Software Essentials: Red Giant Trapcode Suite 13

Updated for 2015, what does the suite include now?

From adding effects to feature films to dressing up home videos one name rises to the top in visual effect software: Red Giant. For years now, the good folks at Red Giant Software have offered a massive breadth of plug-ins, applications and suites, with none being as well known as Red Giant's Trapcode Suite.

The suite's history is a bit more interesting than just Red Giant creating some plug-ins, however.

Trapcode is actually a Stockholm, Sweden-based software company founded and run by Peder Norrby. While the graphics and audio company and it's products are still wholly owned by Norrby, his partnership with Red Giant has allowed a one-man operation to exist with the huge benefit of sales, technical support and additional engineering talent, which frees Norrby up to create brilliant new technology.

That new technology has never been as evident as it is in the latest Trapcode Suite 13.

Trapcode Suite 13 is the latest iteration of what many consider an essential plug-in suite for motion graphics and VFX artists. The suite has been used in television and film work, including being used in Terminator SalvationAngels and Demons, Sin City, Spider Man 3, Quantum of Solace, The Day after Tomorrow, and many others. For many designers, editors and even video enthusiasts, the Trapcode Suite is part of an everyday toolkit.

So, what comes in this suite?

In total, the suite includes eleven products: Tao™, Mir™, Shine™, Particular®, Form™, Lux™, Echospace™, 3D Stroke™, Sound Keys™, Horizon™ and Starglow™. All of these plug-ins work in Adobe After Effects, and many work in other editing suites such as Premiere Pro.

While the names might not mean a whole lot, seeing the effects in action will.

Let's start from the top and go through each of the products included in the Trapcode Suite.

First of all, Trapcode Particular 2.5 is the latest plug-in for creating organic 3D particle effects, complex motion graphics elements and more. Particular includes new features, such as the ability to build particle effects visually, in an all-new, powerful Effects Builder. Unlike other particle engines, Particular allows artists to create fire, water, smoke and other organic effects. For those looking to integrate Particular into their existing After Effects workflow, pick up Particular with confidence: the plug-in works with After Effects' 3D camera and lights.

Next up is the latest version of Trapcode Form. In version 2.1 of Form, artists can create incredible particle grids and 3D objects. The plug-in allows users to load their own 3D models in OBJ format, dissolve text and logos into sandy particles, and, like Particular, interact with After Effects' 3D camera and lights.

The newest duck in the pond is Tao. Released with Trapcode Suite 13, Tao is used to create 3D geometries to be animated along a path. So with Tao, designers can generate geometric shapes, ribbons and other shapes from masks, paths, and motion, and then animate them.

Now in version 2.0, Trapcode Mir is a tool for creating 3D surfaces, terrains and wireframes in After Effects. Create flowing surfaces and abstract shapes for motion graphics, and display shaded surfaces as polygons or vertices.

One of the suite's more popular effect plug-ins is Trapcode Shine 2.0, an ultra-fast, 3D light ray effect plug-in. Shine can be used to create volumetric light rays for your text, mograph or footage. As Red Giant puts it, it can "Simulate clean rays or fractal smokiness with depth". Often we'll see graphics with intense light rays bursting out from behind text or a logo - this is the Shine we know and love.

Next in the Trapcode Suite is Trapcode Lux 1.3, which is a plug-in to make After Effects lights visible. While we normally only see the effect of an AE light, Lux lets us create create fully customizable and camera-aware 3D Volumetric point and spot lights to add drama and realism to 3D Comps.

Another hot plug-in to be found in Trapcode Suite 13 is Trapcode 3D Stroke 2.6, a plug-in able to create organic 3D shapes and lines from masks. Using Stroke, motion graphic designers have pinpoint control over shapes, colors and looping for animating shapes, logos, text and paths.

Visual impact hits another level with Trapcode Echospace 1.1, which allows users to Instantly clone and offset animated layers. This can be used to automate complex, multi-layered 3D animations. What the heck does that mean? Think about a set of falling dominos.

When star power is on the agenda, look no further than glint, glow and highlight specialist, Trapcode Starglow 1.7. While fully customizable, this glimmer and glint tool comes loaded with 49 presets to make highlights take on a life of their own.

Turn Bach into Abrams with Trapcode Sound Keys 1.3, the ultimate tool to create instant audio-driven motion graphics in After Effects. With Sound Keys, graphics can animate, driven visually by audio.

Rounding out this powerful yet easy to use plug-in suite is Trapcode Horizon 1.1. Using Horizon a designer can create infinite 3D backgrounds for After Effects. To create these amazing 360 degree infinite backgrounds, it's possible to use image maps or multicolor gradients. The horizons are also After Effects 3D camera-aware.

So that's the latest Trapcode Suite. While some of these effects might seem a bit complex, they're all straightforward to use and powerful enough to create cinema quality effects. For more about the suite, check out Red Giant's page here.