Red Giant Universe In Review

July 8, 2014 1:49 am

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Red Giant, Universe

“Red Giant develops tools that make the filmmaking process faster, more secure, more accurate and just more fun. For over 10 years, we have built software for motion design, color correction, visual effects and photography that is used for everything from major motion pictures to worldwide television programming to web production.”

-redgiant. com

The last two years have seen major changes in the way computer graphics software is being developed and distributed. Companies like Adobe and Autodesk have moved to a cloud-centered, subscription model to sell and upgrade their software. Instead of the traditional disc-based upgrades users can now pay a monthly fee to receive new upgrades (and all future upgrades) automatically via the internet “cloud.”

There is much debate surrounding the usefulness of this change for the consumer, but this article won’t address those issues (plenty of info/debate on sites like and here at Instead, I’d like to examine the topic by looking at one company that has adopted a cloud-based subscription service and have done so in a very creative fashion.

The company is Red Giant, a highly regarded digital video plugins developer that have created several plugin suites which are now industry standards. Their new cloud-based system is called Red Giant Universe and it was established only a few months ago, in March, 2014. Red Giant is primarily known for its excellent plugins, like Magic Bullet Suite and Knoll Light Factory, which are tools that make the lives of filmmakers, VFX and motion graphic artists much, much easier.




“A community with access to an everexpanding library of new FREE tools for filmmakers, editors, VFX artists, & motion designers.”
- Red Giant Universe FAQ

Red Giant Universe - How It Works

The new Red Giant Universe system is very simple: you register for free at the Red Giant website. After registration you are given access to a surprisingly large assortment of plugins which work “across host applications like Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Motion & After Effects on Mac and Windows.” Here is a list of some of the plugins Red Giant is making available with your free registration:

  • Universe Blur (8 plugins)
  • Universe Distort (8 plugins)
  • Universe Generators (4 plugins)
  • Universe Glow (3 plugins)
  • Universe Noise (1 plugin)
  • Universe Transitions (9 plugins)
  • Universe Utilities (1 plugin)

Members also have access to Red Giant Labs, a community-based plugin development community, where they can vote on what plugins will be developed next. For a full list of free plugins and their descriptions check this link at Red Giant.



The Premium Subscription Plan

Of course, Red Giant offers a premium membership which gives you access to more advanced plugin types like Toonit (a favorite), Splitscreen, Retrograde and premium versions of the free plugin types (Blur, Distort, etc.). The price for the premium membership is an exceedingly reasonable $10 per month, or $99 for an annual (yearly) membership. Moreover, you can opt for a premium “lifetime membership” for a onetime fee of $399 for access to all Universe plugins and their updates with no expiration date.

A full description of Red Giant Universe Premium Plugins is available here.




How Do the Plugins Work?

I had a chance to work with the Universe plug in system over the last few weeks and am very pleased. Using mostly Adobe Premiere CC, I experimented with almost all of the premium plugins including Holomatrix, Toonit and the EZ version of Red Giant’s very popular Knoll Light Factory.

These plugins are GPU optimized which makes them work more quickly than many other plugins on the market. Even a mid-level GPU like mine (NVIDIA GeForce 750 Ti) works very well with the Universe set of plugins. I found that they loaded quickly and rendered faster than previous versions of plugins I’ve used from Red Giant.

Toonit is a particular favorite. Currently in version 2.1, this plugin turns any video into “beautiful cartoon shading and lines.” Unlike many free cartoon shader software, Toonit gives you control over your image enabling you to fine tune the effect so that they are much more subtle and believable. Toonit also features 40 presets that are easily tweakable to get the exact cartoon look you want. It’s fast and a lot of fun to use.




Final Thoughts

More so than any other cloud-based subscription, Red Giant Universe is affordable and fun to use. And rather than treating the customer like a simple buyer, Red Giant works to include the Universe customer in a growing community of users who have a say in how/what future plugins will be developed through Red Giant Labs. This is an innovative idea and one I hope other companies will learn from and adopt.

Red Giant Universe doesn’t include their Keying, Trapcode, Color or Shooter suites of plugins, although some individual effects from those suites are included in specific Universe versions. This is disappointing, but understandable, given the industry standard these suites have established for professional video and graphics. I’m guessing that, depending upon the success of the Universe subscription package, Red Giant will be thinking about how to add more of those effect plugins in the future.

I’m very impressed with Red Giant Universe and recommend it highly for graphics artists and filmmakers. Your workflow will speed up and you’ll be very happy with the effects you can create with these remarkable plug ins. The Free membership is a no brainer, but at $10 a month, the Premium membership is a real bargain considering the time you will save and the quality of the plugins.

Red Giant Universe gets my highest recommendation. This is the way the cloud-based subscriptions should be done. If you are a director, video or VFX artist, head over to the Red Giant website and register for your free Universe membership.


A complete and informative FAQ for Red Giant Universe is available here. I used Red Giant Universe on my Windows 7 64bit system with After Effects CC and Premiere Pro CC and had zero problems or crashes.

Red Giant Universe has recently upgraded to version 1.1, which brings 9 new effects and 3 updates to existing plugins for a total of 59 effects and transitions most of which are free.

The Red Pledge Guarantee that Red Giant offers every customer (30day guarantee, free customer support, two licenses; one for your computer and one for your laptop, easy upgrades and one price for all hosts) is an outstanding customer service philosophy that genuinely makes it easier to use and solve any problems you might have with their plugins. Another innovation that other graphics companies should be seriously considering.

Red Giant has begun to create short films as part of their plugin development process. You can catch some of the work at their Red Giant Films page at YouTube.

I’d like to thank Red Giant for providing me with their Premium Red Giant Universe membership for this review.

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.




July 7, 2014

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