When most of us started as editors, we likely substituted cheesy video effects for content and creativity. Some of us may have even chosen our NLE based on the number of included video effects. As we mature as editors (and shooters), we come to realize that effects need to be used ever so sparingly-such as when adding salt to any dish. That's why I'm always hesitant to gush over any effects package: As many as I have installed, tried, uninstalled, or kept, I invariably wind up using only a few of any of these filters on any regular basis. I do use a few of the built-in Sony filters and some third-party plug-ins such as Ultimate S Pro from VASST, but it's rare for me to find an effects package that really serves my needs with much of what it offers. The Continuum Complete package from Boris FX is unlike any other FX package I've seen. It combines video filters, transitions, motion tracking, a titler, a particle generator, greenscreen utilities-more than 150 effects in all. Moreover, each of these comes with actual usable presets right out of the box. You can see the gushing coming down Interstate 45 with the doors wide open: "If you buy only one plug-in this year ..."
In this article, I'll show you how I use Boris Continuum Complete 7 (BCC) from within Sony Vegas Pro 10, but there are a number of other host NLEs you can use, including Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, and others, and the functionality is very similar. I'm going to discuss just a few of the components in this package and where they can be useful. You can find more information and training on all the plug-ins offered by Boris FX.
Load 'Em Up
Once you've installed BCC, you can add any of the BCC effects to a single event, to a track, or to a complete piece of media, just like you can any other video filter or effect. BCC runs entirely from within the host application (in this case, Sony Vegas Pro). I noticed there is some lag in loading the BCC dialog boxes when you add or remove an effect. It's a little annoying, but it's not too bad. Everything ran stable for me, even when I was trying out dozens of effects.
There are lots of color-enhancing and film-style filters. The Film Process filter has presets (and, of course, controls for creating your own) that remind me a lot of Red Giant Software's Magic Bullet Looks. What's unique to this is that BCC integrates a motion tracker with this filter so you can apply the effect to only a portion of the video, and it can be tracked and adjusted across time. This motion tracker is available in many of the filters as a set of adjustable parameters.
ne nice thing about the BCC documentation is that each filter or effect has its own PDF file that you can browse offline but that is also used as the in-program help. Many of these include usage tips; the Film Process PDF suggests complementary filters to use and in what order to apply them—nice.
The Film Damage plug-in has presets that look better for this kind of effect—if you need it-than any other I've seen. It synthesizes damage to the film, to the projector, and, apparently, even to the room where you're showing the film. It's convincing.
BCC includes a titler FX called Type-On Text that's a blast to work with. Unlike Sony's ProType Titler introduced in Vegas Pro 8, the BCC Type-On Text is intuitive with lots of presets to get you started. Starting from the FX dialog box, click on Launch Text Window. Here, you enter your text, select the font and font attributes, and click Apply.
In the main dialog box, choose from the multitude of presets to get you started. Here, you can alter 3D extrusions, camera position, the number and types of light on the text, and other parameters. Note that you cannot do 3D text extrusions in either of the built-in Vegas Pro 10 titlers.
Transitions and Special FX
At first I thought, "I don't think we need a new Linear Wipe transition in Vegas." But BCC's Linear Wipe is different. It's an adjustable wipe filter in which I was able to find something useful in about 10 seconds simply by clicking through presets. You can do the same kind of track composite work in Vegas natively, but it requires the use of track motion, masking, and time.
The BCC Optical Flow filter allows for slow- and fast-motion effects using estimated and generated frames, unlike the velocity filter found in Vegas. In layman's terms, the slow motion looks really good. I haven't compared this with what you get from Twixtor, but I like it. Of course, you can do slow motion directly in Vegas, but BCC uses a different method to yield a smoother, higher-quality end product.
This brings up a good point: There are some filters in BCC (not many) that perform similar functions to those found natively in Vegas. In all that I've looked at so far, the BCC version either gives you more control or just simply looks better than using the methods native to Vegas. I won't suggest that if you need a quick blur filter for something that you will always turn to a tool outside of the NLE. But the more time you spend with BCC, the more you will get out of it. The Gaussian Blur filter, for instance, has 12 basic controls and settings. The version that comes with Vegas—though comparable to what you'd find in other NLEs—has two.
The particle generator will get you rain, snow, lightning, clouds, comets, sparks, fog-you get the idea-all of which are animated with lots of parameter control. Is this useful for a wedding? Probably not. Nor will the cartoon plug-ins win you favor with brides. But if you've ever wanted to replicate the cartoon effect from the Charles Schwab commercials, there's a preset for that.
If you need to blur a logo, a face, a license plate, etc., that you didn't have permission to use, it's completely doable with Vegas' built-in tools. But it's a pain because you have to set keyframes for every bit of motion in the frame. BCC includes a Witness Protection filter that has motion tracking built-in so that once you've identified what you want to blur-or highlight (such as an athlete on the field during a game)-it tracks the motion of that blurred element throughout the clip.
BCC has tools for chromakey (greenscreen) too. If you want to key video that wasn't shot on greenscreen, maybe to put a different background for your foreground subject, BCC includes a unique take on this with the Two Way Key. With this, you can select a color to key out, and you can select a color to keep. For each of these there is a Similarity slider that allows you to dial out a range of colors to key and keep.
By the way, keying isn't the only way to get rid of a background or portion of a frame or image; you can also create garbage mattes to do this, and BCC includes some tools for that as well. There's a Wire Removal tool, which isn't only for Mission: Impossible-type special effects. In the image with the child on the swing, I've used it to remove the chains of the swing. I used one instance of the filter for each chain. I set an end point at each end of the chain and adjusted the width of the chain. And remember, this tracks the motion as the child is swinging.
And, of course, there's more. There's even a filter in BCC for fixing dead pixels for DSLR shooters.
Rendering, Output, and Final Thoughts
Many of the render and encode types in Vegas take full advantage of the multiple cores of today's modern processors, and the more cores you have, the faster your renders will be. This is always dependent on what filters and effects have been applied to the clip. According to the Add Video FX dialog box, all of the BCC filters are multiprocessor-aware, although they do not support 32-bit floating-point processing. In addition, many of the filters are OpenGL-accelerated, and you'll want to have a decent video card to manipulate the 3D elements such as extruded text. Something like a GeForce GTX 460 should do nicely; it costs about $200, maybe less. Check Borisfx.com for supported video cards, and make sure you have the latest drivers.
I've touched on only a very few of the filters and effects included in Boris Continuum Complete 7. There's so much more, and it's a very extensive collection of filters and effects. It's a real bargain at $595 for Sony Vegas Pro users (check Borisfx.com to confirm pricing for the versions for other NLEs; it varies by host application).
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, so many of the FX packages on the market leave me thinking, "What would I ever use this for?" The key to choosing a plug-in FX collection that will work for you is to really know the plug-in and treat it like the tool it is so that you will know how to use it creatively—and correctly—at the right time. Boris Continuum Complete is a high-end package with a mid-level price. It is definitely a step up in quality from some of the other plug-ins on the market. We've started using it regularly in our studio, and I recommend that you download the trial and take it for a test-drive. It's good stuff.