Provides: Video generators, transitions, and filters
Format: Digital download
System Requirements: Final Cut Pro 6, 7 or X, Motion 3, 4 or 5, After Effects CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS5.5, the FxFactory plugin manager
Review Computer: iMac 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 7
Processor Compatibility: Universal Binary (Intel or PPC)
Price: Sprocket Slip: $49, Film Leader: $99 (intro sale: $79), Grunge FX: $99 ($79), Light Leaks: $59
Availability: Out now
Luca has just put out four different plug-in packs, and I’m reviewing them all under a title none of them share: Grindhouse. This is because all four plug-ins—Sprocket Slip, Film Leader, Light Leaks, and Grunge FX—though sold separately, work together to give your footage the grainy, distressed, and ill-treated look of the entirely disreputable and occasionally beloved trash cinema of the ’70s. If you want your high-def digital footage to look like it was put into a film can and left to congeal in a sleazy Times Square theater, boy, have I got some plug-ins for you!
As I’ve come to expect from Luca/FxFactory plugins, these plug-ins are customizable as all get out. Each one comes with an abundance of presets that should suit you just fine But you can dig around in the settings if you want, adjusting the color, pattern, and texture of all the effects. The film leaders allow you to type or import your own text, as well as adjust the typeface, kerning, and leading. Plus you get the ability to keyframe those settings, meaning that if the default footage isn’t jittery and random enough for you, you’ll be able to tweak it to your hearts content.
Here’s a quick preview of what the effects can do, using some footage I shot of actor Tim Uren:
All of the plug-in effects work in a different way (and have to be purchased separately). Here’s how they break down:
Sprocket Slip Transition
Sprocket Slip Transition goes between two pieces of footage (or a slug, or break in one shot) to create the illusion that the film has slipped off the sprockets in the projector (ask your parents) and then resets. It comes with 18 presets (some of which are variations on others) and a slew of controls that let you set the light leak (type, source, and color), the speed and blur of the slip effect, and the visibility of the frame edge.
I’ve tried to duplicate this effect by hand (keyframing the footage jumping around quickly in the frame), but this transition absolutely nails the look and feel of watching a social hygiene short in the ’70s. It’s a fire-and-forget plug-in that does one job, very well.
Film Leaders is a video generator that replicates the extraneous pieces that would be attached to film strips to help editors sort them. Normally taken out before the audience sees them, they’re a great way of indicating that you’re seeing something in a less-than-reputable situation. Film Leaders comes with over 50 presets. You can alter the background (six overexposed, rough texture, or “none”) but the place where this plug-in shines is in letting you tweak the text. Face, Size, Aspect and Flip (reverse the text), color, opacity, etc. You can even add a texture to the text itself.
Some caveats: this is not a generator for creating credits. The text jumps around like crazy, and if you have anything more than a few words, the audience won’t be able to read it at all. In fact, Film Leaders comes with two abstract fonts for a couple of presets to make the leader text completely unreadable. Another issue is that sometimes the text doesn’t blend with the background believably, either because it’s too bright or the way the text jumps around the screen doesn’t match the motion of the “film” underneath it, so you’ll need to tweak the blur and glow, and make sure the font looks as old as the footage. But again, for creating this exact effect (bits of celluloid that no one is supposed to see in the first place), it’s a great solution.
Grunge FX is actually plug-ins: Grunge Overlays and Grunge Transitions. The confusing part is that both of them are video generators; that is, you apply them both over footage to give it a textured, “ruined” look. The difference between the two is the way they’re animated. Overlays are set up to texture the footage; to make it look like it’s covered in scratches or burns, as if the film has been mishandled or badly processed. Again, you get a lot of presets and textures, as well as the ability to control and keyframe the distortion to your heart’s content.
The Transitions, on the other hand, effectively ruin the footage by progressively obscuring it midway through. You get scribbles and smears, giving you something that looks like an editor purposely marked up the footage so that it couldn’t be used…unless an unscrupulous producer got hold of it, of course. Rather than using it like a normal FCP transition, linking two bits of footage directly, you have to use Transitions as a bridge on top of the two pieces in the timeline. The bonus of this, of course, is that if you want, you can use Grunge Transitions simply as an overlay if you wish.
Light Leaks Generator
Light Leaks occur when the body of a film camera gets a hole in it, exposing the original negative to, well, light. Big Budget movies would reshoot the scene, but in a low-rent grindhouse picture, they can’t afford to reshoot, so they simply use it and hope no one notices, which they always do. Luca’s Light Leaks Generator works as an overlay (you composite out the background to make it semi-transparent over the footage). It comes with 14 presets, 15 different types of light, and, again, a ton of controls to control the geometry, color and style. Instead of relying on stock footage of light leaks, you can customize the look, meaning you don’t need to keep buying new bits of stock.
With the release of these Luca plug-ins, filmmakers now have almost total control over a nearly infinite number of possibilities of how to make their digital footage look like it was shot, processed, and handled by complete incompetents. I’m not sure why we romanticize the flaws of celluloid so much, perhaps because when digital goes bad, it simply disappears, whereas with grindhouse pictures you get the sense that these people were really struggling to get their pictures made against the obstacles of money, time, and, well, simply the process of making a film itself, what with everything that could go wrong.
Speaking of cheap, there are ways to do a lot of these effects yourself, by hand, for free. But the Luca plug-ins all automate and animate the process, giving you an amazing array of effects as well as the ability to customize the hell out of them. And if you’re planning on using them frequently, the price (50 to 100 bucks) is right.
If I had to pick one as a favorite, it’d have to be Light Leaks, which is $59 and perhaps the most subtle, meaning it’s also the most useful (and least distracting) for creating the mood of these kind of films.
Appletell Rating (all four plug-in packs):