Is Red Giant Universe 3.1 a Yanobox Nodes 3 competitor?

Universe, Red Giant Software’s subscription-based plug-in for Adobe After Effects and seven other NLEs and compositing apps, has been updated to version 3.1 and incorporates some interesting new modules.

Red Giant’s Universe 3.1 release introduces three brand-new text and motion graphics tools: Progresso, Numbers, and Array Gun. Together, these have over 90 presets, readily available from the Universe dashboard in Adobe After Effects to help get you started. Also new in this release are 35 new presets in the HUD category. I took a look at the new features with Final Cut Pro X and Apple Motion.

In Premiere Pro and After Effects, Universe has a new Universe Dashboard that you can dock and which brings all of the Universe tools together in one place. Unfortunately for us users of any of the other hosts — Final Cut Pro X, Apple Motion, Avid Media Composer, Magix VEGAS Pro 14, DaVinci Resolve 14 and HitFilm Pro 6.0 — we are not so lucky. The Dashboard is a simple browser which, in Final Cut Pro X at least, is limited to showing the presets and the effects for each parameter, while the entire tool lives in FCPX’s Effects Inspector with a dazzling array of controls to scroll through.

In Apple Motion, the new Universe 3.1 features won’t work without a footage or image layer as they are categorised as filters, even though you’ll sometimes want to use some of them — the HUD components, for example — without a background at all. I tried Progresso with a rectangular shape the size of the video frame and was surprised to see that the progress bar wouldn’t fit nicely, not even if I changed the HD viewport to a 4K version. Progresso only worked with footage in Final Cut Pro X.

But I must admit that Red Giant’s compositing elements are much easier to implement than FxFactory’s Yanobox Nodes 3 system which is a lot more complicated to work with — although it’s also much more flexible and powerful.

Heck, in many respects, Red Giant’s Universe 3.1 is easier to use than MotionVFX’s comparable plug-ins and has more flexibility in terms of animation, design elements, and so on. Even Nodes does not allow you a quick and easy creation and animation of any type of animation with numbers or progress bars, clockworks, etc. Universe 3.1 Numbers and Progresso will.

And I could set up Array Gun, a sort of animated and shape-driven grid, to a mosaic-alike masked area in seconds, whereas Mosaic, while again offering much more power and flexibility, takes at least good planning before you get something out of it. So, if you’re after a serious Wow!-factor, you’ll want to use Yanobox’s plug-ins, but if you’re on a deadline, Red Giant’s solution will be wowing enough.

I assume no-one will be using the new Universe features much in feature films, except perhaps for the HUD and Numbers categories, but documentary shooters will love the Progresso effects for their user-friendly implementation and the many appealing designs that can be applied and tried quickly. Equally so, HUD components will appeal to people who are into science-fiction or technical documentaries.

Universe 3.1 runs on Windows and OS X and includes over 80 tools.