Apple’s Final Cut Studio package contains just about everything a wedding videographer needs to create amazing videos, but I’ve always felt that it just needed a little extra help in certain areas, which is where third-party effects packages come in. There are many of them out there—some from companies such as Nattress and Red Giant. Some specialize in one specific effect, while others feature hundreds of plug-ins. It can be a little confusing trying to find the right effects package to fit your needs. Of all the third-party effects packages available for Final Cut Studio, I’ve found that Noise Industries' FxFactory Pro 2, with its 122 included filters, generators, and transitions, is the best value for the money.
The advantage here is that FxFactory uses FxPlug, the new plug-in architecture from Apple that allows the effects to be processed directly on the GPU, which allows for great increases in rendering speed on Intel and PowerPC machines. Gone are the days when it would take hours to render a single effect, something I really appreciate since switching to HDV, which adds to the time required to do just about anything.
This new version works with Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Final Cut Express 4. It is optimized for the Leopard operating system, but it will also work in Tiger.
FxFactory is also available for Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer, but I’m not an Avid user, so I’ve worked with only the Final Cut version.
One great thing about this package is its expandability. At any time, you can visit the company’s online store and download new effects in the form of FxPacks from companies such as SUGARfx and CoreMelt, which use the FxFactory plug-in architecture. Once you’ve found the effects you want to buy, you simply download them and they will appear in the FxFactory application (Figure 1, below), a handy tool in which you can see all of the effects that you have downloaded.
It’s also the place where you need to register any purchases you make from the online store. For the purpose of the kind of projects I do, I went with the FxFactory Pro version, which allows you to modify and even create your own plug-ins for those wanting to experiment. But chances are you will have trouble imagining something that hasn’t already been included here.
Installing FxFactory Pro is quick and painless. You may find yourself a bit confused as to whether all your effects are actually installed, since some of the plug-ins aren’t visible from the effects menu; instead, they are located in the generator’s pop-up window. Make sure to look there so you don’t miss out on the text generators and some other good stuff.
Each effect contains parameters that can be tweaked, resulting in many different possibilities for each plug-in. The designers have created some great presets, however, that in many cases you won’t need to alter, which is very convenient for those who just want to jump in and have fun. You are also able to create and save your own presets, which I really appreciated since the slightest changes in some of the parameters can have dramatically different results. With the create and save feature, you can save time trying to remember how you got that specific look previously.
Some Fx to Check Out
In the February installment of Cut Lines, Incorporating Wedding Design Elements Into Your Productions, I made reference to my favorite effect in this package, the Spot Light filter (Figure 2, below). There are many variables to control, such as the direction and strength of the light, which can be animated over time. This can be especially cool on text, but I also find myself using the effect during the first dance, when I want to direct attention to the bride and groom.
The Old TV filter is a very cool update to a typical scan lines filter (Figure 3, below). This filter allows you to control the curvature of the image, and it even adds reflections to give the illusion that you are looking at a real glass screen. Superimpose this over an image of a TV set for a very convincing television set graphic.
There are just too many effects to ever cover them all in one article, and it seems like I am discovering new ones all the time or finally finding just the right use for others. The Pencil Sketch filter (Figure 4, below), for example, makes your image look like it was pulled from an artist’s sketchbook. There is a similar filter for Photoshop, but it is nice for Final Cut Pro users to be able to achieve the same effect with moving images. Similar to the Pencil Sketch is the Artist Sketch filter, which gives more of a pencil/crayon look. Filters like this are nice when used sparingly, but one mustn’t be tempted to go crazy and use a hundred different effects in the same production simply because you just bought a new effects package.
There are some powerful text generators too. The 3D text grid creates an animated three-dimensional text field. The star titler creates that very familiar scrolling text over an outer space backdrop (handy for fans of homemade Star Wars-type effects). For those of you who have been wondering how to add titles with light rays appearing behind the letters, there is a filter for that, too.
Do you want your bride and groom to know what the news headlines were on the day of their wedding? The RSS World News generator (internet connection required) places today’s news headlines over the image of a spinning globe. The spin, color, and size of the globe are all adjustable.
LED Lights is a fun filter that turns your image into hundreds of little colored dots (Figure 5, below). There are many filters like this that are great for making animated backgrounds, DVD menus, backdrops for titles, and many other uses. There are plenty of good blur and glow filters, some cool kaleidoscope pattern generators, and much more.
You can preview what each plug-in does on the Noise Industries website, and in fact I find myself visiting the site from time to time as a quick reference just to remind myself what is in the package.
You could spend thousands of dollars trying to get even close to the same number of useful plug-ins for Final Cut Studio that you find in FxFactory Pro 2 for less than $400. Users of every skill level will benefit from these easy-to-use, powerful plug-ins that will become so valuable in your productions that you’ll probably start wondering how you ever got along without them.
Joe McManus (joe at fvpro.com) is co-founder of Future Vision Productions, an award-winning wedding and event videography outfit based in London, Ontario. He is the founder and president of the Ontario Professional Videographers Association (OPVA), and he was named to the 2005 EventDV 25.