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The Foundry's Tinderbox 2

Visual effects filters for Adobe After Effects By Dave Nagel
There are really two categories of visual effects plugins for compositing applications. You have canned special effects and general-purpose image manipulation tools. Neither one is inherently superior to the other. But, in large part, canned special effects have limited applications for professional use. After all, once a special effect has been used in a widely distributed piece, subsequent uses are just copies. On the other hand, there is the fact that so many general image manipulation tools offer sub-par quality and dubious usefulness.

And then there's Tinderbox from The Foundry.

Last year The Foundry debuted Tinderbox 1, a collection of 20 general- and specific-purpose special effects that fairly blew the minds of everybody who had a chance to experience them. Tinderbox 2, released in the middle of this year, expands upon the original release with some truly useful additions, some stunning effects and, above all, high-quality results.

What it does
Tinderbox 2 is a collection of 21 new filters, ranging from blurs and flares to artistic effects like paint and kaleidoscope filters. In After Effects, the filters are divided into five categories?Blurs, Effects, Generators, Tools and Warpers. So let's take a look at what each one contains and how well the filters work.

Tinderbox 2 includes three blur filters, each with a distinct purpose. BlurMasked is a Gaussian blur that uses a mask to control the size of a blur. RadialBlur simulates the effect of a crash zoom. And LensBlur simulates defocusing with lenses. Each one is remarkably fast and includes a number of controls for creating some stunning results. For example, LensBlur lets you control the shape of the camera diaphragm and control chromatic aberrations. It also lets you bloom highlights in the image for a pretty realistic focus pull effect.

The Effects category includes 10 effects, including Bandlimit, Chromatic, Contour, Glass, Glow, Kaleid, Newsprint, Paint, PseudoColor and Trail. The only filter in this collection that seems a bit lagging in the performance department is Paint. When you see the result, you'll know why.

This is not a simple "paint on a path" type of filter. Its purpose is to make an image look as if it had been painted. The filter gives a number of controls for brush size, stroke length and paint properties. However, it does not provide options for the paint style, such as oil, watercolor, etc.

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