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Kevin McAuliffe's Top Five Favorite Products of 2009

By Kevin McAuliffe

As many of my collegues have already written, 2009 was, how do I put this politely? Awful. The economy was (is) in the dumps and is on a slow road to recovery. That being said, 2009 was in fact a good year when it came to products being released by our favorite companies. Apple finally pushed FCS3 out the door, and 3D seems to be all the rage. For my first article in 2009, I'm going to take a look back at my five best products of 2009 with an honorable and even a dishonorable mention to round things out, so let's get to it!


Motion Designer's Toolkit from Digital Juice (Mac/Windows)
Digital Juice has always been the leader (in my opinion) when it comes to creating stock elements for television and film, as well as print production, but in 2009, the company took things one step further, and positioned themselves above everyone else, and that was with the release of the Motion Designer's Toolkit. Not only did it give us 1755 QuickTime moves to work with in any compositing program we like, but we were also given the After Effects project that were used to create the animated QT's, as well as the original vector art as well. With that, there is no longer such a thing as "stock elements," as every element can be seamlessly altered, and turned into something different. This, along with the Juicer, Digital Juice's free media management and conversion utility, makes me think that if this is the beginning, I can't wait to see what DJ will do in 2009. Check out the Motion Designer's Toolkit at www.digitaljuice.com.

Boris Continuum Complete 6 from BorisFX (Mac/Windows)
Can you name a plug-in package that offers almost 200 filters including ones that let's you do true 3D extrusions of EPS files, text and splines? All of that, and the ability to bend, twist and curl elements in true 3D space AND with the ability to use After Effects' (or Motion) light's and cameras. And that's just five of the almost 200 filters included with BCC6. Whether you are looking for Generators (brick walls, steel plates, fire, rain, snow, etc), a cartoon effect, film looks, glows or OpenGL accelerated effects, they're all here, as well as over 2000 animated presets and 1500 static presets. If you are in the market for a plug-in package, this is the one, and the best part is, that for $100 more, you can add Final Effects Complete 5 in with your BCC6 purchase. Great plug-ins for a great price. Check them out at www.borisfx.com .

Sorenson Squeeze 6 from Sorenson Media (Mac/Windows)
Anyone who works in post production knows about Sorenson Squeeze. I would say they are the standard for professional video encoding on both Mac and Windows. All Media Composer editors get Squeeze free when they purchase a system, so you might have it on your computer right now, and not even know it. At version six, Squeeze has almost every possible format available for you to encode to, so where do you go from there? Well, how about e-mail and SMS text message notifications? How about the ability to publish directly to Sorenson 360, YouTube, Twitter, Limelight or Akamai? How about direct integration with Final Cut Pro, Avid Products and iMovie? Oh, I almost forgot, how about a free (yes FREE) one year Sorenson 360 review and approve account? Sorenson, much like AJA is now taking what worked exceptionally well (the encoding), and is now focusing on what ELSE we need to do with our encodes, once they're done. As I said in my review, sometimes it's not the destination, but the journey that is most important. Even if you already have an encoding program, you owe it to yourself and your clients to check out Sorenson Squeeze 6 at www.sorensonmedia.com .

Ki Pro from AJA (ProRes for Mac only)
Every once in a while, an exceptional piece of post production hardware hits the market that really makes me stand back and say "Wow!", and in 2009, it was the Ki Pro that made me do that. Not only is this "Direct-to-Disk" ProRes recorder compact and simple to work with in the field and in the edit suite, but the amount of "bells and whistles" (Up/Down/Cross Conversion on the fly, 4-pin XLR power connectivity for field production, SDI Timecode, and optional SSD for any field recording situation, just to name a few) really shows that AJA put the time in to make this a "must-have" for production houses that use Final Cut Pro to edit with. I just did a review on the unit that will be posted mid-January, so keep an eye out for it. For more in the Ki Pro, you can check it out at www.aja.com .

Stereo 3D Toolbox from Dashwood Cinema Solutions (Mac)
I remember a long time ago when I saw a product from Avid called Marquee. It was (is) a title tool for Avid editors, and at the time I first saw it, it ran on its own independent system, and could do things that no editor had ever thought could be done on a non-linear editor. I remember thinking to myself that it was a product way ahead of its time. Well, fast forward to 2009, and 3D is all the rage, and editing systems are just being updated with the ability to edit stereoscopic 3D (S3D) footage, but the technology is so new, that there are only a couple of systems that can handle it. Well, if that's the case, I can only imagine how long it will take until I am able to do any S3D work. Oh, look at that, I can with Dashwood Cinema Solutions Stereo 3D Toolbox (powered by FX Factory Pro) for After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Motion and Final Cut Express. With this plug-in, I can output my media to different 3D formats such as over/under, side by side, interlace , checkerboard and anaglyph. I can even output to YouTube 3D (yes, there is such a thing!). Needless to say, this product is way ahead of its time. I have a review coming up in January, but needless to say Dashwood Cinema Solutions has done something that is very rare in the television and feature film business, and that is bring a product to the masses so quickly for a format that is so new, and everyone from wedding editors to film editors can work in 3D, just like the pros. You can check out Stereo 3D Toolbox at http://www.timdashwood.com/stereo3dtoolbox.


Motion 4 from Apple (Mac)
Everyone has spent two years speculating on the release of Final Cut Studio 3, and what new features would be included with it, and with it's release this year (now just called Final Cut Studio), there seemed to be a mixed reaction to what Apple brought to the table. For me, Motion was the application that got the most love with this release, and there wasn't necessarily a ton of new things added, but there were many things that were fixed that should have been done "right" in version 3. 3D shadows and reflections were a much needed add-on (fix) that should have been implemented in version 3, but for me, the two best features of Motion 4 are the Depth of Field "effect," and the Share feature. I called Depth of Field an "effect," even though you don't actually apply it as an effect. You can simply turn it on and off on your composition, and assuming you have set the focal depth, Motion takes care of everything else for you. The Share feature (included in Final Cut Pro 7 as well), gives you the ability to render your compositions in the background, while you continue to work in the foreground. Even though many people were disappointed with FCS (3), I thought the updates across the board were good, but the updates to Motion really makes it stand out, and makes it a worthy competitor to other motion graphics programs.


MOTU, makers of the V4HD
Where do I begin. Well, let me start out by saying that my dishonorable mention is directed towards the company itself, not the product, because unfortunately, I have not had a chance to review the product yet. Believe it or not, I'm still on the waiting list. I've been on the waiting list since June, and I don't think I'm ever going to hear back from the Mark of the Unicorn (yes, that's what MOTU stands for. Pretty cool, huh!) . I originally sent an e-mail to their press department back in October of 2008, and didn't hear back from anyone, so I sent another e-mail in May of 2009. Needless to say, after they were both ignored, I ended up calling, and could not get anyone on the phone. Finally, in June I managed to get the press rep on the phone, and I was told that there was a "backlog" of review requests for the unit. O.K., I can accept that, but needless to say, I'm still waiting. I even sent the MOTU press rep an e-mail about when I would be getting the unit, and my e-mail still has not been answered. At this point, I don't even really care whether the V4HD is a good product or not. If this is how MOTU treats the press, I can only imagine how they treat their customers. Well let me just say buyer beware. I'd stay as far away from them as I can, and if you decide to go with them, I hope you don't need to ever contact them.

Well, that's it for 2009, there were some really stand out applications (and hardware) this year, and 2010 should (hopefully) be more of the same. If you have some products that you think should have been on my list, drop me a line and let me know, I'd love to hear your opinions.

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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 [email protected]

Related Keywords:motion graphics, DDR, stock elements, after effects filters

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