About a hundred years ago (2001) when computers were made of rocks and twine, a nice young man by the name of Peder Norrby sat in his little cubicle and designed a plug in that changed graphic design for good. That plug in was Shine and it engendered a gold rush of ideas, tutorials, title effects, television bumpers and so many uses that it really can’t be completely quantified. Norrby’s company Trapcode was an instant hit with struggling designers and neophyte filmmakers. All of a sudden, with the simple click of a mouse, you could have titles that looked so cool that you wanted to play with the plug in all day long. You could apply it to anything and everything and most people did just that. As with any groundbreaking bit of computer/visual wizardry, it became overused and fell out of favor for other, newer tricks of the eye.
Norrby didn’t sit around sulking or buy a huge villa on the Cote D’Azur. Instead, he sat in his cubicle and knocked out another plug-in, and another and another and all of a sudden, you couldn’t decide which one you wanted to use in your project because all of them were so doggone cool. Well here we are a hundred years later and the Software Company known as Red Giant who bring you the most amazing tools have compiled 9 of the most effective and amazing Trapcode Plug-ins in one suite. They are Shine, 3d Stroke, Particular 2.0, Trapcode Form, Lux, Echospace, Soundkeys, Trapcode Horizon and Trapcode Starglow.
While many are familiar with the classic Trapcode tools, there are some new additions that are simply amazing and of course, relatively straightforward in their execution. The big gun for my money is Horizon which allows you to create a SKYDOME in your After Effects compositions and fly your camera 360° with a background that tracks with the camera moves. Just think about that one for a minute! The other very interesting and somewhat more vexing to my simple mind is Trapcode FORM which is a particle system that has particles that are immortal. Unlike Particular, Trapcode’s Original Particle System (which is also included in the bundle) and FORM’S big brother, the particles in FORM never die and because of that, can exhibit some very interesting behaviors. I am not a particle guru by any stretch of the imagination. Most particles I deal with have fallen in my lap when I eat my lunch in the car. But Particular 2.0 and Form have rekindled my particle interest and I am enjoying re-discovering all the amazing things that particles can produce.
I think that a lot of my new found excitement is due to the fact that there are some incredible tutorials available both here on the Cow and also on Red Giant’s website that have been authored by Peder Norrby, Aharon Rabinowitz (our favorite teacher right?), and other very talented and skillful artists who have the facility to convey their knowledge to even a Luddite like me. I remember struggling with the text into smoke tutorial some years ago. With Particles, I can knock that one out in 10 minutes. Like I said, “Cool!”
So let’s take a quick look at the Suite and what you get.
We have 9 Trapcode plug-ins, the first being Shine, the original plug in from Trapcode. With Shine, you can create all manner of light effects and apply them to text, layers, clips and backgrounds. There isn’t anyone over the age of 7 who hasn’t seen a Shine Effect. This is what I call a foundation effect in that you can incorporate it into other effects to enhance or completely change their behavior. While the classic Text Shine effect may be somewhat passé (although everything old is new again), subtle Shine effects can be used to add that extra punch that will separate your work from the run of the mill stuff. This is simply a must have effect.
Trapcode 3D Stroke
Once again, this plug in finds its way into more and more work because of its ability to create organic 3D effects from wavy snake like lines, to orbiting text, to handwriting effects and more. A simple plug in that is able to create complex motion and fluidity. You can work this one as a simple stroke effect or dive into the repeaters, rotators and text applications to bend reality to your liking.
The built in camera allows you to control camera position, rotation, zoom and orientation. An extensive set of controls also guarantees that you can tailor your strokes just the way you envision them. Also included are 40 presets, shapes and lines that can speed up and simplify your work.
Next in the package is Echospace which is quite useful in so many instances.
Echospace can take an image, text, footage and whole compositions and create multiple (echo’s) instances of the same. These instances can be controlled either as a group, or individually and can be timed and delayed with the built in controls. Extremely complex animations are possible with this plug in and the time you save due to the automation features is considerable. I remember looking at comps where there were literally hundreds of layers and wondering how on earth you could keep track of all those elements much less control them? With Echospace it’s simple as you can call for the layers to interact individually, or as groups.
Form is the plug in that has everyone talking. Unlike Particular or other particle systems, the particles in FORM are immortal. As they never die, you have a different workflow. You can simulate particle death if you want by adjusting opacity, but the strength here is how easy it is to generate 3D terrain flyovers and unusual animations. You can take your text and blow it away like sand, smoke or fire. You can distort and warp logos and make them dance to the beat of your audio track all inside this plug in. With 61 presets, you can begin with a premade shape or effect and then tweak it to your liking. Lower thirds are taken to a new dimension with Form. Form also contains its own audio effectors which allow you to keyframe behavior such as color, opacity, position and more, precisely to any audio track. True 3D effects are as easy as a simple mouse click. Well thought out tutorials on site make getting up to speed painless and quick.
This is one amazing plug-in. Horizon gives you the ability to generate complete skybox worlds with full 360° views. You can take your own footage and use it as your moving background and Horizon will interface with After Effects’ camera to produce totally realistic motion. You can place your comps into other worlds by either creating spherical maps or using maps that are readily available at little or no cost on the internet. Spherical Maps are also easy to create in programs such as Photoshop so your imagination is the only limiting factor here. A little bit of work with a digital camera and you can generate VR world’s right in After Effects and fly your camera through them. This is a breakthrough application that is going to really make some noise. The time saving quality of this plug in alone for generating complicated scenes more than justifies the price of the Suite. Couple this with Particular 2.0 which is also included and you have a stunning array of tools to bring your ideas to life.
Trapcode Lux 1.0
Probably the best volumetric light generation system in use today. LUX is a favorite of ad agencies and SFX houses who want to have complete control over their scene lighting. LUX has the ability to take After Effects Lights and transform them into precisely adjustable volumetric lights. You can have LUX only affect particular named lights which enables you to create sophisticated scene lighting in your comp. Unlike AE lights, LUX lighting is truly 3d and therefore delivers much more believability in comps. You can create point lights, or spot lights and have them co-exist and interact with each other to create completely realistic and believable lighting setups.
Trapcode Particular 2.0
Particular 2.0 is the Big Kahuna of particle systems. With this in your arsenal of tricks, there is little that you won’t be able to accomplish. I’ve had Particular for several years and I’m still finding out things about it. This is as simple as you want to make it or as unbelievably complex as you can stand. If you’re just looking for some quick and dirty particle effects, you’ll be more than happy with the presets that you get to choose from. When you decide that you need some more sophisticated or complex effects, Particular 2.0 will be ready to deliver. It’s nice to be able to use the same effects that the big studio’s use. Particular is often seen on the big screen in such blockbusters as Spider Man and Angels & Demons. If you already have an earlier version of Particular, you’ll still want to upgrade to version 2.0 for the improvements to the render engine which is capable of rendering hundreds of thousands of particles per second and take full advantage of the new multi core processors. Render speeds of up to 2x faster than previous version are possible.
Trapcode Sound Keys
Sound Keys is a plug in that will make you smile if you’ve ever had to sync an audio track beat to a piece of footage or composition. Generating keyframes by hand is tedious and inaccurate, taking up huge blocks of valuable time and requiring tweaking and adjusting to get it “just right”. Sound Keys will do a better job, faster and with pinpoint accuracy with those proverbial “click of a mouse” moves. A quick look at any tutorial at Red Giant’s web site or actually reading the manual that is supplied will have you up and running in no time. This is a plug in that will keep you up nights playing (as will all the others, so budget a large block of your time to take the phone off the hook and lock the studio door). It’s fun and allows you to make your audio file control any keyframable aspect of your comp.
Starglow is one of those plug-ins that you might not think of immediately as a “must have” but in reality, if you do any corporate work or are involved in TV spots, Starglow can be a real benefit to your program. While Starglow can render bright, over the top and dazzling effects, its real power lies in more subtle applications. This is a perfect way to add subtle reflections or highlights to a scene without having to fool around with complicated lighting. Starglow supports both 32 bit apps (After Effects and Final Cut Pro and Motion) and 16 bit apps like Avid AVX, and Premier Pro). No matter what application you use, you will be able to work Starglow into your workflow. Renders are extremely fast with no loss of quality.
Having a bundled compilation of these plug-ins makes your job as a designer that much easier. With the plug-ins contained in TRAPCODE SUITE, there literally isn’t an effect that you can’t produce. Having the plug-ins all be from the same company has the additional benefit of compatibility which insures that your comp won’t suffer mysterious glitches at the most inopportune times. Another benefit is cost. By getting the Suite, you save roughly $500.00 over the cost of purchasing the plug-ins separately. In these times, or any other, savings like that are hard to ignore. You may also be eligible for an Cross Grade or Upgrade Price. Cross Grade is available for $499.00 to those who previously purchased Trapcode Suite 2004 & 2005, Particular v2.0 or any four Trapcode Products (for example, Shine, Starglow, 3D Stroke and Form) Upgrades are available for those purchased a later version of the Suite (2007, 2008). If you own Suite 2008.5, then you can simply get the $99.00 Particular Upgrade and be up to date. The Upgrade is $189.00. To double check your eligibility, contact RED GIANT before you make the purchase.
For more information, go to RED GIANT Software website at www.redgiantsoftware.com and check out their information. You can download demos of everything that they sell and try them for yourself. Red Giant is one of the more innovative companies in our industry and have some of the top people in the world developing new products for them. Even so, they are still incredibly accessible. Their technical and customer support is beyond reproach. If you buy a single plug in or their entire collection of suites, they’ll treat you the same.
There are enough reviewers out there who can nitpick anything to death and take off half a point because the package was the wrong color. I’m not one of them. If you put together a program that delivers at every level, is affordable, relatively simple to operate for the average user and capable of the highest quality output for Hollywood, Television, Corporate or Event work and won’t force you to beg for a bailout or sell off the youngest kids, then you HAVE to give it high marks. Each of the plug-ins standing alone would rate a solid 5 Cows, so the compilation Suite also makes perfect marks for usability, selection, support and functionality. A lot of Suites have things that you’ll never use; The Trapcode Suite has 9 plug-ins that will get a workout in any studio. Remember, you can purchase any of the plug-ins as a stand alone, but by getting the suite, you save a considerable amount of money.