Stocking Stuffers 2015

df4215_stuff_smAs the year wraps up, it’s time to look at some of the items that might make an editor’s wish list.

Let me start out with some free items that can truly be useful. If you are a Logic Pro X user then this compilation of free audio plug-ins may be a good starting point. From EQs to amplifier simulation there are quite a few here to peruse. A lot of options are out for Final Cut Pro X users. I’ve created a set of Motion template effects that come in handy, as well as some color board presets. Idustrial Revolution, CoreMelt, and Alex4D have been good sources of free FCP X plug-ins, but an especially useful new one is the free XEffects audio fades package. These are simple drag-and-drop effects with preset fade durations.

Tracking has always been a high-end task, but CoreMelt now adds a free version to its SliceX product line. It’s still powered by mocha technology, but the masks are limited to ovals and rectangles. Nevertheless, this is still quite helpful in dealing with issues like facial tracking during color correction. Another useful FCP X tool is Role-O-Matic, currently at version 3. This is a batch renaming tool that will let you assign role names to multichannel audio files. If you work with a lot of sound files, then it’s a very handy item, especially when you need to pass the audio post along to a Pro Tools mixer.

Needless to say, the Grand Poobah of free is Blackmagic Design. Thanks to the acquisition of technology from EyeOn and DaVinci, Blackmagic is able to offer free versions of top-of-the-line color correction and compositing software. The base versions of Resolve and Fusion are nearly full-featured and available for both the Windows and Mac platforms. Resolve is being developed into a very capable NLE in addition to its color correction prowess. Fusion is a strong node-based compositor. The main difference between the free version and the $995 Studio version is that it adds advanced optical flow image analysis tools for stereo 3D, retiming, and stabilization. It also adds support for OpenFX plug-ins, network rendering, and multi-user collaboration.

I cover Noise Industries’ FxFactory often, because their development partners are so prolific in designing new and useful plug-ins for Apple and Adobe products. If you use FCP X in broadcast design and promotion, then these three products should be quite interesting to you. XEffects has developed two broadcast packages for Sports and News. I’ve previous written about the Sports Graphics package, but a new one is the News Graphics package. Both are highly customizable, since each package is a toolkit of common graphic elements used in broadcast design.

Although not specifically designed for broadcasters, a tool that helps round out these offerings is the first commercial product from Alex4DAnimation Transitions. This package is a series of transition effects for FCP X. These are drag-and-drop and when applied to connected clips, can add preset entry and exit effects. These can be tailored in a number of ways, including position and acceleration attributes. Before leaving FxFactory, let me also mention XLayers from Luca Visual FX. This is a series of effects and generators that can be used to stylize and composite video with geometric shapes. There are numerous ways to customize these effects with masks, colors, and blending modes.

A lot of the products I mentioned focus on FCP X. Don’t forget that there are many great tools for Premiere Pro editors. For example, it’s worth checking out my free Lumetri presets, which work with both Premiere Pro CC and SpeedGrade CC. The internal LUTs that come with the Premiere Pro CC Lumetri color controls are based on LookLabs’ SpeedLooks. Read my write up to understand how they work and be sure to check out some of their other products. Of course, it’s easy to integrate LUTs with any Premiere Pro timeline, so check out these LUT packages from Rocket Rooster, Osiris, and ImpulZ. My favorites remain the Koji Advance plug-in (with LUTs) and the FilmConvert package. Another great tool for Premiere Pro editor is PDFviewer from Primal Cuts. This lets you open and view a PDF – such as a script or storyboard – right inside the Premiere Pro UI.

Most editors use a variety of apps other than just their NLE of choice in order to encode, view, and otherwise deal with video. The default media player for many has been QuickTime Player, but a number of companies are developing great alternatives, as QuickTime continues to fade more into the background. One enjoying more development to keep up with Apple changes in media under the hood, is Digital Heaven’s Pro Player. This is designed as a full-featured player with JKL transport functionality and media info displayed right in the UI. A unique feature of Pro Player is gestural control. Using the mouse, you can scrub across the image in the viewer. The upper half enables shuttle while the lower half is for jog.

If you do a lot of encoding, then one of the best tools is Telestream’s Episode, which is now in version 7. Most users will be interested in either the base or the pro version. Both offer extensive format support and batch encoding functions, but Episode Pro adds support for MXF, GXF, MPEG-2/4 Transport Streams, image sequences, and multi-bitrate streaming formats. Common features in this update include support for 4K video, DNxHD/HR, JPEG2000 and DVCProHD.

©2015 Oliver Peters