Slick Effects: Volumes 7 and 8, by GeeThree
Posted: 29-Nov-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: GeeThree Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Mike Wakefield Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
GeeThree's Slick Volume 7 and Slick Volume 8 provide many extra features to Apple's iMovie HD. These features show up in the Titles, Transitions, and Effects Menus of iMovie HD. Volume 7 includes 75 new transitions, 8 new effects and 25 new titles. Volume 8 includes 12 new Titles, one dynamite new Transition called Morph, and 8 new Effects. All the effects work just like other effects already in iMovie HD, complete with familiar sliders and option settings. In addition, some of the Effects are complex enough that there is a "configure" button that shows up, allowing a number of configuration modifications. The preview pane renders what the effect looks like, and all of the sliders effect the preview so it becomes easy to see the effect before applying it.

Apple's iMovie HD, while certainly not on par with Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro, is a very capable and user friendly video editing application. The ability to amplify the capability of that application with Slick Volumes 7 and 8 provides the home video editors some great tools to significantly elevate the quality of their work.

Requirements

  • iMovie HD (iLife '05), iMovie 4, iMovie 3
  • Mac OSX 10.2.x or later (including Tiger 10.4)
  • Macintosh with G4 processor recommended
  • Quicktime 5 or later


Setup
Installation was extremely simple. I downloaded the software, and per the installation instructions, I quit iMovie HD before running the installer. After launching the installer, I was asked to enter a serial number, and then the installer placed all of the effects in the proper areas for use with iMovie HD. Installation was a breeze, with nothing complicated at all. For this review, I installed the software on a G4 1.5 mhz Powerbook, running OSX 10.4.3 and Quicktime 7.0.3.

In Use
Although I have used iMovie HD and the earlier iMovie fairly often, I realized that I had never looked thoroughly at all of its capabilities. I have tended to become comfortable with several of the capabilities that seemed to fit my style, then use them over and over again. To do an honest evaluation of Slick Volume 7 and 8, I first tried every Title, Transition, and Effect that came built-in to iMovie HD, concentrating on those that I had never used. I found, of course, that iMovie HD is spectacular just the way it comes. With that background, I then began evaluating the Slick software. I tried every new Title, Transition, and Effect in both Volume 7 and Volume 8, and was very impressed.


iMovie window showing new Titles and Effects from Slick 7 and Slick 8



Volume 7
After trying all the multitude of offerings in Slick Volume 7, I was totally blown away. These are spectacular modifications, and are very intuitive to use.


Slick Volume 7 - Titles, Transitions and Effects


The are 25 different Title effects in Volume 7. For instance, the first Title option is called Wild fx Back. In this, the words come in as on a roller coaster from the right (back) side, and eventually settle into the right place in the center. The pause slider adjusts the duration of the moving title, and the Delay slider sets the time between each character. This is illustrated in the screen shot below. I typed "Your words here" in the text field at the bottom, and tried to catch the wave as it was moving. I did this demo over black, but I would generally use it over a clip for better impact.


Slick Volume 7 - Wild "Back" Title effect


The screenshot doesn't really do justice to the effect, since these effects are live animations. The best way to see this effect, as well as a preview of other Volume 7 effects, is on the
Slick Volume 7 preview page.

I was particularly impressed with the Helicopter Title, where all the letters spin wildly, and then come together. I would use this Title option in a video with lots of dynamic action going on in the clips. Other Titles that are particularly impressive to me are Laydown, Major, and Spiral In. These are all big, bold action effects that add interest to a production.

To apply a Title, you just drag the title name into the desired place in the timeline or clip viewer, just like the other titles built into iMovie HD. The font selection and size, font color, over black, and QT margin controls work just as in iMovie. Interestingly, none of the Slick 7 Titles (and only one of the Slick 8 Titles) make use of the directional selector located beneath the Update button. The directional selector lets you change the direction that text enters, but only if the effect supports changing directions.

There are over 70 transitions in volume 7. There are many transitions in this volume that explore the many ways a picture can be cut into pieces of various size, and flipped, rolled, or exchanged in interesting ways. I would not describe most of these as very exciting, but they are subtle unique effects that are different from the iMovie HD transitions. Often times subtle effects are better to use than wild and exciting effects. A particularly interesting transition to me is Grid Flip, which is offered in 4, 8, and 12 pieces. The transition begins in the upper left corner and completes in the lower right corner.


Slick Volume 8 - Grid Flip Transition


There are 8 iMovie Effects in Volume 7. One of my favorites is the Cube Effect. You select a cube to which you can attach any still or video to each of the six faces. You can then control the motion of the cube, as it rolls in or out of the picture. If you use a video for each face, it does take some time to render, but the effect is truly amazing. The screenshot belows shows the Configure dialog for the Cube Effect. On the left of the dialog, I selected 3 photos for illustration, and the "Cube" tab on the right side controls the rotation.


Slick Volume 8 - Cube Effect


If you select the "Face" tab on the right, you can control the rotation of the individual faces of the cube as the Effect comes in and out.

Another interesting Effect is the Scoreboard. There are 13 separate scoreboard configurations included, all of which can be modified. These are obviously good for documenting Little League and similar games, or for adding a little humor to other situations that could benefit from some scorekeeping. See the example.


Using the Scoreboard Effect for humorous video


Volume 8
With Volume 8, I was again overwhelmed by the sheer volume of even more wonderful things one can do to spice up your iMovie. Overall, I found Volume 8 effects a lot more exotic than those of Volume 7. Instead of an abundancy of titles and transitions, Volume 8 focuses on 11 special effects with extensive configurations. Once again, to see live animations of these effects, visit GeeThree's web site and click on the
Volume 8 Preview.

Ani-Mattes is located in the effects menu, and provides motion backgrounds that can be selected from a library of 105, each with the capability to be modified extensively. There is also a library of over 20 masks that can be used to limit the animated backgrounds to a particular area of the screen. Some of these masks are also animated. I looked at all of these background and masks, and tried many combinations. The tool is simple to use, and the effect on a video can be very pleasing. The ability to adjust the transparency of the masks and backgrounds lets these effects be subtle when desired, so they don't just jump out at you.


Volume 8 Ani-mattes

The Cosmic Stencil and Lower Thirds Text options provide some very interesting effects to Titles, both taking advantage of the Anti-mattes (see above). Within these effects, the Anti-mattes can be modified by controlling its opacity, hue, blur, saturation, tint and lightness. The variations are essentially infinite. In Cosmic Stencil, any of these backgrounds can be selected and used to fill the text entered in the Title menu. When you select the Cosmic Stencil, a configure button appears that pulls up the configuration dialog (see below).


Volume 8 - Cosmic Stencil

Using this dialog, you can select any ani-matte, can move the text to any location in the frame, and may also reverse the effect. You can also chose to use only NTSC safe colors for use on TV.

Lower Thirds is similar to the Cosmic Stencil and adds even more capability to the lower third of the screen. You can again select any ani-matte and apply it to the lower third of the screen. You can then place text over it. An added feature is that you now can select from a library of masks that help define the rendering of the ani-matte you select. This is illustrated in the following screen shot where I have selected RollrEyz 1 for the ani-matte and Pop for the mask.


Volume 8 - Lower Thirds Effect

The text management is notable - there are eleven options for text motion effects, including plain text, carpet, fadein, hyperturn, pulled left, pulled right, rotate, slideup, squeeze, typewrite, and uncompress. In spite of all the fancy things that you can do, the simple fadein or the pulled right seems most useful to me when using Lower Thirds.

The Cosmic Stencil and Lower Thirds text options provide some pretty complex and fairly subtle effects to titles, giving you endless possibilities. With all those variations, the Preview button becomes very handy is seeing what the resulting effect will look like. I used the Preview button a lot with all these effects.

The Morph transition alone may be worth the price of admission for Volume 8. This sets up a grid on two frames, and provides you good control over the transition between the two frames by moving mesh points one at a time. The example GeeThree uses is an automobile morphing into another style, but it would work well on changing faces on people, switching pets, switching landscapes, etc.. The downside is that it can take a lot of time to render, depending on the mesh size selected, when moving the mesh points.

Volume 8 also includes a similar effect called Warp. It allows you to smoothly modify a still image into a new look, using a similar grid system as Morph. Both Morph and Warp work best on still images, but can produce interesting effects on motion video as well.

Volume 8 has two effects that I think are very cool, Color Replace and Color Keep. Color Replace allows you to replace any color in a still or movie with a color of your choosing. Color Keep lets you select a color to keep while the rest of the still or video goes to grayscale (thing of the little girl in the red dress in Schindler's List). There are controls that let you adjust the sensitivity of the color change, as well as the degree of saturation and brightness similarity that you want to maintain. In spite of my high hopes for these two effects, I found that when the photos selected had colors that didn't have much gradation, the software didn't do a very good job isolating the color. If, on the other hand, you select photos with large patches of a distinct color, the software did a great job. To be fair, I have had similar issues using other photo imaging software, such as Photoshop, for color isolation.

Motion Wall is an effect that does some good video magic, but at first it left me wondering what I could use it for. It builds a video wall of freeze frames from a video clip. The number of frames to skip, the size of the frames and what to show for a background can all be adjusted. I thought about kids sports activities, and how freeze frames would fit into a movie, and was frankly at somewhat of a loss. Then it dawned on me! I could video my golf swing, and set up a wall of frames that showed very clearly why I have such a tough time emulating anyone's golf swing that is any good. With the right application, this is a great effect!

Picture in Picture Pro allows you to put a still or video clip into a separate window on top of the main screen. The window size and position may be adjusted, and you can select one of the 28 masks to place behind the window. The mask size and position can be adjusted separately from the picture. The opacity can also be adjusted to change the inserted picture anywhere from prominent to subtle. Althought this effect worked fine, the process of selecting a clip was more complex than I expected (see the configuration dialog below).


Volume 8 - Picture in Picture Pro

To select a still or video clip, you select the button in the upper left corner. This browses your hard drive for picture files. I couldn't help but wonder why I there was no iPhoto integration for this dialog. Since you can already see your iPhoto library in iMovie HD (built-in), it would seem possible to provide that feature in this dialog as well. Still, the overall effect of picture in picture is very cool. In addition to being able to place the picture in picture anywhere in the frame, you can also adjust size, opacity, edges, and masks.

Slick Motion II is an effect that lets you pan along a curved path on a still frame. It is similar to the Ken Burns effect that is included in iMovie, but adds much more capability. You can zoom as you pan, and you can set the speed, opacity, rotation, etc.. It also requires you to select a clip from a browser window, just like in Picture in Picture Pro above (aka, no iPhoto integration). This effect works quite well, but does takes some effort to set up correctly.

Slick Stabilizer takes the jitters out of the camerawork in a clip you are trying to use in your movie. I selected a reasonably jittery scene at a carnival where I was filming and also panning a very dynamic ride. The video must be rendered to do this (versus a preview), as it takes one pass to figure out what it should do, then makes a final pass with corrections. You can apply a little zoom to the final product, so you don't get occasional black borders as the software stabilizes the primary subject at the expense of a jittery frame. This worked very well for me on the first try. If you don't get the results you want, there are several adjustments you can make to improve them.

There are some additional Wild fx Title effects in Volume 8 that are not actually demonstrated or even listed on the GeeThree web site. A list of all the effects that were included with Volume 8 are shown below.


Slick Volume 8 - Titles, Transitions and Effects


Value for the Cost
Slick Volume 7 is $49.95 and Slick Volume 8 is $69.95, but if you buy them together, it's $99.95 (a savings of $20). This is for the downloaded versions. If you want CDs, they cost an extra $5.00 each. Although iLife, which includes iMovie, iDVD, and others, and priced lower than this set of add-ons, Volumes 7 and 8 do extend the capabilities of iMovie significantly, providing some very slick professional quality effects. Since the software worked quite flawlessly in the tests I gave it, and provides lots of extra capabilities to iMovie HD, it certainly is worth the cost if you do more than the occasional hobbyist video. If you consider the amortized cost per video for the casual user, it may be hard to justify the price, but if you do several videos, the value is certainly there.

Summary
GeeThree Slick Volumes 7 and 8 are plug-ins for expanding the capabilities of iMovie HD. Slick Volume 7 provides spectacular additions to the iMovie HD Titles, Transitions, and Effects. Slick Volume 8 introduces some very elaborate and professional effects, such as Warp, Motion Wall, and Picture-in-Picture Pro. Use of all the effects is very intuitive, and the results will blow you away! It's an easy download and install, and includes well-written manuals. The
GeeThree web site provides previews of most of the effects, so you can check them out before you buy. The Volumes together cost $99.95, which is a little steep for the casual hobbyist, considering that the price of iLife is only $79. On the other hand, these plug-ins extend iMovie's capabilities from being a hobbyist movie editor to a more powerful tool with professional quality video effects. If you use iMovie HD frequently, or simply want or need professional quality effects in your videos, the creative effects provided in Slick Volumes 7 and 8 are well worth the price. Those that don't have the additional effects will be envious of those that do.

Pros

  • Simple to install and use
  • Seamless integration with iMovie (and iMovie HD)
  • Provides a lot of cool features that work really well
  • Creative tools that add significant improvements to an iMovie project


Cons

  • No iPhoto integration
  • Compared to iLife, this package may be pricey to the cash-strapped casual user


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice