By Tor Rolf Seemann
Issue: June 1, 2004



PRODUCT: 12 Inch Design's ProductionBlox

PRICE: NTSC/PAL: $249 per volume (3 for $499/5 for $749), HD: $399 per volume (3 for $799/5 for $1,199)


- 35 Looping full-screen animations.

- Matching static left, right and lower thirds, all with alpha channel, in five variations.

- 5 looping animated mattes that can be combined with any other video element.

How would you like your very own virtual motion graphics department? One that doesn't need constant ego reassurance, expensive plug-ins, health insurance, 401Ks or coffee breaks? That's the general idea behind 12 Inch Design's ProductionBlox, a collection of high-quality, royalty-free motion graphics with matching design elements that you can use as building blocks for both professional video and multimedia projects.

Opposed to using "canned" art? Doubtful "buyout" graphics libraries can be any good? Then you haven't been exposed to ProductionBlox. These files were created by professionals for professionals with a distinctive flare for design and post production functionality. The company's founders have more than 20 years of production experience creating content for domestic and international TV networks, Fortune 500 conglomerates, international events and many other businesses. Their work has aired on major networks around the globe. Their artists and editors have produced content for events such as the Nagano Winter Olympics and for companies such as Acura, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, MCA/Universal and Microsoft.

ProductionBlox are used by "Access Hollywood," Comcast, Fox Television Stations, Riot Atlanta, Saatchi & Saatchi, United Airlines and Warner Bros. Animation.


For this review I demo'd "units" three and four and found them to be refreshingly distinct - with a contemporary feel that I hadn't encountered with competing collections. Not only do they cover a variety of visual genres, but they also allow the necessary elements for your project to have a consistent, and dynamic lool - like you'd expect to find in station ID campaigns like MTV's or the Food Network's.

Every volume in the library contains 35 looping full-screen animations, matching static left, right and lower thirds, all with alpha channel, all in five variations (clean, blurred, drop shadow, blurred with drop shadow and a transparency gradient), five looping animated mattes that can be combined with any other video element called "Custo-Mattes," and a Comprehensive volume catalog, including playable DVD, printed booklet and electronic files. Every one of those permutations comes in 32-bit uncompressed Tiff, uncompressed Targa and Photoshop formats. I like to throw each of them on a layer in a Photoshop composition and toggle each one on and off to see which is most desired by the client.

Volumes are available in standard definition (includes NTSC & PAL formats) or high definition. Every clip on every volume is also available for download in NTSC or PAL formats. The consistent naming conventions always refer back to the origin of the units, so there's no confusion as to which file came from which package. The libraries are all royalty free with no per-use license, which makes logging usage unnecessary. HD resolution versions are also available.

12 Inch Design understands that professional users will need to show possible graphical styles to clients before using them. So, in addition to the actual content discs, each unit contains a DVD-Video disc, playable in a standard DVD player, with straightforward navigation to copies of each included motion graphic style. With the DVD, you can look at these blocking blocks in a screening room with a client while you discuss his project. If you are opposed to the 12 Inch Design logo that appears on the DVD, or afraid that your client might think less of you, god-forbid...than you can always create your own DVD from the provided QuickTime files sans bug, or simply show your client the samples within the desired application, sans bug as well.

Each ProductionBlox unit contains five CustoMattes, or eight-bit grayscale mattes. These are meant to be combined with any of the included motion graphics, or with your own graphics or video, to create new, unique motion graphics. You might also combine these CustoMattes with the static thirds to create other gradient transparencies.

All of the motion graphic content files in ProductionBlox are progressive-scan (30fps NTSC/25fps PAL or 24fps HD), full-frame, QuickTime files, losslessly compressed as PNG using the maximum quality setting. As QuickTimes they can be directly imported into almost any nonlinear editing system or, if need be, trancoded using a variety of third-party plug-ins. The PAL and NTSC versions of the movies loaded directly into Premiere, Premiere Pro V.1.5 and Avid's Xpress Pro, as did the mattes.

When it's all said and done, these are good tools that, egos aside, everybody can make good use of in their projects. ProductionBlox units are geared for editors and producers who need to achieve stunning motion graphics on a fiscally tight budget. This is the product's primary market, and it's clear many will find it a time and money saving approach to professional television/Web design. No, it won't put motion graphics boutiques out of business, undoubtedly there will always be a need for custom design work in this industry - but it just might make professional graphics available to the masses at a price we can all stomach.