Post Production

In Depth – Sapphire 11 AVX from Boris FX

Never has it been a better time to be an effects and visual effects geek like me. Boris FX has cornered the market on the high end visual effects, with their flagship plug-in package, Boris Continuum Complete, they purchased both Imagineer Systems as well as GenArts, to lock up the best tracking and roto application on the market today, Mocha (Pro/AE/BCC/Sapphire), and they finished their acquisition a few months ago of GenArts, bringing the highest of the high end visual effects into the mix. Boris FX (we no longer say GenArts Sapphire, it’s now simply Boris FX Sapphire 11) has recently released the next version of Sapphire, Sapphire 11, so let’s take an in-depth look, and see if this newest update is worth your hard earned dollars.

This in-depth look ended up turning out a little different than I thought it would, as I actually sat down contemplating the path that Boris FX took with Sapphire version 11, as it’s definitely not a traditional one. Sapphire and Continuum are now Brother and Sister, and it just so happened that when the acquisition of GenArts by Boris FX was going on, both products were at the same version. Version 10, except BCC had a jump on Sapphire that left it lagging behind just a little bit. The year (or so) previous, Boris FX had acquired Imagineer Systems, makers of Mocha. Now, I’m going to assume that the Continuum team was already in development of version 10, so having the Imagineer Systems team step in and develop the Mocha integration, via the Pixel Chooser almost seemed like a no brainer. When GenArts was acquired, I’m going to guess that version 11 was only on the drawing board, and there really could be only one priority for it, and that is get Mocha Integration in there, so that the brother/sister team of BCC and Sapphire were on level playing fields. Remember, as much as you might think that BCC and Sapphire are “Just the same effects in different packages”, you couldn’t be more wrong. BCC has always been an editor’s toolkit. Not only did/does it have effects, but it also has essential tools for you to use to get your jobs done, and in many cases, fixed. Sapphire has always been about visual effects. You need to simulate lightning, Sapphire is your tool. Want to simulate the moon, or the night sky, you won’t find a more realistic effect than S_Luna. Sapphire has also begun to push the boundaries of effects work in Media Composer by giving us a glimpse node based compositing with S_Effect and Builder tool. So, this is where version 11 got me thinking of it not so much as….”full update”, but a “technical update”. The main new feature in version 11 of Sapphire is Mocha Integration. There have been some additional presets added, and overall speed enhancements, but the core feature update is Mocha Integration in almost every effect in the package. I would almost call this update version 10.5, but I completely understand why it’s version 11, to keep it consistent with version 11 of BCC.

There’s something else that I want to mention before we get rolling and talk about the Mocha Integration. Ever since the acquisition of GenArts by Boris FX, I’ve been wondering if we’re going to see a “converging” of some of the elements of BCC and Sapphire, to take some essential tools from one package, and add it to another. Now, when I say “essential tools”, I’m not talking about effects necessarily. I’m talking about things like porting Pixel Chooser over to Sapphire, and the S_Effect (Builder Tool) from Sapphire to BCC. Boris FX has decided against that route, and has built a custom parameter set for Mocha inside of Sapphire. Let’s take a look!


Now, to be honest, I’m not going to spend any time on the nuts and bolts of tracking in Mocha Sapphire, as the concept for tracking is the same across all the version of Mocha. What I do want to do is show you how to get into Mocha once you’ve applied an effect, and what results you should be looking for, along with some of the extra parameters you can get in and adjust from within the Effects Editor interface. Let’s us S_Glow as the example effect to work with as, for me, it’s probably the best glow on the market today. Take the effect and apply it to a clip that you’d like Mocha to isolate a portion of. Once applied, you’ll notice the S_Glow effect on the entire shot.

Regular Sapphire 11 Glow Effect in Media Composer

Not quite what you’re looking for, but bear with me here, and it will make more sense in a minute. You can now click on the “Edit Mocha” button, towards the top of the Effect Editor, to open up Mocha Sapphire (the actual application is called Mocha Pixel Chooser, but I’ll be referring to it as Mocha Sapphire for the rest of this article), and track the area of the shot you want to apply S_Glow to. Once you’re done, simply close Mocha Sapphire (MS), and you’ll now see your S_Glow effect applied to the area of the shot you tracked with MS.

Sapphire 11 Glow with Mocha Integration

Okay, let’s talk about the parameters you have at your disposal once you’re done with your track. The first two are fairly self explanatory. Mocha Blur will blur the edges of Mocha Matte, but keep in mind that you can also blur the edges of you Mocha Matte from inside of MS, so it’s up to you to decide how you want, and which gives you better control.

Media Composer Effects Editor with Sapphire 11 S_Glow and Mocha integration

The rest of the parameters are fairly self explanitory:

Mocha Opacity – Higher the value, the more we see of the effect and vice versa
Resize Mocha – A scale parameter for your Mocha Mask
Resize Rel X – Mocha Mask X Scale parameter
Resize Rel Y – Mocha Mask Y Scale parameter
Shift Mocha X – Move your Mocha Mask along the X Axis
Shift Mocha Y – Move your Mocha Mask along the Y Axis
Bypass Mocha – Disable your Mocha Mask
Show Mocha Only – A great way to see only the area you’ve tracked in MS

There’s also a drop down with a few different mask combining options. What it basically does is determines how to combine the Mocha Mask and Input Mask when both are supplied to the effect.

Union – Uses the area covered by both masks together.
Intersect – Uses the area that overlaps between the two masks.
Mocha Only – Ignore the Input Mask and only use the Mocha Mask.

With all of this being said, I do want to address one of my biggest concerns before Sapphire 11 shipped, and that is the S_Effect effect, or the Builder Tool, as we more commonly refer to it. My concern was that MS wouldn’t integrate properly into the effect, and you would have to apply it to a separate layer, and then tell S_Effect what layer to look at, to get the masking information. Well, I’m SUPER happy to tell you that MS is completely integrated into the S_Effect effect, and your Mocha Masks will appear inside of the Builder tool in the Mask Node. Now, something that I do want to mention, and I did flag this with the development team is that even though the Mocha Mask information carries over into S_Effect, you can’t actually see the Mask if you select the Mask Node. I think this is a bug, and will update the article when I get a response back. Adding Mocha tracking capabilities to Sapphire 11 is a huge step forward for the effects package, and one that any Sapphire 11 user will appreciate and embrace.

One last thing that I do want to mention about Sapphire 11 is that you can now by the different catagories – Adjust, Blur, Distort, Lighting, Render, Stylize, Time and Transitions as their own “Unit”, so if you have a few “go to” effects, you can purchase them on their own, without having to spend a lot of money on the entire package!

Sapphire 11 Units Breakdown


This has always been Sapphire Achilles Heel, and I’ve written about this in the past, especially when it comes to Sapphire for Media Composer. I know that there has always been an overall feeling that the Sapphire bundle was priced a bit high, and some steps have been made to correct that, and I agree with some of the changes, and I don’t necessarily agree with the other changes. Let’s break it down.

The first thing I want to say, right out of the gate is that i’m VERY happy with the decision by Boris FX to slash the price of Sapphire 11’s standalone AVX product from $2800 US to $1695 US. Now, keep in mind that this price change went into effect with the version 9 release as a “promotional price”, but this has now become Sapphire 11’s “regular” price, which brings it in line with the $1695 price of BCC. Fantastic. Love it. This has been needed for years, and I am super happy it has now been implemented. Now let’s talk about the upgrade and subscription model for Sapphire 11, where things get a little weird. Now, I’m going to be comparing it to the upgrade and subscription model for BCC, since the baseline, the standalone AVX cost of $1695, is the same for both products. Sapphire 11’s upgrade cost is $450 if you’re upgrading from version 9, and $675 if you’re upgrading from. Boris FX charges a “legacy upgrade fee of $225 for people upgrade to Sapphire 11 pre-version 9. If you’re currently a version 9 or 10 user, you actually get a good deal on the upgrade cost at $450 for Sapphire 11, as opposed to the BCC users that are at $595, and are pretty much on par for the upgrade pre-version 9 at $695 for Sapphire 11 vs $695 for BCC. The annual subscription for Sapphire 11 AVX is $695 vs BCC AVX that’s $595. A little bit confusing, right? Here’s a breakdown to make a little more sense out of things.

Sapphire 11

  • AVX New License – $1695
  • Upgrade from Version 9 and above – $450
  • Upgrade from Version 8 & Below – $675
  • Annual Subscription – $695
  • Multi-Host New License (Avid/Adobe/OFX/Flame) – $2795
  • Multi-Host Annual Subscription – N/A

I was a little surprised by the price of the Multi-Host new license at $2795, as not only is it high, but it includes Flame, and as much as I’m sure that there are Flame users out there, I’m sure there are a ton more Avid/Adobe/OFX users, and I would like to see a Multi-Host license that doesn’t include Flame at a smaller price point, as I’m sure they would be able to sell a ton more than they are now, at a cheaper price. I’m was also a bit disappointed that there was no Multi-Host Annual Subscription model, but I did talk to Boris Yamnitsky directly about this, and he told me that now that the merge of the companies is complete, they can now sit down and look at all the pricing across the board, and make adjustments where necessary, so don’t be surprised to see these prices change in the near future. To be honest, right now I’m super happy about the current AVX price of $1695 and the upgrade price of $450, so just having everything else fall in line down the road will be icing on the cake.

So this does bring up the big question. Should users of version 9&10 upgrade to version 11? The Mocha integration in just about every effect in Sapphire makes its inclusion a huge reason for current users to upgrade. I tell people this. Think of it this way. Think that you’re paying to upgrade your effects to add Mocha tracking capabilities to almost all of them. A new Mocha Pro license (yes, I understand that Mocha Pro is for Motion tracking and Roto, but you get the similarities) is $695, and you can add that tracking capability to your effects for only $450. I use Mocha tracking/masking in just about every project I work on, and can’t think of how I had to do things before it was there, as it’s just saved me an absolute ton of time with my workload, as everything is done just that much faster. If you’re new to Sapphire, and deciding if you want to purchase, there are so many reasons why you would want to pick up Sapphire from the S_Effect (Builder Tool), the Lens Flare Builder, the fantastic Lighting category, and so much more!  If you’re serious about the effects work you do in your timeline, Sapphire 11’s $450 upgrade price is well worth it. For more information, or to download a free demo of Sapphire 11, you can download it at .

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Kevin P McAuliffe is a three time North American ProMax award winning editor and a Media Composer editor for over 15 years. He is a featured trainer at MacProVideo and is also one of the…

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