If you reflect back on your career as a video producer, you'll recognize several points in time where your production quality increased exponentially: making the jump to DV after analog, your first 3-CCD camcorder, your first multicamera shoot. Typically, each leap becomes more and more costly in terms of time and equipment. Well, unless you're an After Effects wizard with plenty of time on your hands, you can achieve a quantum leap in production quality for just $399, courtesy of an Editor's Toolkit from Digital Juice.
Digital Juice actually offers two volumes of wedding-oriented Toolkits, which are Toolkit 3 and Toolkit 7, respectively. Each toolkit contains a number of thematically consistent collections of animated content (called Jump Sets in Toolkit 3 and Super Sets in Toolkit 7) that make it easy to create a consistent look, from transitions to your DVD menu background. For example, Super Set 160, which I used for a wedding that I was editing, was based on a classic gold look and contained three animated backgrounds, all featuring wedding bands, and one with a highlighted area for text. Boom, there was my opening title, a moving background for each title section, and an animated DVD menu.
The Super Set also contains three full-screen wipe transitions I can use instead of dissolves between my major scenes and some lower-third titles I can use for the interviews we shot. Plus, there's an assortment of mattes and overlays, including a frame that will be perfect for the photo montage we'll produce from pictures of the bride and groom growing up.
One great thing about the Super Sets is how different they look from one another. For example, Super Set 159 has an icy blue background that's perfect for winter weddings, while Super Set 157 is based on roses and carnations, ideal for spring. Super Set 155 provides a lighter, "party-hearty" look that contrasts well with the stately grace of many other sets. This variety makes it incredibly easy to change the look and feel of your productions from edit to edit. In addition to the Super Sets, each Toolkit also contains an assortment of random design elements—like an animated cake, wedding bells, and glowing candles—that work with all sets.
As you would expect, the Toolkits work on both Mac and Windows systems. I was editing this project in Adobe Production Studio, so I downloaded the Windows version of the Juicer application (for browsing, previewing, and applying Digital Juice content) from the Digital Juice website and got to work. Each Toolkit contains a number of DVDs with content, but samples of all content are included on the first DVD, so you can install one disc, choose your content, then load the necessary discs as the Juicer outputs your selected content. Each toolkit also contains a small booklet with colored pictures of all content, further simplifying your selection.
Juicer itself is a simple program with four windows. The Keyword List window contains keywords for all content Digital Juice content installed on your computer. For example, the drop-down list for the Toolkits I installed contained keywords like "fireworks," "candles," and "church bells," making it simple to find design elements incorporating these components.
Or, you can search the content in the Product Browser, which lets you browse the content from each Toolkit and view your selections in the Preview Window. As you identify the desired design components, you click a button to add them into the Batch window.
The original content is QuickTime using the Apple PNG codec at a resolution of 720x576, making it suitable for both PAL and NTSC at DV resolutions, but not for HD or HDV, though Digital Juice is starting to introduce more high-resolution content. In the Batch window, you can output the graphics in any resolution in QuickTime, AVI, and RTV formats (for VideoToaster 2/3) and as an image sequence, providing near-universal application compatibility.
Before outputting, you can modify each design element in a number ways, like changing the color, flipping the video horizontally or vertically, rotating the video, or adjusting the opacity. Then you choose the output parameters like resolution and speed, and the target codec and encoding parameters.
Digital Juice could make this last step simpler by providing one-button output presets for DV NTSC, DV PAL, and the like, which would eliminate users from having to choose an AVI or QuickTime codec. For example, I originally wanted to output to AVI format, but DV wasn't an option, so I moved to QuickTime which I knew Premiere Pro supported. Here I saw a range of codec options from Avid DV to Sorenson Video 3. I finally chose the Apple Animation codec, which worked just fine, but if viewing naked codecs in situ makes you sweat, you better be prepared.
On the plus side, working in Premiere Pro was a breeze, with the editor automatically recognizing all the alpha channels and creating the desired transparencies. At about 2.5 seconds apiece, the full-screen wipe transitions were a bit slow for my taste, but they happily adjusted to 300% speed using Premiere's normal speed adjustment. Backgrounds also loaded normally into Adobe Encore.
I've long been a fan of the DVD and title templates provided by Adobe, Apple, and other companies, but let's face it, one or two templates can only go so far. Supplementing them with Toolkits from Digital Juice is a great way to keep your projects fresh while adding an incremental boost in production quality.