May 14, 2007

Lyric Media Final Cut Plugins

Review by Steve Douglas

Lyric Media has been in business for sometime now having collections of tracking and drawing plug-ins for Final Cut Pro as well as others. This new collection comes to you as a collection of over 50 different video effect filters, many of which provide several of the image correction, photographic and stylized effects found in Photoshop only now applied to video as well. The Lyric Media Final Cut Plug-ins have been separated into Special Effects, Masked Effects and Mattes folders once installed on your system. You may find that many of these filters are pretty much the same as several filters you already have installed. However, Lyric Media provides for greater controls in these updated versions, which enable you to manipulate them by mattes or alpha-channels. They are compatible with Final Cut Pro Version 4, HD and 5 as well as Final Cut Express version 3 and HD on your Power PC, G4, G5 and Intel Macs. With Final Cut Studio 2 soon to ship, I have little doubt that they will be compatible with that as well.

The Mattes collection consists of 15 different matte filters. These control the transparency of different areas within your clips when layering clips as a composite. With them Lyric provides you the tools you need to adjust your mattes based on color, saturation and luminance levels and the type of composite you are looking for.

Of the Mattes collection, the Lyric Shadow Matte does a great job of producing mattes based upon the dark or shadow areas in your clip. Controls for the shadow roll off and threshold were simple to adjust or to invert.



Before application of the Shadow Matte, a Masai warrior in Kenya. (left)
With the Lyric Shadow Matte, clean lines and an appropriate composite. (center)
With the Shadow Matte having subtracting from the existing alpha. (right)

The Lyric Gradient Matte enables full controls of either a linear or radial gradient with start and end points for the gradient and full directionality.

Before Matte Creation and composite

After gradient is applied

The Polygon Matte has multiple uses allowing you to draw several different shapes. The outlines can be fully controls by rounding, feathering and adjusting the opacity. This matte will not only enable you to composite a section of your clip with another but to highlight a feature of the frame you wish to point out.

Typical of all the Lyric Filter controls, there is plenty of room
for adjustment without an overwhelming number of choices.


Using the Lyric Polygon Matte, you can choose between a triangle, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon and octagon.

Easy adjustments
allow me to highlight the vulture out for a quick snack.

The Lyric Grid matte, similar to other Grid mattes I have seen provides for numerous rows and columns, fully adjustable height, length and gap as well as a Fill Image/Clip well which is then replicated throughout the grid.

Hummingbird at the feeder gridded over lawn background.

Moving on to the Special Effects Folder of Lyric Plug ins we are provided with a set of 30 different filters focusing on photographic effects, stylizing and image correction. Any of these may be controlled by alpha channels or mattes, thus enabling you to target specific parts of an image. One feature I appreciate was a simple slide control which was a built in fader giving you full control over the extent of the blending effect from the original source clip. I'd love to see this feature on more plug-ins. The Lyric Special Effects is separated into the 3 categories previously mentioned, Image Correction, Photo Effects and Stylize Effects.

From the Special Effects folder the Lyric Channel Mixer filter allows you to reassign any video channel to another within the clip and can be used for creating any number of interesting effects.

Switch and mix channels for different color variations.


I used it to fix a clip whose white balance was very off.

Also from the Special Effects folder, the Water Color 2 filter was the most unique I have seen from a variety of water color effects filters found elsewhere. There was more of a pronounced edge with this filter and I liked the effect considerably.

The frame on the left is bland and poorly focused but with the Water Color 2 filter, it becomes much more pleasing and artful as can be seen in the resulting same frame on the right. The Edge Detect filter, similar to many I've seen, is a stylizing effect that extracts smooth, variable-width edges within a video image. Unlike convolution-based edge detectors within Final Cut that extract fixed width edges, the Lyric Edge Detect filter combines 8 shifted copies of the image in a blending tree to simulate a variable-size convolution and extract an edge that is controlled by the shift amount.


Before filter application (left). I like the depth I was able to achieve that I have not found when using similar filters found elsewhere (right).

Found within the Image Correction folder are 7 individual filters, contrast mask, fill light, high-pass luma, local contrast enhancement, vibrance, s-curve and luma brightness and contrast. I haven't played with all of them as yet but found the S-Curve filter to be useful. It is used on low-dynamic range material to restore contrast to the mid-ranges by mapping a narrow midtone range of input levels to a broad range of output values using a transfer curve that is S-shaped. This results in significantly more midtone detail on otherwise flat scenes. It is controlled by a single gain parameter with the higher the value producing a more pronounced s-curve, negative values create an inverted s-curve which compresses the midtones and stretches the highs and lows.

While the frame on the left is decent, using the S-Curve filter crushed the blacks some,
strengthened the greens of the bush and provided a sharper contrast and detail

Within the Photo Effects folder are 10 more filters; all useful. The Lyric Bloom Filter was designed to create a spreading bloom effect whose intensity is fully controllable. Parameters for blur and speed are included.

A dark shot of Masai warriors dancing around a campfire.

The Lyric Bloom filter created a more dramatic effect
utilizing the rising smoke.

Now that you have been introduced to this unique package of plug-ins, just where does it stand in the pantheon of third party filters found in abundance? My bottom line is that, in many ways, it has some of the most unique filters you can get; the Matte filters should be of special interest to anyone using Alpha channels and doing some heavy composite work. For many editors who have been in the field for some time, you might already have several similar filters which do a credible job, never the less, you'll find that the Lyric Filters in this set offer more flexibility in parameter choices than you already have. For the individual who has not added many third party filters to their collection of plug-ins, you won't regret purchasing this very inexpensive set. The Lyric website provides excellent explanations of its filters and controls, yet for the novice who may not yet understand much of the editing jargon, learning how to use some of these filters correctly might be challenge. The majority of filters within this plug in collection are not "put them on the clip and there you go" type of filters. They are sensitive to adjustment, which is good, and most need to be really played with to get the effect you are looking for. There are no tutorials on site and I would, as I always do in my reviews, urge the folk at Lyric to create some.

Steve Douglas is an underwater videographer and contributor to numerous film festivals around the world. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and a recent History channel MegaDisaster show. Steve is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Kenya, Bali & Komodo in 2007, the Coco Islands, Costa Rica in 2008 and safari in Africa for 2009. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.


copyright © Steve Douglas 2007

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