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Jerry Hofmann reviews Pixelan

Jerry Hofmann reviews Pixelan’s Spice Racks



A Creative COW "Real World" Product Review



Jerry Hofmann reviews Pixelan's Spices for NLE's
Jerry Hofmann
Jerry Hofmann
jlh productions
Denver, Colorado USA
©2002 Jerry Hofmann and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
CreativeCOW leader, Jerry Hofmann has long been a fan of Pixelan Software's products and he's not disappointed by the latest set of offerings: Spices for NLE's! This is a review and a tutorial.


I’ve long been a fan of Pixelan’s products, and the latest set of offerings doesn’t disappoint. Pixelan Software makes video actually taste good. Yep, Spices for NLE’s!

I don’t know of any other software add-on that can give you nearly 750+ new transitional effects for under a dollar apiece, way under. And the variety is staggering. Pixelan has created a set of image files you can use for wipe patterns, and for matte shapes from within various NLE’s.

The Video SpiceRack PRO/OrganicFX CDs that I’m reviewing here are specifically for certain NLE's -- primarily FCP, Premiere, Media 100 and CineStream on the Mac side, and iFinish, Discreet edit, and CineStream on the Windows side.

All other NLE’s Pixelan supports use their SPiceMASTER product,

Which is a sort of plugin program that runs inside these NLE’s. There is a chart on Pixelan’s site to see if (and how) your NLE is supported.

Pixelan has various flavors of these spices and they are arranged in families for easy organization. The company also gives you a guide (and it’s a good thing too) that helps you pick a pattern from the dizzying array they have created. They include geometric shapes, soft organic looking wipe patterns, textured wipes, swirling wipes, powdery wipes, in fact, I can’t imagine any more shapes that Pixelan can’t supply. Clock wipes, Splat wipes, Puddle wipes, and on and on and on… Even explodes and corrodes.

No matter the resolution you happen to be working in either, because each set of Spices is sent with versions in 640 X 480 NTSC, 720 X 480 DV NTSC, 720X 486 D1, 768X576 PAL, and 720X576 D1 PAL. There is also a set of QuickTime movies to give you some examples of their effect, as well as a printable PDF in case you spill coffee on your included printed guide. Let’s not overlook the Spice Cookbook full of ideas on how to use the effects effectively either.

Using CGM’s softwipe pattern in FCP 3 (works in earlier releases too, you just a different effect as explained below), you simply pick the image file and place it in the image well in the effect’s controls. You then can dynamically change the pattern’s properties by softening it, inverting it and so forth. Here’s how it works in Final Cut Pro:

Using Spices as a Wipe Pattern:

  • Import one or more spice files. Use the File > Import > File command (Command-I) to import one or more spice files into your project's Browser. Or, to quickly import all spice files from a folder (including any in subfolders), choose File > Import > Folder. I like the quick access of simply having them all ready for previewing.

  • Apply the CGM Softwipe. With the selection tool, click a cut point between two overlapped clips in a timeline track. Drag the CGM Softwipe (Effects > Video Transitions > CGM > Softwipe) onto the cut point.

Note: If FCP 3 does not show CGM effects available in the Effects menu or in the Video Transitions folder, you can install them from your installation CD. They are called FX scripts on the installation disk and you can install them separately. Next time you launch FCP, you’ll have them available. In Final Cut Pro 1 or 2, activate the Gradient Wipe, and add it to the Matte well. (Pssssst… don’t forget to install Calligraphy at the same time if you forgot to do it the first time.) You can install these plugin programs all by themselves too you needn’t install FCP 3 at the same time.

  • Drag and drop a spice file. In your timeline, double-click the CGM Softwipe transition you applied to see its controls in the Viewer. Then drag a spice file from the Browser onto the Pattern control (the FIRST one of two Pattern controls) of the CGM Softwipe in the Viewer. The Pattern control has a small rectangular "well" -- as shown at left. The spice file you drop onto that well will determine the spice effect's geometry.



Important: To activate a spice file in the CGM Softwipe, be sure to also select "Pattern" in the Method submenu of the CGM Softwipe's Viewer.

  • Fine-tune the effect. Use other controls in the Viewer to further customize the effect. For example, set Softness high to create unique super-soft directional dissolves or subtle organic flowing transitions. To reverse an effect's movement, click the Invert checkbox. Or adjust the Width control to apply a color border or glow.

  • Preview the effect. Use a preview technique in Final Cut Pro that will show rendered effects, such as Option-scrubbing the playhead in the timeline. To switch to a different spice effect, just drag another spice file from the Browser onto the Pattern control.

Tip: To create a favorite spice transition that will retain softness and other settings, choose Modify > Make Favorite Effect while the Viewer is active with the desired effect. Or drag the transition from the Viewer to the Favorites bin in the Effects tab of the Browser. You can then rename it in the Favorites bin.

For More Creative Control:

Final Cut also can control of the position, scale and orientation of any spice effect, and keyframe those over time. How? Double-click in the Browser the imported spice file that you applied in Step 3. The spice file's grayscale image will then appear in the Viewer. Then follow the steps below:

  • To flip the effect horizontally and/or vertically (or both), click the Filters tab in the Viewer, then apply Effects > Video Filters > Perspective > Flop. (If you do this often, consider saving this filter as a Favorite.) Then drop the altered spice onto the CGM Softwipe's Pattern well in the Viewer.

  • To rotate or change the position of the spice effect, click the Motion tab in the Viewer and use the Basic Motion controls (Scale, Rotation, etc.). Or change to "Image and Wireframe" mode (in the Video tab, using the pop-up menu above the image), then drag handles of the image as desired. Then drop the altered spice onto the CGM Softwipe's Pattern well in the Viewer.

How to Organically Flow Other FCP Filters with Spices

Flowing video filters within a clip's image is a powerful way to leverage other FCP filters (built-in or 3rd-party). Pixelan’s organic effects give you hundreds of seamless, adjustable flow geometries that are impossible to create with FCP's other tools.

To flow filters in FCP 3, synch two copies of the SAME clip over each other in adjacent tracks, such as V1 and V2. Apply the CGM Softwipe FILTER to the top clip (yes, it is also available as a filter), AND apply the video filter(s) you want to visually flow with the spice effect. Then keyframe the Phase control in the CGM Softwipe to set the effect's progress over time, and adjust Softness as desired. Too easy… you could do something like flow a color image to a black and white image for example like this:



How about a shot whose color is being “twirled on or off”? I put a bit of an outline on this just to show the edges of the pattern off. Make no mistake, it looks much cooler in motion.



It’s definitely worth the price folks if you are looking for a HUGE addition to your set of tools, imagine just how much time it would take you to create these matte shapes in Photoshop… over 700? Nah…just go to click on the link to the left, and check Pixelan’s efforts out.

I give it 5 cows.

By simply dragging another spice into the well you can choose from over 700 “stock” ways to reveal the color here, then tweak each one to your hearts content. It’s incredibly easy, and the looks you can achieve are endless. How about a title revealed this way? The possibilities of using these mattes for effects is truly endless.



The same set of spices can be used in AE to power numerous effects there --- like Colorama, Shatter, Particle Playground, Displacement Map, Time Displacement, Fog 3D, and Compound Blur, to name a few.

The Spices are already OS X compatible and will never obsolesce nor become incompatible -- even in FCP 10.0 someday…

I’d give you a picture of all of the spice patterns available, but the Cow’s servers might just fill up… you can investigate a demo of them for your selves here: http://www.pixelan.com/products/spices/details.htm



Jerry




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