Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Plagiarism

If you follow my blog, you probably know that I’m working with Red Giant Software these days. That was a choice I didn’t even have to think hard about. The opportunity to work with guys like Peder Norrby and Stu Maschwitz, the creative geniuses behind Trapcode and Magic Bullet respectively, was just too good to ignore. Here are two people who truly understand us (the users), and who spend a ginormous amount of time and energy working to bring us something amazing and original and often ground-breaking. Their products have repeatedly become industry standards in the area of motion graphics and color correction because of the quality and care they put into their work. When it comes to product decisions, they are willing check their egos at the door, and sacrifice features they love for what is best for the product and the user. They bring something to our industry so few people do – tools we want, need, love, and can’t live without.

Left: Director Stu Maschwitz Hard at work on set. Right: Software Designer Peder Norrby presents Ken Perlin with the Trapcode award of Excellence for in recognition of his contributions to the VFX industry.

So it stands to reason that sooner or later some asshole is going to try and rip them off.

Let’s face it: The economy hasn’t been kind to our industry. People skipped over a whole Adobe Creative Suite because no one had the money for upgrading, and the CS4 feature list wasn’t flashy enough to make people part with what little they had. Adobe had to let go of a lot of people because of that. But when that happened, did Adobe try and turn Premiere Pro into Final Cut Pro? No – they tried to improve their products with a whole bunch of new features. Mercury engine, Content Aware tools, Flash programming for the iPhone. Regardless of how Adobe’s effort turned out (I’ll leave that to the critics), it’s clear they care about their products.

Unfortunately, when times are tough, and software isn’t selling, not everyone thinks enough of their own products to try and improve them. Why fix the out-of-date fluff your selling, when you can just add more half-baked software on top of an already bloated and irrelevant product line? Why look inwardly, when you can instead look outwardly to find the tools that are already successful, and copy them?

But the funny thing is, when that happens, the copy is never quite as good, and usually far, far worse.

What I say next, I say as a veteran animator who has used most of the plug-ins available for AE, not as a Red Giant company man. If Boris FX wants to try and rip-off Trapcode and Magic Bullet with cheap Chinatown knockoffs that show just how out of touch they are with the industry, so be it. It’s embarrassing for them, and insulting to users to even think we’d believe the products are in the same class.

A side by side comparison of BorisFX's new Beat Reactor (LEFT) and the long-standing Trapcode Soundkeys (RIGHT) reveals that someone has been sticking his hand in the plug-in jar. Watching the Beat Reactor tutorial on the BorisFX site also reveals a workflow that is a virtually identical to the one used for Trapcode Soundkeys.

Red Giant isn’t the only ones Boris has gone all Panatronix/Sansung on. He recently released the creatively named “XML Transfer” a facsimile of the highly popular Automatic Duck. Boris actually says on his site: “We bring integration to a new level, giving editors the ability to transfer entire Final Cut Pro sequences to After Effects. ” I am honestly not really sure what he means by “new level,” since Automatic Duck has been doing this for years, only with more consistent results.

But of course, when you’ve lost touch with the users, and have not a spec of creativity yourself, you really can’t tell the difference between doing it, and doing it well. It’s painful to see Boris become a “me too!” company, but it only proves that the thought, energy and time Red Giant puts into its products and customers is well worth it.

Good products come from research and development. Not monkey see, monkey do (badly).

34 thoughts on “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Plagiarism”

  1. Conigs – I appreciate your thoughts. Boris chose the words “We bring integration to a new level…” There is a difference between saying how awesome your software is, and calling what it does “new.” There is nothing wrong with creating software that operates in the same space. It creates competition. But why bother doing it unless you can do it better? What does it say about a company that does what’s already been done, (only not as well) and calls it “new?” What does it say about a company that literally copies almost every aspect of an existing product, calls it their own, and integrates it into many of its own products?

    It tells you that BorisFX is past it’s prime, out of good ideas, and thinks the users are too stupid to know the difference between a knockoff and the real deal. Just looking at their product examples and tutorials shows you they wouldn’t know a motion graphic if bit them on the ass.

  2. Aharon,

    I can completely understand where you’re coming from. And I do agree that BorisFX software is no longer top notch. I think Boris Title 3D (FCP) is about the only plugin I use. I just misinterpreted what you wrote about XML Transfer.

  3. Aharon,

    Even though plagiarism is no fun, I would like to share a couple of thoughts. Beat extraction through Signal Processing/FFT had been around since the dawn of computers.

    Even SoundKeys uses the same FFT functions and libraries like every other audio processor. Most of the graphics and their algorithms are pioneered by researchers around the world and most of the plugins in the modern day are based on those papers and text books.

    Most of them use the same principles with slightly different implementations. Trapcode Soundkeys uses a nice workflow that fits nicely into AE. Instead of re-inventing the wheel and confusing users with a new workflow, I think Boris adapted the same familiar workflow. You may debate the extent of ‘imitation’ and outright ‘plagiarism’, but in the end its all the part of a competitive market.

    I am sorry, but I think your attitude towards this is better spent towards making more innovative products.

  4. If there is some copyright or patent infringement then I can see that people should have issues with this… if not… well, the more innovative company/software will eventually win the battle. I see this as “business as usual” and it doesn’t bother me much. Still, I understand your opinion and I’m glad for your thoughts. I just don’t see it as a big deal unless something illegal has happened.

  5. Hi Aharon,

    A very thought provoking topic. Putting question of ethics and morality aside (although I was a bit surprised by your asshole reference – sounds like you have a bee in your bonnet); competition (whether it is a better moustrap or not) is healthy for the industry and most importantly for consumers and it appears to me you are saying a developer is an asshole if they add capabilities to their products inspired by other products if they don’t improve upon them.

    Many competitors “borrowed” features from AE and didn’t improve upon them but rather than mudslinging the AE team used it as inspiration to take those features to new levels to differentiate them from alternatives. And the AE team looked closely at what Commotion, Combustion and Motion were doing and used that as inspiration for new features driven by both customer feedback as well as in order to remain competitive. Sometime there is no point in re-inventing the wheel. That doesn’t mean that should be the sole source of feature development.

    While I won’t state a personal opinion about BorisFX practices, I will offer an alternative perspective and argue that Boris did improve his product Continuum by adding a SoundKeys like effect. Similar to GenArts they offer a product intended to address the broad need of users creating effects. Maybe BCC customers prefer to have a BeatReactor inside BCC instead of having to purchase an additional plug-in from another vendor.

    Rather than focusing on how competitor X is ripping you off, I’d advocate that you focus your energy on communicating why you offer a better product, and if it isn’t better than use it as an opportunity to improve it. Customers will vote with their checkbooks.

    Steve Kilisky

  6. People who have CS5 incompatible Hologram plug-ins shouldn’t throw stones. If another hologrammy plug-in came out that had more features and CS5 compatibility, would you call that plagiaristic? Or sour grapes because your programmers were lagging behind?

    I don’t buy it. Boris is adding new features to their plug-ins. Period. Compare AE’s standard Final Effects plug-ins to Boris’ Final Effects Complete. One hasn’t changed in a decade, and one has some awesome new features with faster and higher quality renders.

    Outside of Particular 2, when was the last major feature update to any of the other Trapcode plug-ins? (beyond OS X, Intel, and CS5 compatibility updates)

    Where’s my Shine 2? Starglow 2? Soundkeys 2? Echospace 2? Form 2? Lux 2? Horizon 2?

    You can’t blame Boris for adding new features that happen to copy features of other plug-ins when those said plug-ins have been frozen in carbonite for years.

  7. I completely agree with Aharon, I think BorisFX is out of ideas and taking a cheap shortcut. It a shame how they are coping and sticking there hands in other plugins. XML transfer is a stupid plugin when people know that they can just transfer there timeline-xml from FCP to Premiere and then opening the premiere project in after effects, without spending any money to BorisFX or Duck (Can’t believe duck is charging $500 for this plugin)

  8. Wow – a lot of great response. First off – I want to be clear. I am not speaking for Red Giant. If i was, it would be on their site. I am doing this on my site, and speaking as a user and community leader, and I’m calling out what I consider to be bad behavior on the part of a plug-in company, who in my opinion has not innovated in years.

    Now on to business… You are absolutely right about competition. It is healthy for our industry to compete. In fact, it’s crucial. Competition is what has made so many of the cool products we use (even Trapcode and Magic Bullet stuff) to be as good as they are. And borrowing ideas from one another is part of that.

    But that is not what we are talking about here.

    The issue is plain – The interface is the same. It’s not just the idea or concept that was borrowed here. It’s the look and feel – visually a duplicate of another product. And you are getting into a less gray area (and a more dangerous one) when you do that.

    If someone “created” an image or video that was a duplicate of your work, would you feel the same way? Would you call that “borrowing,” “business as usual,” or “competition?” I doubt it.

  9. I also wanted to thank people for all of the response on twitter. Here are just a choice few:

    @ABAOProductions I agree about the lack of creativity of BorisFX, but I applaud them making their stuff more affordable in a weak economy

    @ABAOProductions they’ve been doing this for years. Note the many sapphire knockoffs in their collection.

    this post from Aharon Rabinowitz strongly confirms my opinion on #BorisFX products : (via @ABAOProductions)

  10. @Aftab:

    I agree with Aharon’s basic viewpoints on this (in fact, I made a snarky observation on Twitter about this very subject back in April (, but your comment about using Premiere as a conduit between FCP to AE fascinates me.

    Can you tell me where I can get this “Premiere” you speak of, and preferably where I can get it for less than the cost of Boris XMLTransfer or Automatic Duck ProImport AE? My copy of Final Cut Studio 3 did not seem to come with a copy of this “Premiere” thingy.

    And yeah, shame on Wes Plate for charging for Automatic Duck! I mean, just because it has saved me hundreds of hours of work over the past 4 years and helped me make a decent living working in post-production, doesn’t mean he ALSO has the right to make a decent living on selling such a “stupid” plugin!

    God, some people think this is America or something.

  11. Gotta say that paying $500 for automatic duck an then 195 for every update was getting tiresome along with a convoluted serialize system and prompt but pompus customer support so actually glad for the Boris transfer plugin. Let’s see if Boris can compete in the same space. If his plugins are inferior the word will get out. And has been mentioned, they have every right to compete unless they are stealing your code or violating patents. Otherwise rgs is ford in my book and Boris Chrysler – both make cars, one just does it better and makes money. That said, rgs could look at cutting prices overall and rely less on these specials – I don’t buy now till the holidays as I know that there is a special coming and don’t want to be hosed on the price.

  12. Hmm, interesting post. I recognized the “new” products by boris FFX also and was shaking my head sometimes about the “new level” they promissed to reach. On the other side I said to myself it´s good to know there is an alternative solution out there if something doesnt work like it should with my tools. If I learned one thing in all these years of Motiongraphics then it is never to leave the house with a plan b…

  13. For all the talk at how Adobe had hit hard times they still seem to be able to post massive sales and profit numbers for their shareholders.

  14. SteveO – I’m really glad you bring up Video Copilot for several reasons.

    Video copilot is a direct competitor of Red Giant, and yet, I have a link to it on every single page of my website. I talk about Andrew’s projects and products in many of my tutorials as well. My point is, Red Giant does not control this site or the opinions presented on it. I was a voice and teacher in the AE community long before I ever began working with Red Giant, and just because I am working with them now, does not mean that my views are no longer valid.

    When I tweeted out this blog entry, many of the leaders in the AE community re-tweeted it so that others would read it. Either they agreed with my thoughts, or , at the very least, believed that the argument presented here had enough validity that it was worth sharing.

    In addition, your argument about Red Giant being a source of mediocrity is an interesting one. Red Giant offers many cutting-edge products that are an industry standard, and while they also offer presets, there are many websites that do the same – including video copilot (which you site as the alternative to mediocrity). In fact, it’s fair to say that, in our industry, more copying and duplication comes from the projects given away on that site than any other. That is not a criticism of Video Copilot. You can read my thoughts on the subject of presets here.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on software and our industry. I will continue to share mine.

  15. Hi Steve Kilisky – As a long running product manager for After Effects, your thoughts are always welcome here. I only wish you felt comfortable enough to share your personal opinion on this subject. I can’t speak for others, but I would be very interested in hearing it.

    As I’ve noted before in my posts here, I do value competition, and have spoken positively about other plug-in companies and products on this site. In this case, it is my personal opinion that Boris has taken competition too far, and has directly copied someone else’s work, without innovating in any meaningful way.

    I would also like to respond to one important point in your post. You said: “Putting the question of ethics and morality aside…”

    Steve, when you put ethics and morality aside in business, all you’re left with is business that is conducted unethically and immorally. The plug-in industry does not benefit from companies copying from each other rather than innovating.

  16. Before commenting, in the spirit of full disclosure let it be known I work for a company that has partner agreements in place with BorisFX. I would like to expand on Steve Kilisky’s points. I fully agree with him, so I won’t reiterate.

    I’ll add that if someone does something truly innovative it can be patented. If it’s either ineligible for a patent, or the creator simply chooses not to protect his IP, then others are free to have at it. That’s capitalism, and it’s a remarkably efficient system for encouraging real innovation while driving down the cost of goods and services that can be commoditized.

    As a software designer myself I understand your gut reaction, but Boris is doing nothing unethical or illegal. It’s business.

  17. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your thoughts. And as a senior product manager at Avid, I really appreciate your perspective.

    I’d like to offer my readers another side of the Intellectual property equation: It isn’t just about wrong or right, and legal or illegal. Its sometimes about time, resources, and goals.

    Protecting IP is a very difficult thing to do. Unless it’s really worth it to a company to pursue legal matters, even if they believe their IP has been violated, they often won’t. The legal fees and time spent duking it out can detract from a company’s ability to focus on creating great products for their customers. So, as others have said, better for them to focus on making better products, rather then wasting time fighting perceived IP violations.

    But the point you and Steve have missed is that I am not a software company. I am a user and single voice in a very passionate and creative community. I co-run After Effects New York, and help in heavily promoting other companies’ products to the AE community – in fact, we just had Mr. Kilisky’s company (GenArts) out to show their stuff last week. Previously, we had Boris out as well. So, as much as you want to keep referring to me as a company or software designer, I have earned the right to speak my mind as an individual user. And as a user, it’s my job (in fact it’s all of our jobs) to look at and evaluate products and companies critically, and voice my opinions based on my perceptions.

    As a company that has to compete in a tough market, it’s your job to innovate and brand your products uniquely and effectively. If people are seeing a problem with your products and brand, or do not like the way in which you conduct yourself in the market, it’s your job to ask yourself what you are doing wrong. Not to educate the consumer on how big companies do business and how it’s OK for them to do it that way.

  18. Aharon,

    Since it’s political season, I was tempted to compare your post to one of those negative attack ads. I’ll refrain from that because I don’t like thinking about negative attack adds.

    Is it possible that you’ve imagined that the new product is closer competition than it really is? The new product may even help Red Giant sales by increasing awareness of the existence of such a cool effect. I have seen several cases of this over the years. I don’t believe the existence of competitors is a problem. If the new product is as bad as you say, then it’s not a problem, right?

    As the current product manager for After Effects, I will say that our focus on customers — and not competition — has helped us innovate in the right direction and create distance between us and a number of products. Competition comes in many flavors. Some you respect and some you don’t. That’s life. You need to decide how you are going to compete. If you have a better way of going about your business, you will win.

    Michael Coleman
    After Effects Product Manager

  19. Hi Michael – first off, I want to say that I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there on my blog. Of all the responses I got, yours carried the most wisdom, especially this:

    “As the current product manager for After Effects, I will say that our focus on customers — and not competition — has helped us innovate in the right direction and create distance between us and a number of products.”

    Your point of focusing on the customer is a key point missed by everyone else who responded. Kudos to you and Adobe. This is actually RG’s philosophy as well. In addition, you also had something good to say about the nature of competition:

    “Competition comes in many flavors. Some you respect and some you don’t. That’s life. You need to decide how you are going to compete. If you have a better way of going about your business, you will win.”

    Again, very good advice. Wise, bigger picture, and with the goal of avoiding bad behavior in favor of focusing on the right things and winning on that merit.

    It’s just odd that you would start off your post with this:

    “Since it’s political season, I was tempted to compare your post to one of those negative attack ads. I’ll refrain from that because I don’t like thinking about negative attack adds.”

    Recently, when Adobe Flash was locked out of iOS development, your company, quite literally, began a full-court-press negative attack ad campaign against Apple. I really don’t mean to offend you when I say this (because I respect you immensely and do not generally think this of you), but, given Adobe’s history, that “negative attack ad” comment was hypocritical. When the shoe was on the other foot, “finding a better way to do it” was not Adobe’s stance. Adobe may have called the campaign “We love Apple” but they were calling Apple out on unethical behavior that they believed would hurt the industry. That’s what I’m doing here.

    I’ll also remind you that when Apple locked Adobe out of iOS, a prominent Adobe Flash evangelist posted THIS independently in his personal blog. If Adobe will allow it’s team to speak their mind independently, why should Red Giant not?

    I fully support Adobe (which you well know), and think you are a good guy, a great leader, and a person who understands the importance of community (one of the few in our industry). And I think your advice is sound. I just take issue with your comparison of my post to a negative attack ad. We all have the right to express ourselves, and more so, the responsibility to speak out when we feel a wrong has been done. Even if it means ruffling some feathers.

  20. “Your point of focusing on the customer is a key point missed by everyone else who responded. Kudos to you and Adobe. This is actually RG’s philosophy as well.”

    Hmm. Do you not think that Boris’ philosophy is also to think of the customer? Why else are they adding features in what is, after all, a pretty good value package. (As someone mentioned earlier, offering better value is not a bad idea during a recession.)

    You might have a valid point about the lack of innovation and the similarity of the user interface, but you lost me when you called Boris (unclear whether you mean the company or the man?) an “a–hole”. It’s possible to make a thoughtful argument without slinging mud…

    For what it’s worth, Motion has a great implementation of sound analysis and Cinema does some crazy sound stuff with MoGraph. There’s plenty of stuff for Peder to check out for Soundkeys 2…!


    PS. “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

  21. “You might have a valid point about the lack of innovation and the similarity of the user interface, but you lost me when you called Boris (unclear whether you mean the company or the man?) an “a–hole”.”

    To that I say: Your honor – it’s true I stole from him. But in my defense he did call me a bad name, and the economy has been bad.

    FWIW – the comment was not aimed at the man. It was aimed at the company. It’s unfortunate that my choice of a naughty word could sway you so easily from what is, by your own admission, a valid argument. I suppose, if I was actually trying to win an argument here, I probably should not have used the word “asshole,” but then – I really wasn’t trying to win anyone over or make friends. Just speaking my mind.

    But to your point: “For what it’s worth, Motion has a great implementation of sound analysis and Cinema does some crazy sound stuff with MoGraph.”

    EXACTLY! There are other ways to do it. And Boris (The company) chose a direct copy.

    And, Trish, you know that I have immense respect for you. But this ain’t art. It’s a product. You would not say the same thing if someone duplicated the look, feel, and lesson plan of your books (which I still maintain as some of the best AE books ever written). I recall a conversation we recently had about a book that was full of both ripped off and invalid material (not from yours, but someone else’s) and your attitude was a bit different on the subject.

    But I thank you for your thoughts. Its always nice to get more than one perspective, even if I don’t agree with you in this case.

  22. I think Aharon is very brave for standing up and bringing up a subject that is important, and that a lot of people obviously feel strongly about. Hats off to him for his bravery and to Red Giant for allowing their staff to speak in their own voices, whether you agree with what’s said or not, you can’t deny that freedom of speech is a great thing and should be encouraged.

    Interesting to note that most of the people who feel strongly have a vested interest in the industry, there’s not so much passionate interest from customers as software developers. Perhaps we should talk a bit more openly about this stuff a bit more often. I personally think that development of existing ideas is important so have nothing against taking an idea and pushing it forward. Adding value for customers is also important of course. But it is a bit boring and unimaginative just to regurgitate whats already out there without at least giving it some uniqueness. I do like to see differentiation and innovation in the development of ideas. Both in software development and art.

    It seems to me that most people in business operate a “all’s fair in love and war” attitude which saddens me. So if something is not protected by law, it’s fair game. But what about personal morals, don’t they apply in business? I always operate under the rule, do unto others how you would want them to do unto you (or words to that effect!) ;-). I would be upset if a colleague of mine blatantly copied a piece of work that I had labored over, that’s human nature (actually it has happened to me and although I hoped I’d be able to rise above primitive human responses, I was hurt, upset and a little angry). I also believe what goes around comes around so it’s more important to focus not on what other people do but instead make sure what you do is the very best it can be, you’ll never lose.

    Finally I salute the use of swear words in blogs! It shows bloody passion and isn’t something that people should get too upset or offended by. Blimey, I use swearing as punctuation! I would however like to correct Aharon’s spelling of the word “asshole”, we all know that us Brits have it right, it’s “Arsehole”!

  23. Some passion going on here, how wonderful that people care so much about the tools they use.

    Since Aharon dragged Automatic Duck into his post I should chime in a little. 😉

    When Boris FX started to compete with us we were upset, obviously, but the mere presence of their competition wasn’t the problem. What really hurt was their decision to so blatantly directly lift our UI. Aharon’s screenshots above of the beat plug-in demonstrate this so clearly– not only do they copy the spirit of a plug-in, they copy the entire look and feel.

    There is loads of competition in the plug-in market, many different tools to achieve the same result. If you’re going to make something that does what someone else’s stuff already does, you really should try to make it your own and either put a new spin on it or make it better.

    Granted, Boris’ AAF Transfer plug-in does claim to do one thing our plug-in can’t: translate a plug-in from FCP to Avid. Their position as an AVX developer game them a unique position to understand Avid’s encoding of dark metadata that prevents us from doing a similar feature. I’ve read that this functionality is why Boris did the AAF plug-in.

    The feedback I have heard from users of Boris’ plug-ins that seek to compete with ours has been that our tools work better, which I’d expect, but it is nice to hear that from real users too.

    Competition isn’t always an inherently bad thing, and as Michael points out it can actually benefit a company. Since Boris shipped their plug-ins our sales have increased, and a few users have told me their purchase was prompted after trying Boris’ demo and it failing them. So for us, in the end, Boris’ entry into our market is actually benefitting us.

    Still, the whole thing leaves a bad taste, we’ve invested the last ten years of our lives into what we do, for us this is all quite personal. We don’t believe business can exist with ethics and morals aside, everything we do is open and honest and fair and it is sad that other companies behave so differently.

    @Harriet, I am very sorry you found my customer support to be pompous, I would like to call you and put things right. I searched our support system for “Harriet” so I could revisit my words and reach out to your personally but my search came up empty.

  24. “You would not say the same thing if someone duplicated the look, feel, and lesson plan of your books ”

    That’s pretty funny. Most books are inspired in part by other books. CMG was inspired by a great Photoshop book we read. I wrote the first lesson plan for the very first After Effects Classroom in a Book way back (AE 3.1 I think) and then we based our AE Apprentice on a similar 12 lesson plan (after Adobe started going in a different the one-project per book route). Lynda Weinman once sais that there’s always room in book publishhing for the best, the cheapest, and the first out the door.

    As for swear words, I’m from Dublin. Same city as Bono. I played in a band too, so I know my fair share of swear words. But I still think that you can make a stronger argument about almost anything (and especially when you are complaining about a company’s morals) when you choose your words carefully. The probably with calling Boris an arsehole (thank you Angie) is that in order to agree with the points you make, the responder would also be agreeing that they are arseholes. That’s where you lost me. And I know you are more professional than that.

  25. “And I know you are more professional than that.”

    I’m really not. By your definition of “professional”, I should make nice to individuals or companies that display antisocial behavior (which is what being an asshole is all about in my opinion). To me, being a professional is about conducting oneself in business reliably and honestly, and not taking someone else’s work and calling it my own, or accepting it when others do that. So I guess we’ll agree to disagree on the meaning of the word “professional.”

    But OK. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you disapprove of my use of the A-word, and there is no one reading this who will think otherwise. I’ll put a dollar in the swear jar and we can call it even. Now you are free to give your honest, untainted opinion: how do you feel about what Boris FX has done here?

  26. As we were editing Michele Yamazaki’s upcoming book on effects, we were reminded of this topic. A few thoughts:

    Prior Art: The idea behind SoundKeys, though certainly great, is certainly not new or unique. Remember that Peder was being sued for awhile by a person who claimed to have a patent on the technology. And a bunch of people were helping Peder find prior art that predated both SoundKeys and patent-guy. So you can’t claim original thought was ripped off here. (And, it’s not like Beat Reactor came out immediately after SoundKeys – Peder has had a few years to make his money off of it.)

    Similarity: Now that I’ve had a chance to look at the UI and read tutorials on both, yes, there are a lot of similarities. And there are some places where Boris Beat Reactor improves upon the venerable SoundKeys, making it look rather dated. In general, being a SoundKeys fan, I think the concept is a highly useful to add to a plug-in set or full program (witness the update to Motion), and one would be stupid for them not to include some of the best SoundKey features like frequency ranges and smoothing (although, with all that resolution, they should have added at least a 4th output channel…but I digress). On the flip side, if Boris (the company – I doubt that Boris himself programmed this effect) had used a radically different UI, or even just different parameter names, no doubt many of their users would pillory them for trying to reinvent the wheel. So yes, it’s similar enough to go “I’ve seen this before…” – to the point of making me slightly uneasy – but it’s not a direct rip-off : It copies what was good and shouldn’t be changed; it also expands upon SoundKeys in many areas.

    Assholes: When you say “Boris” is an asshole, who exactly do you mean? Emile Tobenfeld, the programmer at Boris FX who was creating audio tools as “Dr. T” back in the 80s before even After Effects (let alone SoundKeys) was a glimmer in anyone’s eyes? Peter McAuley, one of the absolute nicest people in the industry? Or do you just not like Boris himself? (Understandable; I didn’t gel with him either – but at the time we were busy arguing over backward compatibility back when the didn’t bother to support it. They do now.)

    Antisocial Behavior: Pot, meet kettle (smile). Let’s distinguish between a company – Boris FX, who is in the business of trying to create a comprehensive AE plug-in set, which will inevitably mean containing elements seen elsewhere – and an individual who displays antisocial behavior by blanket-accusing an entire company of individuals with the term “asshole.” It seems that you’ve taken a business practice and made it personal. Chill – you’re not helping.

    Aharon, I respect the heck out of you, and Red Giant as well (and massive respect to Peder). And yes, Beat Reactor has many similarities to the great-but-not-unique SoundKeys – as well as some improvements. Heck, we ask InDesign to be more like Quark. Users ask FCP and Premiere to be more like Avid (and vice versa). Other companies make colas. Some make generic drugs. They may not be better than the original, but they’re allowed to make their own versions, within certain legal parameters. As a competitor, you can be miffed or concerned. If they came too close legally, you can sue them.

    But calling the assholes did not…improve your “brand”, let’s say – and did not improve Red Giant’s brand either (and no, you can’t neatly separate the two; they hired you to represent them – think about all the implications of that for a minute). Don’t get mad (for too long); don’t get even – beat them by helping Peder create something better.

  27. Following up a bit more on the “innovation” part of this thread:

    Sound Keys came out in 2002 (and was much-loved then, as it is today). In 2003, Adobe released After Effects 6 that included Convert Audio to Keyframes, a very stripped-down version of the Sound Keys concept – but it was free with the program. In 2005 or so, Avidion Media came out with Synchronize, which had a lot of Sound Keys-like features (and a few improvements on SoundKeys). And of course, similar features were later integrated into Apple’s Motion. IMHO, any anger at ripping off the Sound Keys concept should be directed more at these earlier “copies” than at Boris finally getting around to releasing Beat Reactor in 2010. (Yes, Beat Reactor’s UI certainly recalls Sound Keys. But Beat Reactor also exceeds Sound Keys in several areas.) Meanwhile, SoundKeys is still a version 1.x – it’s still highly useful, but if Beat Reactor has you so upset, maybe it’s time for an update to Sound Keys.

    (Personally, I was angrier when Abode released Cartoon so quickly after Digital Anarchy released ToonIt; didn’t really give the third-party effect a chance to stretch its legs before they were chopped off. But I digress…)

    Secondly, there is an insinuation that Boris FX just copies other effects rather than innovates. Not at all true. For example, they were doing tritone plug-ins from very early on (including the fabulous Multitone Mix) while users were still struggling with AE’s duotone Tint. Boris even gave us a free copy of Tint-Tritone to include in our first two books back in 2001 & 2002. (And speaking of Multitone Mix, this and their posterize effect had an option to adjust the alpha on a replacement color to allow the original to peak through – a really nice touch I don’t remember seeing until Atomic Power released Colorama.) Not to mention how innovative Boris’ PixelChooser was when initially introduced – and it still is today. Plus Boris was one of the first (if not the first) plug-in companies to include a long list of blending modes for compositing inside the plug-in – including modes still not offered by Adobe or others to this day. In short, there were times they were first to the punch, and times they weren’t. Inevitable given limited resources, and the attempt to build a huge suite of effects.

    So given the above, I can see why you might have been a bit miffed when you first saw Beat Reactor. But IMHO, I think calling them assholes is a substantial over-reaction – especially coming from one of the leading lights in the industry, who also happens to be closely aligned with a competitor. Or maybe we’re just that much more mellow here in New Mexico than you are in New York (smile).

    P.S. Congrats on your new son! I expect to see pictures at NAB…

  28. On the topic of innovation – C&T can you do some of that in the next book you write? I understand that with eac version you will update the book with new features but I would love to see you do more creative stuff. I remember your first book breakage down the PAX (I think) branding you did and the TV titles someone else had done. It would be great to see how you an others do the creative stuff as opposed to ‘this slider does this’ and ‘this button does that’. All the bests


  29. Funny, Aharon. With the new release of Knoll Light Factory, you guys at RG are now imitating (if not completely ripping off) Video Copilot’s Optical Flares.

  30. D – Knoll Light Factory has been around for 20 years and was the first of it’s kind. 90% of every lens flare generator on the market (including OF) is built off of John Knoll’s design and methodology. Please educate yourself on the history of VFX and KLF so you can have an informed opinion. Start here:

    Also, it’s clear you have not actually looked at the product. Download a trial and then talk to me. And use your name. Otherwise I might think you were a troll.

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