With the release of Mocha Pro 5 a few weeks ago, the team at Boris FX is still working at a feverish pitch behind the scenes to get the newest releases of Sapphire 2019 and their flagship application, Boris Continuum Complete 2019 out into the hands of users (just released today!). Well, fans of Sapphire need not wait any longer. As of a week or so ago Sapphire 2019 is now available for purchase and download from the Boris FX website, and in this in-depth look, I want to go in deep to check out the new features of Sapphire 2019, as well as costs, and my overall impression of the newest release of Sapphire. Let’s jump right in.
I always like to try to get cost out of the way at the beginning of my reviews, as I find that it can end up dragging a review down, and in the past Sapphire has always been a tricky one, especially for Media Composer editors, but in the past few years, GenArts (now Boris FX) has worked hard to get the price of Sapphire down to something that’s affordable, no matter who the user is, company or individual. Now, right off the bat I’m going to tell you that I don’t like annual subscriptions. But, as we all know, we live in the age of annual subscriptions, and the cost for an annual subscription makes absolute 100% sense in the case of Sapphire, or probably BCC 2019 for the most part. Looking at Sapphire as a standalone product you’re looking at – Adobe & OFX, AVID and AUTODESK = $1695 US for a permanent, forever, Sapphire 2019 license. Meaning that once you’ve purchased, you can get all the point updates for the 2019 version, and keep it forever, but if down the road you decide you want to upgrade, you’ll have to pay an update cost, which, if you were updating from a previous version of Sapphire, would run you $495 US for an Upgrade/Support renewal and $695 US for a Legacy renewal (V9 or before). Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of money, and potentially a deal breaking amount of money. Well, that’s where Boris FX’s subscription plan comes into play. Instead of plunking down $1695 for a new license that you will eventually have to pay to upgrade, you can subscribe to Sapphire 2019 for $495 per year, which basically means that for what you would pay for a full “single” license, and be locked in until you decide to plunk down more money to update, you can get the newest, latest and greatest version of Sapphire for the next three years, for less than the cost of a single, brand new license. This is a super great deal. Now, if you are a Sapphire user across all the host applications (Adobe, OFX, Avid, Autodesk), you do have the option to purchase a multi-host license or subscribe to Sapphire for $2975 or $895 respectively. Either way, the subscription model is 100% the way to go with Sapphire, as it keeps you current for the next three years for less than the cost of a single license. Alright, enough talk about costs, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of Sapphire 2019, and that is the new features!
WHAT’S NEW IN 2019
There are some great new features in Sapphire 2019, plus some excellent updates to some important tools that Sapphire is known for, so let’s break them down now.
NEW MOCHA SAPPHIRE
Let me give a big WOO HOO for this one. When Mocha Pro was released a month ago (or so), the little things made the update awesome. The Rectangular, Ellipse, Freehand and Magnetic Spline Tool makes perfect sense in the Sapphire and BCC product lines. This is where we are doing a ton of Roto work to apply these effects to the areas of the shots we need them applied to. The other huge feature update is the Essentials workspace. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen people posting in the Avid Editors of Facebook group, asking questions about tracking inside of Media Composer (or even After Effects),and painfully using the built in tools to do it. I always hear the common “Well, it’s worked for me fine so far, so I’m going to keep using it” excuse, but to be honest, those trackers have been in the application with no updates since they were first introduced. I want to get my tracking and effects work done as quickly as possible, and that’s where the Essentials workspace comes into play as an excellent stepping stone to get new users to Sapphire (and Mocha specifically) up to speed super quickly, with this fantastic way to isolate your effects, to only the parts of the shots you want them applied to. The Mocha/Sapphire/BCC integration is only getting stronger with each new release, and with the versions being switched over to a yearly update (with incremental updates in between), we can look for big steps forward from each application, as well as the combined applications, on a yearly basis.
ANIMATING SHAPE TOOL INSIDE OF BUILDER
This node/effect will easily be the most overlooked new feature in Sapphire 2019, and it will be an absolute time vampire (which is meant in the best possible way), as there is just so many different combinations you can come up with for transitions and/or effects looks inside of the Builder Tool (S_Effect/S_Transition). It’s a pretty simple idea. Add an effect in the builder tool that will let you create a simple polygon or elliptical shape. Let’s be honest. This look is pretty, well, dull.
Well, now that that shape you just create, and start adding other parameters to it like a Wave Warp effect, or really any of the “Distort” effects, and you’ve now created something that would never be able to be created inside an NLE. The effect itself is simple to use, but the fact that you can add as few or as many nodes after it in your composite, makes it one of the most versatile tools in Sapphire 2019. I also want to mention, just briefly here, that both Pixel Sort and Whiplash transitions have been added to the S_Transition Builder tool, so let’s talk about them now, as they have been added as separate effects as well.
PIXEL SORT AND WHIPLASH
New to Sapphire 2019 are these effects that come as transitions, as well as Pixel Sort having a standard effect version as well. Let’s look at Whiplash first. As the name says, this transition is similar to a “whip pan” look, but think it it more as someone grabbing your video frame, and throwing it off-screen, with the next shot being thrown on screen along with it. I love how you can get in adjust parameters from rotation to scale to create a unique look. It’s simple, straightforward, and I can easily see myself using this a lot in my Media Composer timelines. Pixel Sort, on the other hand (as I mentioned before), comes in both an Effect and Transition version inside of Sapphire 2019, and this look is a very fancy looking “glitch” effect with the image being torn into very thin strips across the screen. A cool looking effect, and one that can be added to S_Glitch to take the look to the next level.
THE NEW LENS FLARE DESIGNER
If Sapphire is known for anything, it’s its lighting effects. Whether it’s S_Glow, S_FlashBulbs, S_LightLeak or both S_Glint and S_Glare, these light looks are the best there is out there. The Flare Designer in Sapphire has always been a great tool. A very visual way to create a Lens Flare. Well, now it’s even better. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “How often can you use a Lens Flare?” Well, let me tell you that I use a lens flare with just about every text element I add to an edit. With my day job of language versioning of spots from Pacific Rim Uprising to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to Avengers: Infinity War, I use Lens Flare in every day of my job, so this feature update, for me, is one that I’ve been looking forward to since I first saw it a few months ago!
The first thing you’ll probably notice when you launch the Flare Designer, besides seeing the default flare in the middle of the canvas, is the Lens Flare Preset “Browser”. To be honest, you could probably spend most of your time in here, and never need to build a flare of your own, as there’s a ton to choose from. It’s a little different from working with the standard Sapphire Preset Browser. You’ll notice that it’s divided into five groups. New, Featured, Favorites, Components and All. These are all fairly self explanatory, except for Components. What you will find in this category are different pre-built presets for specific flare elements like a dirty lens, or haze or even ring edges. You’ll notice that, if you’re looking at the presets for the first time, that the Favorites are empty, as that is where you will save your own presets and get access to them super quick.
One thing that I want to point out, that is super important is that the main canvas, where you see the flare sample is a little deceiving as, by default, all the triggers are turned on. What, you might ask, is a trigger. Well, a Flare Trigger is a parameter (or set of parameters) that will make the flare behave the way it would in a “real world” situation. For example, when a light that is being pointed directly at the lens is moved off to one side or another, the closer it gets to the edge of the frame, the bigger it gets. By default, inside of the Flare editor, all the triggers are turned on, showing you how things CAN look. Keep in mind, though, that once you’re back in Media Composer, Premiere, After Effects, etc, you will have to enable these parameters to get them to appear how they looked inside the Flare editor.
Another new feature inside of the Flare Designer is a new Multi-Streak Tool, and the funny thing about it is that about 95% of the time I use this parameter, I only ever use it to create a single streak, as I’m always mimicking what they are doing on the Hollywood TV spots I come across my desk, and that normally the type of lens flare they like to use.
Now, I want to wrap up talking about the Flare Designer by talking about why I hate lens flare creation tools. Especially ones where there are multiple (10-20) components that went into making the flare. I hate them because when I look at the layer hierarchy that went into creating the flare, I have no idea what the spots are, versus what the smudge is, versus a hotspot reflection. I end up turning layers on and off trying to figure out what’s what, to get my flares to look the way I want them to look, which is something that is completely unnecessary to do in Sapphire’s Flare Designer. All I have to do is hover over a layer, and the Flare Designer will highlight what the component is that I’m hovering over in the layers menu, which makes it super quick and super simple to figure out what I want to turn on and off. This is not a new feature of Sapphire’s Flare Designer, but one that I use on a constant basis to make my design job super simple.
Keep in mind that there are other enhancements to Sapphire 2019 like the fact that it is now optimized for top GPU acceleration for CUDA enabled NVIDIA cards, and the fact that Sapphire has the best lighting category of effects in any package out there, makes it a plug-in pack definitely worth checking out.
In closing I want to mention something extremely important. At the first look, it might not look as though there are a lot of “new” features in Sapphire 2019, with only two new effects, but for me, though, the new effects take a back seat to what is being done “under the hood”. The Flare Builder is one of the best out there. The Builder Tool (S_Effect and S_Transition) and the new Animated Shape node will let you create almost limitless possibilities when it comes to creating effects looks, AND will not only teach you node-based compositing, but let you build effects like you never have before. Round all that off with a simpler to get into, top of the line motion tracker with a magnetic spline tool, that makes even the toughest roto job simpler. What the Sapphire 2019 update gives you is a tool that takes everything that is great about Sapphire, and makes it that much better and easier to work with, and for $495 it’s a cost that can pay itself back in the first one or two jobs you work on.
For more information, or to download a free trial of Sapphire 2019, you can check it out at https://borisfx.com/products/sapphire/ .
Boris FX is a sponsor of my Media Composer tutorials, however, I have received no compensation from Boris FX for the writing of this review. Opinions in this article, whether you agree with them or not, are my own!