Edit Review: Boris Continuum Complete 5

 From the Briefing Room

Using the BCC Chroma Key filter

Boris Continuum Complete 5 comes with 180 filters, which cover a wide range of uses and effects.

Boris' package of compositing effects plug-ins has been around for years. Boris Continuum Complete 5 (BCC) comprises 180 filters, and it's available for Adobe After Effects (AE), Avid NLEs, and Autodesk Combustion. A new edition specifically for Apple's new FxPlug architecture means the package works with Final Cut Pro and Motion.

I looked at the AE and Apple variations of the plug-in package, which function the same on both platforms. Boris has added a handful of new plug-ins for the new version, and many of them alone are worth the price of an upgrade. The product has a huge array of effects in many categories, including lights, generators, colors, blurs, distortion, perspective, keying, mattes, and wipes. The group pretty much embodies bread-and-butter video effects plugs-ins. Many are basic starters that you go to again and again. Some will be duplicates or variations of effects that ship with your software; however, there are many in the group that are not found in any Apple or Adobe product. Also, several work with OpenGL, meaning that the load is on the GPU and not the CPU. Many effects shipping within a software program cannot claim this. The Boris plug-ins support multi-processor CPUs — again, the plug-ins you already have might not be multi-threaded.

Although the plug-in functions almost identically in After Effects and in Final Cut Pro/Motion, the Apple version of this package allows users to work in YUV format and in 16-bit/32-bit color space. The advantage of these modes is the deeper color processing. These options are no doubt included in the Apple version because the filters were written in the FxPlug format more recently, whereas the older After Effects plug-ins contain legacy code and don't support 16- or32-bit color. Worth noting, too, is that the FxPlug Boris package conforms to the heads-up display (HUD) work style, which uses requestor boxes for the tweaking of parameters. Boris Continuum Complete 5 for Motion makes those attractive heads-up displays prevalent throughout the program, and they can make adjustments more intuitive for some users. Aside from these differences, the packages function pretty much the same.

New to this version are 10 effects that range from standard to amazing tools that could stand alone as a software program. One of my favorites is the new BCC Pan-and-Zoom filter. As you might guess, it grants your animation program the power of Ken Burns documentary-style movement over stills. (Burns somehow got credit for a technique used since the dawn of motion pictures; regardless, it's a feature many of us want.) There are similar tools out there for After Effects, and I have found them clunky, limited, and not very intuitive. This pan-and-zoom filter from Boris gets it right, with built-in presets, manual or automatic modes, and an onscreen HUD widget that allows precise tweaking for fantastic results.

Also new is the BCC UpRez filter. This does a great job of scaling up SD clips and images when working on an HD project. Of course you can't squeeze HD out of SD, but the plug-in does a good job with various presets for smoothing and sharpening. I was able to use this right away for my video podcast and HD-resolution web shows. My current problem is that when we get a new sponsor, the client invariably sends a spot that is standard-def, so I have to scale it up to fit an HD screen for Apple TV and HD deployment over the Web. UpRez does a good job of making it look better. I like the fact that the sharpening is variable, so I can increase or decrease on the fly depending on the source material.

The BCC Matchmove filter is a new effect that lets you lock one video clip to the movement of another clip, and it includes DVE effects for moving in 3D space. For example, you could map a video onto the side of a moving bus, or pop content onto the screen of a television around which a camera is panning. Lots of possibilities, and it's perfect if you do this kind of compositing.

The BCC LED filter is very cool. It lets you take an image and transform it into an array of solid or blinking dots. You can tint the whole image and play with many parameters to resize and animate the dots. Go ahead, add a glow or zoom into the “LED” lights; it's a very cool effect with a lot of possibilities. BCC Color Choker posterizes and blurs colors to create subtle or dramatic tints for your clips. With a little experimentation, you can apply The Matrix's green and blue silvery hues, or turn a warm sunset into an icy cold landscape. Presets get you started, and subtle changes to the parameters can take you in lots of different tint directions. BCC Prism Filter recreates the photo effect of chromatic aberration. It's a pretty wild effect — it lets you twist and rotate the colors.

Rounding out the group of new effects are some standard but useful ones, including BCC Scanline, BCC Damaged TV, BCC Turbulence, and BCC Noise Map 2. All of the filters work great, and the ones I highlighted above definitely make the package very attractive. A good filter does something unique and facilitates creativity, and I would say at least half of the 10 new filters here can make that claim. As for the rest of the large group, many have been around so long that they are outdone by some built-in filters or competing third-party offerings. You can't beat the Boris Continuum Complete 5 package, though, for one-stop shopping and a well-rounded, comprehensive suite of powerful tools. FxPlug support is very encouraging, showing that Boris is continuing to play in the Apple landscape. There are a few FxPlug plug-ins available, but there should be a lot more to complement Final Cut Pro and Motion. Continuum's support is certainly auspicious.

Continuum has been around so long, it is to compositing programs what Kai's Power Tools is to Adobe Photoshop. Not exactly a trailblazer in 2007, but very usable. Moreover, the addition of 10 new filters — as well as its support for OpenGL, dual processors, and FxPlug for Mac apps — has breathed new life into this package.

Boris Continuum Complete 5 is a worthy addition to your creative arsenal, no matter what program or platform you use.


Company: Boris

Product: Continuum Complete 5

Assets: A wide range of new filters, support for OpenGL, dual processors, and FxPlug for Mac apps.

Caveats: Some of the new filters are outdone by built-in filters or third-party offerings.

Demographic: Anyone interested in creative compositing effects on any platform.

PRICE: $895 (FULL); $295 (UPGRADES)

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