Appletell reviews PHYX Color for Final Cut, After Effects

Sections: Audio / Video, Mac Software, Reviews

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Provides: Video color control
Format: Download
Developer: PHYX
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5 with Final Cut Pro 6, Final Cut Express 4, Motion 3, or Adobe After Effects CS3, Noise Industries FxFactory, ATI or NVIDIA graphics processor (integrated Intel graphics processors not supported)
Review Computer: iMac 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 7
Processor Compatibility: Universal Binary (Intel or PPC)
Price: $99.00 (15 day demo available)
Availability: Out now

Color is emotion. It’s one of the many tools a filmmaker can use to subtly control how the audience reacts to what they’re watching, whether to create a vibrant world where anything is possible (the inside of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory) or a dangerous, threatening one (Fight Club). If you need to do the latter, PHYX Color is a set of tools that lets you control the saturation of your video using a variety of techniques and filters. It works with Final Cut (Pro and Express), Motion, and Adobe After Effects.

The first tool is Bleach Bypass, which blasts out the color of your video, giving it a stark, pale undertone while also boosting the blacks, adding a lot of contrast. Looking at this effect in terms of emotion, it drains the life out of the characters and their world, but also focuses attention on them (since the shadows are stronger). As the image becomes more black and white, so does the world. The interesting thing about Bleach Bypass, though, is that you can use it to boost the saturation of the scene while also boosting the white and black (called Bleach High and Low in the effect settings), giving a hyper-real look where everything is deeper in color than our own. This takes out the, for lack of a better word, “dinginess” of the uncorrected video. There are fewer shadows, but the shadows that do remain get darker, the whites are brighter, and the colors seem to seep through, giving the whole thing a dreamlike feel.

PHYX color effects

GlowDark is the most subtle of the effects. It exists to make “3D generated images look ‘more real’ ” by difusing black areas. On digital video, it smooths out and darkens shadowy areas, taking out the contrast and making them consistently darker.

Selective Saturation should really be called Selective Desaturation; using an eyedropper or color selection tools, you can isolate a color and lower its saturation throughout the clip. The effect can be applied multiple times for multiple colors.

Shift Suppress (which should be Shift/Suppress), on the other hand, acts as a filter for the entire image. Again, using an eyedropper or selection tool, you can Shift the color saturation of a scene towards a color (Shift) or wash that color out (Suppress). It’s a bit like laying a colored filter over the projector: Shift an image towards red, for example, and the video will start to look like you shot it under a heat lamp. Surpress the red, and you get more of the feel of The Matrix, where everything had a darker, greener tone.

Techni2Color, the final filter, bills itself as simulating “the Technicolor 2-strip process first introduced as the Technicolor System 1 Additive Color Projection in 1917.” The problem is that when I think of Technicolor film, I think of eye-popping super-saturated colors like The Emerald City or Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. But that’s not what Techni2Color does; it gives the impression of shooting through color filters, tinting the whole image. Now this can give you a red/green/blue/yellow shift, depending on how you alter the image, if that’s what you want. And this can be useful, say, if you want to give your image an “old time” feel, but in color rather than sepia. It gives it a faded feel, like it’s been left out in the sunshine and started to wash out. It’s a useful set of color filters, it’s just not what I think of when I hear “Technicolor.” After a little research, I found out why: the Technicolor I’m thinking of is 3-strip Technicolor, a much later process than the one being duplicated here.

PHYX color technicolor

It took me a while to piece it together, but what the effect really gives you is the look of colorizing black and white film, with its pastel hues and almost monochrome color tones.

The effect presets do a pretty dramatic job, and you can tweak their settings using sliders (and keyframing if you want to vary it) until you get exactly the emotional effect you want. Once you get the effect just the way you want, you can save the settings as a preset, helping you maintain consistency across your scenes.

Think of PHYX Color as box of anti-crayons. Though it’s possible to boost the saturation of colors with Shift, most of them are focused on isolating and and toning them down, and at that it excels. I found myself turning the effects on and off, astonished at how the subtleties of saturization affected the mood—scenes set in well-lit coffee shops now took on a threatening air.

It’s a great set of tools for isolating, blowing out the white, or suppressing color—not for sending your characters off down the Yellow Brick Road, but running through a dark alley, their shadowy enemies nipping at their heels.

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PHYX color review

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