For special effects like HUDs, graphs that move and text that floats through ballooning organic forms, many blockbuster 3D compositing artists use Yanobox’s Nodes. The FxFactory plug-in for After Effects, Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro and Motion has become an industry standard and has been used in movies such as The Avengers, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Earth to Echo. Nodes 3 is the latest version of the generator, which I tested with the latest version of Apple Motion. It has been completely overhauled with a lot more features and creative possibilities.
Nodes 3 is considerably faster than its predecessor and Yanobox has made working with Nodes a lot easier too. They now deliver some 300 presets in a nicely designed and user-friendly browser. Gone are the static HUD elements, welcome are the animated ones. The browser also has complete replication and animation models that you can experiment with. At the very least, you can examine how each preset has been built up and use the configuration details that you think are useful for your own projects. In one word: the preset browser and the plethora of all kinds of animations is a godsend.
But if you want to create something, really, really special, you still need 3D animation skills. And if you do, Nodes 3 gives you complete control over how you use 3D models and footage from Cinema 4D and other 3D applications inside Nodes’ own environment. For example, you can simply “convert” a 3D model into a nodes-and-lines Nodes object, but you can also create something that ‘communicates’ with the original 3D object.
Nodes natively supports the After Effects Camera. In fact, if you want to make the most out of it, you’ll want to use it with Adobe’s industry-standard app. In both After Effects and Motion, however, you can layer effects to create sophisticated compositions with multiple instances of Nodes. With previous versions this would slow down Motion – which is what I tried it with – to the speed of a snail, but with Nodes 3 I could make a complete, animated fake HUD across six layers and the app still rendered in 4K high-quality mode at full speed – all courtesy the GPU-accelerated 3D environment and the rendering engine now supporting 200,000 particles.
Nodes’ Form parameter now allows you to create triangles, squares, hexagons and other shapes with any number of sides. You can then subdivide each side with any number of points and extrude the forms with lines or assemble them into grids. Speaking of which, the grid form now provides row and column offsets and a gap parameter that allows you to create interesting patterns. When animated, you can quickly create a travel-through-space look or something like a dancing DNA sequence with it – an effect I finished by looking with a square eye at a video that you can find on the FxFactory website and inside its online store app.
Nodes’ animation module has always puzzled me a bit, because there were very limited options. Nodes 3’s animation module has been upgraded to four effects slots and 40 parameter destinations. That allows for much more diverse animation modes and makes it much easier to create something without delving deep into the system.
Other, perhaps less obvious, improvements include the ability to achieve orbital motion by setting a rotation point of origin, adjusting the global scene to quickly view the whole scene, and fine-tuning the colour distribution of the Color Modes with a Gap parameter that results in more colour variations.
3D artists can import their creations as OBJ models and sequences into Nodes 3. The app also has a new effect that replicates connected graphics and animates scenes onto other geometries.
Another new feature that opens up a lot of creative possibilities is the ability to extract nodes from footage. This feature is available from the Form group and uses the luminance of the footage to extract the nodes. You can use both videos and images.
Other worthwhile new features include the capability to randomly hide or reveal nodes, text, lines or replicas with separate probability parameters and create stroked forms with the new Close Path option – which only becomes visible when you select the Serial option from the Connection Method drop-down.
There’s more to discover about Nodes 3, but even without ever looking at the long list of improvements and new features, I personally believe the few examples that exist already make it crystal-clear that Nodes 3 is simply dynamite in the hands of skilled artist. Even an amateur like myself can make something truly original and stunning with it.
A licence costs $239. That may seem like a lot of money, especially if you consider that most FxFactory plug-ins are in the region of $50 or less. However, there’s no comparison for what Nodes 3 allows you to do. In fact, and in my opinion, its price is very decent for what you can create with it.