ProAnimator 7 (Review)

ProAnimator 7

Zaxwerks has long been a denizen of the Adobe After Effects environs. They’ve chosen a very specific niche that has brought them success in the world of television bumpers and titling. The release of ProAnimator 7 offers some capabilities worth looking at that may be attractive to the microfilmmaker. The new features bring a significant level of simplicity to doing complex, 3D/CG lighting that resembles stages or ‘Events’ where bright lights, high activity and visual excitement is the rule. Tucked along with this significant new ability is a revisited level of texture/material controls that make creating CG environments…

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Adobe Creative Cloud (Software Review)

Creative Cloud Cover

Here we go again; Adobe is unleashing its latest product line for creative types and some of the new features are going to blow your mind. HOWEVER, you have to conform to Adobe’s new content delivery standards. Gone are the days when you could purchase a software license to use as you please, for years to come if need be. Now we have gone from “buying” a license to “renting” one. Creative Cloud offers an online account that features Adobe’s vast collection of products. Subscribing allows access for a lower price than buying software outright used to be. But the option of buying the software outright is now gone…

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Photoshop CC (Software Review)

Photoshop CC

Adobe Photoshop is the Gold standard in photo editing software and over the last 15 or so years it’s also become a much more accessible program. When first introduced it probably seemed like dark magic voodoo, with the ability to bring back the old days of “yellow journalism.” What started off as simple photo manipulation has since evolved into complex tinkering with seemingly endless options. The newest version—Photoshop CC—requires…

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Impackt (Software Review)

Impackt Product Shot

As microfilmmakers, we are used to making fast cuts and thoughtful fades between scenes and camera angles. However, if your story telling demands something more evocative and lyrical, then Luca Visual FX Impackt transitions is worth a look. Just so everything is up-front, this plug in is part of the Noise Industries, FactoryFX plug-in management system and is only for Mac Final Cut Pro 10 in conjunction with FactoryFX v4 or later…

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Photoshop Lightroom 5 (Software Review)

Lightroom 5 Cover

Most microbudget filmmakers have to wear a ton of different hats. Since the video DSLR revolution, more and more low-budget filmmakers can afford to have an extra one of these cameras on set and, when one isn’t being used for video, it’s grabbing behind-the-scenes images and marketing stills. Having a production-based still image software that’s relatively inexpensive is a great way to capitalize on this…

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CrazyTalk7 Pro (Software Review)

CrazyTalk 7 Pro Cover

When presented with the need to create an original animated show for an affiliate, we delved into CrazyTalk7. The CrazyTalk franchise is designed to simplify animation for “talking-head”-type pieces by having mouth animation interpreted automatically off the syllables and phonemes in an audio track and applied to a mapped picture or drawing. (In past versions, the auto animation was limited mainly to mouth movement with a median level of eye blinking to go with it. In CrazyTalk7, however, the core animation is now much more robust…

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Premiere Pro CC (Software Review)

Premiere Pro CC Cover

As a longtime Premiere Pro user, the first thing I noticed is that there’s been somewhat of an overhaul to the look of your timeline, which goes well beyond what you’d typically see in a “.5” upgrade, although the timing of this release is just a little over one year past when we first saw Premiere Pro CS6. Ultimately a couple of the new features immediately make the program easier to use, while a few left me scratching…

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Corel VideoStudio Pro X6 (Review)

VideoStudio Pro X6

Well, the new version, Corel VideoStudio X6 has just arrived, and it offers up many new bells and whistles including 4K support, a subtitle editor (with voice detection), motion tracking, movie files with alpha layers and more. (And folks who’ve been dismayed to see a well-known competitor go to an all subscription basis will be pleased to note that you can actually own a copy of VideoStudio Pro X6, not just rent it!)

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Sapphire 7 (Review)


GenArt’s Sapphire has been one of my go to effects plug-ins for the last few years, and I was eager to see what the new version had to offer. Although the price point is a bit steep, you’ll find tons of effects that prove quality can live alongside quantity quite nicely, more so than many of the other massive FX bundles.

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Trash 2 (Review)

Trash 2 is a rebirth of the classic distortion plugin used by musicians and filmmakers alike!

Nearly 10 years ago, iZotope released a product called Trash, an audio plugin that gave users a wide array of tools to distort and mangle audio. It has been heavily used by bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, and Sigur Ros and has served the music and film industry well over the years. Just a few months ago, iZotope released the rebirth of this classic plugin now called Trash 2, and it’s better than ever. Whether you are a sound designer mangling sound effects or a filmmaker looking to add some grit to some background music in your next short film, Trash 2 has an application for everyone in the music and film industry.

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Alloy 2 (Review)


Alloy 2 gives filmmakers and sound designers seven stellar tools to shape and form audio, arguably one of the most important and yet most ignored parts of a film. Assuming a basic knowledge of mixing, users will love Alloy’s user-friendly interface, wallet-friendly price tag and reliable performance. If you take Alloy 2 for a test run, be sure to pair it with a trial of Ozone 5 and let these products speak for themselves.

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Photoshop Elements 11 (Review)

PSE11_boxshot_400 Thumb

Instead of a magical “instant fix” in the Quick path where there are few choices, or an overwhelming list of options in Expert, the new Guided Edits path lets the creative side of the user flow as you do things like add depth of field or a high key effect to a photo. In the Guided area, you are led step-by-step through each phase of adjustment, using your eye and goal for the project. What you get is rather impressive, even if you are an amateur photographer using a point and shoot camera.

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Premiere Elements 11 (Review)


However, PRE11 seems to be much cleaner and faster. There is very little lag in response time and my old problems of dropped frames, uneven pans, and errors have vanished. To get an accurate preview of the edited video you have to render the Timeline, which used to be a slow process and not always successful. Now the Render tab is on the top of the Timeline and is much more responsive and effective. The preview plays accurately and there are no unpleasant surprises by the final product during publication.

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Reason 6.5 (Review)

Reason 6.5 Cover

Hailing from Sweden, Reason 6.5 is a music creation program for the Mac and PC. Reason supplies users with everything necessary to create film scores and sound effects from scratch—everything from synthesizers and sampled pianos to drum kits and orchestral strings. Unlike SonicFire Pro, the ability to write music is a prerequisite for this program, and those familiar with playing a musical instrument (preferably the piano) will find this program much easier to navigate. The quality of the sampled instruments is quite good for the price, and the possibilities to create new sounds with digital synthesizers are endless.

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Audition CS6 (Review)

Audition CS6 thumb

For those who are unfamiliar with the software, Audition allows you to view an audio file as a waveform and trim, edit, and apply a vast array of effects to create the desired output you’re seeking. In addition to radio and broadcast television which I’ve spent a lot of time in, those in film post-production looking to sweeten, restore, or add subtle sound effects to their audio tracks as well as those in the music production industry seeking to perfect a mix will be pleased to know that Adobe has actively sought to simplify and speed up…

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InDesign CS6 (Review)

InDesign CS6 Cover

One of Adobe’s established programs has become even easier to navigate, giving novice and advanced users alike the ability to create the marketing pieces they need to professionally sell their products. At first glance, InDesign may seem like a program only for creating print pieces such as flyers, magazines and books. But InDesign CS6 is so much more.

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Dreamweaver CS6 (Review)

Dreamweaver CS6 Cover

Dreamweaver CS6 is another solid, stable and innovative release from Adobe. While there certainly isn’t a major jump in new features when upgrading from Dreamweaver CS5.5 to CS6, fluid grid layouts and the ability to integrate PhoneGap and Business Catalyst will be enough from some viewers to spend the money on the upgrade. If you have never purchased Dreamweaver, now is as good of a time as ever to enter the world of web design and app development (Dreamweaver has now made these two creative endeavors one in the same).

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Gimp 2.8 (Review)


A new feature with version 2.8 is the single window mode. Found as a toggle option in the Windows tab, the single window mode allows for a more cohesive, less cluttered, working environment. Open images appear as thumbnail tabs top center, with dialog boxes affixed to the left and right of the main window. I found this option to be an improved working environment.

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After Effects CS6 (Review)

Adobe After Effects CS6

After Effects is a pretty essential tool for most filmmakers who are incorporating any type of graphic treatment to their work, and this latest update is a major one specifically designed to increase the speed at which you can create, without waiting on your computer. This alone makes this update more or less essential for anyone who relies on After Effects as part of their normal work-flow, but the addition of the camera tracking feature and extruded text are also HUGE.

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Flash Professional CS6 (Review)

Flash Professional CS6

Today, though, despite what Flash has done for the internet and its builders, the climate has drastically changed presenting a frigid reception to the once indispensable toolset. New media devices, like the Apple iPad (with its huge adoption rate), have decided to freeze out the plugin from being used and in so doing splinter the market on utilizing it in production. On top of that, the rise of HTML 5 has finally brought a way for developers to create rich media without having to depend on complicated scripting or purchased software. These big changes beg the question “Is Flash still relevant anymore?” In Flash Professional CS6, Adobe has made some integral additions to answer that very question.

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Lightwave 11 (Review)

Lightwave 11 cover

Finally! NewTek is hitting it’s stride again with Lightwave 11. In my review last year about Lightwave 10.1, I’d commented enthusiastically about my conversation with Lightwave user and evangelist, Rob Powers. He’s been in the trenches with Lightwave on multiple film productions and has been able to bring that common-sense utility and passion for workflow quality into the forefront. I’d enjoyed getting reintroduced to Lightwave (LW) and rated it very highly. But also apparent was where it was lagging in what is now ‘standard’ abilities in competing software. LW 11 is now engaging those ‘standard’ features into version 11 and NewTek is doing it with a very sharp eye towards user friendliness.

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Twixtor V5 (Review)

Twixtor Cover

It’s a plug in designed to blend frames, and it has enough options to keep you happy. It’s not just about slowing down or speeding up. You can change frame rates in general, taking 30fps footage and getting a better 24fps output is certainly a great option, this should work for converting any frame rate you require. As far as I know, the amount of frame rate changes you can implement to clip is limitless, given your OK with waiting for a long render to create new frames. The amount of controls given to each keyframe is pretty impressive.

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Monsters GT v7 (Review)

GenArts Monsters GT v7

Monsters is a pretty high-end set of plug-ins. Atmospheric effects like Raindrops for example are meant to seamlessly integrate with live-action footage and give the impression that you rented a $10,000 rain machine on your low-budget shoot. Everything here looks pretty convincing, and unlike many other plug-in sets, there are very few “throw away” effects. GenArts clearly spent a lot of time making these look great.

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Photoshop Lightroom 4 (Review)

Lightroom 4 Box Cover

Lightroom 4 is a bit of a different upgrade to the popular platform. For the first time we see significant shifts from the editing and workflow side to the distribution, social media, and print side. The interface has largely stayed the same, save minor additions and new modules. This installment doesn’t bring significant changes in editing performance; it expands your options regarding how you want to edit your pictures.

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Cinema 4D Release 13 Studio (Review)

Cinema 4D Studio Edition, Release 13

It is getting harder and harder to look the other way when it comes to adding CG (Computer Graphics) to the independent filmmakers tool set. For serious indies that are looking to “up their game” Cinema 4D, the full studio version, is worth a long, hard look. Even TV shows are doing so much with green-screens and environment manipulation, that viewers are expecting a level of sophistication greater than ever before.

Yes, we all know that the story is King. However, with offerings like Maxon’s Cinema 4D (C4D), even humble filmmakers can have professional grade tools in their studio, which only expands on the ability to tell a good story.

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Tiffen DFX 3.0 (Review)

Tiffen DFX 3.0

Traditional Hollywood and anyone who has ever put a filter in front of a camera lens, whether still or motion, has probably used a Tiffen filter or gel. They’re amazingly well-known in the cinematography and special effects community for filters and gels for getting amazing looks in the midst of production, but it’s only been fairly recently that they’ve delved into the realm of optical effects.

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InDesign CS5.5 (Review)

InDesign Cover

A short time ago, Adobe introduced CS5 and with it came some great features. But the forward thinking people at Adobe realized that as media evolves at an astonishing rate, new features must be added to their existing programs. Not wanting to wait until the release of CS6, Adobe introduced InDesign CS5.5, which adds some great new features specifically targeting publishers who want to publish across multiple platforms.

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Story CS5.5 (Review)

Adobe Story CS5.5

With CS5.5, writing with a partner is even easier than it was in CS5, and you can even set up permission levels to only allow them access to certain parameters. This is done very simply and becomes important when working with multiple partners or producers that you don’t want to directly edit your work. You can even access your scripts on your iPhone! (You can read them for changes and make comments, although, as of yet, you can’t actually change the script directly.)

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Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 (Review)

Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Cover

As with version 10 before it, Vegas Movie Studio HD is an incredibly priced software suite. At below $100 you WILL NOT find a more feature-packed piece of software for editing. I’ve been using Vegas Pro pretty exclusively for the past few years and have always found it surprising in its efficiency and quality, so to get so much of that power for hundreds less, you can’t beat it.

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Ozone 4 (Review)


iZotope Ozone is a killer mastering plug-in, and the value of six mastering effects in one plug-in continues to amaze me. It would be well worth your money to buy this program just for the presets, especially if you simply cannot afford to pay an audio engineer to master your film. Simply using the presets with minimal tweaking will place your film in front of so many other independent films. This plug-in would benefit any filmmaker looking to make their work a step above of the rest.

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Digital Publishing Suite (Review)


As if dominating the market with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver (just to name a few) weren’t enough, Adobe has stepped into the realm of digital publishing with some amazing tools for both designers and filmmakers. Adobe Digital Publishing Suite gives creative folks with little to no experience programming software the ability to publish interactive apps for tablet devices such as the iPad, Android, and BlackBerry Playbook.

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Alloy (Review)


Finding a program that will make your film audio sound better does not have to be a confusing process. Most companies sell audio effects separately. You can buy this EQ for 100 dollars or that compressor for 200 dollars. But wouldn’t it be nice to have all of your basic audio processing tools in one intuitive program? Wouldn’t it be even nicer to buy all of these tools together for a reasonable price? This is where iZotope Alloy comes in.

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Nectar (Review)

Nectar Cover

Nectar’s ability to offer users access to several audio effects in one plug-in truly sets this plug-in above the rest. If that wasn’t enough, Nectar also gives you access to realistic pitch correction of vocals, which is very useful in adjusting the presence of an actor. Let’s dive into the heart of Nectar to see if this could be a plug-in you use on your next project.

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Dreamweaver CS5.5 (Review)

Dreamweaver CS5.5 Cover

Adobe Dreamweaver has stayed on the cutting edge for years, and CS5.5 does not disappoint. If you are new to web design, you will probably want to read a bit about the basics of web coding, but the beauty of Dreamweaver is the ability to create a website without having to write any coding by hand. Whether you want to insert a picture, a link, or a menu bar, Dreamweaver makes it easy with tools built right into the program. And if you are already familiar with Dreamweaver, CS5.5 offers some fun new features, which we will look at in the ‘Depths of Options’ section.

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Altiverb 6 (Review)

Altiverb Cover

The need for audio engineers to make tracks sound as if they are coming from various types of acoustical environments is as old as audio production itself, and has only intensified with the use of audio in film. Of course, when shooting for realism, the initial (and still the best) solution was to actually record the sounds in those environments – concert halls, theaters, living rooms, vehicles, etc. Then studio engineers like Bill Putnam Sr. and the like thought, “Hey, we have this facility with all kinds of rooms – why don’t we play back an audio signal miked in a dry room (one with little reverberation) into a wetter (more reverberant) room with a loudspeaker and mic the results?” And thus, the art of applying additional reverberation to tracks was born. The process has undergone a great deal of mutation since then, with the creation of reverb devices utilizing anything from metal plates, springs, a series electronic delay lines, all the way to modern digital equipment with powerful IC’s.

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3ds Max ECS 2012 (Review)

3D Studio Max Logo

For the past several years, programs like 3ds Max, Softimage, Mudbox, and MotionBuilder were separate, unique experiences all on their own. Artists, as well as companies, had to ally themselves with one particular 3D application to supply most of their needs and be cautious when considering any other packages to add on that might throw a wrench in their existing pipeline. Since those days, Autodesk has been working to bring the biggest 3D applications used in the entertainment industry under one roof. But collecting all the most popular tools was not all Autodesk had plans to do.

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MotionStudio 3D (Review)

3D Animation MotionStudio 3D

The titling options alone are exceptional, with literally hundreds of modifications you can do with your text. Clicking and dragging what you want done to the text couldn’t be simpler. Inserting provided graphics and overlays, quickly creating shapes and objects, and changing camera angles can all be done on the fly and then the program provides you with 3-D animation models for you to explore and insert. Once you’ve completed your animation/titling/graphic – you can render it to multiple types of video files and insert it easily into your project.

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