I am a heavy After Effects user that is constantly on the lookout for plug-ins to make daily life at a television station a little easier. A year or so ago I was browsing on Digital Anarchy's website and saw something that caught my eyea new product called "Chaos Stock." At the station, we already have several volumes of Digital Juice and 12" Design, but here was something from Digital Anarchy that not only included 20 or so royalty-free animated backgrounds, but also the After Effects projects that were used to make them. That got the wheels spinning.
I've always been a little intrigued about how things were built and put together. As a kid, I'd tear things apart to take a look insideeventually learning to unplug the device first. ("Nice hair, Tim. Didn't know you wanted a ‘fro.") And yes, there were always a few more screws left over after putting the things back together.
(Back to After Effects) Here was a product that I could tear apart digitallyand not worry about electricity. I could get "inside the mind" of a great designer and plug-in developer, and see how they create.
The content came and I was off to the races. Here's what I found:
Volume 1 ($199 SD-only, $329 bundle with "Text Anarchy"plug-in)
The first volume of "Chaos Stock" contains 20 pre-rendered Quicktimes (PhotoJPEG, 720 x 486). The "finished" (already rendered) files are ready to drop into an NLE timeline. Many of these background animations worked great as-is.
The real power, however, I quickly found out was in loading up the AE project files. After loading up one of them, I was greeted with the info that the project would be converted from an AE 5.5 Mac project (you're pretty safe with regards to what version of AE you're working with.) I was then informed that I needed to have Digital Anarchy's "Text Anarchy" plug-ins installed. ($149 on DA's website.) Again, not a problem for us as we've got just about everything they make. If you DON'T have this cool plug-in, the only way to work Chaos Stock Volume 1 with the AE files is to load up the demo plug-ins and accompanying watermarks.
One of the projects that stood out to me was #19, that I was immediately able to use as-is for a football promo. With a few tweaks on the original, I was able to do this knock out a custom motion title.
Overall, Volume 1 has some pretty cool stuffmany to use by themselves and many that are easily modified to fit into your own style.
Volume 2 ($349 SD, $499 HD)
While Volume 1's projects were dependent on Digital Anarchy's "Text Anarchy" plug-ins, the requirement for Volume 2 projects is simply After Effects Pro 6.5 and with the Cycore plug-ins. (There are many AE users that have these awesome plug-ins still residing on their install discs, not on their computersit's a separate install.)
This "requirement" is nicehelping many of us learn about effects we don't fully utilize. For example, Volume 2's project #18 contains reference to "CC Cylinder", a nifty effect that turns flat images into, well, cylinders. It was nice to see how to take a big precomp with alpha channels and turn it into slow rotating cylinder as texture for the background. Instant ideas for future projects.
The file sizes of the projects are tinyabout 11mb for all 18 HD AEP's. Digital Anarchy pretty much creates from scratch what they can within the program. The projects not only include comps for the full-screen backgrounds, but many have separate comps for lower thirds and side thirds. Similar in a way to Digital Juice's Editor's Tool Kit content.
I also liked the way they left a bunch of de-selected effects attached to the clips/solids/precomps. I was able to turn these effects on and off to see more variations and ways to use these comps. Nice touch to leave these in.
Also included in there is a bunch of miscellaneous projects to give you some ideas and extra content. The extra ideas come in handy for other projects. It's nice having some unadvertised freebies in there.
A few days ago, at the station we needed to create a quick promo on a new crime-solving technique. We needed a subtle background that worked well with the subject matter. Volume 2 had a nice piece (see image above) that worked out great. Load up the AE project, render out the loop, and export--all within a couple minutes. A few scenarios like this and the package will pay for itself.
While Digital Anarchy's "Chaos Stock" is an innovative product, this idea is not entirely new. Roland Kahlenberg (www.broadcastgems.com) and Mark Coleran (www.layerlab.com) both have similar products out that include AEP projects. These other packages have some great content, and should be considered when looking for customizable stock content.
As with many buy-out animation packages, there is a sort of similar look and feel to many of these Chaos Stock Vol. 2 animations. As AE users, don't be fooled by this. Within a couple of minutes you can turn things completely around with very little effort. Don't look at the projects as "end renders," look at them as "starting points." Once you get the hang of changing things around to fit your specific art directions, you will quickly see the power of "Chaos Stock."
I'm not sure I'd categorize this as a gripe, but it might be a bit of an annoyance for people who don't read the requirements of Volume 1. As stated before, the AEP files (not the finished Quicktimes) require the "Text Anarchy" plug-ins. (There's a bundle available of Chaos Stock + the plug-in for $329.) If you only need the rendered files, no worries here. This plug-in was released before AE's current text engine was created, and at the time it really opened up what you could do with text. I think it's worth purchasing, though to be able to tweak the content.
I think "Chaos Stock Volumes 1 & 2" are a great buyeither as a set or individually. The price starts to get a little steep for the HD stuff, but given the cost of HD productions, I didn't find this very prohibitive. The only real issue I had was with the accountant on whether to classify this as "stock footage" or as an "education expense." Great stuff. Four cows out of five. High recommendation.
For more information or to buy, click here.