Though simple cuts, dissolves, and fades to and from black comprise probably 99% of the transitions I use in a typical project, I have a soft spot in my heart for theme-specific transitions. You know, those cute wedding ring transitions that would look awful in the ceremony sequence but can be totally killer in the highlights overview or montage if they suit your style. If you're like me, you'll almost certainly find proDAD's Adorage Effect Package volume 10 ($79) a worthwhile addition to your editing suite.
By way of background, proDAD is the same company that markets both Mercalli (image stabilization) and Vitascene (special effects); check out my tutorials on EventDV-TV.com (Tutorials tab) to learn more about those tools. Adorage works with a range of editing tools, including Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, Canopus EDIUS, Avid Liquid 7.x, and Pinnacle Studio. I tested with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 on an 8-core HP xw6400 workstation running a 32-bit version of Windows XP. Note that proDAD offers a free trial version for download that you should definitely try before buying.
What's in the Package
Intuitively, when analyzing transitions packages, you should ask three questions. First, does it have transitions that I want in the resolution that I need? Second, how configurable are the transitions? And third, how do they look when rendered?
Adorage includes 10,000 effect presets, with more than 700 effects in HD, which obviously can be used for both SD and HD. If you're handy with an image editor, you can create your own as well. Adorage presents the transitions in nine categories, including General Effects, Weddings & Love, Sports, Travel & Transportation, Particle Effects, and Frames. Each category is broken into subcategories, such as Wedding Rings, Wedding Album, Hearts, Roses, Wedding Bells, and others in the Wedding category (Figure 1, below).
Operationally, you apply Adorage effects just like any other Premiere Pro transition, dragging it down into the timeline to the target location, opening the transition in the Effect Controls window, and choosing Custom to access the Adorage controls. Once you select a transition, you can quickly preview others in the same class using the arrows shown in the preview window in Figure 2 (below), saving a trip back to Premiere Pro-a nice convenience that makes it easy to find the best transition.
Once you choose a transition, you can customize any of the five aspects shown beneath the preview window on the lower right, including Video A and B, the Mixer, adding Smoke, and adjusting the Overlay settings. Just click the window that you need to edit, and Adorage opens the window shown in Figure 3 (below).
Adjustments vary by the property that you're adjusting, but they are extensive in all cases. For example, with Video A and B, you can change the source of the transition to a separate graphics or video file (rather than the video on the timeline); add borders to whichever source you choose; mirror the source horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; or tile the footage for a unique look. You can adjust the timing of the transition and, more importantly, the starting and editing positions, which may be necessary to make the video fit into a selected transition.
For example, when I first applied the Wedding Album transition to my wedding test clip, there were black borders in Video B when the album first opened, primarily because the transition was tuned for a 16:9 video and my video was 4:3. To eliminate the borders, I expanded the size of the video at the Starting position, and the transition worked perfectly.
After selecting the properties for Video A and B, you can start customizing the transition elements themselves, which will vary by the selected preset. For example, the album transition used in Figure 2 didn't have a mask, so they were no adjustments in the Mixer tab. In Figure 3, you can see the adjustments for one of the Roses transitions, which has mask, smoke, and overlay elements.
In Figure 4 (below), I'm customizing the parameters for the heart-shaped herz.tif mask file applied to the transition. The default color was white, but I changed that to pink using the controls on the bottom left. On the right, you can see that the starting and end points of the mask are 0% and 100%, respectively, which correspond to the size of the mask. This means that the mask begins out of sight and zooms out to 100%, revealing Video B at the same time.
Moving to the next tab on the right, the Smoke controls are relatively straightforward, with adjustments for expiration, intensity, and randomness. Finally, Overlay controls allow you to choose and customize parameters for overlay graphics used in the transition (Figure 5, below).
Again, in both categories, Adorage lets you customize the mask settings to a significant degree, including direction, tiling, mirroring, and other parameters. If you're seeking a unique, custom look and don't mind rolling up your sleeves, Adorage can definitely help you get there.
OK, so there are plenty of transitions that you can customize to your heart's desire. But how do they look after rendering? To test this, I rendered several transitions in both HD and SD formats. I found the quality very high, probably not surprising given that proDAD supplies the HD files at 1920x1080 resolution using very little compression (the video data rate was 24.6 MB/sec, about eight times higher than HDV).
What's the verdict? There are two ways to look at Adorage: The first way is as a collection of theme-specific transitions that you can easily add to your productions. Given that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that proDAD makes it simple to preview the available transitions-either directly on its site or via its trial version-you should definitely have a look and see if these transitions would work for your productions.
The second way to look at Adorage is as an inexpensive platform for custom effects generation. That is, if you're comfortable working with alpha channels, masks, and the like in Photoshop or your image editor of choice, Adorage provides a great structure for creatively using these design elements in your productions. At $79, Adorage is a cost-effective solution no matter how you plan to use it.
Jan Ozer (jozer at mindspring.com), a contributing editor to EventDV and Streaming Media, runs The Streaming Learning Center.