Many editors are constantly on the lookout for cool plug-ins to add to their editing arsenals. But in this process, editors are often locked into a single host application and even a single machine to which the plug-ins have been licensed. If that story sounds familiar and you are looking for an alternative, then moving to a package of drag-and-drop effects is the way to go. One of the best developers for such effects is Rampant Design Tools.
Rampant was founded by veteran visual effects artist Sean Mullen (@smvfx), who places value on the idea of creating effects from the standpoint of what actually works. The beauty of these drag-and-drop effects is that you can use them with any nonlinear editing or compositing application, regardless of whether you use a Mac or PC. As long as the system is running QuickTime and includes a playback component for Apple ProRes codecs, you are ready. Since the actual effects are media files, they can be archived with the project and moved between systems without having to license a plug-in on another machine.
From Studio Mattes, a toolkit of matte design elements
The Rampant Design Tools web site offers several options for purchasing effects. One of the more recent ones is Studio Essentials Vol. 3, which includes overlays, burns, transitions, film flashes, light leaks, motion graphics, paint strokes and more. Nearly all of these elements originate from real and not synthetic footage, which Rampant has actually produced using RED EPIC cameras. The effects packages are available in 2K, 4K and 5K resolutions. Even if you are working in HD, you might still want a 4K package because the greater resolution will permit you to reframe the effect to get a unique look, rather than simply dropping in a stock effect “as is.”
The elements are designed to be modular. For instance, you can build up layers of distortion elements to create a different look. The files come as Apple ProRes 4444 media that works well when keyed or composited using blend modes. By combining, reframing and adjusting blend modes, you avoid the rut of effects that can’t be modified or plug-in presets.
A host like After Effects will let you use glitches and distortion effects as displacement maps.
These collections are large enough that delivering a 4K version of one of the Studio Essentials volumes would be unwieldy as a set of DVD-ROMs or a download. Instead, Rampant Design Tools offers its 4K and 5K products on hard drives. These “Rampant Drives” are 4 TB USB 3.0 drives that contain the complete volume. When you purchase a collection with this delivery option, you may select either Mac or PC formatting. When it arrives, simply plug the Rampant Drive in and start using the effects straight from the drive. Although there is no technical restriction against moving the files around on a SAN, simultaneous shared use is prohibited by the EULA. It states that the contents may be used on only one computer at a time.
As there are a lot of effects in the contents of each volume, Rampant includes a PDF preview file for each set of effects that serves as a quick starting point to help you decide which effects group to explore, without having to bring everything into your edit project at once. These PDFs can also be downloaded from the web site, if you are trying to decide what to purchase. Effects may be purchased as part of a complete Studio Essentials volume or by individual categories in 2K, 4K or 5K sizes. That may still be a bit much for some users, so Rampant also offers a smaller set of HD effects for $29 each through its BudgetVFX companion site.
From Rampant’s ShadowLight set
Most of the effects can be used as a single transition or overlay, but some in the Studio Essentials collections have been designed as toolkits. For example, there’s the Monster Toolkit, which is intended as a drag-and-drop creature kit. It contains more than 1,500 elements (stored as Photoshop files) of various body parts—eyes, ears, mouths, skin textures and so on. The download size for that kit alone is a whopping 35.6 GB! Another new collection is a set of organic paint effects. This package includes 62 effects clips and features a wide range of real paint drip and splatter effects, which will blend easily with video using overlay or multiply modes.
To use the Rampant effects in an NLE, you would typically place the clip on a track above your main video. In Apple FCP X, this would be as a connected clip over the primary storyline. A transition effect would be positioned so that the meatiest part of the effect clip lines up over the cut to hide it. This is particularly true of lens flare and light blast transitions, where the center of the clip often completely fills the screen. This technique has been used for years by After Effects compositors to add a transition between clips on separate layers.
Mullen has posted many tutorials online, which are available at youtube.com/user/RampantMedia.
One of the Bokeh set’s effects clips
In a particularly cool trick, he shows how an effect can be configured to actually modify the video beneath it. This is an aspect of many plug-ins, though not something often associated with stock effects clips. His example uses one of the glitch effect clips. Typically, this would be an overlay above the video that would obscure the image but not necessarily distort or bend it. If you composite in After Effects, however, you can use its tools to make one layer affect the other. This is accomplished by adding two effects to the base video layer: Stylize—Motion Tile, and Distort—Displacement Map. Motion Tile is set to wrap the image as it is stretched and mirrored so you don’t see black on the edges. Displacement Map is linked to the layer with the glitch effect clip. Displacement is based on channels, so the lower video is displaced where the effect is visible and not displaced where the glitch clip is black. The last step is to set keyframes for the start and stop of the displacement so the video isn’t displaced when you want it to be normal. This trick works for other effects, too, such as lens flares.
There are many stock effects vendors on the market—a quick web search would pull up pages of them. However, most are still offering effects in older codecs or that are limited to HD resolution at best. Many don’t offer a wide selection of effects. You might find some great lens flares from one company, but do they also offer fire effects? Quality, breadth of product offerings, and high resolution is what sets Rampant Design Tools apart. It’s a great way to add eye candy to any production with tools that give you total control in sculpting a unique look.
Product: Rampant Design Tools
Pros: Easy to use with any application and operating system that supports QuickTime.
Cons: Product options do not include motion graphics templates.
Bottom Line: This is a high-quality toolkit of visual effects elements in several high-resolution formats. Great for adding extra eye candy to any production.
MSRP: $29 to $8,499