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Creative F/X at lightning speed using Digital Anarchys new PlasmaFX filter suite

Part 1 of 3: FREE PlasmaFX filters to download and a tutorial showing how to use them! By Marco Salsiccia

Digital Anarchys new PlasmaFX filter suite are powerful, fast effects for Mac users on Final Cut Pro, Motion, and After Effects. The 26 filters use new Apple technology like FxPlug architecture and OS Xs Core Image system. This base system provides a big boost in speed, making the effects real time in some cases. This is the first of three tutorials in a series about PlasmaFX.LE, or ?Lite. Especially for DMN, Digital Anarchy is giving away three of the filters in a free ?Lite set, and offering a discounted upgrade for the full suite (given at the end of this tutorial). The following tutorial discusses using Anarchist Edge from PlasmaFX.LE. 

PlasmaFX.LE: Anarchist Edge
Anarchist Edge is a ?find edges filter on steroids. It grants you more options than a standard Find Edges filters and produces a more pleasing effect. Combining this effect with the Refraction filter in Final Cut Pro allows for some pretty intriguing effects. The Refraction filter will cause elements of the footage to ?refract; that is, to deflect light from a straight path by viewing it through a medium. Anarchist Edge will then produce wavering glints off of the refractions, making the footage look like it was cast in glass.

Our final Anarchist effect.

Technical stuff
This tutorial covers the use of PlasmaFX in Final Cut Pro. You must have FCP 5.1.2 or higher to use our plugin, which takes advantage of Apples new FxPlug and Image Core technology. You will also need Mac OS 10.4 to run the filters.
To follow along, download the source footage and a copy of the final movie from here:  moviestopost.zip. Also, download the filters here: install-plasmafx.le.zip

Step 1: Load in your footage
Make sure your sequence matches the footage you will be working with. Ctrl-Click or Right-Click on the sequence in the Project bin. Go to Sequence Settings to verify the Sequence Size preset is the same as your footage. If this is correct, drag your imported clip into the Timeline.

The original, imported footage.

Step 2: Apply refraction
Refraction is one of the Distort filters in the Video Filters bin in FCP. A higher softness will create more rounded ?gems in the footage, especially on footage that is pretty busy. Set Softness to 0.4 and leave Refraction at 55.

Parameters for Refraction filter.

Step 3: Apply anarchist edge
Apply Anarchist Edge to the footage. Make sure it lists below the Refraction effect. At first, Anarchist Edge will not blend into the footage. The effect is going to have to be composited back onto the original footage in order to produce shimmering highlights for the ?glass effect. 

Step 4: Edge & highlight glows
In the Anarchist Edge options, set the Edge Radius to 5 and the Edge Brightness to 80. We need bright, slightly soft edges that will wrap around the refraction to sell the shimmering light effect. Set Edge Softness to 1 or 1.5, depending upon your footage. This will soften the edges and accentuate the glow. Set the Edge Intensity to 60.

Parameters for PlasmaFX.LE Anarchist Edge filter.

Step 5: Compositing tweaks
We will use a blend mode to bring about the full effect. Set the Blend Mode parameter to Screen. This will put the soft edges atop the refraction effect. Tweak the Composite on Original slider until you have a result you are happy with.
The refraction filter will break objects up in your scene, and Anarchist Edge will wrap around the broken objects to create their highlights. This makes the scene look like its carved out of crystal.

Anarchist Edge applied to Refraction filter.

Step 6: Level out the footage
Your effect is just about ready for export. If the effect washed out your footage, add a Levels parameter onto the clip and balance the gamma. Now you are done!

Step 7: The final touches
Or maybe not? Dont forget to experiment. For instance, try out the built-in Blend Modes. Add and Overlay tend to be particularly effective with the Refraction effect. They give the ?shadows in the image a hint of radiosity, or the effect of light bouncing off of bright surfaces.

Anarchist Edge overlaid on Refraction with Overlay mode

You can also drop a Channel Blur filter onto the footage, then tweak the individual blur settings per channel. This will change the color of the ?glass that your footage is encased in.

Anarchist Edge with a Channel Blur filter applied.

The finished effect

Discount details
Digital Anarchy has a great offer for DMN readers! You can upgrade for only $69.00 to the full 26 filter set ($129.00 value). To do so, go to the Digital Anarchy website at http://www.digitalanarchy.com/plasma/plasmaFX-le_DMN.php. Fill out the simple registration form, and Digital Anarchy will send you the discount information to make your PlasmaFX purchase. 


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As the 'Engineer of Insurrection' at Digital Anarchy, Marco Salsiccia leads Quality Assurance with bug testing, tech support, and new media like tutorials and demo artwork. Outside of D.A., Marco is a motion graphics freelancer who specializes in compositing, DVD authoring, and effect animation.

He can also be found watching movies, playing billiards at the local hall, and moderating video game websites. Have questions about this tutorial? Email him at [email protected]

Related Keywords:Digital Anarchy PlasmaFX , plugin filters, video editing, special effects filters


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