Review: Noise Industries FxFactory Pro
FxFactory Pro from Noise Industries is a package of expertly designed, powerful plug-ins that generates digital effects for Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Apple Motion on the Mac OS X platform. The 145 digital effects are great, but there is much more happening here. The plug-ins use the Apple FxPlug format, and FxFactory which serves as a host for all the included plug-ins. You can download more from within the program, get a free trial of additional plug-ins or plug-in sets, and even tweak or create your own plug-ins using the software along with Apple Quartz Composer. That last capability allows creative artists to finally produce their dream plug-ins by simply using drag-and-drop methods, without learning a single line of code.
It gets better. All the effects are hardware-accelerated, meaning they exploit your Mac's GPU for lightning-fast previews and rendering. The existing plug-ins and filters you now use likely rely on a mix of GPU and CPU, but FxFactory was built from the ground up to harness the latest Apple GPU technology, such as the Core Image framework, to make sure your video card does all the heavy lifting. FxFactory effects can be applied to high-quality sources such as 10-bit YUV.
Once the program is installed, you work from the main interface to view the effects you have installed and the ones you want to try out. FxFactory Pro ships with 145 filters, generators, and transitions—50 more than the first FxFactory offered. The program includes a new masking engine so you can do your mask compositing from within the plug-ins. Many of the plug-ins, specifically the glow effects, have been revamped to offer more parameter options and faster output. Glows are a big part of a lot of the title-sequence work I do, and within the first week of having the program, I used the package on a client project that needed some extra sizzle. Thanks to the GPU rendering, I was able to tweak parameters within the program and show the client the different glow types, colors, and animation options. Why render and send comps when you can quickly snap a parameter to a different spec and create a whole different look? For my work on multiple projects, I have been moving more and more to the FxFactory effects primarily because they often render faster than the stock effects in some of the programs.
Even though you can sort through and view your plug-ins in the FxFactory standalone program, you actually use them in your editing/compositing programs. When you boot up Final Cut Pro/Express, Motion, or After Effects (Creative Suite 4 is now supported), you will see the FxFactory tools in your effects lists. Most have built-in presets, and all feature a wide array of parameters and sliders just waiting to be tweaked and finessed. Interestingly, the program has spawned a third-party market, so now many other companies are developing plug-ins that slide right into FxFactory. You can download any of them and take most of them for a free 15-day spin to decide if you like them.
If you have wondered how effects like these are created, wonder no more. You can swing into tech mode to break apart and manipulate any effect into something completely new as well as create your own effects from scratch. Not to mention market them and sell them. There's a great selection on the FxFactory website already, with packages such as CoreMelt, SupaWipe, Volumetrix, Sugarfx, and Yanobox—this is the result of actual creative media artists producing packages. Some solve a single problem, some solve many, and most are worth their reasonable prices (most add-on sets are in the $50-to-$100 range). These are not large companies looking to sell sets for a few grand to cover their ad budgets; these are artists like you and me, brewing up the effects of their dreams.
So how are the effects? The set included is a real workhorse group of blurs, color correction, distortion, generators, glows, halftones, sharpen, stylize, tiling, and transition effects. To be sure, there is going to be some overlap with the stock effects you already have. But with these FxFactory options, you can tweak manyparameters and then drill into the actual plug-in itself and re-engineer or reverse-engineer it to your whims. The FxFactory website has a bunch of free plug-ins that you can download, and you can explore demo videos and purchase additional commercial plug-in sets.
The additional commercial plug-ins are some of the most amazing, with some truly dazzling effects. All have pretty reasonable prices. Once you get several different companies heading in different directions, you start to get a wider-ranging scope of effects than when they all come from the same inhouse development team from one company.
Noise Industries is getting a lot right here—not just with individual fantastic effects, but with the paradigm of how plug-ins are developed and delivered to the public. First of all, you have the tools to make the plug-ins; anyone can jump in and do it. I would not call it easy, but it is a lot simpler than coding. The development works via drag-and-drop nodes. If you've used a program that uses nodes (such as Apple Shake), you should have no problem building plug-ins.
With a central program that lets you audition and purchase new effects and syncs your effects with all your supported programs, it won't be long before FxFactory becomes the iTunes of digital effects—if it's not there already. The community of developers is already diverse and talented, and I see it growing in some cool directions.
The process is just so streamlined. How many times have you had to move third-party plug-ins manually into specific folders of certain programs, then remove them and reinstall when there's an update? Here it's all smooth sailing.
The third-party effects are more exciting than the useful ones that ship with FxFactory Pro, and it will be interesting to see how these develop. You can download FxFactory Pro and take a free spin for yourself to try all the effects for two weeks (after that, a watermark appears). That goes for the built-in effects as well as most of the third-party offerings.
Company: Noise Industries
Product: FxFactory Pro
Assets: Plug-ins are accelerated using graphics card; effects have more parameters for tweaking; provides a simple framework to create new effects; exciting third-party effects.
Caveats: Bundled effects may duplicate effects already owned.