By J.R. Bookwalter
Remember the days of the Video Toaster, and how so many producers immediately abused it by overusing NewTek’s fancy new transitions? (Who can forget the famed “nude girl silhouette”?!) Don’t get excited… those gaudy transitions haven’t been ported over to your Mac (yet), but Noise Industries has them beat anyway with the latest version of FxFactory, 2.0.5, for Final Cut Pro (or Express), Motion and Adobe After Effects, available in both a free version (sans plug-ins) or the $400 Pro incarnation reviewed here.
Most professional editors would agree that the best transition is a simple fade to black or dissolve, or, at the very least, something that is subtle yet effective. But in today’s fast-cut world, sometimes just the right effect for the situation can be hard to come by. FxFactory Pro includes a mind-boggling array of filters and transitions (over 300), and that’s only the beginning.
Billed as “a revolutionary visual effects package,” FxFactory is a package of joy with one exception: some fairly strict hardware requirements. Although it will run just fine under Mac OS X 10.4 or later with a PowerPC or Intel processor, it’s rather picky about your graphics hardware.
For instance, the first generation of MacBook and the MacBook Air simply don’t have the right stuff (the latest 2008 models work just fine, however). I was able to install it on my four-year-old Mac G5, but, after registering the software, I was met with a warning that it wasn’t compatible with that system’s NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics card. To their credit, Noise Industries maintains a lengthy list of compatible and incompatible graphics cards on their Web site, so be sure to consult it before buying. When in doubt, all of their software is available as a free, 15-day trial download so you can make sure).
But that’s about it for the bad news. FxFactory Pro 2.0.5 includes a total of 140 plug-ins encompassing more than 300 effects, and more than 50 of them are new to this version. Categories include Blur, Color Correction, Distort, Generators, Glow, Halftones, Sharpen, Stylize, Tiling, Transitions and Video. Installation on my 15″ MacBook Pro 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (late 2006 model) was fast and simple. I opened Final Cut Pro, dropped in some video, added a transition, clicked the Register button to disable the 15-day trial with a code from NI, and I was off and running. (Registration can also be done from the main FxFactory application.)
FxFactory is also a hub for what its creators dub “third-party effects artists,” which is a fancy way of describing partner companies that design new plug-ins to expand your horizons even further. 15-day trial versions are included with the FxFactory install, and include CoreMelt from visual effects veteran Roger Bolton (Lord of the Rings) with their Editing, Motion and ImageFlow FxPacks, Idustrial Revolution, SugarFX, DVShade and Yanobox.
But it doesn’t end there. FxFactory Pro is billed as the first software to give Final Cut and After Effects users the ability to modify existing plug-ins or create their own from scratch, all without writing a single line of code. This isn’t the same as just tweaking a few presets, as most editors have come to expect over the years — these are full-featured effects scripts that take advantage of the Quartz Composer and Core Image engines at the heart of Mac OS X.
FxFactory 2 is more than just a cool set of filters, too. The new version sports a revamped plug-in management interface, which is a quick, efficient way to browse your installed plug-ins, see thumbnail previews of the effects prior to committing to them and disable or even delete packages you have installed.
Leopard 10.5 support is included, bringing improved performance and new, exclusive plug-ins to the latest Mac OS X, as well as support for Adobe After Effects 8 (aka CS4) and Final Cut Express 4. The Pro version brings a new masking engine to many of the plug-ins, allowing users to save an extra compositing step, along with completely redesigned, super-fast glow effects in the NI Glow category. Usually this is where good software shows its weaknesses, but in my tests with the stock glow effects, NI’s speed boasts are quite valid. Rounding out the update are improvements to many of the plug-ins that have made FxFactory so popular over the years.
Noise Industries continues to make leaps and bounds with each new version of FxFactory Pro. Among my favorites are the Copy Machine and Cell Phone Browser transitions — the latter simulates the Safari browser page shifting on an iPhone, while the former is one of the more distinctive transitions I’ve seen, perfectly emulating the light from a copying machine between your clips. That said, there’s not a lemon in this batch, since even plug-ins that dupe stock filters are faster and easier to use here.
NOISE INDUSTRIES FXFACTORY PRO 2.0.5
PROS:Excellent quality, fast rendering and a wide variety of effects and presets.
CONS:May exclude many budget producers due to incompatible or older systems with lesser graphics cards.
BOTTOM LINE: A highly expandable framework for extending your favorite NLE and graphics programs, and a must for every producer’s toolbox.
MSRP:$399.99 (Pro version, also available as free FxFactory without plug-ins)