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Wed 16 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Particle Metrix

The new Particle Metrix plug-in is said to deliver outstanding image processing technology for producing organic and supernatural particles. Areeba Hanif puts the plug-in to the test.

Particle Metrix
Particle Metrix
Particle Metrix
Areeba Hanif.


The new Particle Metrix plug-in is said to deliver outstanding image processing technology for producing organic and supernatural particles. Areeba Hanif puts the plug-in to the test.

For an editor, the journey to a finished product is sometimes slow and gruelling. For this reason, the Particle Metrix by Noise Industries and Idustrial Revolution comes as a refreshing surprise. In a world cluttered with real-time particle generators, a plug-in that does half the work for you is indeed a motion graphics artist’s desire and Particle Metrix aims to cater to just that. In this review, I will discuss just how it does that and why it is worthy of serious consideration.

For a quick overview, Particle Metrix is designed by Noise Industries’ Development Parters ‘Idustrial Revolution’ for use with After Effects and Final Cut Studio.

They are also the brains behind the acclaimed Volumetrix plug-in also for the above apps as well as Final Cut Express. Like several other Noise Industries products, these plug-ins too are powered by FxFactory.

At first glance, the Particle Metrix does not appear too different from the Volumetrix in its ability to create dazzling wipes that not only look professional but can be created at the touch of a button. It is really in digging deeper that one discovers how flexible this plug-in actually is.

With precision controls available for particle shapes, sizes, velocity, colour over life and 3D controls of gravity, the user can convert their videos and text into particles with ease.

Due to its ‘wipe’ like nature, motion graphics artists would probably looks at it merely as a transition plug-in but that is just scratching the surface. Combining the properties mentioned earlier, I can imagine the creation of some powerful title sequences, be they for TVCs, online presentations or even for the silver screen. Bundle that with stock footage and organic elements and you will have a decent credit to your name.

Let’s take a look at some of the customisable features:

Animation

If you’re a purist, who owl-watches your keyframes and much like all other AFX, Motion and FCP plugins, you may determine the ‘manual progress’ of the Particle Metrix wipe by frame. On the other hand, if you suffer from a harmless form of procrastination disorder like yours truly, then the ‘duration in seconds’ or ‘duration of clip’ are your buddies, automating the entire animation to fit your timeline. For the obsessive compulsive disorder victims, there is even an ‘animation curve’ to determine how linear, smooth or unpredictable the animation progress is.

Wipe

This feature enables users to decide on the behaviour of the wipe i.e whether your text or pictures appear or disappear with the animation, or whether the animation must “blanket” the original or never even display the original (my personal preference since it makes the your object appear as if it were in fact made of particles). Wipe Radius sort of determines how ‘thick’ your transition bar is, thus resulting in softer edges in the transition. It works best for slower animation so the visuals don’t appear jerky. The Wipe Offset setting had me squealing with delight as I realised it was just a parameter to separate the transition from the particles. What this meant was that at -1 offset, I could make the particles look as though they were rippling through my selected object, with my hands fully controlling what shape or form those ripples would take.

Needless to say, the particles generate transparency where required so my underlying layers ‘ripple appeared’ with the travelling particles. The whole experiment grew even more exciting as I discovered how quickly the plug-in can RAM preview. Again, that’s a blessing for laid back editors such as myself.

Particles

This is officially my ‘aha!’ stage. This section is great if you want to use your own design elements as the source for the particles. Of course, this is a feature available in most particle generators but the ease with which you can manipulate everything is impressive.

I had ‘World’ explode into minute worlds, weaving a strange philosophy of life. Digressions aside; a word of caution - previewing the plug-in on a transparency grid does not quite give you the real picture. Using a solid background is always recommended.

For example, the text particles appeared like rods. The only thing left to be desired in this section is to be able to control the opacity of the particles. Strangely enough, I ensured that the start and end opacity stays at 255 and yet they just disappeared in smoke. I would have liked them to stay visible while flying past the camera.

Physics

For a wipe plug in, I was impressed that I could control not just the speed/movement without touching time remap, but also be able to do it on all three axes. This also includes gravity that as with other particle generators determines the weightlessness of the individual particles.

While the above mentioned properties are easy to decipher in a dictionary, it can take some playing around before discovering the true relationship between each.

Is this a Particular battleground? The answer is no simply because at the end of the day you are creating power-packed wipes as opposed to many other uses of particles that Particular fulfills.

However, at almost 1/3 the price ($99), you can still create convincing titles and motion design. There is a great tutorial at Embryo.me.uk by Zac Peric and I hope to see Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot utilise it as well. Until then, I’m happy to try one of the 50+ presets bundled in, alter a few things and enjoy my favourite part i.e learning.

To the cynics, who claim that the work of the plug-in can be achieved single handedly by the concerned apps, I quote Peter Wiggins, developer of the Apple Forums: “You can do all of that in Motion???? Split apart an HD image into individual pixels? Not have a render time of less than a month?” I rest my case.

Areeba Hanif is an avid filmmaker and a faculty member at SAE Institute, Dubai.

Web:
www.noiseindustries.com

Pros

• Wide variety of parameters to modify including Z space controls.

• Convert any video or object into particles.

• 50+ presets to get you hooked.

• Very fast render even on a notebook.

Cons

• Particles blur out at end of life.

• Essentially it’s a wipe so it takes extra creativity to get more out of it.

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