Cool Tools for Spring

Time to catch up on a few items that will improve your editing and make your daily tasks easier.

(Click on the images below for an enlarged view.)

DiscCatalogMaker

Editors are increasingly using inexpensive hard drives as a method of archiving. But how do you keep track of where your files are? As I started to look around, I realized I already owned a very functional utility, simply because I had Roxio’s Toast. One of the extra applications installed and in the folder is DiscCatalogMaker RE. It automatically catalogs all of the discs you’ve ever burned, but it can also be used to index hard drives. Simply start a new catalog and have it scan a target drive. This file can be saved and printed. It’s also searchable, so you can easily find files without mounting the drive. Once you add/delete/change files on the drive, just rescan it and re-save the updated file.

Red Giant Software Magic Bullet PhotoLooks

If you like Magic Bullet Looks and you do a lot of work with stills, then check out PhotoLooks. I touched on this in my Stocking Stuffers post, but it’s worth another mention. Like Looks for video applications, PhotoLooks runs in an external LooksBuilderPL application that is optimized for stills. PhotoLooks works as a plug-in for Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom and uses the same chain of tools as the video version. As you can see in this Alamo photo, it’s quite easy to create very stylized still photos in post.

Digital Film Tools PhotoCopy

At first glance, PhotoCopy might seem like it’s doing the same functions as Magic Bullet Looks, but that would be wrong. Like Looks, the plug-in launches a separate, customized interface, but that’s where the similarities end.  DFT PhotoCopy uses representative samples from movies, paintings, photographs, etc. to apply color correction and texture to your target photo or video clips.

These can work like color grading presets – or in the case of paintings – apply brush strokes and texture to the image. This isn’t just a simple overlay. PhotoCopy does an analysis of the target image, in order to intelligently apply the right effect or colors to the appropriate positions within the shot. These can be further adjusted by slider controls in the interface. PhotoCopy runs in Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, After Effects, Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom; however, different licenses must be purchased for the motion and the still photo versions of the tool.

Nick Shaw ALEXA Look-Up Tables (LUTs)

As editors start to wrap their heads around post workflows for the ARRI ALEXA camera, the biggest issue seems to be the best method of converting the Log-C profile recorded by the camera into nice-looking Rec. 709 images for the client. Log-C images are viewable, but appear flat and washed out prior to grading. UK-based post consultant Nick Shaw has developed a set of FCP plug-ins designed to convert Log-C images into Rec. 709. They include a few extra features, like saturation boost and timecode/text burn-in fields. For now, these are considered to be “preview” quality, since the LUTs truncate the bit-depth to an 8-bit scale. The current paid version supports the camera’s 3.0 firmware.

Luca Visual FX

I’ve covered the Luca Visual FX tools a few times in my color grading posts. Their plug-ins are offered as part of the FxFactory product line. In addition to plug-ins, Luca Visual FX also offers a set of Film FX and Light Transitions. They have recently released the Film FX 2.0 package. Unlike the plug-ins, these tools are a set of QuickTime movie files using the Animation codec with an alpha channel. As such, they can be used with nearly any NLE or motion graphics application and aren’t dependent on a specific plug-in architecture. In the case of Final Cut or Media Composer, simply place a clip on an upper track and the rest is done. In the previous post, I covered some ways in which these can be used with different fills or by combining several clips for a custom effect. The Film FX 2.0 package adds more grunge to the options in Film FX 1.0 for new and dynamic effects.

Noise Industries FxFactory Manifesto

A better Final Cut Pro title tool and it’s free. What’s not to like? Noise Industries launched Manifesto – a lightweight, yet powerful title generator – as part of the FxFactory toolset. It installs as two generator plug-ins – one for static titles and another for rolls and crawls. Text composition is very easy and the plug-in draws on many of the built-in frameworks of Mac OSX, such as fonts, colors and spell-checking. You can also import existing RTF files and Manifesto will use the formatting of that file.

Focusrite Scarlett

Another tool I touched on in the Stocking Stuffers post was the Focusrite Scarlett software filters suite. This set of four audio plug-ins (EQ, compressor, gate, reverb) installs in VST/AU and RTAS formats. On a Mac, they’ll work in most DAWs, as well as Media Composer (5, 5.5) and Final Cut Pro (sliders only – no custom GUI). These filters are designed to look and sound like their classic hardware brethren. In general, they run best in Avid Pro Tools, Adobe Audition and Apple Soundtrack Pro and provide a reasonably-priced filter package for those who want to go beyond the healthy set of options already included with these applications. Focusrite also sells other software plug-in products, including Midnight, Forte, Guitar FX and more.

Noise Industries FxFactory Photo Montage

Noise Industries just introduced a great new tool for assembling photographic montage sequences, called simply Photo Montage. There are several of these on the market, but the Noise Industries version is easy to use and offers plenty of presets, as well as many ways to customize the style, moves, transitions and other attributes. Like most of their plug-ins, Photo Montage is GPU-accelerated and works in Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, Motion and After Effects. It supports most common image formats including JPEG, PNG and PSD, so getting started is as easy as applying one of the generator effects, choosing the source image folder and applying a preset. From there, you can re-order the stills, alter the animation parameters and so on.

Digital Heaven Final Print 2.0

Many of Digital Heaven’s tools are designed around improving the editor’s efficiency and taking some of the drudgery out of non-editorial tasks. Often editors have to supply reports to clients, marker list print outs and more. A helpful application is Final Print, which has just been updated to version 2.0. You can start with XML files or directly load projects from FCP7. Final Print 2.0 will not only display various marker lists (which can be filtered by color), but also sequence lists complete with thumbnails and timecode. If you need to generate various reports out of Final Cut Pro – such as the director’s notes from marker text – Final Print 2 provides one of the best and most attractive ways to do that.

©2011 Oliver Peters

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