Shake 4.1 full review

Until now, Shake has been a high-end video-compositing tool used in many effects-laden motion pictures. It offered incredible quality and control over the work done and its price reflected its intended market: high-end professional film companies.

Since Nothing Real – the maker of Shake – was acquired in 2002, Apple has continuously worked to improve the application by regularly upgrading it and adding more features to it. With each update, Apple also lowered the price and increased the potential reach of Shake: version 2.5 cost over £3,000. Version 4, released last year, cost £2,000. With this latest update Apple has dropped the price to an astonishing £329. This means that for the first time, anyone working in video editing can afford an application which was used in Lord of the Rings and King Kong to produce their own work.

But now that Shake is affordable, is it an application that you actually need? After all, don’t Final Cut Pro and Motion already have enough compositing features between them? Maybe, but Shake’s results are designed to be viewed on cinema screens so the quality is superb. Also every effect has numerous parameters which can be controlled by the user and if a certain one doesn’t exist, you even have the ability to create it yourself.

What’s on offer

Although this latest release of Shake brings with it a few bug fixes, the biggest reason for its existence is the fact that it is now a Universal application capable of working natively in both PowerPC and Intel-powered Macs. It even runs well on the latest MacBooks. Aside from that its features remain the same as in version 4.0.

That version introduced the Clone feature: rather than adding a similar node to multiple clips and then having to modify each individually, you’re now able to clone one node and apply it to other clips. Any change to the original node’s parameters will automatically be reflected in the clones.

Another recent feature is Shake’s Optical Flow tools. These are designed to analyse your footage pixel by pixel and modify it in some way. For instance, using the SmoothCam node, jerky footage from an unstable crane or handheld camera is transformed into a smooth pan or steady shot – depending on the options you choose.

The AutoAlign node lets you align two or three stills or clips, even matching their luminosity to help them blend in more perfectly. For example, you could film three shots side by side and combine them into an extremely wide-angle background shot. Optical Flow tools are also used to enable the retiming of clips.

Shake uses advanced image analysis to generate new in-between frames, creating seamless slow- and fast-motion effects. These tools can also be used to switch between PAL and NTSC. The results are amazingly good when compared with retiming tools present in other compositing apps such as Final Cut Pro.

You are now able to work in a 3D compositing environment using the MultiPlane node. When selected from a process tree, the Viewer window splits itself into four views. This tool helps you arrange and animate clips within a 3D space. You can also import generated camera paths from another application – such as Maya – and use them right inside Shake.

There are many more new features available in Shake, like tight integration with Final Cut Pro 5, powerful Lens Warp tools, control via Tiger’s Automator and monitor calibration using Truelight (in order to simulate as closely as possible how the final image will look when printed to film or displayed on a high-definition monitor).

The sharp drop in price also came with an announcement from Apple that this will be the last major release of Shake. It is scheduled to be replaced with a new application code-named ‘Phenomenon’ around 2008. This is entirely speculation, but Shake never looked like it was part of Apple’s other applications and this may be an attempt to unify all its video tools. However, don’t let that dissuade you from taking a serious look at Shake now. If you’re serious about compositing, the quality of your work will greatly improve with this application. Also, it is unlikely that Apple will abandon Shake’s interface and learning your way around Nodes now would most likely help you when this new forthcoming application is released.

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