Shake 4.1

Shake 4.1

 

But these core features really only scratch Shake's surface. Beyond them, you'll find world-class color correction, vector paint tools, spline-based morphing and warping, a comprehensive scripting language, expressions, macros, a plug-in architecture, and so on. Also, Shake features some basic (if slightly clumsy) integration with Final Cut Pro, in that you can send individual clips from your Final Cut timeline to Shake for compositing, and then see the final rendered result automatically carried back to your Final Cut timeline.

 

Still, what's most important about Shake isn't its bag of features, but its out-of-the-box approach to building composites. Other compositors such as After Effects and Combustion build shots by placing layers of footage on a timeline and then applying different effects to some or all of the layers. It's a familiar approach if you've used a video editor such as Final Cut or a layer-based image editor such as Photoshop. But in Shake, you create composites by building what's called a node tree, which works a bit like a flowchart. Each of the visual elements in your scene (actors, props, backgrounds) is represented as a node on the tree, as is each effect you want to apply to those elements (chroma key, color corrector, blur). Making a composite is simply a matter of connecting one node to another in a logical order.

 

For simple compositing work, a node tree may seem no better than a layer-based approach, but when your composites become more complex, Shake's workflow really shines. Take a quick glance at your node tree, and you can intuitively see how even an intricate composite comes together, one node at a time. The tree also makes it quick and easy to find specific nodes, edit them, rearrange their order in relation to each other, isolate them so you can see their solitary effect on your composite, and insert new nodes into the workflow. Simply put, it's a great way to work.

 

Despite all this, Shake does have a few chinks in its armor. For one thing, it has virtually no type controls or predesigned type-effect libraries (unlike After Effects), so if you want to do motion-graphics work, you'll have to import rendered text from other software. Shake also doesn't have its own particle generator, although you can create particles with Apple's Motion software and then import that unrendered project directly into Shake.

 

Shake's main weakness is its strange user interface, which feels like some alien concoction straight out of the land of Unix workstations (in fact, that's exactly where Shake got its start, years ago). It's not that Shake's interface is bad; it's just unlike any other Mac interface you've come across, so you can't use what you already know from other applications to hit the ground running in Shake. For example, to bring in a still picture or video clip, you can't just choose an Import command from the File menu, as you might expect. Instead, you have to add a File In node to your node tree, which then opens a file-selector dialog box. Likewise, to render a movie, there's no familiar Export command; you have to place a File Out node at the end of your composite and assign it a destination on your hard drive.

 

 

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