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Review: proDAD Heroglyph Rapid 2.6
Posted Dec 1, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

proDAD is a newcomer to the American video software market. Andreas Huber, a managing director for proDAD, tells me that the German company's software is quite popular in Europe, and proDAD is just now trying to break into the North American market. The company has launched two products in the United States: Adorage and Heroglyph. Adorage is a rich transition effects tool. Heroglyph Rapid 2.6 is best described as a plug-in titler on steroids.
     Heroglyph comes in two flavors, regular full (MSRP $289) and Rapid, which is a limited version (MSRP $99). Heroglyph Rapid 2.6 is different from the regular titler that is built in to Premiere Pro, Vegas, EDIUS, or Xpress Pro, in that it allows users to apply a number of useful animated effects and preview them before going back into the host program. What makes it easy to use is a number of templates in which you choose the desired effect and replace the template text with your text.
     The number of effects you can apply easily with Heroglyph is staggering. In an effort to learn new ways to create eye-catching text graphics, I've committed to learning After Effects with Total Training's DVD tutorials (www.totaltraining.com) and Luisa Winters' tips tutorials in EventDV. But it has been an uphill climb. If you've found yourself in a similar situation, proDAD's Heroglyph gives you another excuse to put off learning After Effects—at least where text effects are concerned. That said, it will never replace After Effects; you can do much more with text and a zillion other non-text effects within that program. But for text animation, Heroglyph is a shortcut well worth taking. Let's take a look.

Plug-in Operation
Heroglyph works as a plug-in to pretty much every Windows-based NLE. It supports Adobe Premiere Pro, older versions of Premiere, and Premiere Elements; multiple iterations of Grass Valley/Canopus EDIUS; Sony Vegas and MovieStudio; Avid Xpress DV, Xpress Pro, Liquid, and Studio; Ulead Media Studio and Video Studio; and even the Microsoft MovieMaker application that comes as part of Windows XP. One nice thing about the installation is that it will detect the various NLEs you have on your computer and allow you to pick the ones you want it to associate with Heroglyph. The only one that requires a separate install disc is Avid (formerly Pinnacle) Studio consumer NLE.

figure 1This review uses Adobe's Premiere Pro 2.0 as the host application.

Heroglyph opens from the same menu as Premiere Pro's titler. To activate it you locate it in File > New > Heroglyph. On my system, Heroglyph was located as the first item "below the line" in that menu.

When you activate Heroglyph, its interface pops up over the Premiere interface. It is divided into five parts. Along the top is a strip with a look similar to what you would see in Microsoft Word. Here you have familiar buttons for Save, Open, Undo, Redo, and font controls. On the far left, you have a menu that primarily affects the fonts.

When you select among the different choices, the program opens up corresponding controls in the adjacent window, giving you graphical choices that affect most of the looks of your graphic. On the top right you have the work area in which you can type, draw motion paths, and watch previews. Below that on the lower right is Heroglyph's own timeline.

Working in Heroglyph takes some getting used to. At times, navigating the menus will make you wish for a GPS system. 

There were a number of times when I couldn't find my way back to a menu level that I wanted to return to, and ended up deleting the whole thing and starting over from scratch.

While there was no printed manual with the package I received, I've been informed that the boxed software for the North American market will ship with a printed guide of some sort. If you want a printed manual, you'll need to print from the help file under "assistance." For further assistance you'll probably need to email tech support unless you have Germany on your calling plan. As of right now, proDAD has no American offices.

Emails I sent to proDAD support were generally answered promptly—when I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. to correspond with them. Their English is fair, but you'll probably be scratching your head occasionally.

Heroglyph Effects
figure 1What makes Heroglyph such a great tool, and a viable, easier-to-use alternative to After Effects for text effects, is that it allows you to do several popular text effects such as the Star Wars title roll, something that clients request from time to time. It can be done within Premiere Pro by typing the text, putting it on the timeline, and animating it as needed. In other programs it might take you a good 15 minutes to get it the way you want it. In Heroglyph, you need only click on the "Star Wars" template, then replace the text by typing over it. After that, the title automatically winds up in your Premiere project, where you can stretch it out as long as you need it.

The "Star Wars" effect is about the simplest template in Heroglyph's repertoire. Where you really start to save time is when you have motion paths or animation for individual characters. For a more complicated example, check out the "Table" template. This template is a slab or a table top that slides in, and then three lines of text come in, letter by letter, at varying rates on the individual lines. In Premiere Pro, if you tried to animate text in this way, even if you were really good, it could take the better part of an hour. In After Effects it may be a bit easier, but it would still be time-consuming. In Heroglyph you can create the effect as fast as you can enter text and adjust its attributes. Even with trying out a number of fonts, and various colors and styles, in under five minutes.

figure 1There's more to Heroglyph than typed text effects. If you have a need for a graphic that looks like handwriting, or an Indiana Jones-style map graphic showing your trip route (this is one of proDAD's specialties), Heroglyph makes short work of this as well.

If you are going to use handwriting effects a lot, I would recommend getting a tablet and stylus for optimal results. Handwriting with a mouse is just not going to look good—unless you want it to look like a pre-schooler did it. You can get away with the mouse using what I call the Indiana Jones effect. If you recall the movies, as Dr. Jones tracked across the globe looking for relics, you would see a map of the world and a bright line tracing the route of his trip.

There are many ways to use this effect. And though it's available in the last two versions of After Effects and can be seamlessly applied by switching back and forth between Premiere Pro and After Effects in the latest Adobe Production Studio, you can create the map effect more quickly and easily with Heroglyph.

If you work in Vegas, Avid, or other programs where you are paying $900-$1600 for After Effects or a similar high-level effects tool, going the $99 plug-in route with Heroglyph Rapid is definitely going to give you a lot of bang for your buck.




Working with Heroglyph Project Files

figure 1Within Heroglyph you can combine and layer different effects/templates in the program's own timeline so you do not need to go back and forth from Premiere Pro. When you export to Premiere Pro, whatever you make on the Heroglyph timeline becomes an .HPRJ (Heroglyph project) file. It acts much like the .AEX projects you may bring in from After Effects. Rather than rendering it out as an .AVI file and treating it like a regular video file, the .HPRJ file acts as a wrapper for all the effects you applied in Heroglyph. The .HPRJ file shows up in the Premiere Pro project file where it can be inserted to the timeline, with the alpha channel intact for transparency effects.

If you like the way that the Heroglyph graphic looks in the Premiere Pro project, you can render the timeline there. The only adjustment you can really do to it on the Premiere Pro timeline is adjust the speed or add transitions. Trimming it on the Premiere Pro timeline won't speed up the animation; it just cuts part of it off. If the effect needs any adjustments, double-clicking the .HPRJ reference on the timeline or in the project file will open up Heroglyph where you can make adjustments and re-render. If you applied a speed change to the file in Premiere Pro, for example, you will need to set it back to 100%; otherwise Heroglyph will not activate. To elongate an .HPRJ, I recommend just stretching it in the Heroglyph timeline. It will save you the headache of restoring the original speed in Premiere then returning to Heroglyph to make adjustments there. When you complete your adjustments, F12 sends you back to Premiere Pro.

As mentioned earlier, Heroglyph Rapid also plugs into other programs. On my computer I was able to run it on Sony's Vegas 6d. The main difference was that you access it under Vegas' Media Generator tab. Under the list of available types of "generateable media," you should find "proDAD Heroglyph" just above the "Legacy Text" plug-in. When you highlight it, the box to the right shows the Heroglyph icon. Drag the icon to the timeline and the Heroglyph window opens. Click on Edit Title and from then on it will work the same way as with Premiere Pro. I tried using it with Avid Xpress DV 3.5, with no luck. Heroglyph supports only Xpress DV 5 or later due to the new plug-in structure Avid is using. For more information on current plug-in support, see the English-language section of www.prodad.com.

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