• Price: 499

  • Company: Amber Visual

  • Pros: Fast. Flexible adjustment tools. Presets well arranged.

  • Cons: No support for editing software or Mac OS X (yet). No grain tools. Can cramp AE's layout.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

Halide is the first release from UK plug-in newcomer Amber Visual. It’s a 'film-look' plug-in for After Effects that's designed to compete with Red Giant Software's Magic Bullet Suite, manipulating video footage to give it the appearance of film. It still has a few rough edges, but Halide has a lot to offer.

The advantages that Amber Visual says Halide offers over Magic Bullet are speed and creative control. Halide is faster -- in previewing and rendering footage, and in use.

Applying Halide works much the same way as Magic Bullet. You can start playing around with the controls in AE's Effects palette, but most of the time, you'll begin by selecting a preset 'look' and then tweaking it. Halide's collection of presets are better arranged than Magic Bullet's Looks -- as they're split by type rather than being in one long list. They also provide a preview of how footage will be affected -- rather than a generic shot -- with zoom controls. As with Magic Bullet you can create, modify, save, and reuse your own presets.

A five-second preview of a standard bleach bypass on 1080p HD footage takes 25 seconds -- compared to 37 seconds using Magic Bullet. Red Giant's plug-in tapped our workstation's nVidia Quadro FX 3500 graphics card, while Halide uses the CPU alone. A render of ten seconds of the same sequence took 57 seconds using Halide's preset, against 69 seconds using a Magic Bullet Look.

Once you've selected your presets, Halide offers a wide selection of tweaking tools including visual controls such as curves, and 3D RGB and hue wheels, which Magic Bullet lacks. They sit in a horizontal line, which can make AE's layout seem cramped if you expand the Effects palette to fit on a standard 1,600-x-1,200 screen -- though it's fine on a widescreen or HD display.

Halide provides strong competition to Magic Bullet, though it lacks that plug-in's grain tools, it doesn't work in editing packages such as Premiere Pro yet, there's no Mac version at this stage. If none of those factors matter, Halide is worth a look.