Red Giant Universe Review

Everybody loves a good plug-in, so everyone should love an ever-expanding, GPU-accelerated, cross-platform, community-driven, constantly updated package of plug-ins. Red Giant Universe (www.redgiant.com/universe) is exactly that, and it’s a new favorite toolset of mine.

So, what is Universe, and how much does it cost? It’s free. For absolutely nothing, you get 34 transitions and effects that are GPU accelerated and are not your normal cheap, free effects. There are some really great transitions and blurs – a nice Camera Shake plug-in, Glo Fi for some great animated glows, and some old favorites like a standard blur or a swish pan transition. What’s nice about delivering some classic transitions and effects that have been around for awhile is that Universe’s have all been rewritten for GPU acceleration and 32 bpc color depth! So if you have some old transitions that you really like and Universe has a duplicate, toss those old 8 bpc ones that only run on the CPU. Additionally, every plug-in works in Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro X, and Motion 5.

On the other side of free, there’s premium. While Universe is a hefty package with what I listed above, its premium tools are pretty impressive. Included are great 3D transitions and effects, but not just any effects. With a premium license or subscription (more on that in a little), you get the popular Holomatrix; a new (as of v1.1) Holomatrix EZ which is preset driven and geared more towards editors; ToonIt; Retrograde*, for vintage film emulation; Carousel*, for vintage camera looks, SplitScreen Blocks*; and the amazing Knoll Light Factory EZ. If you have any of these Red Giant plug-ins already, the Universe versions have been completely rewritten on their magical Supernova platform which allows for fast development, and did I mention, GPU-acceleration? Check out this video to see how Supernova works.

*These plug-ins were developed in partnership with CrumplePop and were previously available ONLY for FCP X. Awesome, right?!

I mentioned licensing, and Red Giant has done something pretty awesome. Everybody gets the free tools, as well as a 30 day trial of the premium tools. After that, you can pay $10/month, $99/year, or get this, $399 for a lifetime, perpetual license! (Click here for pricing info). Yes, the lifetime license is a lot more than $10/mo, but Red Giant is releasing updates and new tools every couple of months, and they’ve already delivered on this promise with the recent v1.1 update. I think the lifetime option is definitely the best deal, but if you don’t you could always wait to see what else comes to Universe and then spring for it later because you get everything that is here now, and everything that will be there in the future.

My only complaint about Universe is that the interface for customizing Premiere transitions is a custom modal popup. This means that to tweak a transition’s parameters you have to click the transition, click Custom, tweak the parameters, close the popup, and then play back your transition. If you want to make any more tweaks, you need to repeat the above steps. I have very high hopes that this will change in the near future as I know I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of this implementation.

Last, but not least, Red Giant wants to make it known that they’re listening. They want to develop tools that users want, and I know first hand that they’re listening to feedback, but they also have a Labs section on their site that allows you to vote on upcoming plug-ins that they will develop. The first winner already made its way into v1.1.

Each time I use a Universe plug-in I like the idea more and more. The free tools are really useful, but the premium tools are just amazing. I’m really looking forward to where Red Giant is going to take Universe in the future.

-David