PRODUCT: TotalFX for Avid Media Composer (also supports Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Blackmagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve, Grass Valley Edius and Sony Vegas Professional
PRICE: $1,499 (with substantial discounts for owners of previous NewBlueFX products.
- 1400 presets in 129 plug-ins
- Titler Pro 3 adds more power to the package
- Entire effects line totally reworked for speed and power
- New App Manager streamlines installation and offers other features
- Many unique looks that give bold new stylizations
In July 2008, I reviewed NewBlueFX's first foray into the AVX world...simply called NewBlueFX. This was at a time when third-party support for Media Composer was on a bit of a decline and I was interested in finding out about this little company that was taking a chance with Avid when they were already successfully supplying filters for several other platforms.
At the time, I found the collections to be a kind of “Wild West” assortment of various FX, ranging from transitions to “looks” to motion effects with a wide (and somewhat rambunctious) scattering of oddities in between. While unique, it was sometime hard to separate the wheat from the chaff as startling new effects were intermixed with a lot of retro and “blah” looks not quite up to primetime standards, and there was little organization between them.
What a difference a few years makes!
Redesigned and retooled (along with NewBlue's dynamic new Website) TotalFX is a complete overhaul and repackaging of their entire line, including the robust Titler 3 — itself a capable, powerful titling solution. The entire suite adds up to a comprehensive and expansive collection. It puts all previous suites under one umbrella and adds some new tricks. If you are a previous NewBlueFX user/purchaser, NBFX offers substantial discounts for upgrading to this new release.
There's a lot of reworking under the hood.
NewBlue went through their entire collection of effects with a fine-toothed comb, throwing out a lot of questionable oddities, obsolete and redundant effects, reorganizing the myriad groups into useful and descriptive categories, streamlining, retooling code, adding more control and, especially useful, adding a ton of new presets.
Additionally, all effects are resolution independent and are 100 percent GPU accelerated and anti-aliased. Also added are drop-shadows on 3D effects. And, as is the trend through the industry, almost all effects are realtime. Top that off with Titler 3 and you have a very capable package of effects.
I can't call this a wholly-new product, more of a comprehensive upgrade. Nonetheless, it has a lot of power packed into a tidier package.
Perhaps one of the best features of this new implementation is the creation of a robust Application Manager. (Those acquainted with Avid's new App Manager will find a lot of similarities.)
The App Manager allows easy installation, activation and record keeping of what NewBlueFX products you already have, version numbers and activation codes. It also makes it easy to get upgrades or other products in the NewBlue family. This is a welcome new development — I hope to see other manufacturers follow suit.
When I wrote the initial review, I noted many unique looks, especially in transitions that weren't seen in other packages: stylizations that could be customized to give a show it's own distinct signature. They are still apparent here, and I'm still surprised more editors and shows aren't noticing. You have a lot to play with.
The entire suite is broken down into six self-explanatory groups:
ELEMENTS: Consists of 21 compositing tools, including a powerful chroma keyer, drop shadow generator, various split screen and PIP effects, a very useful and oft-requested video camera reticle generator, clocks and timers. Of note is the Active Camera filter, which effectively simulates handheld camera weave without having to add keyframes. Reflection also simplifies the process to create the popular mirrored reflections now in vogue.
ESSENTIALS: Incorporates 24 plug-ins in a veritable Swiss Army knife for common video needs ranging from color correction, lens correction, flash remover, skin enhancer, various video scopes for image analysis, selective focus, detail and edge enhancers, various proportion templates, legal level metering and much more.
FILTERS: With 22 effects with 250 presets (Including Colorfast — a really nice and effective white balancer), this package has a variety of image processing tricks ranging from fully adjustable Tilt-Shift and film stock looks to OK TV raster effects, lens distortion and an excellent Vignette drop-on. (I would like to see future attention paid to adding more film and video artifacts in this package.) Also missing are digital damage artifacts, digital noise...things that are hugely popular in post today. Despite these oversights, it's still a strong package, especially for the money.
STYLIZERS: Incorporating 23 filters with 250 presets. As an editor, I found a few unusual gems in here. From subtle painting effects to esoteric cartooning, there a vast array of looks — both surreal and impressionistic. I found RGB Shift to be one of the more contemporary and useful filters — breaking apart the channels is a great sci-fi'ey trend. There are some nice light ray effects as well as zoom blurs. Frame Rate turns your moving video into an array of stills, an effect that used to be very time intensive. Stylizers is the main module to create your unique look.
TRANSITIONS: It seems all the major filter companies are doing much more with transitions as increasing numbers of productions want to sizzle up their looks. NewBlue offers 37 transitions that run the gamut from light rays to RGB offsets, film rolls to glows with plenty of presets There is a lot of uniqueness here but, honestly I'd like to see even more additions — fluttercuts, edgier transitions, digital noise and static, along with greater diversity in control parameters.
LAST BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST: TITLER PRO 3
When I first reviewed Titler Pro in 2012, I reflected that this should have been what Avid's long-standing and outmoded Title Tool should have been in the first place. It's only gotten better and stronger with time and in many ways has supplanted the Title Tool.
Avid's wise decision to bundle Titler 1 with Media Composer is resulting in more user acceptance, and Titler Pro 3's integration into the TotalFX package is a powerful reason to take a closer look at this suite. Other filter suites do have a titling solution, but (in my mind) are not as elegant, simple or feature-laden. They've added a number of slick lower third animated presets to give professional titling options. Probably the strongest addition is the Quick Edit function that allows you to make global changes to templates quickly and easily changing things like color, font, animation and other variables.
Add to that 3D text layers, 3D space, drag 'n drop animation, the ability to add effects to style layers, motion blur, reflection, multiple light sourcing, stereoscopic output and many more options including a slew of style collections, integration with After Effects and you have one of the best titling solutions that works within the Media Composer environment that's around. (It also includes a standalone version that works independently of Avid. A great solution for graphics departments!)
One huge feature not seen in other packages is the ability to incorporate bi-directional font support for right-to-left languages like Hebrew, Arabic and others. Quite a breakthrough. All in all, just having Titler comes closer to justifying the $1,499 price tag.
One more thing worth mentioning is the huge amount of retooling the NewBlueFX Website has undergone in conjunction with releasing TotalFX. Every effect has it's own demo movie. It's done in a fresh, highly colorful and dynamically-visual style. I found it extremely easy to navigate and find answers to lots of questions. As a relatively young company, NewBlue has shown an unusual degree of responsiveness to end-user requests, and I imagine future users as well.
WHAT I'D LIKE TO SEE
With the inclusion of Titler 3, TotalFX is much more than just a filter set, but it's not exactly cheap. I could see how previous owners of NewBlueFX, having already invested in these previous products, might balk at putting out so much for an upgrade, even one as reworked as TotalFX. Because of that, NewBlue is offering substantial discounts to previous buyers of NBFX products.
Can TotalFX can totally replace the top competitors? It depends on what you need. I think it's an incredible set for the journeyman editor for show work and some compositing. It gives me an arsenal of powerful tools, many versatile and oft-used effects, a killer titling app, many handy utilities not seen in other packages, and lots of unique looks, but, frankly it does not include everything I'd like to have. What would these be?
I'd like to see NewBlue incorporate a dynamically-interactive preset/preview browser that shows the effect a filter will have on the current video, more light effects, digital artifacting generators, timing, particle, and blur effects, and other contemporary transitions (fluttercuts, defocusing, etc), as well as more 3D compositing tools, including depth mapping capabilities. But, as an editor, I always want more!
Despite this, I think every editor should trial download this suite, see the uniqueness of many of the filters, run Titler 3 through its paces, then decide for yourself. As a professional investment, I feel it's well worth the price.