Sapphire-8-Review

GenArts Sapphire 8 is an industry standard set of plugins, known for its use in high-end production environments including broadcast, advertisements, and film. No doubt if you have been in this industry for awhile, you are at least familiar with GenArts’ Sapphire collection. Aside from being one of the earlier set of plugins from one of the first primary software developers in the industry, what makes the Sapphire collection, specifically Sapphire 8, so streamlined in the production workflow? Let’s take a look.

Firstly, I want to clarify that I have not touched Sapphire prior to this review, so Sapphire 8 is my first version diving into GenArts’ ecosystem. I will take a stab at explaining Sapphire in general as a set of plugins as well also some features specifically from Sapphire 8.

What is GenArts Sapphire?

GenArts’ Sapphire is a suite of plugins available for many host applications that cater to helping you create better motion graphics and visual effects. Think of it as an older brother of Red Giant’s Universe plugins. They have over 250 plugins, each ranging from glows, blurs, distortions, lights, transitions, and much more.

Quality & Variation of Sapphire in Comparison

Sapphire 8 has a lot of variation of plugins within categories, each achieving different looks. Unlike Red Giant’s Universe & FxFactory’s suite of plugins, Sapphire seems to have a lot more useful plugins with less “fun but corny” plugins cluttering up the collection, something I highly appreciate. The plugins seem just as fast as Red Giant’s Universe, and the plugins parameters and default settings seem a lot more optimized. In my opinion, plugins in Sapphire have a lot more controls and parameters to experiment with, giving you more control over the looks you want to achieve. To sum it up, Sapphire is like a polished and refined version of Universe without the fluff, which is no surprise as its been around for a lot longer.

Sapphire 8 also has a broader set of plugins, containing not just cool blurs and stylized effects, but also tools for color/footage correction, lens flares, and time displacement effects. You’ll find a lot more helpful tools in Sapphire 8 compared to other similar products where their focus is on pretty “makeup” effects. This is a very important factor!

New to Sapphire 8

Some of the new effects in Sapphire 8, including DigitalDamage, Shake, LightLeaks, and Grunge, are a much welcomed addition to the collection seeing that these types of effects are trendy right now. Many effects work similar to effects in Universe, providing similar controls, options, and stylized look. For example, DigitalDamage has options to turn on/off certain digital artifacting and glitches with options to fine adjust parameters under these categories, very similar to Universe’s Glitch and Holomatrix. They all give the same general look with similar controls and layout. The LightLeaks effect is probably the most organic approach at automating this effect that I’ve tested, which looks and works great with fine controls. The real steal of the show are Sapphire 8’s effects and transition Builder.

Sapphire-8-Builder

Powerful Effects & Transitions Builder

The S_Effect and S_Transition Builder is and should be the reason you upgrade from v7, and is what really attracted me to Sapphire 8 in the first place. Essentially, you can build your own effects and transitions using a powerful, yet easy node Builder. Once you create your custom effect, you can save and use the effect anywhere with your custom controls and parameters intact. To me the Builder is almost like Video Copilot’s E3D engine for 3D, a powerful and unique way to create something entirely new right within your host’s interface.

Builder essentially lifts the limit of what you can do with a defined amount of effects, making the variations endless. It’s easy to use, it’s extremely powerful, and its efficient. Even better, the Preset Browser makes it simple and efficient to find the right effect presets for your project. Sapphire 8 ships with over 2,500 presets, giving you thousands of variations right within the Preset Browser (which serves as a good place to explore new looks).

The Cost

Although the Sapphire suite gives you everything you could ask for from a plugin collection, the cost is relatively expensive and may not be suited for every average individual freelancer. For $1,699, you can grab a permanent license of Sapphire 8 with 1 year of free upgrades & support for Adobe products, Autodesk Smoke and Flare, Nuke, Resolve, and OFX formats. For $2,800, you get everything mentioned above in addition to an Avid license. These are permanent licenses that never expire, and you’re granted free updates for a certain period of time.

They also have an optional plan called “Upgrade and Support Fee”, which is a yearly subscription for updates once your free 1 year of updates runs out. The upgrade plan costs $450/year. Note: This only gives you constant access to updates, you cannot just purchase this and get a license for Sapphire. This is on top of your $1,699/2,800 license cost if you want to keep getting updates after the first year.

The better alternative if you’re wanting to purchase Sapphire 8 for Adobe host applications, is to purchase the more reasonable subscription plan at $149 per 3 months or $499 per year. This is a normal subscription plan just like the Creative Cloud subscription where your license is active as long as you continue to pay. Overall, this is a more flexible and cheaper route for the same set of tools and benefits, without the upfront investment. GenArts plans to roll out the subscription plan for other host applications soon, but at the time of this writing, it’s only for Adobe host products.

The Verdict

I really do love Sapphire, it’s a fantastic suite of plugins with more variation and finer controls than some of its competitors. The real question is, does this difference justify the cost difference from its other competitors? Red Giant’s Universe is its closest competitor and only costs $399 for a lifetime license with future updates. Give Universe 2-3 years and it will be at the same refined notch as Sapphire. The difference between a permanent license of Sapphire 8 and Universe is $1,300!

If you’re a seasoned individual freelancer or small design team and need finder controls, incredibly handy utilities, and like the option of having decent replacements for common 3rd party plugins (Shine, RSMB, Knoll Light Factory), then Sapphire 8 is the perfect package for you. You’re getting a very solid product, backed by a company with years of experience and a notorious reputation, and won’t run into any weird surprises.

If you’re more of a casual freelancer and are really just looking for some extra plugins to spice up your visuals, the advanced additional features and tools would probably be overkill for you (including the price). Universe provides you with most of the similar stylistic effects, just without the fancy Builder, less variation and parameters, and very little utilities, something I think you can live with considering the price difference.

Sapphire 8 is a great and solid package, works very well, and yields great results. The collection is definitely a solid investment for professionals and the subscription plan for Sapphire 8 makes the suite more affordable for individual freelancers. I’m not surprised that the Sapphire collection has been an industry standard for years, but it’s definitely not on everyone’s budget level. The kids next door are also cooking something up and it’ll be interesting how they compare to each other in the short future.