Reviews, Video

Zoetrope Flow creates a star travel in less than 10 minutes

Ever wondered how you create the illusion of traveling through a cloud of stars in less than 10 minutes? All you need is a couple of FxFactory plug-ins — Zoetrope’s Flow is one them.

To try out Zoetrope’s newest FxFactory plug-in, I used Apple Motion instead of Final Cut Pro X. I wanted to see how hard it is to create something that you would normally not associate with software that is sold as plug-in to a compositing application that costs only a couple of hundreds, and which is so simple to use as Apple’s Motion.

I chose two FxFactory plug-ins for my venture: Zoetrope’s Flow, which you’d normally use to create things like banners, floating titles and flowing-through-space video clips. You could, for example, use Flow to have a videoclip disappear quickly while it’s being floated in “empty space” when used in Final Cut Pro X. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted something different to see how “necessary” Flow could be.

With Motion I tried to create a simulation of the viewer traveling through a cloud of stars — or meteorites; your choice — using only the Flow plug-in and the Yanobox Nodes 2 generator, which you can also exclusively buy through FxFactory. I wanted to spend as little time as possible, so I used the default Nodes 2 generator setting. I applied two minor adjustments: the number of nodes and the area size. To make the lot seem like a time travel, I used Flow. Remember, I’m only using a mid-2011 3.1GHz/i5 27” iMac, which certainly isn’t the most capable machine on the planet.

The two plug-ins combined didn’t result in choppy rendering as I presumed this combination would. While I have created the entire experience with Nodes 2 alone before, Flow let me do it faster with fewer controls to worry about. Flow lets you set animation speed, growth, scale, rotation and transform factors with a few simple sliders. That’s a lot faster to experiment with than Nodes 2. Admittedly, it’s less powerful, but for my test that wasn’t the point.

The point was to see how easy and quickly I could make it work. It was indeed very easy to set the exact state, position and evolution of the universe I created with Nodes 2, using Flow’s controls. However, Flow does have some advanced settings as well, e.g. the ability to create a tiled effect or a blurred flow. The latter, which I tried as well, proved to be too much for my Mac’s paltry GPU, resulting in rendering errors.

Still, even without the blurry Flow effect, I created a nice starry voyage in less than 10 minutes. Flow works well together with Zoetrope’s own Fold as well. I covered Fold earlier. The two plug-ins are dirt-cheap and well worth the money.