Boris RED 2.1 -- broadcast designer Mark Harvey reports
Boris RED 2.1 -- broadcast designer Mark Harvey reports

A Software Review

Mark Harvey <>
RDS Television, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Article Focus:
In this article, Mark Harvey explores the latest version of Boris Red, version 2.1. Mark opens by stating that no matter what you know about Boris Red, throw it out because this is a whole new Red -- far beyond anything that Boris & Company have ever released before. In this review, Mark Harvey explains the ins and outs of these new features and why they make this such an important upgrade for Red users.

Forget everything you think you know about previous versions of Boris FX, even Red 2.0. Boris Red 2.1 is a whole new beast. It's stable, it's FAST! -- and it's loaded with powerful new features that completely change what you can do inside your NLE.

I am a broadcast editor and have been for a few years now. I started on tape, with a production switcher and 3 channel DVE -- quite a nice set up for a tape room. I worked my way up to become senior editor at the network I work for (RDS, the first all-French, all-sports network in the world).

An Editors Interface...

When I received my nonlinear training, the person training us didn't even want to show us Boris and said it was slow -- maybe he was right at the time -- but Boris intrigued me. From the first time I looked at it, the controls felt like they were conceived with the editor in mind. The layout of the Controls window (seen here) reminds me of how straightforward the DVE boxes in the old tape suites were, but Boris let me do so much more. So I decided to learn it anyway. I'm glad I did.

Boris was very fast to learn. Everything just made sense and in no time I was pulling beautiful keys and making some pretty slick transitions. And by staying inside my NLE to build effects, I found I was moving much faster than ever before. (Red works inside all the major NLEs on both platforms, inside a whole bunch of minor ones, and inside AE.)

We also invested in Tim Wilson's training tapes from Desktop Images. We felt that we really got our monies worth with these tapes. Tim does a great job of explaining the fundamentals of the Boris line of products, as well as providing some very handy advanced tips along the way.

Now, I have been using these products for only a couple of years but I feel very confident using them.  The controls window is nicely laid out with tabs for the various sub menus. (See above.) How come nobody else has this? It really makes building effects a very fast process.

The timeline is clear and easy to use and now with Red 2.1, you can actually set the ins and outs of your previews. Best of all, when I use the Boris line of products inside my NLE, I can see my work on my NTSC monitor and scopes -- and I don't have to worry about how to get footage in and out of an effects application. It's all there in Red.

I spoke earlier of the speed of Boris. Maybe for some things, some would argue it used to be a little slow. This cannot be said of Red 2.1. Render times are dramatically faster, especially when using the stand alone Red Engine.

That's right, Red 2.1 comes with a stand-alone render engine. This is a little like the keyframer concept in that you don't have to be inside your NLE to work on your effects, but the engine goes beyond the keyframer in that you can actually render your work. The engine can only be installed on your main system as you need a dongle to run it, but Red 2.1 still ships with the keyframer, so you can still work offline on your effects on as many computers as you want, PC or Mac. You can save your settings, and because they are so small you can e-mail them. Also effects created on PC will work on a Mac and vice-versa.

Boris Red 2.1's Increased Speed

Some nifty features have been added to increase the speed of working. New buttons have been added that perform various tasks, such as creating new tracks, buttons for favourite filters, and one of my favourites -- a button that toggles between animated keyframes and constant interpolation, where parameters stay the same for the whole effect. This really saves a lot of time. No more changing interpolations one by one, or changing the default interpolation in the preferences every two minutes.

There is also a color bar that you can use with the color pickers to quickly select a color. This handy swatch is also available in the text window. It really makes selecting colors for backgrounds, gradients, text, borders or anything else that uses color a breeze.

I should also mention that redraw times have also been dramatically improved, quite often they are instantaneous. To speed things up, you can now select multiple tracks, or multiple objects in the Composite window and manipulate them all together. Of course, you still have the option of dropping them into a 3D container and manipulating it.

The text window has seen some dramatic increases in speed also. It opens up much quicker, and also refreshes much quicker. I have heard that it will support Chinese and other Asian fonts, but in all honesty, I haven't tried this, so I cannot confirm it.

Text Effects

The text effects in Red 2.1 are awesome. They can be programmed very quickly, in fact by changing one keyframe -- that of the "Text Type On" -- you can create an animation. Quick and painless. Add a skew or play with the scale properties, and your text animation begins to look more complex. Draw a Vector Path track and you can quickly have your text writing on and following your path.

Honestly, all of this takes literally a minute to set up, and looks great. You can build title animations in a few clicks that would take forever to do in AE, if you could do them at all. The one here has only two added keyframes.

View Type Movie (1.5mb)

Still not impressed? Red builds all its text with vectors. Type 24 point text, then scale up  to 3000% and check out the edges. You'll see an example of this below. You will no longer have to create text in Illustrator, or worse, go BACK to Illustrator to create more outlines when you need to change the words. The vector text in Red is real text, not just outlines, so you can edit any time.

 I showed this feature to one of our Chyron operators, it blew his mind. Sure he can convert fonts in his Chyron, but quite often we run into problems with accents not showing up. (Remember, we work in French.) All of the accents show up perfectly in Red.

Text can also be extruded in Red, as can paths and vector shapes drawn in Red. Materials can be added to the faces of these extrusions, as can video, reflection maps, gradients, other tracks, and just about anything you can think of.  Also other tracks can be mapped to the faces of these extrusions, so not only can you animate the 3d object, but you can also animate the fill of these objects. You can imagine the power that puts at your fingertips.

You can also intersect these 3D extrusions in Z space using a 3D container and by changing the renderer to 3D model. Add a little 3D light, or maybe some shadows that reflect from one element to the other, and you can have some really fine looking 3D animations. Remember that even though you can manipulate these shapes as a whole, you still have access to each layer individually, so you can really go wild animating these layers. Trust me, all of this is very easy to perform, as are most things in Red 2.1. (I took the movie below from the Boris website.)

View Extruded Text Movie (4mb)

I have no formal training in 3D, and to perfectly honest, I have really hard time wrapping my head around the 3D in AE. Now I'm not shooting down AE, I use it every day, it is a great program -- but with the release of Red 2.1, I find that I need it less and less. The 3D in Boris just makes sense to me. If I want an image to tumble in 3D, well I just adjust the tumble property and voila, it's tumbling. If I want to extrude some text or a spline that I have created in Boris, I just change the layer to 3d extrusion. If I want to add camera movements or lights, they are all there as well.

After using AE for about 75% of my work, it's down to about half that now, and dropping as I use Red more and more. If Boris Red would let me import my Media100 timeline as After Effects does, I think that I would use Red exclusively.

Red also has composite modes which are similar to the Transfer Modes in AE. Where the fun really begins is when you start using two of them and mixing between them. That's unique to Red and the other Boris products. Nobody else will let you animate composite modes and mix them in one layer. Certainly not AE.

Red Filters & Plug-ins...

Red also supports third party AE plug-ins in your NLE (a list of the supported plug-ins is available on the Boris website and all the big names are there). By the way, try running Cinelook inside the Red engine. It runs much faster than it did in AE, but I can't even use it in AE 5 anymore without crashing. Red's the only place I use Cinelook at all now. (Editor's note: DigiEffects has now updated Cinelook to make it compatible with later releases of AE.)

            But enough about third party plug-ins, Boris has some pretty nifty features that come with it. How about a powerful motion tracker that lets you use several trackers to get the most precise result. There is also a corner pin tracker, as well as a motion stabilizer. All three filters have sub-pixel accuracy.

Red ships with a powerful velocity remap filter. This filter allows you to set up specific keyframes for playback percentages. It is really easy to use and allows you to do some very nice speed ramping directly in your NLE. You can also add some temporal blur directly in this filter, or if you don't want to play with the speed, you can add the temporal filter on it's own.

Of course Red 2.1 still ships with all of the blur filters and powerful keying filters that it is known for. It is really a very complete package.

Boris Technical Support, Manual & The Red Intelligent Assistant

            Boris FX have always given their customers great technical support, probably the best in the business. While other companies are charging over two thousand dollars a year for their support packages, Boris gives free tech support, and the support I have always received has been excellent.

It's getting even better now. Red 2.1 now ships with the Intelligent Assistant. This help program is outstanding. Philip Hodgetts makes Intelligent Assistants for AE, Final Cut Pro and Media 100 among others and they cost up to $295. The one for Red is included free. It contains hours of video and pages upon pages of help text. As Philip says, it is like having an expert right there with you. I am still in shock that this came free with the update -- but hey, if they want to give it to us, I'm all for it. Congrats Philip, you and your staff did a nice job on this.

Red 2.1 also has a monster of a manual -- 886 pages of info, much more than previous offerings. While there have been some additions made to the tutorials section, I think that still more could be added. Hopefully some of us will be able to get some ready for the cow. With these two new tools at our disposition, I think that the tech support at Boris will begin to look a little like the guy in the Maytag commercial, waiting for the phone to ring.

            Also shipping free with Red 2.1, are five fully functional Digieffects plugins from the Delirium line up. These are: Bubbles, Day for Night, Electrical Arcs, Fireworks and Fog Factory, Tim Wilson explains these filters on the Borisfx website. I have had a few issues with these plugs corrupting certain projects, so in general, I am not using them.

Red's Paint Functions

All paint created in Red is animatable. You create your paint with the brush or pencil with fill on or off, multiple outlines, shadows, etc. You can use it to mask stuff, reveal stuff, fix stuff, anything your heart desires. Animate color, brush size, save favourite brushes, animate it using bezier handles -- its that easy -- and much more flexible than AE's. Now, I don't pretend to be an expert in AE, as I said I use it regularly, but I avoid the paint. It seems that there are less options, well less that actually make sense to me, anyways. I don't think that you can extrude AE's paint either.

Because you can put paint on a layer, you can also transform it using position, scale etc.  You can also animate the brush to create wipe-on effects, you can make awesome transitions using the animated brush as a mask on a layer. You can even extrude your animated strokes. You've seen a lot of paint programs, but you haven't seen all this before.

View Paint FX Movie (1.5mb)


            Although I am only scratching the surface of this new offering from Boris, I hope that my comments will help pique some curiosity about this fine product. I could spend hours and pages upon pages writing about the features, the paint, the rotoscoping, the filters, the speed, the style palette, and so much more -- but I promised that this review would be kept short. For a full tour and detailed explanation of the new features, please visit the Boris FX site.

            In closing, I would like to say, that I am nuts about this product. I have always said of Boris products: "If I can think it, I can do it in Boris," and I believe that statement is even more true with Red 2.1. I would highly recommend this product to any editor who wants some powerful tools in their NLE.


-- Mark Harvey


You can interact with Mark Harvey online in the Cow's Boris FX forum

©2002 by Mark Harvey and All rights are reserved.

Click here to visit Creative COW's user forums and many other articles if you got here by a direct link to this page