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FreeForm Pro: Setting new standards in After Effects for 3D Compositing & Visual Effects

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CreativeCOW presents FreeForm Pro: Setting new standards in After Effects for 3D Compositing & Visual Effects -- Freeform Pro Review


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Product ImageThe following comment came from one of the COW members after seeing a tutorial using FreeForm -- 3D from 2D Image Using Displacement Maps: "One would expect these results from Nuke, Fusion or even a 3d app, but not from the flat cards of AE."

For those of you already familiar with FreeForm, the 3d deformation and 3d displacement plug-in that is bundled with AE CS5, FreeForm Pro will be a very pleasant surprise. If you are not familiar with FreeForm at all, then FreeForm Pro will be a BIG surprise.

At first glance, it looks like a flat 2d plane in 3d space. It also seems that all you can do is travel in and out, and side to side with the camera… much like AE's 3D layers. The similarity ends there! Unlike After Effects 3D layers, FreeForm Pro's true 3d deformations and 3d displacement enable you to do so much more! To begin with, FreeForm Pro is tightly integrated into AE's 3D space -- one of the tightest integration of AE 3D plug-ins that I have used to date, and I have worked with pretty much all of them. FreeForm Pro works beautifully with AE's camera and lights. You can even select the layer and move it around! This would usually cause clipping in other 3D plug-ins, that also need to stay centred in the comp window and not budge.

The skeptics out there may say: "You can't do real 3D with this… after all AE is just 2.5D!" I beg to differ, FreeForm Pro runs in its own proprietary 3D engine, and it is most definitely 3D. FreeForm Pro uses Adaptive Tessellation, true 3D displacement, Reflection Mapping, and Renders Depth Maps for use with other plug-ins, like Trapcode's Particular and Frischluft's "Lenscare" etc.


Adaptive vs. Uniform tessellation Adaptive vs. Uniform tessellation
Adaptive vs. Uniform tessellation


The practical applications of FreeForm Pro are obvious, 3D flags, banners, ribbons and just some plain old 3D warping fun. FreeForm Pro goes way beyond that! You can use it to create 3D curved background plates for Virtual sets. Another new, and practical feature is the ability to add expressions and tracking data to the control points. The list goes on and on…

Creative uses are really only limited by your imagination.


FreeForm Pro Ocean
FreeForm Pro Ocean


This is all well and good, but the real fun begins with FreeForm Pro's built in "Generator". You can multiply the instances of your 3d objects; have dice rolling in slow motion, create true 3d tunnels you can fly through, fly over a virtual city on the grid, amazing abstracts, the list goes on and on. Here are more examples:


Rolling Dice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfZAxFR8n6Y



Grid Tunnel video above


Abstracts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIhNaInqQCU


FreeForm Pro Grid City
FreeForm Pro Grid City: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS9OnPc0YxY


Statue Head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A68RIwVZJZQ

Strange Creatures (Quetzacoatl submerged): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-14fPHHeso

Red Curtain (and wall): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvR2YiBqwQM


So how fast is it? That would be a sensible question to ask. It's fast enough to allow you to unleash your creativity, and FreeForm Pro is full of features to experiment with. The built-in Generator is fun to work with and instantly rewarding. It is almost a particle system (of sorts), and the permutations and possibilities are just endless.

I tested FreeForm Pro on an Alienware MX17, i7 eight cores, 8Gb RAM, dual ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5800. I imagine it would be even faster on higher end GPU's with more VRAM, since FreeForm Pro runs completely on the GPU. I was able to have four layers with FreeForm Pro (3d transparency, High Anti-aliasing, Full render quality, 256 subdivisions and 7 instances of each layer -- that is 28 HD 3D layers all told) and animate the camera without waiting for a refresh. Render took about 5 minutes for 5 seconds of HD, 1080p 25fps, 32bpc, with Glow, gaussian blurs, Cell Generator, Mesh Warp, and Color Grading. In my book that is pretty fast.

Don't take my word for it. You can download a trial version of the plugin and a benchmark project at the link below and see for yourselves: http://www.mettle.com/Products/FreeForm-Pro.php

Would I recommend moving up to FreeForm Pro? Definitely! At $299.00 I think the new features that Mettle has added to FreeFormPro make it well worth while, The built in "Generator" is almost a plug-in unto itself -- the cherry on top of the cake, if you will. 5 out of 5 Cows is my rating for FreeForm Pro.

Minimum Requirements are exactly as per AE CS5 (and later) with the exception of the GPU. Minimum GPU = 512mb VRAM but FreeForm Pro really sings on 1GB of VRAM or more.

FreeForm Pro is available at: http://www.mettle.com/Products/FreeForm-Pro.php



by Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist
Senior Media Specialist
JWC NATO
Stavanger, Norway


Comments

Re: FreeForm Pro: Setting new standards in After Effects for 3D Compositing & Visual Effects
by Razvan Nicolescu
A pertinent review from a man who knows what is doing and what is saying. I've worked 9 years in the same team with him and I can say that this article was wrote by a Professional (capital P it isn't wrong!).


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