Effects Plug-ins that Add Impact to Your Videos


Let us face facts: where once the cost of entry to edit and finish a piece professionally was so high that it discouraged many from even trying, and it supported expensive “On-Line” finishing rooms containing millions of dollars of gear that required you to pay an hourly fee for the room and the operator, now you can download an edit system for little cost, and edit and finish your piece on a laptop notebook.

Non-linear editing systems (NLEs) have become incredibly powerful, with many high-end systems incorporating audio, as well as color correction, and even compositing. Almost all editing systems out there today are going to come with rudimentary titlers, keyers, and effects. This is the way of the video world, and that is fine for many people—simple graphics, or keying and adding effects. But what if you need more? What if you’ve gotten bored with the same old typeface? What if you want to spice up your lower thirds, or start green-screening and just aren’t happy with the keyer built into your NLE? What is going to distinguish your piece from everyone else’s? How are you going to get your message through, entertain your audience, or catch the eye of your next client?

Plug-ins, my friend—you are looking for plug-ins. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, plug-ins add capabilities to your programs. For example, if the titler in your NLE is limited and doesn’t allow drop shadows, kerning, or outlines, there are plug-ins that can add these features to your NLE. Likewise, you can find plug-ins for audio, as well, but, since I believe the best movies are motor-only sync (MOS), I will leave the discussion of audio plug-ins to others. However, here is a list of the audio plug-ins (some 886 of them) for you to peruse for extra edification.

Backgrounds and Graphics

Before we hit plug-ins, I’d like to recommend royalty-free media. Royalty-free visuals, much like royalty-free music, can add punch to your videos, and they have a professional feel that takes years to acquire on your own. Plus, if your talent doesn’t lend itself to graphics, they are a fast way to include great-looking graphics in your work. Most are looping animated backgrounds that come in a variety of themes, which you can usually crop or modify to your heart’s content. I used to shoot motion graphics, on film, in the 1990s. It would take days for the artist to get the art right, and then days more testing the colors and exposures, and then usually I was up all night with a cantankerous computer controlling a 40-year-old camera/animation stand. But fast-forward to today: I just load the pre-made media into my system, find what works, and tweak it to suit my project. No waiting for the film to come back from the lab tomorrow; just render, view it, change it, render, view it, and so on, until I get it right.

12 Inch Design ThemeBlox Unit 08 SD - Entertainment

Virtual Sets

Sort of a cross between plug-ins and backgrounds/graphics, virtual sets allow you to place your talent into a variety of backgrounds when keying them. If you are putting together a video blog, news-type production, or need a location in which to shoot, then these can be a lot more efficient than designing, building, and dressing the set. Virtualsetworks leads the pack here, with a variety of HD and beyond backgrounds.

Virtualsetworks Virtual Set Pack Volume 6 for TriCaster Virtual Set Editor

Lower Thirds and Titles

The built-in graphics capabilities of your NLE may be sufficient for your needs but, if so, perhaps it’s time you upped your game? Titles and lower thirds have exploded from simple chyron generators to moving graphics. Most of these will work as a stand-alone application, and work within select NLE systems. NewBlueFX Titler Pro 6 Ultimate is one such titler, and it also supports 2D and 3D graphics. ProDAD HEROGLYPH V4 LE features more than 500 templates, and animated elements to customize your titles and lower thirds. VisTitle 2.5 is specifically built to be compatible with Premiere Pro CC, as well as the CS6 version, for those who haven’t jumped into the cloud. Datavideo provides both a software-only and a hardware system for graphics, with the hardware system aimed more at live-character generation.

proDAD Heroglyph V4 LE Titling and Motion Graphics Software

Plug-Ins and Effects

Effects plug-ins are a great lot of fun. Some are easier to master than others. They can really add to the spectacle of your footage, or even just add a subtle hint of reality that helps sell the effect. You may be concerned that you will be restricted to lock off shots when adding effects, but don’t worry—tracking your footage and applying that info to the effect can help it appear seamless. While some compositing programs include stabilizers and trackers, the general idea is to stabilize your footage, keeping the information about the movement, then add the effect to the stabilized footage, and then de-stabilize your composited footage using the same info that you used to stabilize it. Mocha Pro specializes in tracking objects and works with a variety of NLE systems, and if you have an older version of Mocha, check out these Mocha Pro Upgrades. Tours Media Labs Canvas Pro is a stabilizer built to work with After Effects.

Imagineer Systems mocha Pro 5

Once you’ve stabilized your footage, it is back to effects plug-ins. Heavy hitters in this category are Boris FX, which has acquired Sapphire Effects to go along with Boris Continuum, Red Giant, and NewBlueFX. Red Giant features the “Magic Bullet” suite, available as a new purchase, upgrade, or academic, and it works within most popular NLEs. Additional plug-ins from Red Giant are available, including Composite Wizard for After Effects, Effects Suite (which includes a version of Composite Wizard) the Red Giant Trapcode series of plug-ins, Borix FX. These are tweaked to work with specific editing/compositing systems, so be careful which version you select. Click on the link for Boris FX for After Effects, Premier Pro, Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Assimilate Scratch, Avid, Corel Video Studio, DaVinci Resolve, as well as other compositing systems. NewBlueFX features a variety of components, including: Essentials Amplify Titling FX and Transitions Bundle, Stylizers, and TotalFX5(which includes the Comprehensive Ultimate Suites Collection). Rounding out the offerings, also for After Effects, is Video Copilot, with a nice selection of effects packages.

Video Copilot Element 3D V2 Plugin

The Wrap-up

Effects, graphics, and backgrounds are effective ways to add impact and a professional look to your work, especially because the tools mentioned in this article are the same tools used by professionals creating feature films, broadcast pieces, and industrials. I hope I’ve given you an insight into their value, and I encourage you to push your limits, and spice up not only your holiday videos, but all your videos year-round.

Have you used any of the effects packages and plug-ins? Please feel free to detail your experiences in the Comments section of this article.