Review: Luca Visual FX Hi-Tech Final Cut Pro X plugins

Monday, 09 December 2013

If you want to add a large variety of technological style to your Final Cut Pro X projects, try Hi-Tech. The experienced motion graphics designers at Luca Visual FX have bundled together many plugins into a single pack that can make any short film, documentary, advert, TV drama or feature film look instantly more hi-tech.

FxFactory

Hi-Tech is downloaded, installed and activated using the free FxFactory plugin management system. Although FxFactory can download, install, activate and deactivate plugins for Final Cut Pro, Motion, Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects, this plugin pack only works with Final Cut Pro X. Once users of those other applications see Hi-Tech, many will feel they are missing out.

Once you download the FxFactory application, you'll see many free and commercial plugin packs. Amongst them is Hi-Tech. FxFactory can download a watermarked trial version:

luca-watermarked

Downsides of the FxFactory system used to be that ts was a large download and that it added very many watermarked plugins in your NLE. The FxFactory installer is now a 69MB download, and you can use the application to turn off every plugin you don't want to see in Final Cut Pro.

In recent years handy free plugins have been added to FxFactory - including some by Andy Mees that many editors would pay to use every day. You never know whose free plugins will appear in FxFactory next.

Hi-Tech variety

Hi-tech is divided up into groups of plugins in the effects browser: Displays, Fractals, Holograms, Lower Thirds, Sci-Fi Mographs and a bonus pair of Sports themed plugins. Luca Visual FX designed for multiple  effects from this pack to be used on the same clip. They can also be used to modify clips that can then be used to make source clips that appear as elements inside other effects.

Here's a video showing all 31 effects in action:

The Lower Thirds are the most straightforward way of adding a hi-tech look to a documentary. Although these would normally be implemented as title generators, Luca have made these effects like all the other plugins in this pack.

luca-hitech-lower-thirds

Each lower third can be radically customised in many ways. For example here are the controls for the Hi-tech Chemical Lower Third:

luca-hitech-chemical-controls

The Fractals group of effects can be applied to any clip, but they also work well as elements that can be used within the hi-tech displays generated by other hi-tech filters. For example, a clip that has had the Script Factal effect applied to it can be put into a composition and that composition can then be used in a lower third - dropped in as a clip into one of the media wells (MEDIA 1 or MEDIA 2 in the controls for the Chemical lower third above).

luca-hitech-fractals

As well as being able to change colours and detail settings, the Fractal group effects have on-screen controls to help editors precisely position elements to line up with clip features - as do the majority of the Hi-Tech effects.

luca-hitech-osc

Most of the Holograms effects divide clips into multiple areas using glowing lines. Multiple instances of the Holographic Objects effect can be added to the same clip with different settings to show a variety of different animated holograms overlaid onto the same clip at the same time.

luca-hitech-holograms

Most of the Sci-Fi Mographs effects are more complex patterns that add hi-tech content that fills clips. The Planet Earth and Planetarium filters can be used as single elements applied to more complex displays.

luca-hitech-scifimographs

Whereas the Sci-Fri Mographs effects are designed to fill clips, the Displays effects seem to be designed to be overlaid on top of existing footage. 

luca-hitech-displays

Hi-Tech complexity

I divide editing software plugins into two groups. The first group are those that can be used in small ways on nearly every timeline.  The second group is made of of those that can save a great deal of time on specific projects. Hi-Tech fits into the second group. Unless you only work on modern thrillers sci-fi movies or adverts for technology, you won't be using Hi-Tech every day. However, if you use some of the Hi-Tech plugins on one timeline, the time you save will immediately justify the purchase price.

A big decision when designing plugins is how much control to give busy editors. Some want to be able to adjust every possible element of an effect - others want to apply an effect and not be daunted by a long list of controls that can't fit in the effect inspector without scrolling. The Hi-Tech plugins provide very many controls - but editors in a hurry shouldn't worry: the default settings work very well. Those sitting next to impatient directors can quickly apply an effect and move on to solving the next problem. If there's more time later, they can go back and tweak the effect settings.

An example of clever defaults is that Luca have already populated media wells with interesting content. This means that for each effect to look good, editors don't have to drop hi-tech clips into each well. For example, a specific animated logo can be added to the MEDIA 1 well in any of the lower third filters, but if no logo is available, there is relevant hi-tech content already in place.

Hi-Tech conclusion

Hi-Tech from Luca Visual FX is a plugin pack that makes complex well-designed motion graphics quick and straightforward to apply to Final Cut Pro X projects. For those who need flexibility, once applied each effect provides all the controls anyone could want. With this pack editors can concentrate on being editors, while editors with motion graphics inclinations will be very satisfied by the power available to them from within Final Cut Pro X.

For those wary of installing FxFactory, take another look - smaller installer sizes and better plugin activation control are welcome changes you might not know about.