There’s no doubt that particles and particle-based effects are cool. But if you’re an editor who is not yet a motion graphics wizard, particle systems are enough to make you squirm. At least I know I do when I use them. Whenever I’m working with particles in an app like Apple Motion, I end up doing a lot of trial and error to get the particle emitters just right so they perform exactly how I had envisioned they would. When you can use these systems to their fullest, however, particles can make for some amazing effects and motion graphic elements.
Now imagine a particle-based system within Final Cut Pro. Imagine taking the new Alpha Transition effect that has been included with Final Cut Pro 7, turning it up a notch and not having to worry about dropping three clips into image wells to make it work. Sound good? That’s not too far off from what you get with Idustrial Revolution’s ParticleMetrix, one of the newest plug-ins available for the FxFactory engine that powers many of the best Final Cut Pro plug-ins.
First, you’ll need to install the FxFactory engine-a free install that comes with the ParticleMetrix download, if you don’t have it installed already. This lets you run ParticleMetrix, as well as a whole host of other great plug-ins. ParticleMetrix really shines when it is being used as a transition from one object to another. At its most basic, it can be used as a wipe-like transition between two clips.
Particles are generated from built-in shapes, custom shapes or from pixels from within the image itself that break apart to form the graphical element in the wipe. Don’t be misled when you see that the package puts only two items-one a filter and one a transition-under your effects menu. You have many, many different types of particles and parameters to choose from and tweak.
ParticleMetrix comes loaded with tons of presets. They are listed in both the transition and the filter by text or video. While any of the presets can be applied to either a filter or transition, many of them are best suited to their assigned category. In terms of available parameters, you can tweak everything from the velocity and gravity of the particle movement to the nuances of the wipe underneath. You can start right away with the built-in particle shapes or you can drop your own custom graphics into a well that the plug-in uses to make particles. I particularly like how you can use a preset, for example Text to Text Bubbles in the Wipe transition (which floats bubbles from bottom to top to reveal an element), and change the built-in particle on the fly to something else, such as a cross or a star, to create an entirely new effect with ease. Be aware that particles can take a lot of processing power to render (especially when you’ve checked Emit 1 Particle per Pixel). Don’t expect a lot of real-time performance, unless, of course, you’ve got an Intel Mac. The more complex your particles, the longer your final render will take.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m working with a really cool tool like ParticleMetrix, I begin to feel a bit constrained by the Final Cut Pro effects control interface. While an editor probably won’t want to learn a new interface with each and every effect, a bit of customization that is specific to an individual plug-in would, IMHO, be a welcome treat. This isn’t so much a gripe with ParticleMetrix as it is with Final Cut Pro in general, and it may not really be possible given the current FCP architecture. Still, it’s something to hope for in future versions of Final Cut.
If you want to have some real fun with ParticleMetrix and get a sense of its power, give it a run in Apple Motion so you can make use of Motion’s real-time interaction. You can apply the filter, loop the playback and tweak away, all with real-time feedback. OK, so you might bring your graphics card to its knees. But is it ever fun! In fact, I think that’s one of the best words to use when describing ParticleMetrix: fun.