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NLE Plug-ins Bring New Control to Complex Tasks

Customization gets affordable

The Magic Bullet Suite includes Magic Bullet Looks and Magic Bullet Colorista, both with creative features. Adding plug-ins to your nonlinear editor is the easiest way to customize your editing system.

In the last few years, the makers of NLE plug-ins have become increasingly ambitious trying to pack in more capability and speed at a lower cost. In fact, some plug-ins have outgrown their host NLEs and employ interfaces of their own to provide maximum control over very complex tasks.

Many of the more advanced plug-ins are designed to go through Adobe After Effects before ending up in the NLE timeline, a process that allows for much greater control and fine tuning.

The historical trend in designing plug-ins has been to make them capable of performing advanced tasks while working easily within the host NLE or application. But, some companies are choosing to create their own interfaces that work independently from the NLE. This allows them to design a more powerful effect system that circumvents the restricted way in which many NLEs manage plug-ins.


Boris FX has been in the plug-in business for many years, offering complete packages as well as effects you can buy a la carte.

Boris Continuum Complete is a package of almost 200 visual effects filters designed to aid in compositing, animating and enhancing images. Host NLEs include Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid systems, Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. The list price is $995 for the After Effects version.

The effects in Boris Continuum Complete are too numerous to describe here, but they are basically divided into categories that include Color and Blurs, Distortion and Perspective, Effects, Keys and Mattes, Lights and Wipes. Many of the effects are hardware-accelerated filters that harness the processing power of the computer’s graphics card to greatly increase rendering speed.


Magic Bullet Suite lists for $799 and includes five products that work within Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Avid systems. All of the products in this package can also be purchased separately.

The heart of Magic Bullet Suite is embodied in Magic Bullet Looks, a collection of more than 100 look filters that alter the image over a broad range. Some of the pre-sets emulate film stocks, while others create dramatically colored and stylized images, or simulate the use of various camera lens filters. But the most impressive feature of this plug-in is the interface. Unlike most plug-ins, which are constrained by the way a particular NLE handles filters, Magic Bullet Looks creates its own highly versatile interface that pops up when you edit the filter. The interface is designed to give the user full graphic control of each element in the chain that creates the look.


GenArts Inc. is another longstanding developer of image processing plug-ins for the motion picture industry. The company is known for its Sapphire Plug-ins, a comprehensive set of more than 200 image-altering and enhancing filters designed to work within Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Avid systems, Autodesk systems and Foundry systems.

While the Sapphire plug-ins may seem pricey, they are very high-end filters that have been used in films such as “Spider-Man” and “The Lord of the Rings.”


Digieffects is another plug-in developer known for products that work within Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Autodesk Combustion and Boris Red. Its most recent plug-ins are Damage, which simulates analog and digital aberrations in video footage; Simulate Camera, which mimics camera artifacts; and Simulate Illuma which creates lighting effects.


FxFactory, made by Noise Industries, is a set of 142 filters, generators and transitions. These plugins are all hardware-accelerated and allow you to create your own filters for Final Cut Pro and Express, Motion and Adobe After Effects.

FxFactory is somewhat unique in that it is a plugin management system that is infinitely expandable. You can add commercially available effects, download ones that are free and create your own.


Imagineer Systems makes advanced image processing, compositing and tracking tools that can be integrated with certain NLEs. Some of the products are plug-ins for Adobe After effects, and some use an independent interface. Some of their signature products are Monet ($2,995), for advanced stabilization, rotoscoping and compositing; Mokey ($2,995), for removal of unwanted picture elements such as wires, rigs, logos, faces, lens flares, scratches, and lens distortion; and Mocha ($995), for advanced planar tracking.