Category Archives: After Effects plugins

Comparing Beauty Box To other Video Plugins for Skin Retouching/Digital Makeup

We get a lot of questions about how Beauty Box compares to other filters out there for digital makeup. There’s a few things to consider when buying any plugin and I’ll go over them here. I’m not going to compare Beauty Box with any filter specifically, but when you download the demo plugin and compare it with the results from other filters this is what you should be looking at:

  • Quality of results
  • Ease of use
  • Speed
  • Support

Support

I’ll start with Support because it’s one thing most people don’t consider. We offer as good of support as anyone in the industry. You can email or call us (415-287-6069). M-F 10am-5pm PST. In addition, we also check email on the weekends and frequently in the evenings on weekdays. Usually you’ll get a response from Tor, our rockstar QA guy, but not infrequently you’ll talk to myself as well. Not often you get tech support from the guy that designed the software. :-)

Quality of Results

The reason you see Beauty Box used for skin retouching on everything from major tentpole feature films to web commercials, is the incredible quality of the digital makeup. Since it’s release in 2009 as the first plugin to specifically address skin retouching beyond just blurring out skin tones, the quality of the results has been critically acclaimed. We won several awards with version 1.0 and we’ve kept improving it since then. You can see many examples here of Beauty Box’s digital makeup, but we recommend you download the demo plugin and try it yourself.

Things to look for as you compare the results of different plugins:

Skin Texture: Does the skin look realistic? Is some of the pore structure maintained or is everything just blurry? It should, usually, look like regular makeup unless you’re going for a stylized effect.
Skin Color: Is there any change in skin tones?
Temporal Consistency: Does it look the same from frame to frame over time? Are there any noticeable seams where the retouching stops.
Masking: How accurate is the mask of the skin tones? Are there any noticeable seams between skin and non-skin areas? How easy is it to adjust the mask?

Ease of Use

One of the things we strive for with all our plugins is to make it as easy as possible to get great results with very little work on your end. Software should make your life easier.

In most cases, you should be able to click on Analyze Frame, make an adjustment to the Skin Smoothing amount to dial in the look you want and be good to go. There are always going to be times when it requires a bit more work but for basic retouching of video, there’s no easier solution than Beauty Box.

When comparing filters, the thing to look for here is how easy is it to setup the effect and get a good mask of the skin tones? How long does it take and how accurate is it?

Speed

If you’ve used Beauty Box for a while, you know that the only complaint we had with it with version 1.0 was that it was slow. No more! It’s now fully GPU optimized and with some of the latest graphics cards you’ll get real time performance, particularly in Premiere Pro. Premiere has added better GPU support and between that the Beauty Box’s use of the GPU, you can get real time playback of HD pretty easily.

And of course we support many different host apps, which gives you a lot of flexibility in where you can use it. Avid, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Davinci Resolve, Assimilate Scratch, Sony Vegas, and NUKE are all supported.

Hopefully that gives you some things to think about as you’re comparing Beauty Box with other plugins that claim to be as good. All of these things factor into why Beauty Box is so highly regarded and considered to be well worth the price.

Easy Ways of Animating Masks for Use with Beauty Box in After Effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro

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We have a new set of tutorials up that will show you how to easily create masks and animate them for Beauty Box. This is extremely useful if you want to limit the skin retouching to just certain areas like the cheeks or forehead.

Traditionally this type of work has been the province of feature films and other big budget productions that had the money and time to hire rotoscopers to create masks frame by frame. New tools built into After Effects and Premiere Pro or available from third parties for FCP make this technique accessible to video editors and compositors on a much more modest budget or time constraints.

Using Masks that track the video to animate them with Beauty Box for more precise retouching

How Does Retouching Work Traditionally?

In the past someone would have to create a mask on Frame 1 and  move forward frame by frame, adjusting the mask on EVERY frame as the actor moved. This was a laborious and time consuming way of retouching video/film. The idea for Beauty Box came from watching a visual effects artist explain his process for retouching a music video of a high profile band of 40-somethings. Frame by frame by tedious frame. I thought there had to be an easier way and a few years later we released Beauty Box.

However, Beauty Box affects the entire image by default. The mask it creates affects all skin areas. This works very well for many uses but if you wanted more subtle retouching… you still had to go frame by frame.

The New Tools!

After Effects and Premiere have some amazing new tools for tracking mask points. You can apply bezier masks that only masks the effect of a plugin, like Beauty Box. The bezier points are ‘tracking’ points. Meaning that as the actor moves, the points move with him. It usually works very well, especially for talking head type footage where the talent isn’t moving around a lot. It’s a really impressive feature. It’s  available in both AE and Premiere Pro. Here’s a tutorial detailing how it works in Premiere:

After Effects also ships with Mocha Pro, another great tool for doing this type of work. This tutorial shows how to use Mocha and After Effects to control Beauty Box and get some, uh, ‘creative’ skin retouching effects!

The power of Mocha is also available for Final Cut Pro X as well. It’s available as a plugin from CoreMelt and they were kind enough to do a tutorial explaining how Splice X works with Beauty Box within FCP. It’s another very cool plugin, here’s the tutorial:

Creative Cloud 2015 and After Effects, Premiere Pro Plug-ins

All of our current plugins have been updated to work with After Effects and Premiere Pro in Creative Cloud 2015. That means Beauty Box Video 4.0.1 and Flicker Free 1.1 are up to date and should work no problem.

Flicker Free 1.1 is a free update which you can download here: http://digitalanarchy.com/demos/main.html

What if I have an older plugin like Beauty Box 3.0.9? Do I have to pay for the upgrade?

Yes, you probably need to upgrade and it is a paid upgrade. After Effects changed the way it renders and Premiere Pro changed how they handle GPU plugins (of which Beauty Box is one). The key word here is probably. Our experience so far has been mixed. Sometimes the plugins work, sometimes not.

Premiere Pro: Beauty Box 3.0.9 seems to have trouble in Premiere if it’s using the GPU. If you turn ‘UseGPU’ off (at the bottom of the BB parameter list), it seems to work fine, albeit much slower. Premiere Pro did not implement the same re-design that After Effects did, but they did add an API specifically for GPU plugins. So if the plugin doesn’t use the GPU, it should work fine in Premiere. If it uses the GPU, maybe it works, maybe not. Beauty Box seems to not.

After Effects: Legacy plugins _should_ work but slow AE down somewhat. In the case of Beauty Box, it seems to work ok but we have seen some problems. So the bottom line is: try it out in CC 2015, if it works fine, you’re good to go. If not, you need to upgrade. We are not officially supporting 3.0.9 in Creative Cloud 2015.

– The upgrade from 3.0 is $69 and can be purchased HERE.

– The upgrade from 1.0/2.0 is $99 and can be purchased HERE.

 

The bottom line is try out the older plugins in CC 2015. It’s not a given that they won’t work, even though Adobe is telling everyone they need to update. It is true that you will most likely need to update the plugins for CC 2015 so their advice isn’t bad. However, before paying for upgrades load the plugins and see how they behave. They might work fine. Of course, Beauty Box 4 is super fast in both Premiere and After Effects, so you might want to upgrade anyways. :-)

We do our best not to force users into upgrades, but since Adobe has rejiggered everything, only the current releases of our products will be rejiggered in turn.

Time Lapsing Around Italy with Flicker Free

Stephen Smith, a long time videographer, used a recent trip to Italy as an opportunity to hone is time lapse skills. The result is a compilation of terrific time lapse sequences from all over Italy.

He used Flicker Free to deflicker the videos and use Premiere Pro and After Effects for editing, and Davinci Resolve for color correction. It’s a great example of how easily Flicker Free fits into pretty much any workflow and produces great results.

 

Italy Time Lapse from Stephen Smith on Vimeo.

 

Since he was traveling with his wife, it allowed her to explore areas where he was shooting more thoroughly. This is not always the case. Significant others are not always thrilled to be stuck in one place for an hour while you stand around watching your camera take pictures!

Although, he said it did give him an opportunity to watch how agressive the street vendors were and to meet other folks.

We’re happy that he gave us a heads up about the video which is on Vimeo or you can see it below. Of course, we’re thrilled he used Flicker Free on it as well. :-)

 

Beauty Box Video or Photo Crashing Problems – How to Fix It

Beauty Box makes extensive use of your video card’s GPU (graphic processing unit) to speed the plugin up. Usually this works great and results in the plugin working quickly.

However, it can cause problems. The GPU has a lot less memory than your computer does, so it’s prone to run out of memory. This is especially true when other applications are trying to use it. After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut, and most of the other apps we plug into also use the GPU. So do many other plug-ins. All this software trying to make use of a limited resource can be problematic.

Older video cards are also a problem. Beauty Box is doing some heavy duty processing and the older video cards may not be up to the task. Particularly if you’re using very high resolution video or photos.

So what to do about it? Here’s some fixes:

Continue reading Beauty Box Video or Photo Crashing Problems – How to Fix It

All Installers are Updated for Creative Cloud

We’ve finally got all of our installers updated to recognize Adobe’s Creative Cloud. All of our plugins worked in CC, but you needed to point the installer to the right directory. We weren’t finding it automatically. Now we are! :-)

Actually this only affects the Photoshop Mac installers. The Windows installers look for the last version of the app you installed. If that was CC, then that’s what it would find. The Mac installers look for every installation of the app, so we have to specifically tell it to look for each new version. Probably more info than you wanted, but for those of you, uh, enjoying Creative Cloud… all of our products will install easily.

Beauty Box Video 3.0 Released!

The new version of Beauty Box Video for After Effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro 7/X is available for purchase or you can download the trial version. We’ve added a number of great new features, first and foremost is greatly improved automatic masking. This allows us to more accurately identify the skin tones and track them throughout the video clip. This means the retouching that Beauty Box does looks better than ever. Here’s an example:

Comparing the automatic mask from Beauty BoxNo automatic mask is perfect, we’re still picking up a bit of the background, but it’s much improved from 1.0

The other big new feature is the addition of preset Styles. It ships with 35 different styles to give your video a wide variety of different looks from a warm glow to a ‘day to night’ look. These are modifiable, so you can adjust the amount of smoothing up or down.

We’ve also improved the shine removal, improved the OpenCL support, so it should be faster on most cards, and made a bunch of other small improvements and bug fixes.

It’s a great upgrade and until June 30th it’s only $59 for Beauty Box 2.0 users ($99 for 1.0 users). New licenses are also on sale for only $149 (save $50!).

To purchase head over to the Digital Anarchy store. If you want to download the free trial and get more info, click here.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to OpenFX support… we’re adding NUKE support and the OpenFX version will be released in a couple weeks. At the same time, we’ll also be releasing a brand new version for Avid systems! You can download the beta of both the OpenFX and Avid builds here.

NAB Trends

What’s Trending at NAB

Around this time of the year, you start seeing a lot of talk about what’s going to be released at NAB. It’s always interesting to look at some of the larger trends that are out there. Of course, what’s trending for Digital Anarchy is Beauty Box 3.0. The photo version just got released (see below) and the video version is not far behind. But beyond that…

NAB Plugins Software After Effects Final Cut Pro

There are some of the obvious ones:

Continue reading NAB Trends

Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 in a Macintosh

All the speed tests we’ve done with Beauty Box on Windows show the Nvidia GeForce video cards to outpace their much more expensive cousins, the Quadros, significantly. A GTX 570 (~$270) is about 25-30% faster than a Quadro 4000 ($800).

Since Beauty Box can involve some render time, we’ve wished that Apple would authorize one of the newer GeForce cards for the Mac. No such luck. So we’re tired of waiting. We took a stock PNY GeForce 570 and put it into our MacPro. And lo! It works!

So… what’d we do and what are the caveats? This was not a 570 with ‘flashed’ ROM. This was just a straight up 570 which we use in one of our PC machines. Nothing fancy. We did need to download a few things:

– Latest Nvidia driver for the Mac, which can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/macosx-304.00.05f02-driver.html

– Latest CUDA drivers for the Mac, which can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/mac-driver-archive.html (as of this writing, v5.0.37 was the latest)

– If you’re using Premiere you need to update the cuda_supported_cards.txt file to add the name of the video card. In this case it would be: ‘GeForce GTX 570’  To do this, you need to go to the Premiere.app file, right+click on it and select ‘Show Package Contents’. Once you do that, this is what you’ll see:

CUDA nvidia opencl adobe premiere macintoshOnce that’s done, you are good to go!

Now that caveats…

Continue reading Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 in a Macintosh

Looking for Avid and Nuke Beta Testers

As noted in our most recent newsletter:

Due to popular demand, we are porting Beauty Box far and wide. Even farther than you might imagine, but you’ll hear more about that over the next few weeks.

For now, we have builds of Beauty Box for Avid and Nuke that we think are working well. We need some folks who actually use these host apps on a regular basis to verify that for us. So if you (or someone you know) might be interested in beta testing, please drop me an email at jim@nulldigitalanarchy.com. Please let me know what platform/program you’re on, if you’ve beta tested before, if you’ve used Beauty Box with other host apps, and if you like fruitcake. We’re pretty flexible about who we allow to beta test, but I draw the line at fruitcake. With eggnog we have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Champagne and snickerdoodles are fine by us though.

We’re very excited about both these apps, so we’re looking forward to getting Beauty Box out there.

avid Media Composer, plugins, plug-in, Foundry Nuke

Using Plugins on Multiple Computers

Plug-ins with multiple=So you’ve got two (or 20) computers and you want to use Beauty Box (or whatever) on all of them.

This is always a tricky thing for software developers. On one hand we realize many folks have multiple machines and since they’re only one person, they can only use one machine at a time. We would like to allow them the flexibility of having it on a couple machines. On the other hand, if you’re a studio with multiple machines and multiple people we think that if our software is good enough to be installed and used on all those machines we should be paid for it. Making sure that happens sometimes gets in the way of how a single user is using our plugins.

Companies

When you buy a license of our software, you’re buying it for one user. If you’re a company with multiple machines and multiple artists/editors using those machines, then there’s not much gray area and you need a license for each computer being used. We offer pretty good volume discounts and site licenses for this type of situation, you can contact sales@nulldigitalanarchy.com for pricing.

There is one big exception to this… if you’re using After Effects’ network rendering. You do not need extra licenses for After Effects render nodes. You can install Beauty Box on as many render nodes as you want for free.

People (and, no, companies are not people. I don’t care what the Dread Pirate Roberts says)

If you’re just one person with multiple machines then there’s some gray areas. The software can be installed on a couple machines, but we use the internet to determine if the plugin is being used on multiple computers at the same time. So if you have a desktop and a laptop and you’re using one or the other depending on whether you’re at home or at the office, no problem. You’re good to go.

However, if you’re in your studio/office and trying to use both machines for rendering/editing at the same time, you may run into problems. If so, here’s what you can do:

1)      You can purchase a second license. We do offer discounts for second licenses. Contact sales@nulldigitalanarchy.com.

2)      Use the second machine as an After Effects render node. As mentioned above, you can use Beauty Box on as many render nodes as you want for free. So if the machine is just being used to process frames sent to it from another machine you shouldn’t have any problems.

3)      Our licensing is set up so that you can install on two machines, they just can’t be in use simultaneously.  The way we check this is via the internet. So if you disable the internet connection on one machine, then we can’t check it. This is a hack and technically violates the license. However, since the spirit of the license is for one user, as long as it’s the same person using the machines we’re ok with it.

4)      Render out the Beauty Box clip on one machine while working on another part of your project on the second machine. BB just gets watermarked on the second machine, so it’s still usable.

Like most of you, we’re running a small company. We try to be as flexible as possible, but if you’re making money using our software we would like you to buy the correct number of licenses. Please support the companies that make the tools you use and that help you be successful.

I Feel the Need for Rendering Speed (or Why I Love My GPU)

We’re about to release a free update to Beauty Box Video (2.0.4… look for it next week) and figured it was time to talk about GPUs again. We’re seeing 500-800% speed increase using the GPU on newer graphics cards, especially Nvidia boards which seem to be more stable than AMD or Intel.

(You can get more info on Beauty Box and a free trial version HERE)

GPU accelerated plugin for after effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro

So where are we getting these numbers and how do YOU get them?

Continue reading I Feel the Need for Rendering Speed (or Why I Love My GPU)

Makin’ the World an Ugly Place (with Free Plugins)

In case you missed it, last week on Halloween we released a free filter called Ugly Box! The blog post is a little late for Halloween (although they are celebrating it in New Jersey today), but if you’re tired of all the election nonesense, there’s still plenty of time to use it to make Glenn Beck more interesting.

Ugly Box: a free plugin for After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and Premiere to make videos look worse!

You can download it here:

http://www.digitalanarchy.com/demos/ugly.html

I think one of the biggest surprises we had when we released Beauty Box 1.0 was that people kept asking us if it could make people look worse. Considering how much detail you can see on HD and how bad some people looked on HD, I didn’t really think there’d be a need for a filter to do that. But… we give our customers what they want though…

With Beauty Box 2.0, you could set Skin Detail Smoothing to a negative number resulting in, yep, Ugliness! It takes the skin texture, amplifies it and sharpens it making your talent either look a bit older or flat out hideous depending on their skin and the settings. Ugly Box, the fitler we’re releasing for free, let’s you use that aspect of Beauty Box. It’s a bit of a one trick pony, you don’t have all the control you do with Beauty Box, but it can definitely make the folks in your videos look a lot worse.

Anyways, all the details are below, so download it for free and have fun with it! I figured it’d be a great Halloween treat for all you visual effects artists and editors doing last minute scary videos (or election videos…). ;-)

The Distortions of Retouching

Did you see the before and after shots that Britney Spears released? Can’t say I’m a huge fan and I would never have imagined I’d be mentioning her in the Digital Anarchy blog, but, yet, I just did. She released retouched AND unretouched photos of herself, and put them out there for comparison. The article breaks down the shots and what was changed. While I think it was a very worthwhile thing for her to do, I really wish she’d given a more intelligent quote and actually address the issue instead of saying ‘it was fun being shot in front of a wall of cotton candy’. sigh. Click here for the article.

It reminds me of the Dove ad that takes a model from walking into the studio, through the shoot, through photoshop, and out on a billboard. Amazing commercial bringing attention to the same issues.

This might seem like an odd conversation for a company that makes software to do retouching, like Beauty Box, to be promoting.

Continue reading The Distortions of Retouching

Beauty Box Video Wins Videomaker’s Plugin of the Year

I got some fantastic news last Thursday… Videomaker magazine named Beauty Box Video the Video Plugin of the Year! The full write up is in the latest issue with ‘Best Products of the Year’ on the cover.

We’ve been developing plugins for After Effects and Final Cut Pro for a long time and we’ve never received the response to a plugin that we have with Beauty Box Video. The Videomaker award goes next to our award from TV Technology magazine for one of the top 10 products at NAB 2010.

It’s really nice to get some recognition for putting out good After Effects and FCP plugins that really solve problems that people are having. It was definitely an early Anarchismas present! ;-) We’ve got some big plans for Beauty Box in 2011, so there’ll be no resting on our laurels. Expect to see some really cool stuff in the first quarter of next year.

The LA Kings Use Beauty Box Video

We were excited to receive an email from Aaron Brenner, of the LA Kings hockey team, letting us know that they had used Beauty Box Video on a high profile piece they were doing.

An interesting aspect to Beauty Box Video is that it’s difficult to get people to admit they are using it. A LOT of production companies have bought and loved the software but they’re a little shy about singing its praises publicly. Their actor and actress clients aren’t too keen about wanting fans to know they used software to make them (more) beautiful.

This wasn’t a problem for the subjects of Aaron’s production for the Kings. It’s a behind the scenes video of the photo shoot of the LA King’s Ice Girls calendar! Some very beautiful girls who you wouldn’t think would need much retouching.

(Click on the image above to be taken to the King’s site and see the video.)

However, no situation is perfect.

Continue reading The LA Kings Use Beauty Box Video

Keeping A DSLR Steady For A Video Shoot?

Ever since they started shooting motion pictures one of the biggest questions have been… How do you keep the damn camera steady? And what do you do about it if it’s not? If you’re a photographer just getting into shooting video with your DSLR, you’re likely to have the same questions. I’ll give you some answers to the first question and a few tips on dealing with the second.

While a shaky camera can be used, on rare occasion, to good effect… it’s usually something to be avoided. More often than not, it just means your watching a B horror flick and the owner of said shaky camera is about to be bitten in half. Hopefully we can get you shooting stable video so as to insure you are not similarly attacked by creatures that are aggravated by shaky video.

So… how do you avoid such a fate?

Continue reading Keeping A DSLR Steady For A Video Shoot?

2010 is already a ‘beauty”.

On the heels of a wonderful customer email from 2009, I’d like to show you my favorite email from 2010. Never mind that the year is only two days old. This email will quickly become a classic around our office.

Michael Maller emailed us regarding his recent purchase of Beauty Box. This is our new skin retouching software for video footage in After Effects and Final Cut Pro. Michael had some great things to say about the subtle effect that Beauty Box provides when smoothing away wrinkles, blemishes and other skin issues.

Continue reading 2010 is already a ‘beauty”.

Beauty Box model shoot.

Beauty Box has been a very fun product to develop. The best part of releasing our new Beauty Box product, I think, was working with the models who lent their beauty and time. After the photoshoot, we treated their skin with our Final Cut Pro plugin in post-production. This smoothed out their  blemishes, laugh lines and other issues with their skin quality.

Before the models arrived, Digital Anarchy spent the morning preparing the shoot area. We decided to convert the living room of our Chief Executive Anarchist, Jim Tierney, rather than renting a space. His purple velvet couch made a terrific rich backdrop and we hung black striped curtains to frame the shots. Some of the footage was shot outside; luckily the weather held. San Francisco in December can be very cold or very warm, often within the same three hour period.

Sitting in for the models before they arrive:

121609-bbox-preshootdeb

Continue reading Beauty Box model shoot.