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Tue 24 Aug 2010 04:00 AM

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Plugged in

Although graphics and editing packages continue to increase in functionality, the market for plug-ins remains healthy.

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Fotomagico enables the animation of still images.
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Primatte Chromakey removes a blue/green background from images.

Although graphics and editing packages continue to increase in functionality, the market for plug-ins remains healthy.

Despite the increasing feature set of major graphics and editing packages, the industry for third-party plug-ins remains vibrant. These plug-ins add a whole host of new functionality to packages such as After Effects and Final Cut Pro.

Current divers for the plug-in market include the release of Adobe After Effects CS5 and the industry's current focus on stereoscopic 3D and image restoration.

Dashwood Cinema Solutions recently released an update to its Stereo3D Toolbox plug-in for stereoscopic 3D mastering, in addition to launching a ‘limited' budget version of the program. Both plug-in suites are designed to work with the Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion and Apple Final Cut Express applications.

According to a statement, Stereo3D Toolbox 2.0 enables easy stereoscopic content creation. It allows artists to repair, align and output media to a wide-range of stereoscopic 3D formats. Stereo3D Toolbox LE provides a very basic set of tools to enable stereoscopic 3D content creation.

"When we first released Stereo3D Toolbox version 1, we expected it to be used by a few small stereoscopic 3D production houses, but were completely surprised by the positive response from the Hollywood post-community, as well as the thousands of hobbyists around the world," said Tim Dashwood, founder Dashwood Cinema.

"They each have very different needs, which is what prompted the development of version 2, with more professional stereoscopic tools, and the LE version, to accommodate hobbyists' limited budgets."

Stereo3D Toolbox 2.0 costs US $1499 USD and the limited version costs US $99 through www.stereo3dtoolbox.com .

SUGARfx has released MagiMoto, a plug-in that uses Noise Industries' FxFactory technology for Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion and Apple Final Cut Express. MagiMoto offers a variety of animation capabilities, which allow users to more easily spin, scale, dissolve, throw and wiggle objects. By eliminating cumbersome keyframes, SUGARfx hopes that artists have more time to manipulate video elements and invent combinations of moves and spins.

"Our latest plug-in, MagiMoto, provides the perfect tool to animate video layers inside Apple and Adobe applications," said Ricardo Silva, founder, SUGARfx. "Its simple, yet powerful, engine is sure to satiate many of our users' requests for automatic moves and creative animation techniques."

MagiMoto is available for US $49 through www.noiseindustries.com .

Another FxFactory-based plug-in, Boinx Software's FotoMagico3.5, helps photographers and animators animate still images. FotoMagico was designed to enable videographers to turn their still images into intros and animated backgrounds. Users do not need to key-frame or step out of the host application.

FotoMagico controls let users adjust slide position and color, animation start and end point. It supports multiple audio tracks and automatic ducking for music, sound effects and narration. It works with Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, Motion and Adobe After Effects. The native plug-in integration allows videographers and motion graphic artists to animate still images and render the results within the host applications.

"Not only is this a tremendous timesaver, it is a huge creative workflow enhancement," says Oliver Breidenbach, CEO, Boinx Software. "FotoMagico's extensive features give artists much more control over the image animation and ultimately a better finished product."
FotoMagico 3.5 costs US $149 at boinx.com/fotomagico/buy . A multi-license package is available for $269.

Plug-ins for restoration and enhancement are also available. PHYX's latest offering, PHYX Cleaner, provides After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Motion users with a set of tools for repairing and enhancing the visual quality of raw digital footage.

It includes the ability to rebuild pixelated chroma channels; restore lost information in gradients; buff-out skin blemishes and remove high and low frequency jagged noise.

"Working with raw digital footage can be extremely time consuming, requiring hours of touch-ups in the edit room," said Justin Bendo, president and CEO, PHYX Inc. "With PHYX Cleaner, artists and editors can significantly reduce the amount of time spent working with raw footage, quickly turning flawed film into a visual masterpiece.

PHYX Cleaner is available for US $199 at www.noiseindustries.com .

Following the recent release of Adobe CS5, developers are now busily developing 64-bit versions of their products. Digital Anarchy ( www.digitalanarchy.com ) has recently revealed a 64-bit release of Primatte Chromakey, which removes a blue/green background from a still image or footage.

This version provides an improved interface for easier workflow, and adds behind-the-scenes improvements like background rendering to make Primatte faster and more responsive. The software helps preserve small details like wisps of hair, translucent glass and mesh fabrics. 64-bit support allows the software to more easily process large groups of images.

"The 64-bit update to Primatte is the first step in rewriting Primatte to take advantage of new technologies," said Jim Tierney, president of Digital Anarchy. "64-bit and other enhancements coming out in the next few months will prove once again that Primatte is the most powerful green screen software available.

We've improved the speed and further enhanced the workflow, but Primatte 3.5 is just the beginning. Look for additional big changes in the coming months."

Primatte Chromakey 3.5 costs US $299 and runs in Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and Photoshop Elements 6.0-9.0.

Another recent 64-bit release from Digital Anarchy is ToonIt! 2.6, which is used by digital artists to add cartoon styles to images, particularly of faces. This new version adds improvements such as background rendering to make the software faster and more responsive.

"Many artists have used ToonIt to transform personal photos and fine art," said Jim Tierney, president of Digital Anarchy. "We're also finding that pro portrait photographers use ToonIt in clever monetising ways, like offering a cartoon image to their clients as a part of the portrait package. It's an easy way to offer a whimsical ‘bonus' on top of the more traditional photographs."

ToonIt! Photo for Photoshop is regularly priced at $159 USD; current owners can upgrade for free.

Digital Anarchy's other recent release, Beauty Box Photo, is a skin retouching plug-in for use in Photoshop and Elements. It is a follow-up to the company's earlier video retouching tool for After Effects CS5. Beauty Box Photo is priced at $99 USD.