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Tinderbox 3 Revisited

Updated effects filters for compositing and motion graphics applications By Dave Nagel
A couple months ago we took a look at Tinderbox 3 from The Foundry. Tinderbox 3, like its predecessors, is a professional-level set of effects plugins for motion graphics packages like Adobe After Effects and compositing packages like Discreet Combustion. Since our first review, the software has not received an overall version upgrade, but it has received two important enhancements that cause me to reevaluate the software and bump my rating up a bit.

The two changes are significant because they fix problems that had previously kept me from giving the package a Strong Buy recommendation. One of these fixes a crash bug in the Old Film filter, which happens to be my favorite effect from the collection. Obviously, if my favorite effect didn't work properly, I couldn't give it a particularly high rating. The second fix takes care of an issue with the Lightning plugin that had previously cause the effect to hang on Mac OS X under certain fairly common circumstances. I'll get more into these below.

What it does and how well it does it
Tinderbox 3 is a collection of 21 plugins for Adobe After Effects. Most of these fall into the category of canned special effects, such as Lightning and Condensation. But the collection also includes some motion and time tools; "look and feel" effects like old film and bad television signals; a matte tool; and new blur effects.

For the most part, the effects are quite innovative and are not mere redundant iterations of effects already available for After Effects. Where there is crossover with already existing effects, such as the Lightning plugin, the Tinderbox version adds controls that were previously unavailable and also provides what I think are higher-quality versions of these effects than what's I've seen in other packages.

In terms of performance, Tinderbox is quite quick. Yes, you will see some slowdown when you try to blur a billion pixels or go absolutely nuts with generators, but these filters perform within reason for whatever task is at hand.

The plugins
Tinderbox 3 plugins fall into four categories: Blurs, Effects, Generators and Tools. We'll look at the general principles, functionality and highlights from the categories, as well as some specific filters that stand out.

To start off, all of the effects contain an enormous amount of controls. Just to give you an example, the Circular Blur plugin, which creates a fairly simple effect, includes no fewer than 29 individual controls. It's an extraordinary amount of control over this effect, and all of the other effects in the collection also include vast numbers of dials, sliders and other setting controls.

All of the effects in the collection also have certain controls in common. These include Blending options (multiply, darken, etc.) with blend amounts and source and effect gain controls; and Source Crops, which, of course, allow you to crop the source and choose how the extra data is processed--with wrap-around edges, reflections, color borders, etc. Some of the filters also include Matte Crop controls.

Finally, all of the effects are 16-bit and also work with 8-bit compositions.

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