Price When Reviewed: £395 plus VAT
In a world of look-alike plug-ins, the Tinderbox series for After Effects has always gone that bit further. The two previous collections have acquired a deserved reputation for providing apt and useful toolsets that have something to offer any After Effects user – whether interested in special-effects creation or general video-production. Tinderbox 3 continues the tradition by offering a freshly minted set of tools with a slant towards film-like work. T_Silk is a skin smoother to give actors that compellingly expensive freshly made-up-look. It works surprisingly well, de-stubbling and de-wrinkling anyone without looking unnatural or adding visible artifacts. There’s also a particle simulator – T_Sparks – a powerful, sprawling affair that includes glow, fizzle, wind, and gravity options that look far more natural and are more useful than the tepid simulations provided in the AE Production Bundle. T_BadTV does what it says on the tin. If you want something to look distorted and electronically abused, with plenty of TV-era electron-gun grunge, this will do the job superbly. For fans of moving celluloid, the T_OldFilm plug-in adds grain, brightness variations, hairs, dust, scratches, vintage defocusing, and other tools to recreate the age of silent classics – or a 1940s-style Technicolour shimmer. All the above can be keyframed with a multitude of options. For some effects, an element of automation is built in, so it’s easy to get a useful result with a minimum of set-up. Not all the effects are quite that complex. T_Diffusion filter adds a Spielberg-esque, dreamy, soft-focus glow. And then there’s T_Turner, which turns footage into a splotchy multicoloured neo-Romantic painting of itself. While it’s too abstract for everyday use, it’s a genuinely original effect for specialized applications, and also an interesting spin on the common, not often-successful painterly brushstroke simulators that haunt the AE landscape. More prosaically, there’s a powerful matting plug-in (which makes light work of bad green screen shoots), a gradient blur, and a radial blur for spinning-wheel effects. This doesn’t track, so you’ll either need to feed it with tracking-position data to follow on-screen objects, or track by hand. Tinderbox box also includes basic, everyday utilities – including matte control, field control, and a useful banding remover. If there’s a downside, it’s that there’s a certain amount of overlap with plug-ins already included in the AE 5.5 Production Bundle. But Tinderbox 3 softens the blow by adding features to make up for it. For example, T_Lightning includes a plasma-ball mode that isn’t available in Adobe’s own version. Also, a couple of the tools are just plain quirky. There won’t be many days when you need a mosaic-look generator or a water-condensation simulator. Minor nitpicks aside, this is an extremely creative set of applications. Looking at the competition, you’ll find that you can sometimes pay a similar amount for just one specific plug-in. Here you have more than 20 – and the quality is high. While you may not find a use for every tool in the collection, this is a plug-in set that should be on your shopping list, especially if you’re looking for film-style tools for music promos, ad shoots, eye-catching Web footage, or general digital experimentation.