August 7, 2006

Digital Hotcakes Home Movie Essentials Vol 1

Review by Steve Douglas

Most everyone has gone to the movies, sat down, already munching away on their popcorn, and waited for the show to begin. The house lights dim, people shut off their cell phones, babies stop crying, and couples save their discussions for later. (Okay, I can dream can't I?) The screen lights up, the film is about to begin. But first on the screen is an animation of roving cinema lights, cloth screens opening, popcorn adverts, and the ubiquitous 'Feature Presentation' announcement with the studio's name. Now you can repeat and customize many of the same clips serving to announce your own creative endeavors.

Now you have the option for either aspect ratio for your film premier.

Digital Hotcakes animations have been on the market for quite some time. They have had numerous collections available for the video hobbyist and professional relating to weddings and worship, animated backgrounds of all kinds, water animations and much more. Their latest release 'Home Movie Essentials' is aimed at the hobbyist looking to boost the quality of their own videos and DVD presentations with primarily two separate themes, Travel and Home Theater. Home Movie Essentials comes with 4 discs available in NTSC or PAL. Discs one and two contain the standard 4:3 aspect ratio video graphics while Disc three and four contain the widescreen, 16x9 graphics and are completely compatible in either a Mac or PC. The complete collection will require roughly 5 GB for downloading onto your computer. This inexpensive collection consists of forty animations which is a pretty darn good size. Its not often that any collection provides both formats, and certainly not at this price. A significant number of these animations come equipped with embedded sound effects to add a little extra zing to your video. In addition, several of the animations, 14, come with alpha channel and chroma-key green screen and all use AVI and Quicktime movie files to insure compatibility with most any NLE.

The quality of these animations varies from good to excellent. I love that Digital Hotcakes has included so many overlays in both alpha and green screen and have often wished that other companies also in the business would do so as well. Having that option certainly allows the editor more intricate flexibility in their own productions.

Coming with alpha overlays, this animation allows you to have your clip or picture appear as the animation opens its doors.

Another way to introduce your film is to have the curtains opening to it or perhaps an old fashioned film reel showcasing your video. Without its supplied chroma-keygreen you would be hard pressed to create the same effect. Could it be done? Sure, but why not let Digital Hotcakes do the work for you.


The travel theme animations provide many possibilities for your videos and DVD productions. Everything from ocean views, to floating lifesavers is here and, again, the use of either the alpha or chroma-key with these animations allows you to really personalize things.



Off on a road trip?
Send home your own special vacation video.
What goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Just send a postcard animation.

Once again, it is unfortunate that you can't preview the complete animations here to see for yourself the moving reels, lights and waves. However, you can certainly preview them on the Digital Hotcakes website as well as view a large assortment of other collections as well.


As an added bonus to the Home Movie Essentials collection, Digital Hotcakes includes 10 DVD Theme Sets with DVD menus, submenus, cover and label art.

DVD menus and more are a nice benefit and they match many of the animations already in this collection.

In this day of hi end, graphic and detailed animations, some of the animations in this collection appear somewhat simplistic without the detailed nuances of color, wrinkles in curtains, and depth of field that we frequently see these days. It is also unfortunate that this collection, as well as others produced by Digital Hotcakes, are not available for use in HD/HDV sequences. I look forward to their future HD collections and hope they come soon. Then again, we are not paying $500.00 for a small collection either.

The Digital Hotcakes website has always been a good place to go for the occasional free-be download and I have taken advantage of that in the past. While the website contains several tutorials, for the Final Cut Pro user, the single tutorial hasn't changed in several years. I'm sure they could improve on this.

The bottom line here is that with Home Movie Essentials you get a lot of bang for the buck. The inclusion of overlays in this collection is a real plus as customization is key to any good introduction and Digital Hotcakes certainly allows for that.

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, Steve has also worked on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, as well as for recent History channel shows and is one of the principal organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. Steve leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming filming excursions to Kenya, Bali & Komodo, the Philippines, and Palau. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these trips.


   copyright © Steve Douglas 2006

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