Avid has been the main video editing software in Hollywood, so being able to use Avid software on your system allows you to easily interface with other Avid users. While it takes a bit of getting used to, it’s ideal for a workflow that has several users working on the same project. Avid has released Media Composer 6, which doesn’t necessarily need to have Avid hardware to run properly.
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 is another video-editing software program that has really improved over the last year. Premiere Pro is now 64-bit, which means that it will run really fast on a 64-bit computer. In addition, it has harnessed the GPU processing power of NVIDIA graphics cards. This CUDA technology can add hundreds more cores of processing power to your new or older model video-editing computer. And if you like a lot of effects, using CS 5.5 Premiere Pro will make it easier to pop your project in and out of After Effects to quickly add some AFX magic.
Video editing is all about achieving a high quality of images, and sometimes this means improving the look of the footage that you have to work with. For this you need a color-correction program.
Most video-editing programs have a basic color-correction tool and some transitions to use between clips. If you want to have total control of your images, look into the Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve. The Lite version is free, and a few years ago the full version sold for over $500,000 — so that’s what I call a good deal! If you go with a DaVinci, be sure to check out the Avid Color panel. This compact panel makes DaVinci work much faster and easier.
Usually, a third-party plug-in is necessary to do high-quality video editing. Here are some plug-ins that I’ve tested and found to be useful. Firstly, if you’re on a budget, Nattress Film Effects can fix up your DV footage, convert 60i footage to 24p, and add some nice effects — all for $100. And for some free transitions, try Film Impact plug-ins at www.filmimpact.net . I use these transitions a lot and they work really well.
Tiffen currently has its Dfx-3 bundle, which has some outstanding plug-ins. The company also offers a digital version of its glass filters that would normally be placed in a matte box. Now, instead of carrying around five different levels of Black Pro-Mist glass filters, you can simply add the appropriate filter to your footage during the editing process. There are also White and Warm versions of these filters as well, and those are just the Pro-Mist filters. There are about 2,000 filters in this bundle, which gives you a high degree of creative control while editing your images — it will also save you thousands of dollars in glass filters.
Tiffen is truly the only plug-in manufacturer that you need to know about, but you can also look at plug-ins offered by other great companies. Since there’s not enough space here to write a full review on each product, I’ll just share the highlights and you can download the demos to do experiments for yourself.
The Boris FX BCC 7 package allows you to easily Corner Pin an image on a sign or TV set; do wire removal on stunt shots that used a safety wire; or hide the identity of someone on screen via their Witness Protection filter. The Boris FX FEC package has a lot of nice Blurs as well as filters that sharpen or soften your image. In their Distort section, the Bulge filter can be keyframed to mimic a heartbeat, and the Ripples are fun to show a location on a map. I also use the Spotlight and Light Ray a lot to add some light where there is none. This is a huge collection that will amuse you for days.
CGM is a German company that offers some unique plug-ins. The Binoculars Pro, Handy Cam and Photo Camera all give you the look of what you would see through your camera eyepiece or viewfinder, including the visual markings and time code. The Clone Area and Clone Grain filters are handy for fixing any random spot on a wall that you didn’t notice while shooting.
The CoreMelt Complete package has an Advanced Reflection filter that is very cool; Heat Haze that mimics the heat rising off a desert; Lock & Load to get rid of handheld camera shake; lots of Glows and Blurs; an Advanced Vignette that’s very subtle; and a bunch of other useful filters. The 3D Image Grid instantly turns regular video into a flashy open segment for your project, and the 3D Ventilator Shaft paints your video on four walls, with it moving past you as you fall down the shaft.
Digieffects Damage offers a lot of cool film looks, like Aged Film, Overexpose, Interference and Skew. And Delirium has unusual FX, like Bubbles, Fairy Dust, Fog Factory, Rainfall, Smoke and Snowstorm, which are all great to have in your editing toolkit. You can make realistic rain shots with a hose and some planning, as your actors get progressively wetter, just like in a real rainstorm.
Digital Film Tools’ Film Stocks plug-in lets you give your video footage the look of being shot on different film stocks. This is handy for matching your video to film clips or for giving a filmic took to your whole project. With PhotoCopy, you can give your footage the look of famous movies, from the black-and-white era of Ben Hur to the bluish cast used in the sci-fi film A.I. It also does the same with paintings, photographs and photographic processes. There’s an unlimited amount of looks that you can create with this plug-in.
Noise Industries’ FxFactory favorites include Random Close Up, which zooms in randomly, saving you a ton of time from keyframing by hand. Random Crop does the same thing with cropping, instantly creating an exciting effect with very little effort. My other favorite is Perspective Reflection, which puts your images on a screen in a virtual room. These plug-ins create very sexy-looking images, but if you want to have some real fun, try the Funhouse Mirror preset — it will turn anyone whom you dislike into a short, little troll. Very satisfying!
RE:Vision Effects standouts include Twixtor, which gives you speed control over moving footage to make Timewarp effects. You control how the action slows down or speeds up, and it all looks great. Video Gogh, a plug-in designed for the movie What Dreams May Come, lets you turn your video into a Van Gogh-esque painting. And RE:Flex is wonderful for morphing faces like in some of the high-end commercials seen on TV.
Irudis’ Tonalizer/VFX is handy for fixing up skin tones or scenes that just don’t look right, and Red Giant Software offers a host of useful plug-ins. The Toonit Roto Toon turns your footage into a nice-looking cartoon, while Primatte Keyer Pro is one of the best in the industry and my favorite for compositing blue/green-screen work. There’s also the Knoll Light Factory, which is legendary for its lens flares. The company’s Magic Bullet Suite with Colorista II for primary and secondary color correction is also great. Cosmo lets you put electronic makeup on your talent to soften, color and smooth skin tones; the Looks plug-in offers many film and video looks to apply to your images; and Mojo gives you a small interface to quickly add warmth, punch, bleach and skin tone to your images. Finally, MisFire is full of FX to add scratches, fading, grain and other film artifacts to your video footage.
Whether they’re used alone or combined together, these suites of plug-ins can take your footage from zero to hero, allowing you to turn average footage into stunning, awesome images.
MSRP: Boris FX FEC $750, BCC $995.00
MSRP: Digital Film Tools PhotoCopy $195.00, Film Stocks $195, Composite Suite Pro $395
MSRP: CoreMelt Complete $199.00
MSRP: Digieffects Delirium $199.00, Damage $79.00
MSRP: RE:Vision FX, Price Varies with Package
MSRP: CGM DVE Ultimate $394
MSRP: Red Giant Software, Price Varies with Package
MSRP: Noise Industries FXFactory Pro $399
MSRP: Nattress Film Effects $100