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Au NaturelPlug-in for After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Combustion reviewed
While there are built in filters for Gaussian blur, Levels, and various compositing modes, often they leave something lacking. With Au Naturel from Buena Software you get effects that look like they might have been done in camera.
Au Naturel is a collection of seven effects that, when loaded into your host application, gives you some amazing control over your footage.
One of my favorite effects in Au Naturel is the Adjust Exposure effect. While this is nothing more than a combined brightness/contrast effect, the result of using this effect allows you to adjust your exposure via f-stops, which for some users, means you know how much you are adjusting and the end result.
Because Au Naturel works in 32 bit floating point linear RGB color space the results you receive from applying the effect to your layer will often yield more natural results. For example, in the following images, we see discreets Combustion 3 Gaussian Blur set to 30 pixels and can compare that to Au Naturels Gaussian Blur set to the same amount. In the case of Au Naturel, the result is more pleasing.
|Au Naturel's Gaussian Blur.|
|discreet Combustion's built in Gaussian Blur.|
The package also includes a Directional Blur effect in case you want to constrain the blur to a particular angle. One nice thing about the two blur effects in this plug-in is the ability to change how the edges of the frame are interpreted. Instead of a soft edge that reveals your underlying layers, you can mirror the edges or simply repeat the edge pixels.
Au Naturel also includes a Levels effect that is similar to your applications levels controls but allows you to use values outside of the minimum and maximum pixel value range. The Levels control also allows you to make adjustments on one or more of the color channels or alpha channel. In fact, many of the effects in this collection have the ability to make adjustments on individual channels, which can lead to some very interesting and powerful results.
The Transform effect may seem lame at first because supported applications already have the ability to rotate and scale a layer. However, Au Naturel claims that their algorithms resample your image to deliver a much better result. After testing these claims they do appear correct, although slight. You can examine the results for yourself in the following images. The first image is Au Naturel with a scale of 200% and a rotation of 35 degrees. The second image is After Effects scale and rotation amounts set to the same amount.
|Click for larger image.|
As you can see there is a slight increase in detail in the Au Naturel effect over the program default.
|An increase in detail and resolution can be seen in this close up.|
The final effect is brand new in version 1.1 that can be used to create a time lapse effect by averaging frames. The end result is an image that looks like it had a long exposure time.
What is nice is the interface allows you to apply multiple Au Naturel effects quickly for various results. The bad thing about the interface is how your application may display the other information. For After Effects users, each time you apply an effect those effect controls appear in the interface. This works very nicely. However, when it comes to Final Cut Pro or discreet Combustion, the all of the controls are visible regardless if you have applied the effect or not. This is especially confusing on the Combustion interface where you must go through several pages looking for the controls for the effect. It doesnt help matters that the delineation between the effect controls is not well marked.
|Click for larger image.|
Au Naturel isnt the must have application of the century, but it does have its place for those who want to have more natural looking effects. Currently Au Naturel is listed at $99 for both the Mac and Windows platforms. I give Au Naturel a Good Buy Recommendation.
For more information on Au Naturel, visit Buena Software at www.buena.com.
Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
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