While good shooting, relentless trimming, and artful sequencing are the steak in most of our productions, special effects often provide the sizzle. When I scanned through the 10 effects in NewBlueFX Video Essentials IV, the potential sizzle in the bundle nearly had me salivating. Pavlovian references aside, if you’re looking for fast, inexpensive ways to add compelling looks to your productions, check out the many effects available at the NewBlueFX website (www.newbluefx.com).
NewBlueFX sells a wide variety of video and audio effects and transitions bundled into different collections such as 3D Explosions, Film Effects, and Video Essentials. These bundles include between five and 12 effects, all with multiple presets, and carry MSRPs between $49 and $139. You can also buy multiple collections at a substantial discount in different bundles. NewBlueFX does a nice job previewing the effects on its site, so if you’re searching for a particular look, you should be able to figure out if an effect will get the job done. For each bundle, the site details program and operating system compatibility, which can include Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Premiere Elements; Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, and Motion; Avid Media Composer, NewsCutter, Symphony, and Xpress; Grass Valley EDIUS; Sony Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio; Corel Video Studio; and Pinnacle Studio.
I looked at Video Essentials IV, which costs $79.95 and runs on most of those programs listed previously, though I tested it in Premiere Pro CS5. The filters include Bleach Bypass, Day for Night, Drop Shadow, Fish Eye, Luma Key, Magnifying Glass, Reflection, Skin Touch Up, Slide Show, and Time Clock.
Installing and Using the Effects
After installing the effects, they appear in your Effects bin (as you would expect), and you apply and customize them just as you would any other Adobe Premiere Pro effect or plug-in. (Having worked with plug-in effects in Final Cut Pro and other NLEs, I assume it works similarly in those.) You can see the controls in Figure 1 (below), where I applied the Day for Night plug-in to a dance performance of “Thriller” from last Halloween. Though I probably could have created the same look using native Premiere Pro filters, the presets provide a good bit of value; I wouldn’t have known that I wanted the Moonlight look until I tried the preset. Having all relevant controls in one effect is a nice timesaving bonus.
Figure 2 (below) shows the Magnifying Glass effect highlighting the digital readout of a scale in a paving repair video I was producing. I could have duplicated this by using layers, cropping, and the Premiere Pro titler, but it would have taken minutes, rather than seconds, and I could see this effect saving me lots of time in many of the training videos that I produce.
The last effect that I worked with was the Skin Touch Up effect, which I used to smooth some wrinkles from this video of my dad in Figure 3 (below) (you should have seen the wrinkles before I applied the effect—just kidding, Dad). This is a unique capability that could prove valuable to any shooter who produces a lot of interviews of folks in their 30s and beyond.
Keyframing and Performance
Overall, I was impressed with the bundle, though there are a couple of caveats: First—and probably least important—though you can keyframe most of the effects to change their values over time, there’s only one keyframe adjustment for all parameters; most native Premiere Pro effects let you keyframe each parameter separately, enhancing precision and control. Second, on my 3.3GHz, 24-core (with HTT) HP Z800 system equipped with an NVIDIA Quadro FX4800, none of the effects were GPU-accelerated via Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine, which means rendering before preview and slower rendering to final. For example, on the Z800, it took 54 seconds to render the effect shown in Figure 3 on a 1-minute DV test file. Rendering to Premiere Pro’s SD YouTube preset took 20 seconds with the filter enabled, compared to 14 seconds with the filter disabled, so this filter would increase encoding time by about 40%. If you’re looking to add some sizzle to a current production, check out the NewBlueFX website. Even if Video Essentials IV isn’t the bundle for you, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find an effect that delivers the look you’re searching for.
Jan Ozer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contributing editor to EventDV and Streaming Media.