Motion-graphics professionals who need to create flying logos, title sequences, and special effects should take a close look at Boris Red 2.5, the first OS X-native version of Boris FX’s top-of-the-line motion-graphics package. With high-end compositing, animation, and rotoscoping tools, this version competes head-to-head with products such as Adobe After Effects, Discreet Logic’s Combustion, and Pinnacle Systems’ Commotion.
But Red outdoes its competition by offering all of its power in the form of a plug-in you can use from within a nonlinear editor (NLE) such as Apple’s Final Cut Pro. This spares you the hassle of moving to a separate app to perform motion-graphics tasks. (Red also functions as a stand-alone app.) Though version 2.5’s main new feature is OS X compatibility, this feature alone is worth the upgrade price if you’ve already moved your editing system to OS X.
Red 2.5 requires OS 9.1 or OS X 10.1.5, and in addition to Final Cut Pro, it supports Avid’s Xpress, Xpress DV, Media Composer, Symphony, and Media100, as well as Adobe Premiere. How you access Red depends largely on your host application. In Final Cut Pro, for example, Red appears as a standard Video Generator, so you can add a Red effect to your project by simply dragging it from Final Cut Pro’s Effects Browser into your timeline.
Most plug-ins integrate with a host application’s standard interface, but this isn’t the case with Red, whose four tiled windows and custom menus cover your screen. Via this interface, you reap the benefit of Red’s complex controls and dedicated animation environment, as well as seamless integration between your motion-graphics program and your NLE.
As with all compositing programs, you define composites by stacking layers on top of one another — with Red, this happens in the Composition window. When you create a new layer, you specify the type of media that layer will contain. Red lets you import still images and movies, but it goes much further, allowing you to create layers that contain text, colored gradients, EPS artwork, 3-D shapes, and procedurally generated textures, so you don’t have to create these things in a separate application.
Via a simple pop-up menu, you can also specify the underlying shape of each layer — Red’s shapes include 3-D planes, cubes, and spheres, as well as page turns, a standard motion graphics effect. For example, if you want an imported movie to appear on the face of a cube, you simply make that layer a cube.
Once you’ve set up a layer, you can use Red’s standard Composition window to animate its properties. Red provides a tremendous amount of animation control. You can animate just about all of a layer’s properties, from geometric information to color. The program even lets you animate a layer’s transfer mode, something no other compositing program does. The Controls window’s tabbed interface provides a well-organized display of all the currently selected layer’s properties, making it easy to get to the parameters you want to change.
Our only complaint about Red’s interface is that some properties are buried a little too deep. For example, you can’t change a layer’s name by clicking on it. Rather, you have to choose the Rename Track command from the Track menu. This sort of inefficiency makes Red feel a little less developed than Adobe After Effects.
Writing and Painting
Red’s feature set is impressive on its own, but when you remember that you can access all of this application’s power from inside your video-editing program, Red’s advantage becomes more obvious.
In addition to a powerful titling engine (see “Boris Graffiti 2.1: The Features You Need to Create the Titles You Want”), the program includes a full vector-painting environment. You can use standard spline tools and Red’s Vector Paint feature to create animated shapes or to perform masking and rotoscoping to isolate individual elements in your layers. If you have complex rotoscoping needs, you’ll be better off with a rotoscoping package such as Commotion, but for simple touch-ups and masks, Red is a good solution.
Red’s other effects run the gamut from standard filters, such as blurs and color correction, to particle effects, distortion, keying, and motion tracking. All of Red’s effects provide more settings than those in most other packages. The Blur filters, for example, include special controls for accelerating rendering times — and all parameters can be animated, so you can change effects over time.
Taking Red for a Spin
Red’s 3-D capabilities are unparalleled in any other compositing application. Red not only lets you move any layer in 3-D space, but also automatically extrude text or imported EPS files into fully beveled and textured 3-D shapes. For motion-graphics professionals, Red is unequivocally the fastest, easiest way to turn simple images into 3-D animations and flying logos.
Boris FX has done an impressive job of packing professional 3-D-rendering features into version 2.5. Multiple light sources, procedural textures, animated texture maps, shadow casting — they’re all there and easy to use. Though pros will be pleased with Red’s 3-D power, there are still some additions we’d like to see — the most important is the ability to make a light point at and track an object automatically.
Red offers speedy render times in OS X — comparable to the performance of other compositing programs — and its output quality is top-notch. We tested it in OS X 10.2 and experienced a good number of inexplicable crashes, but Boris claims it has better stability in 10.1.5. (A 10.2 patch should be available by the time you read this.)
Macworld’s Buying Advice
For 90 percent of the effects that broadcast professionals create — effects that would traditionally be accomplished with digital-video-effects hardware — Boris Red 2.5 delivers the necessary power and puts it where it’s most useful: in your video-editing program. If you regularly create titles or motion-graphics effects, Red’s feature set and NLE integration make it indispensable.
Boris Graffiti 2.1: The Features You Need to Create the Titles You Want
If your motion-graphics needs are limited to titles and animated 3-D text, Boris Graffiti 2.1 may have all the power you need. Geared toward video pros who either make do with the anemic titling tools in their NLEs or use a combination of programs to generate titles and 3-D work, Graffiti is basically Red’s vector titling engine packaged separately.
Like Red, Graffiti can operate as a stand-alone program or as a plug-in for your NLE. It also shares Red’s integration with all major NLEs, as well as Red’s high-quality vector text rendering. Moreover, if you’ve used the Boris Calligraphy titling program included with Final Cut Pro, you’ll feel right at home with Graffiti.
You perform the bulk of your titling work in Graffiti’s Text Window. From there, you can enter your text and specify colors, edges, and drop shadows, as well as control all typographic functions, including kerning and leading.
Graffiti’s typographic controls are comprehensive and easy to use. Performance gets a little sluggish as your titles get more complex, but in our tests, running OS X 10.2, the program never bogged down to the point of being unusable.
Graffiti provides Red’s excellent Style Palette, which lets you save your text formatting as a style sheet that can be easily applied to other titles, helping you maintain consistency across projects. In addition, Graffiti packs Red’s great Composition window, where you animate a layer’s properties, and it provides all of Red’s 3-D functionality, so you can easily extrude titles into 3-D objects and animate all titles–2-D or 3-D–in true 3-D space.
Graffiti offers multiple light sources, beveling, shadows, and texture-mapping controls that allow you to apply separate textures to the front, back, and sides of a 3-D text object. Other standout features include the ability to easily animate text along a path, automatic roll generation, and one-click creation of type-on-text effects.
While you’ll have access to all of Red’s powerful animation controls in Graffiti, you’ll also run into the same interface issues–getting to frequently used parameters and controls can require a tedious series of clicks. Interface issues aside, Graffiti provides a full-featured, first-rate set of tools for creating 2-D and 3-D animated text. If you regularly find yourself using an image editor and compositing app to create titles, Graffiti will be a great time-saver.