on the list, too, but just not high enough priority for me.

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2 comments on “Things you plug in

  1. PLEXUS 2– just heard about this, started looking for tutorials.. would rather just brainstorm, playstorm with it– any fun things to nudge me towards?

    • Not really. The fun of it is that as you start adding Plexus objects you begin to see things, but the possibilities are literally endless. Even my already complex geek stuff could probably be refined considerably given enough time. Perhaps you might just download my examples from my content site or start building a fake UI with a wireframe look…

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