What you need to know.
When you first install Final Effects Complete 5 for Adobe After Effects (FEC5), you will notice that it appears to duplicate a lot of the plug-ins that come for free with Adobe After Effects CS3 Pro. I say “appears,” because when you actually dig into the package you’ll discover that FEC5 provides value that is significant over what comes with AE.
While FEC5 has some uses for filmmaking, its largest benefits are going to come for those projects that probably help you make money with your production studio so you CAN make your films. If you’re making money doing industrial training videos, mission videos, event and wedding videography, music videos, or freelance advertising, then you need to consider when it’s time to go HD and when you will need the 16-bit color that FEC5 supports, which the effects that come with AE don’t.
Not all plug-ins are created equal. FEC5 comes with about 800 presets. These presets enable you to get an effect setup “in the ballpark” if not exactly what you want, almost instantly. For production uses, those 800 presets are probably worth as much or more than the effects themselves.
The subtitle on the box for FEC5 should say “16-bit HD Effects with 800 presets”.
In this review I’m also going to show you examples and point out applications in filmmaking for uses of FEC5 effects that you might not have considered.
An overview of FEC5
Final Effects Complete 5 is a library of plug-ins from BorisFX that are mainly aimed at motion graphics. I don't use motion graphics much in filmmaking. It's quite useful for industrial training video, for some kinds of documentary, for wedding and event videography, music videos, and for advertising. For narrative storytelling, effects that produce unrealistic and artistic looks have limited uses. Most of my motion graphics work for filmmaking is in opening sequences or in ending titles.
I tested the plug-ins under AE CS3 on a Mac.
As I alluded to earlier, the first thing I noticed about Final Effects Complete 5 (FEC5) from BorisFX is that many of the plug-ins looked very, very familiar. Looking around I found that I had tone plug-ins named "FEC MR. Mercury" and another named "CC MR. Mercury". I also noticed two versions each of "Repetile, Kaleida, and Blobbylize". What in the world was going on here?
Apparently, as part of an acquisition, BorisFx inherited a library of plug-ns originally developed by CyCore FX (CC). CyCore was apparently permitted to recreate the effects, which they then sold to Adobe, and are now included as the "CC" effects in AE Pro since version 7.
At this point, you are probably asking the same question I asked: "Why would I pay for something I already have?"
The answer to that question is not evident on the surface. It's only after really digging into the package that you can start to understand the benefits of FEC5 over the CC effects that ship with AE CS3. The CC versions work with 8-bit color only, and the FEC versions support 16-bit color. The FEC versions have more advanced controls and options. Many of the FEC plugins work with FEC's PixelChooser, a color-selection utility that limits the range of effects. And many of the FEC plug-ins work with FEC Motion Tracker to animate the effects. But the real story is in the FEC plug-in presets. As mentioned earlier, FEC5 comes with about 800 presets that you access by pressing the "L" load button in the effects control after the effect is applied. These presets enable you to get looks and effects that come close to what you’re looking for in seconds; work that would take you hours of experimentation to accomplish without presets.