By Neil Bennett | on September 06, 2007
Pros: Nodal workflow best for complex projects. Huge depth to feature set. Excellent particle, type and scripting tools.
Cons: Vector graphics tools not as good as After Effects. Scripting language has steep learning curve. No 3D workspace.
Vision is a suite of tools for the creation of high-end motion graphics. Pitching itself at artists who find themselves swamped working on After Effects’ timeline with large numbers of layers, or are tired of recreating multiple versions of the same project with simple textual or graphical differences, Vision offers an alternative way of working – but we wonder how many AE users will want to make that leap.
Though technically a completely new product, Vision actually a ‘reconfigured’ version of Eyeon’s high-end visual effects suite Fusion. With more than ten years of development behind it, Fusion is a highly respected application that’s been used to composite VFX for recent movies such as Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Spiderman 3 and Evan Almighty. Version 5.2 was released recently for Windows and Linux, as was the first version for Windows XP 64-bit. Though its reputation is in VFX, Fusion also has an accomplished set of tools for motion-graphics creation – which Vision highlights.
By ‘reconfigured’, we mean that the company has stripped a few features out of Fusion to create Vision – though considering that Vision is less than a quarter of the price of Fusion, it’s surprising how much remains.
Few users will miss that Vision ‘only’ supports a 16-bit colour space, to Fusion’s 32-bit floating-point colour – as video and graphics destined for broadcast, disc or the Web will be 10-bit at best. 32-bit colour support is offered by After Effects CS3. It helps when working with very complex colour corrections and effects, but it’s only when working with film or 2K-plus digital formats is it completely necessary.
Stuck in two dimensions
Also missing in Vision is Fusion’s 3D workspace. Even Apple’s Motion 3 works in full 3D, which makes its removal an odd choice. This is Vision’s most serious failing, as many motion-graphics artists have become used to having elements of their comps transform and interact in 3D space. Various features – including the particle system and the text engine – have their own 3D systems, but they don’t mesh together.
There are also no Windows 64-bit or Linux versions of Vision, which isn’t likely to upset any potential users.
Vision’s core advantage over After Effects is its Flow, a panel with a flowchart of interconnected nodes that you use to build your composition. This approach should be familiar to anyone who’s used Autodesk’s Combustion or Apple Shake. It’s quicker to navigate than layers on a timeline for very complex projects, and makes it easier to build complex effects – where the output of one filter can be used as the input of any number of other nodes. After Effects has the Flowchart panel, but it’s too basic to be usable.
Other tabs in the Flow panel provide access to a simple timeline (above) for setting the in- and out-points for clips and effects, and a spline editor for managing keyframes over time. As AE’s timeline includes keyframes, it’s faster than Vision for timing elements together – especially if those elements come from different parts of the layer stack/Flow. The spline editors look almost identical, but Vision’s (below) is far superior with many more ways to work quickly with multiple splines.
Vision’s implementation of the flowchart view is uniformly excellent. There are a huge number of options on how you view and arrange your flows, so you can work horizontally or vertically, and with diagonal or orthogonal links. You can even collapse groups of nodes into a single node.
The interface is well thought-out, with only a few idiosyncrasies such as clicking-&-dragging on a button to select a colour in a clip – where you’d expect an Eyedropper icon.
At first glance, the rest of Vision’s interface is as you’d expect from a modern compositor – dark grey and comprised of interlocked panels. However, you can modify it to a huge degree in the Preferences, or even further using scripting. Our only issue with the standard interface is that the media Bin is a floating window that you have to keep bringing up and hiding when building a comp. Eyeon suggests placing it on a second monitor but we’d prefer the option to integrate it as a panel.
Everything is under control
Once you start creating compositions, you discover a depth to the toolset that really shouldn’t be there in a version 1.0. We haven’t room here to describe every feature in detail – it would take as long as describing every feature, new and old, in After Effects CS3 – but here’s what you get in the text tool as an example of the level of control Vision offers.
There’s a full set of typographic controls, including leading, tracking, and kerning – and the ability to ignore a font’s set tracking, and even force monospacing or turn off glyphs if you wish. You can grab individual characters and move them around manually, though if you want to change their other parameters, such as font or colour, then you have to use the Modifiers tab – which feels weird as you just select letters and change parameters in most other creative applications.
You can use a gradient, image or video clip as the fill for your letters. Text can be laid-out from a point, in a frame, round a circle or along a path – and Vision’s path creation tools are the equal of AE’s, supporting B-splines and polylines,
and it has an equivalent to Photoshop’s Magic Wand tool called the Wand Mask.
Text animation functions range from basic write on/write off to the ability to transform characters, words or lines individually. Each text node has its own 3D space, but its output is still a flat layer.
The included library of text styles contains only a few styles, and no animation presets. It’s fiddly to use, with a choice of two approaches – you can apply presets to the characters only using the shading command, or you have to create a new node from the preset and then modify it – neither of which is ideal.
There’s just as much depth to Vision’s paint tools, with a huge range of control for rotoscoping and retouching, including a Clone Stamp tool, multi-stroke painting and full Wacom support – though it’s the sheer number of parameters and options that makes the set so powerful.
For vector graphics though, Vision lacks After Effects CS3’s Shape Layers system for building interconnected complex shapes. You can’t bring in vector files from Illustrator either, though you can import Photoshop PSDs with their layers intact. Vision’s vector shape tools are a match for the likes of Combustion or Boris Red/Blue, but can’t compete with Adobe’s toolset.
One area where Vision is much more impressive than the competition is with particles. You have a choice of
18 particle nodes that allow you to build intricate system with creators (pEmitter, pImageEmitter), forces (pAvoid, pBounce, pFriction, pTurbulence, pVortex), changes (pChangeStyle, pSpawn), and a pRender node to create the final output. The output looks organic and is of very high quality.
Vision also shines in its automation system. Using Vision’s scripting language, you can create compositions that build themselves based on the contents of text files. If you have to create multiple graphics sequences from the same sequence, this could be a huge timesaver.
Other features within Vision that impressed us include background rendering – which requires GridIron’s Nucleo Pro plug-in for After Effects – a fast proxy system and nine high-end warp tools.
Vision is an excellent tool for a niche audience. If you regularly work with compositions with 25 layers or more, Vision’s nodal approach will let you work faster than After Effects’ Timeline – and its scripting engine could be a godsend if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty with code. Motion-graphics artists used to AE’s swift timing controls, 3D workspace and Shape Layers may find Vision lacking though.