Price: 485 . 145 . 535
Company: Boris FX
Pros: Fleshed-out toolset with more effects. Handy new 3D manipulation tools.
Cons: A few bugs. No Mac/Vista versions. Very specific hardware requirements.
Boris Blue is aimed at artists creating high-end motion graphics. It has strong competition from recently released new versions of Adobe’s After Effects, Apple’s Motion and Eyeon’s brand-new Vision – but Blue has a few unique tricks that are of great interest.
Boris Blue has more 3D capabilities than any of its rivals. After Effects and Motion have 3D workspaces with lighting and shadow systems, particle systems, interlocking layers and many other tools for the positioning and arrangement of 2D planes in 3D space.
Blue’s toolset has all of these and a set of unique true-3D features: including the ability to import 3D models, add 3D primitives, extrude text and other vector objects into 3D space, and warp and shatter footage across the workspace. Version 2.0 of Blue doesn’t add anything groundbreaking to this mix. It expands the number of 3D effects that can be applied to flat layers – called Deformers – increases its library of video filters, and adds some useful controls to its 3D system.
Boris Blue 1.0 included only two Deformers: Bend Taper Twist and Ripple Z Rings – which limited what you could do with the functions severely. Version 2.0 adds nine more: Curl, Flatten, Mesh Chaos, Mesh Shatter, Model Displacer, Pre-Transform Pulse, Slice-Stretch, and Un-Deform.
The new Deformers give you many more options over how footage, shapes and type can be manipulated and animated – and they’re an excellent addition to Blue’s unique selling point.
Alongside Deformers in Blue’s effects set are Image Processing Effects – standard filters to you and me – and effects taken from Boris FX’s Continnum Complete collection (above), which use OpenGL to create some artistic effects. Ten Continuum filters – from Glare and Glint to Damaged TV and Lightning – have been added in Boris Blue 2.0, along with seven Image Processing Effects including Film Process and Glow Light.
Again these help to flesh out Blue’s tools, which were rather empty before.
The only major change to Boris Blue’s interface is the addition of split views in the Composite Window – allowing you to see your scene from multiple angles in 3D space. There’s a four-up option (below) that’s similar to the standard view as used by 3D suites, as it makes positioning elements in 3D much easier. An on-screen ‘interactor’ has been added, allowing objects, lights and cameras to be moved within the Composite Window.
The camera controls have been enhanced by the addition of two Camera Orientation modes: Point To Target and Point To Object. The former keeps the camera focused on a point wherever the camera moves, which the latter keeps it locked onto an object wherever either the camera or the object moves. These are great timesavers for motion graphics work.
Blue 2.0 can also run as a plug-in for Avid systems including Xpress Pro and Media Composer – though currently not Nitris – which should speed up the workflow of using Blue for graphics in broadcast editorial departments. However, as there’s no Mac version, this option isn’t open to Final Cut Pro users. Windows Vista isn’t supported either.
There are a lot of constraints on what systems Blue 2.0 will run on. You must have an nVidia graphics card and it must be from that company’s previous generation of Quadro FX or GeForce line of cards. The latest models including the FX 1600, 1700, 4600 and 5500, or the GeForce 8xxx range aren’t supported – which is poor.
The reasons behind this is that Blue is apparently pulling some hardcore tricks in OpenGL, so each board needs to be tested and qualified. However, even on our standard test system with an FX 3500 board installed, we encountered a few stability issues.
The windows that make up Boris Blue’s interface snap together if their edges are placed next to each other. However, we found that trying to pull windows apart lead to them being stretched into odd shapes, which prompted a crash. We also encountered many more random freezes and crashes than we expect from a pro-level creative application, mainly when manipulating objects in 3D space.
We were also less than impressed with Boris Blue’s documentation. It ships with the same PDF manuals as version 1.0, and a series of HTML documents detailing the new functions found in version 2.0. Between the two, all of Blue 2.0’s functions are covered in depth, but there’s no central reference guide to dip into when you need a question answered.
Despite these issues, there’s much to like about Boris Blue 2.0. It offers a 3D toolset that just isn’t available elsewhere. Current users of other motion graphics tools – especially After Effects – aren’t likely to ditch their tools for Blue. However, at its new, much-lower price, Blue is a great companion tool to AE for particular projects.