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Boris FX's Continuum 2020.5 the Swiss Army Knife of plugins?

4 minute read


A number of years ago, I wrote that BorisFX is the Swiss Army Knife of visual effects plug-ins. As the soft-spoken but highly driven Boris engineered acquisitions such as Imagineer Systems
(Mocha Pro), Sapphire, Particle Illusion and Silhouette, I could now extend the analogy to the
33-tool Swiss Champ XAVT behemoth.

BorisFX has followed an increasing number of developers in subscription-based licensing. While licensing servers often create activation glitches (I have had some issues with Avid and Boris), tech support can resolve those quickly and those minor frustrations are far outweighed by the biggest advantage that subscriptions can offer—frequent feature-laden updates.

Revenue statues required that maintenance or bug-fixes could be free but new features needed to be paid. Subscriptions not only level out the cost to users but also provide both the revenue streams for development and fulfil statutory requirements. And subscriptions can be tailored from individual to enterprise users.

It should also be noted that in this remote-work environment, and offering to convert licenses to remote workstations.

In keeping with that ongoing update policy, Boris has just released version 2020.5 for Continuum Complete, Sapphire and Mocha Pro.

We’ll take a quick look at some of the new features of Continuum Complete and Sapphire. 

Boris Continuum Complete

The descendant of the original BorisFX, Continuum Complete offers 250 plug-ins over 17 categories. Software support includes Adobe After Effects and PremierePro, Avid Media Composer, Apple FCP X, DaVinci Resolve, Foundry Nuke and VEGAS Pro.

Early in its development BorisFX supported motion tracking within certain of its VFX plug-ins.  This tracking capability was greatly enhanced leveraging the planar tracking acquired with Mocha. Each plug-in has an entire library of presets to use as is or for customization.  And of course, plug-in parameters are adjustable to the creativity and skill of the editor.

We’ll take a look at 4 enhancements in Continuum Complete 2020.5.

Particle Illusion:

Since its inclusion within Continuum Complete last year, Particle Illusion has continued to evolve with additional libraries.  The update now allows users to save favorites to avoid scrolling through literally dozens of presets. Boris claims faster playback speed and I can certainly attest to this just by experience within PremierePro where I initially tested the revised plug in.

Particle Illusion launches from within the Effects control panel in whatever your host operation is and as such has its own interface and ability to display presets. Just as in earlier versions, there are 4 layout options but what is worth emphasizing is the Force and Turbulance features for more precise and creative control of particles while also speeding up operation.  New Force and Turbulance controls included a choice of Grid or Point.  In Point mode, the particles emit from a point. But using either the HUD in the viewer window or by controlling parameters directly in effect controls, the particle direction can have multiple changes in direction, speed, intensity, etc.  And all of these changes can be keyframed across the duration.  In the prior version, multiple points had to be created.  The Grid choice visualizes a grid on the HUD indicating the direction of particle flow.  Direction, intensity and even the addition of more points of emission can be controlled directly by clicking, dragging or other direct on screen visualizations.  Likewise, parameters can be set manually.

Title Studio:

BCC Title Studio has been around for a while.  Version 2020.5 in all hosts adds Native 4K support, 3D shader, Composite over Source, and accelerated 3D engine. My favorite addition, though, is the Time Cast Shadow Shader.  Titles can cast shadows in 3D xyz axis space. And again, the extensive preset library is for most users the best starting point.


All hosts gain Crash Zoom Dissolve and Spin Blur Dissolve.  These are high energy effects and suitable to, well, anything where you would need eye catching effects.  Not exactly for talking head interviews like I seem to shoot, but definitely nice VFX to have in the arsenal for transitioning more exciting and action-laden shots.

And finally…

A new Remove Tool.  While the latest PremierePro and After Effects versions rely upon a video adaptation of Photoshop’s Content Aware Fill technology, Boris applies Mocha Pro’s fast and accurate planar tracking with Boris’ pre-existing clone-from interface.  In many cases, this could produce a far more accurate removal than merely a best-guess of background plate that sometimes does confuse Content Aware Fill.

Sapphire 2020.5

Sapphire made its mark very strongly in the TV industry with its light effects, flares, lens effects and other eye popping VFX. I remember 10 or 12 years ago annoying my wife while watching TV and yelling, “Wow. They did that cool flare with Sapphire.” The inclusion of Sapphire in the Boris family complements the Continuum Complete collection with very organic light effects and now with one additional feature for high end color managed workflows.

Sapphire has added OpenColorIO (OCIO) support. Developed at Sony Picture Imageworks, OCIO has a uniform color library for providing consistent colors across footage within various applications. Utilizing OCIO through Sapphire allows the use of these libraries even in applications that natively do not support OCIO. Such management is essential of course in high end production.

Mocha tracking is now integrated into Sapphire effects, as it has been in Continuum Complete. Masking is much quicker with a new area brush.

There are 16 new lens flares (always the trademark Sapphire look) and a compare mode in the preset browser.

Once again as in Continuum complete, rendering is faster. Boris says three times faster but I am not able to perform such a granular benchmark. I’ll just take their word here.

Boris is touting the new FreeLens effect. One of the hottest trends is FreeLens—shooting with lens detached from the camera. It creates a very dreamy look and has parameters controlling tilt-shift, moving focal point, light leaks, and about anything else that would be done with a manual FreeLens.

Updates are included in your Boris licensing and can be downloaded either directly from borisfx.com or more simply using the Boris Application Manager. By the way, keep your Boris Application Manager updated because that can affect everything from updates to license management (part of my problem since I had not updated the Application Manager).

The 2020.5 updates to the BorisFX family combine new features and speed to hone that Swiss Army Knife of plugins even sharper.

Tags: Post & VFX