Ben Balser has been taking a good look at Coremelt's new DriveX plugin for Final Cut Pro X. His user review compares it to the other Coremelt products that also use the Mocha tracking engine. We have to admit to being slightly confused ourselves, so Ben explains all...
Coremelt are known for their ground breaking FCPX plugins, most recently TrackX and SliceX. They’ve just added DriveX to this particular line of plugins. Together I refer to them as the “X-Suite.” Coremelt founder Roger Bolton calls them “xTools.”
The X stands for tracking, as these three tools all use the award winning Mocha planar tracking engine. Each has a unique purpose which is important towards understanding what makes DriveX different and powerful.
I’ll attempt an explanation;
TrackX: Track an area within a video clip, attach another piece of media to that tracking path. You could then attach something like an arrow shape or text to a moving object within a clip, or performing computer or TV screen replacements. We refer to this as tracking a layer.
SliceX : Track an area within a video clip, attach a custom mask shape to it. Then apply a color grade or other effect to the inside of that mask, such as adding evil red overlays to an actor’s eyes, or color correcting one item in the video clip, as the camera pans and tilts.
DriveX: Track an area within a video clip, attach an effect, the difference being that it links the track data to specific parameters available within that Motion 5 created effect. Such as having smoke attached to a moving object, so that the smoke reacts to organic forces caused by inertia. Or to have something add more hue/saturation/contrast if moving in one direction, and less if moving in the opposite direction. Or any number of seemingly infinite possibilities.
For my first test, I’ll create a particle emitter in Motion as an FCPX effect. Let’s say animated smoke. And I want to attach it to a tracking point moving left to right. If I make it a simple effect, then I can use TrackX to track it as a layer. Which results in the smoke going directly upwards in a straight line, no matter what. If it is a train racing along its tracks, that smoke does not flow backwards, but just drifts directly upwards, horizontally, static, dull, and more importantly, unrealistic.
If I then make it a DriveX custom effect, the smoke will respond organically, as you’d expect. When that point starts moving with the train’s movements, the smoke trail is left behind, like watching a real train’s actual smoke blowing backwards, as it speeds along a track. I’ll be blowing some smoke later in this article for you.
For now, in the following example video I used a text generator in Motion (“File”) to create my own custom DriveX template. I made the words spit out and continue moving horizontally to the right. I tracked a tiny light on a pole in this example. The clip changes speed throughout, then lands on a freeze frame. Notice the words trail vertically more as the clip moves faster, and less as the clip, or rather the tracking point moves slower. When the clip/tracking point stops moving, the words move strictly horizontally with no vertical influence.
So, how well does DriveX perform in real life? I ran some tests on a late 2013 Mac Pro (32 GB RAM, P2 12TB RAID5, dual D700 GPUs, Apple T-bolt display) with OS X 10.11.0. I found tracking speed to be good, but depending on how clear your tracking point is, and how long the clip is, it could take some time. But most of this type of effects work won’t be longer than several seconds. So tracking time is not short, but not hours, I’d call it reasonable.
My own 13 second clip, with a pretty decent tracking point, using the included Track Steam plugin took a solid minute to fully track. Adding the Track Welding Sparks plugin to that same clip, that’s two DriveX templates on one clip, it took just under a minute and a half to render in the Timeline for smooth playback.
Without rendering the playback was a little jerky in parts, but I am piling on two tracking plugins onto one clip. Yet I could get good enough playback for basic effects editing without rendering. “A man has to know his limits.” Or at least the limits of his plugins. Later I’ll show you a real time example. In this next example I’ll show using two of the DriveX bundled templates I mentioned Track Steam and Track Welding Sparks.
Side note, and this is going to be important to me, as I plan on using multiple DriveX templates on a single clip often, is the ability to copy and paste both tracking data and shapes. Once you have one template tracked, select the shape. Then Option-Click that shape and a copy/paste menu pops up. You can copy it, then apply the next template (to that clip or a different clip), right-click the default shape, Option-Click, and choose Paste > Tracking Data And Shape.
The first half shows the exact same effects applied with TrackX as a static effect clip, superimposed onto the original clip. The smoke is straight up horizontal, and you can even see it cut off at the top edge of the effect clip.
The second half shows the organic, dynamic nature of DriveX and its ability to interact with the clip’s tracking data. The smoke and sparks act as if they’re really moving through space, effected by inertia. The smoke isn’t cut off, and flows as far across the video frame as the original Motion project was designed to do.
There is so much more to DriveX than just smoke and sparkles, rainbows and unicorns. DriveX includes 8 title templates and 12 Effect templates in the package. All are pretty well put together, and by themselves give you a nice range of effects.
Roger tells me he may be releasing some additional free templates by the end of October 2015, and possibly again by the end of November. All of these ready to use templates that are included with DriveX are pretty good quality, I must say. Alone they’ll cover a lot of what editors may need. With more on the way from Coremelt, and I believe shared between users, this plugin has a bright future.
OK, I made up the part about rainbows and unicorns, sorry. So truth be told, the really exciting aspect is creating your own DriveX templates. In the Effects browser, in the DriveX collection there is a template called “Template Open In Motion”. This is your basic template that you use to start rolling your own effects.
Find it in the Effects browser, DriveX collection, then right-click it and select Open In Motion. Inside Motion you’ll see it is set up with all the essentials you’ll need to get started. A word of caution; there is one group called “DON’T_TOUCH” and I highly advise you to NOT TOUCH THAT GROUP! That is the secret sauce, and if you disturb it, the sauce goes rancid and you end up with putrid vinegar. That sacred, untouchable Group is where the Mocha tracker feeds tracking data into the Motion project. So do NOT touch it. Also I think if you screw it up, evil gnomes will come to your house while you sleep and make your carpets smell really horrible, and your lawn will turn brown. Or so I’m told.
I should also give you a second word of caution; The first thing you should do, once that original template is opened in Motion, is perform a Save As function (File menu) and give the new copy its own unique name. Don’t change or overwrite that original template file, because you’ll want to use it over and over. My NDA with Coremelt prohibits me from telling you what the gnomes will do if you mess up this original template, but it isn’t good. So just don’t… please.
From there you can use the included sample emitter, or delete/disable it and create your own emitter, replicator, 3D text, etc, and link the parameters to the DriveX tracking data. The possibilities, as I said before, seem endless.
As I was running my DriveX experiments, I had the thought to do speed changes with the FCPX retiming tools. The plan was to retimed a clip, in order: a fast speed section, then a reverse speed section, then a really fast speed section.
Thus I apply my own custom DriveX template, which increases hue and saturation as the tracking point moves downward, and decreases them as it moves upwards. Not sure what the point is to that effect, but it was really fast and easy to create. I applied it, tracked it, and it worked as intended on the original, untouched video clip.
After that, I retimed the clip. The DriveX effect’s reaction speeds worked like magic with the change of clip speeds, lending to very natural looking effects. With every experiment I find DriveX taking me deeper and deeper into its endless abyss of wicked awesomeness. This sample video will also show you real time tracking speed and playback performance.
Simply having the interactions between tracking data (the movement in the video clip) and the replicators, or particle emitters, or other parameters in a Motion project, well, DriveX is amazing. I’m hoping that over time as more folks discover it we will see users share templates that do amazing things.
I’m very pleased with the stability I’ve seen, the ease of use, and the ability to create our own effects utilizing the DriveX interactive/linking tracking engine. The tracking and rendering times obviously are not instantaneous, but I feel they’re reasonable for the functionality you’re getting. In my opinion, Coremelt hit this one out of the park. I can’t stop playing with it. There’s so much to discover, so much it can do, the possibilities are mind boggling.
I highly recommend watching the tutorial videos on Coremelt’s DriveX web page and reading through the brief user manual that comes with DriveX. Then take some time, use the included templates. Then if you’re up for it, wrap your mind around how it works, experiment, just have a lot of fun with it. I bet many of you pick it up fast and do some really interesting effects soon.
There is a 14 day trial you can download in order to do your own test run. As of this writing DriveX by itself is $99 (USD) and existing TrackX/SliceX owners can upgrade for $49. The bundle of all three xTools together, is $199. Which is a bargain considering all purchased individually would run $297. For the power you get, the time you save, this is a real bargain.
The bottom line comes down to this:
• If you’re in to effects, get this.
• If you’re into rolling your own effects, get this very soon.
I would like to thank Shima Ghamari and Jessie Thomas for their modeling talents. Both are wonderful actors/models to work with. And to Roger Bolton and Peter Wiggins for their cooperation and support. This sort of information wouldn’t be available if not for the work of good folks like them.
Ben Balser is a long time Apple certified master trainer, author, consultant, composer, certified bowling coach, and retired IT engineer. He has consulted/taught for training centers, broadcasters, churches, universities and major corporations across the United States for over 10 years. Currently he is (slowly) building the finalcutprox.guru web site to assist Apple pro app users. And raising twins…
Many thanks to Ben for the review. We are always on the lookout for good product tests to publish, let us know if you would like to feature your thoughts with us on anything the FCPX community might be interested in.