Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 05/08/07 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

EffectsLab Pro by FXhome

By Kevin McAuliffe

I have always been a big fan of Adobe After Effects (AE), and now with my move over to Final Cut Pro, I'm really getting into Motion 2 and Shake 4.  A while back, I needed to create some really wild "light saber" effects for an independent project I was working on, and I always remember trying to create this effect in AE but it never really turned out the way I had hoped (you know, ILM quality for no money!), and I remembered that I had seen a program called alamDV that enabled you to create light sabers, muzzle flashes, and some other cool effects. Well, alamDV has morphed into EffectsLab by FXhome, and I thought I would take a look at it in this review.

What You Get
EffectsLab gives you four basic "packages" with the Pro version. You get a Particle Engine to create effects such as rain, smoke, fire and "magic" style effects, a Muzzle Flash generator, a Neon Light effect to create "laser swords" (don't call them light sabers, or George Lucas might sue!), and finally, an Optics effect to create Lens Flares and "Clashes" for your light sabers.  All in all, pretty standard fare for an effects package.

Installation of EffectsLab is smooth and simple, and should take you no longer than about five minutes to install.  One thing that I was extremely impressed with is the fact that you can create user presets for any of your particle effects, upload and trade them with other users across the world.  Great in concept, but I found it problematic importing these user settings, which became frustrating. Installation: 7 (out of 10)

Ease of Use
Here's where I start to flash back to programs like Adobe After Effects and Apple's Motion. When you start out your project, you have the option of opening a new, blank timeline or you can go with a previous project.  Once you select "New Timeline," you can set up you project's attributes (size, FPS, field dominance) quickly and easily, which is good, or go with a preset if you're not sure as to certain aspects of your timeline, which gets you to animating quickly, but from there, things get a bit shaky. I found the program to be very "touchy", even in standard def DV. I'm not a big "slider" kind of compositor.  I like to select my attributes by clicking a box and typing a number. I constantly found myself re-inputting numbers as the program would "double" my input.   What I mean by that, is if I wanted my number to be "2", and I typed "2" with the keyboard (and wasn't looking at the attribute box), it would constantly put in "22", which becomes really annoying really quick.  Secondly, much like AE and Motion, compositing layers is easy. Simply drag your footage into the comp window, and stack accordingly.   That was easy, but once my footage was in my timeline I found myself getting frustrated trying to find things, as every time I would click on the drop-down arrow to see attributes in my timeline, it would constantly be moving my attributes up and down, and it became a bit of a pain navigating my way through this.   Annoying, but not work stopping. 

One thing I will definitely give this program credit for is the fact that for a "2D" program, you can very easily fake 3D space to have your particle move toward the camera so that your muzzle flashes have an even more realistic look. I also liked the fact that that programs' control window is detailed, and gives you access to every possible attribute you could need to give your animation that little extra "something." 

Keyframing, the center of any animation, is done pretty well.  I definitely was "not" a fan of the look and feel of the interface, but coming from an AE background, nobody does their interface like Adobe does, so I won't hold that against Fxhome. 
Ease of Use: 6.5 (out of 10)
One great thing that I think Fxhome has done is that they not only allow users to post their presets (Darth Maul's Light saber, etc) for other users to download and use, they have a section of their website dedicated to allowing users to upload movies they have made using Fxhome's products. There is no better way to get someone to buy your program than to show off what people are doing with it. It also gives new directors and compositors a forum to show off their work. Bonuses: 8 (out of 10)

One thing that's starting to drive me a little crazy is the penny pinching going on by companies to get you to buy the "pro" version over the standard version. Don't get me wrong, in some cases, as with After Effects, the difference between the standard edition and the pro edition are pretty substantial (cost and attribute wise), and would make you sit back and think about maybe going with the standard edition of AE and Shake, instead of the Pro bundle.  But why would you make clients choose between the standard edition and Pro edition for an additional $40? In this case, if you are looking at purchasing EffectsLab, just go Pro, and save yourself the headaches of not having things like "HD" support or other "enhanced" features of your particles or laser swords! 

Secondly, to quote directly from Fxhome's website, " Users of FXhome's Lite and Pro products are required to credit FXhome on all productions. We feel this is a more than fair trade-off for lower software prices. VisionLab Studio comes with a commercial license so an FXhome credit is not required. However, VisionLab Studio users are still welcome to do so if they wish!"  

Give me a break!  In my opinion, you have to have some nerve to demand your company's name in the credits of someones show. What happened to the days where companies released good products for lower prices to sell a boat load of them?  I believe that word of mouth is the best way to get your company name out there. If you make a good product, people will find out about it from discussion forums, blogs and articles such as this one. To be perfectly honest, I found myself shaking my head on this one.   Downsides: 2 (out of 10)
Final Score: 6 (out of 10)
Purchase Recommendation : Pass (Credit requirement is a deal breaker)
Overall, I thought that Fxhome's EffectsLab Pro was a half decent product. The deal killer for me is this "license agreement" (or handcuffing, as I like to call it) to get me to buy the highest edition (VisionLab) of their software. I hope this doesn't become the trend with other companies. Imagine how many times we'd see Adobe's name in the credits of movies and shows if they forced us to do that.

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at

Related Keywords:special effects, compositing, visual effects,


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