Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Boris Continuum Complete - Who knew?

by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.  - reprinted from CinemaEditor Magazine

I’m always amazed at what I don’t know, but learn through some experimentation.

My Avid Media Composer software has for years come with the visual effects plug-ins from Boris FX, the suite called Boris Continuum Complete (BCC). Boris is a software plug-in for Media Composer (and other platforms such as After Effects). It enables an editor to add effects such as colors, glows, distortions, lights, textures, keys, and mattes to any shot. Every once in a while I’d dabble with different effects, a blur, a glow, etc. It all seemed fun enough, but often too complicated to completely understand.

Then one day I found out what I really didn’t know: an function within Boris called PixelChooser. When did that happen?

I know this might be way too geeky for a magazine like CinemaEditor that is about the art and craft of editing, but technology is forever more a part of that art and craft. These types of effects have become essential to story telling. For example, when Dexter Morgan has imaginary conversations with his dead father in the series DEXTER, the audience is instantly clued in by the glow effect on the image that this is Dexter’s imagination.

And PixelChooser is one amazing addition to Boris I’d never seen before.

It is all fine to have a palette of visual effect plug-ins to help tell your story. Avid comes with a good variety: 3D Warp to make multiple changes to size and orientation of an image, SpectraMatte for greenscreen work, Animatte for matting shapes in images, Flips, Flops, Resizes, Motion Tracking, etc.. Sapphire, a visual effect plug-in package by GenArts, is thought by many editors to be the best software of this type. It features a wide variety of blurs, glows, sparkles, etc..

But what has elevated Boris in my eyes is that, in addition to having similar effects offered by Sapphire, is Boris’ ability to draw shapes within each Boris effect, and to apply the effect within or without of that shape. An not just single shapes, but multiple ones. It enables the editor to fine tune the visuals of a movie enormously.

Lets for example say I wanted to add a glow to a shot.
In the Effects Palette, under BCC Effects, you can find the BCC Glow effect.
Drop that icon on the shot in the timeline. It affects the entire image. But very often you don’t want an effect on the full image, but just a part. Let’s say just the sky, in this example.

By activating the Effect Editor, you can go down the screen to the button ‘Pixel Chooser: Off’. By switching that to ‘PixelChooser: On’, 

a new set of options appears. The default selection is ‘PC Region Shape: All’. That can be switched to a number of shapes, where the effect happens on the inside or outside of that shape.

The last shape is ‘Custom’. Here is where the power shows. By choosing ‘Custom’,

then highlighting the Custom Spline UI  (why is this stuff so complicated and confusing?), you can click on the image to create a custom shape. Once having completed a shape, you can easily move the points around to more finely draw the shape.

This power can be expanded: you can draw multiple shapes on a shot, and animate each point.
This is much like having the Avid’s Animatte effect available for every Boris plug-in. (Yes, this is awfully geeky, but its a terrific tool)

Once learning about this, I read deeper into the Boris manual (my wife hates manuals. So she has me read the manuals about her software for her work). I found several more gems.

Generators: you can add clouds, fire, sparks, rain, etc. to a shot.

Correct Selected, in Colors and Blurs: this is essentially secondary color correction, which is not available in Media Composer effects. Secondary CC is used when you only want to effect one small range of colors in an image. It is how an image can look black and white, but only the red rose shows color.

Optical Flow, in BCC Time: speed change a shot, with smoothing like Fluid Motion.

Optical Stabilizer, in BCC Time: to stabilize a handheld shot.

Lens Flare, in BCC Open GL: add optical lens flare, to make a shot more interesting, or as a transition.

Pan and Zoom, in BCC Distortion and Perspective: another way of panning and zooming in a shot.

Some of these filters are similar to what is available in the Media Composer. It is a toss up which is better. But discovering some of the secrets of BCC is really worth the time to explore.

The tide of technology keeps rising. Some editors have the notion that knowing about advanced tools is too difficult, and tends to make VFX work more a part of their job. I look upon it as job security. The more I know and am able to do (and do well), the less likely my job is going to disappear. Or go to another editor that knows those tools.

Boris is also available for Final Cut Pro, which is why I’m going to recommend any FCP show add this.

Who knew?

(images courtesy of HittingThe Cycle production)


Anonymous Justin Mack said...

Boris is not easy to navigate indeed. Thanks for the tips, keep em coming!

8:57 AM  
Blogger FXblogger said...

Once you can learn the PC it makes the filters exponentially more valuable

4:50 PM  

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