It’s been a long time since I had the chance to write about video applications, but it’s good to go back to that from time to time. This time I take a look at Flicker Free from Digital Anarchy. Flicker Free is a plug-in for Adobe After Effects meant to deal with video flickering problems. Flickering footage can happen for different reasons, like different light intensities during time lapse shots, or objects moving at different speeds, and can make your footage look horrible.
When I used the plug-in for the first time, I noticed it has a very small number of parameters. This makes the tool easy to use, because you are dealing with only a few combinations. This doesn’t mean the plug-in is some sort of “fire and forget” tool where the default settings do all the hard work for you, and you definitely need to know what kind of footage you’re dealing with (whether it’s a time lapse shot, or a regular shot).
The Flicker Free is similar to this. You apply the effect to your footage and select the algorithm type that better fits your footage. You can choose between “time lapse,” “slow/regular motion – best” and “slow/regular motion – alternate.” Setting one of these automatically sets default values to everything else, but you usually need to tweak these settings. Depending on how fast the footage flickers, you need to modify the Time Radius setting. Also, depending on how much of your frame is affected by the flickering effect, you need to modify the Sensitivity setting.
The Threshold value is only used when you select the “slow/regular motion – alternate,” and the Detect Motion or All Channels settings are only used in specific scenarios, because they are used for fast moving objects or used to reduce flickering per color channel. It is advised that these two settings need to be used carefully because they can produce artifacts while removing the flicker.
After Effects has supported GPU acceleration for some time, but Flicker Free doesn’t use any GPU acceleration because GPUs don’t seem to load and process multiple frames at once very well. On the other hand, the plug-in is usually fast, although some algorithms take longer than others.
Flicker Free is still in beta, so many things could change between now and the final release. One thing I would like to see changed is the name of the two “slow/regular motion” algorithms because they are confusing. When you see “slow/regular motion – best” you automatically think you should be using that one as a “one size fits all” solution, but in some cases I noticed the “slow/regular motion – alternate” produced better results. It’s mostly the “best” and “alternate” words that can be confusing. The “time lapse” algorithm is pretty much self explanatory.
This is a small detail, but it’d be useful nonetheless. As I said, the “Threshold” setting is only useful when you use the “slow/regular motion – alternate” algorithm. However, you can still modify the Threshold value regardless of the selected algorithm and this is confusing at first. Maybe a visual cue or disabling the setting when it’s not needed would be a good thing (like graying it out when the correct algorithm is not selected, or even adding an explanation between parentheses next to the “Threshold” name).
Flicker Free can produce very good results and will help you get rid of that horrible flickering problem. If you’re in doubt, I need to mention that you can test Flicker Free for yourself if you download the public beta available on the Digital Anarchy website.
Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
February 3, 2014
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