Plug It In
Linda Romanello & Marc Loftus
March 19, 2018

Plug It In

You want to create a project that will dazzle your audience. You have great cinematography and the perfect score, yet you still need some outstanding visual effects to finish off several scenes. While time is limited and budgets are tight, there are a number of tools available for the capable pros that will affordably help raise projects to a higher level. Here’s a peek at what industry vets are using to help elevate their VFX to the next level.
Jean Baptiste (JB) Cambier is a scene assembler at Culver City, CA-based Blur Studios (, but is also a CG generalist who contributes to the rigging and compositing teams as well. Cambier has a fairly sizable arsenal of plug-ins that help him complete his visual effects work, including Itoo Software’s Forest Pack, Exlevel’s GrowFX, Quixel Megascans, Debris Maker, RayFire Studios’ RayFire, Sitni Sati Fume FX, Golaem Crowd Simulation and Thinkbox Software’s Krakatoa.
“I primarily work in scene assembly where plug-ins like Forest Pack, GrowFX, Megascans and Debris Maker are all used together to create lush forests and outdoor environments in 3DS Max. The effects team here also uses FumeFX, RayFire and Krakatoa, and the rigging team uses Golaem for crowd simulations in Maya. 

“I’ll focus on what we do in scene assembly. Forest Pack allows us to quickly populate scenes with many trees, rocks or shrubs; it has a great instancing system and calculates geometry very fast to duplicate objects. Once you define a tree’s geometry, you can populate a scene with those trees in a variety of ways, with color variation and even clusters for larger scenes. It’s an easy way to build an environment and you can get the transforms to send to other software packages outside of 3DS Max if we need to. We use GrowFX to design the trees, shrubs and plants themselves, you can define details like the diameter of a trunk and number of branches and leaves and it will build geometry based on those parameters.

“We pull diffuse, bump and reflection maps based on the real world scans pulled from Quixel Megascan to generate photoreal natural environments. We also used Debris Maker to generate rocks or flocks of birds. It has great algorithms to do this.

“All of the plug-ins that we use have their strengths, but overall the ones that we use help us standardize on a consistent set of tools across departments that we can hand off projects and communicate with one another seamlessly whether an animator is working in 3DS Max, Maya or Houdini. Aside from off-the-shelf plug-ins, we also rely heavily on tools built in-house for auto-rigging systems.”

Asaf Yeger is VFX supervisor and senior Flame artist at New York City’s The Artery ( He relies on Logic MatchBox plug-ins and Sapphire Sparks from GenArts.
“As a Flame artist, in recent years, the Logic MatchBox plug-ins — a community-driven shader created by fellow Flame users — seems to cover and fulfill most of my creative needs. It has sped up my every-day workflow and become a necessary tool for almost every comp I create.
“I still love the Sapphire Sparks — in particular the Sapphire lens-flare — as the simple interactive interface and the ease of use can produce fast and realistic flares without spending too much time creating the very artistic flares that we all love.”

As head of editorial/VFX editor at Bournemouth, UK’s Outpost VFX (, Lena Turnier says she most often uses Phoenix DVO Clarity.

“DVO stands for Digital Vision Optics, a series of image enhancing filters for Nucoda FilmMaster, and Phoenix DVO Clarity is a noise reduction tool. Digital Vision ( calls it the ‘best in industry automatic noise and grain reduction.’ It is mainly used in grading and restoration work to denoise in the best and most beautiful way ever (and ideally in realtime), and you can use it to ‘fix a shot’ in front of a client and make them say, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazing! I didn’t think we could lift this shot so much without introducing a lot of noise!’ And then they love you. Basically, that’s why one needs DVO Clarity.”

According to Yoram Tal (“Tal”), colorist and online editor who works predominantly on unscripted shows for the major networks, including ABC’s Dancing with The Stars, NBC’s The Wall, TBS’s Separation Anxiety and Fox’s American Grit, as well as the network’s brand new shows My Kitchen Rules and Kicking & Screaming (see “Posting Reality TV,” beginning on page 20), he is a “big fan” of Boris Continuum Complete [BCC].

“I have been using BCC since it was bundled with Avid Symphony. BCC 10 has introduced the Mocha engine into the mix. Now all of these very useful plug-ins I have been utilizing for some time just got elevated in the most wonderful way. With the Mocha tracker, I can create masks and track things extremely fast and accurately. Fixing shots that would take hours, or at times wouldn’t even be possible without sending it out to a VFX house just a few months ago, are now a day-to-day part of the process inside Avid. Standalone Mocha as a plug-in inside Avid will increase productivity and what I can offer my clients even more.

“Post production is an ever-changing business environment, and anything more I can offer my clients is a plus. BCC is another great tool that helps me along that path.”

For Rob Harvey, owner/creative director at London’s Lola Post Production Ltd (, plug-ins certainly help give his projects the boost he feels they need.

According to Harvey, his favorite plug-in is, “Neat Video, a Nuke plug-in that removes noise.” His most recent purchase is, “Mocha Pro — excellent planar tracker — that we have been using heavily on recent jobs.”

And one of the latest plug-ins he’s used is, OCULA 4 from The Foundry (, which he used “for alignment and color matching IMAX 6K stereo footage.”