Price: £290 plus VAT
Company: Boris FX
Boris Continuum is a collection of 23 After Effects-compatible plug-ins, which allows it to be used in a wide range of apps from After Effects itself to combustion* (although watch out for the odd bug when using with anything else other than AE). It comprises of the component filters found in Boris Red, without the powerful titling features (available separately as Boris Graffiti) or the ability to work directly within editing applications. Without the power inherent in working in the editing space, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Continuum may not be up to much. However, even when what seems to be Red’s raison d’etre is taken away, the rest of package more than holds its own. Central to Continuum’s usefulness are powerful Z Space filters. These give control over the positioning of up to five AE layers in three dimensions. Each layer has two independent spotlights of any colour, plus ambient light controls. Most importantly, they can intersect, caste and receive soft drop shadows. There is a background layer to receive shadows as well. When used in their most basic forms, the Z Space filters are unimpressive. They’re great if you wish to create Top Of The Pops-style spinning-window effects – but of no great use in the real world. However, by using the opacity and alpha-channel controls, it’s possible to create a wide range of excellent artistic and special effects – from ghosts and swirling clouds to 3D object composites. It’s the ability to intersect layers that’s most appealing in the Z Space filters. This may only seem a small part of the filters’ potential, but Continuum is the only package at this price point that can do this. To get this otherwise means paying over a grand more for Red – or splashing out a lot more money on something by Discreet. The other 19 filters are nowhere near as groundbreaking, but are impressive in their own right. Many replicate filters found in AE or in other filter collections, but add a whole extra level of control. For example, the particle engine can perform all of the standard tasks including dishing out effective fire, smoke and snow, but can also take the shape of particles from any EPS file. This can be used for anything from raining company logos to cartoon-style effects. The only problem with having such a deep level of control is that it can be very easy to become overwhelmed or spend hours tweaking a particular effect. Each effect has between 10 and 25 per cent more controls than your average AE settings, which is good for control freaks but a nightmare for the indecisive. However, if you’re buying Continuum, it’s going to be for the extra level of control to some extent – so you can’t hold this against the set. The one filter that isn’t up to scratch is 3D Text. Although the end results can be impressive, and the level of control for bevelling and lighting positioning is as large as for any other effect, actually creating the text is a pain. The text creation window takes forever to appear and only allows you to type the letters and select a font. Everything else is editable only after this, and re-editing the font or letters is fiddlier than a Corrs concert. If you want text functions for AE, buy Graffiti instead. However, one dud out of 23 is hardly something to complain about. Continuum improves upon what you can do currently with AE and the majority of the standard add-on bundles, giving you both more control and extra functionality. And intersecting 3D layers for under £300 can’t currently be beaten.