Phyx Cleaner user interface
There are general tools and there are specialized tools; and then there are many permutations of the general and specific focus of a tool. There is no doubt that a well-practiced user of a general tool could achieve the results of any of that tool's specialized applications.
For those of us lower achievers, there is the option of using some of the specialized tools to get the results and/or effects we need.
A case in point is color correction, a topic all us involved in production has to deal with at some point. A small and thriving sub-industry has grown up over recent years, which provides task-specific color correction tools aimed at saving time, energy, and money. Could these tasks be accomplished by the standard color correction tools? Possibly—but certainly not by everyone and certainly not so quickly.
Phyx Color, Cleaner, and Stylist are plug- in packages (each contains five plug-ins) for specific areas of color effects and correction which are applied inside After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Express, and Motion. These plug-ins are not a full-featured color correction solution, but do offer very effective, quick, and easy-targeted solutions to specific problems and situations. Their utility and value is in their ease of use and specificity. And any of these filters can be used on a whole or masked part of a moving image.
Phyx Color takes aim at "looks." In that, it is not the only tool in the market that does so, but it does offer some unique approaches to creating looks that are very helpful in other correction scenarios. The Color product consists of "Bleach ByPass," which reduces saturation and range; "GlowDark," which adds diffusion to dark areas of the image and also serves to soften hard edges; "Selective Saturation," which provides simple color sampling and accurate saturation control; "Shift/Suppress," which allows users to sample, change, or suppress colors; and "Techni2Strip," which simulates the Technicolor 2 Strip process.
Phyx Cleaner provides solutions for several common issues affecting camera footage. There's "Chroma Reconstructor" for repair of pixilated chroma channels, and is a great aid to many keying problems; "DeBand" reduces bit-rate quantization in gradients that cause banding and improves the reality of 3D surfaces. "DeInterlace" does what its name implies, and "Digital Make Up Kit" removes skin blemishes, smoothes wrinkles, and more. "Fast Noise Reduction" quickly reduces high and low frequency noise, and can perform post-processing sharpening.
Phyx Stylist provides further stylistic effects and image fixes, including: "Cathode Ray," which creates night vision scopes, old TV image quality, microscopes, gun sights, and the like; "Fog Generator," which creates moving and changing fog with control over density, detail, depth, and diffraction; "Haze Removal," which restores clarity and color, and includes a warming filter to bring 3400-degree color temperatures down to sub-3200 degrees); "Skin Light," which simulates the effect of bouncing light onto a subject's skin, and provides control over reflector color and the amount of light; and "Sparkler Star," which adds a sparkle of full blown star to an object's highlights, with control over size, color, and intensity of the sparkle or star.
All filters are built for Macintosh
OS X 10.5 and above, and operate in 64-bit mode when possible. Controls are simple and direct, and filter-specific help is just a click away, as it's installed in the System Library as an HTML page and are accessed through your chosen browser.
I used these filter packages in post operations on a concert/DVD edit within After Effects CS5. Both the concert and bonus segments had a lot of close ups, and I used Cleaner's "Digital Makeup Kit" extensively to smooth the talent's skin and exposure. In addition, I found that the concurrent liberal use of Stylist's "Skin Light" to even-out the exposure on the talent's face made for a much more pleasing image. The changes were modest, but effective, as you can see by the screenshot accompanying this review; the yellow line shows before and after, and is a handy comparison tool.
I also used "Skin Light" and the "Haze Removal" filters to soften reflections from guitars in concert sequences, and found that these mild corrections made the overall image much more pleasing. All the uses I made of the Phyx plug-ins on this project were individually subtle, but extremely useful in making the total "look" of all the segments much more elegant. I found the software easy to use, and when I needed some clarification, it was just a click away.
The Phyx plug-ins are distributed as part of Noise Industries' FX Factory, which is a rather new and innovative way of software distribution. The installation offered a wide variety of plug-ins from many developers, all of which operate fully in trial mode, and after a certain period of time revert to imposing a watermark on the rendered output until registration (if desired) is accomplished by purchasing through the plug-in interface itself. The package comes with a number of free plug-ins, many of which are quite useful and which are available after a very simple registration process. Installation and updates were effortless, without the registration hassles that plague some software. FxFactory does fill up the plug-ins menu, but there are many valuable tools to try and incorporate into your workflow.
I'm a great fan of the philosophy of finding and using the right tool for the job. I especially like it when the use of a particular tool teaches me new ways of identifying and dealing with problems I couldn't quite define. I place the Phyx plug-in packages squarely in this category.
For the most part, all of the plug-ins in these three packages are specialized solutions to rather focused image problems, as opposed to more general color correction. As such, they perform admirably. Even without much masking work, they work on specific areas of the image, and quickly accomplish what they aim at. Very few parameters, in the case of these Phyx plug-ins, means they are quite painless and fast to operate. The results are easily excellent, and the price is very reasonable.
Michael Hanish operates Free Lunch, a video/audio/multimedia production house near Guilford, Vt. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.