Nodes 2 by Yanobox is the plugin you want to use if you want to create connection-based motion graphics, whether complex grid based animations or morphing networks of particles. The plugin has been used to create high-end screen graphics for movies like The Avengers, Planet of the Apes, and Ender’s Game. The new version of this plugin, version 2, was one of the huge highlights earlier this spring. Thanks to the folks at FxFactory, I’m able to bring you guys a full review of this plugin after working with it for over 3 months. As always, I’m not being paid by anyone to write this review as it’s my honest opinion.

Let’s Talk Nodes 2

The best way to describe Nodes 2 is that it’s a hybrid mix of Trapcode Form and Plexus. Both the plugins are used to create complex abstract/particle design which consist of a lot of data or digital looks. Nodes 2 does what Trapcode Form does, except with an enhanced “connection” similar to Plexus. If you want to create HUD displays, interactive UI elements, data or digital visualizations, or abstract strings of particles, Nodes 2 is what you want.

Features

  • Build giant forms of particles using built-in primitives, imported OBJ models, or footage
  • Displace and animate nodes in 3D based on oscillation, noise, etc
  • Tons of connection algorithms to define the relationship between nodes
  • Global control over procedural animations
  • Tons of presets, accelerated fonts, dynamic primitives
  • Works in After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro X, and Motion

The Workflow

If you’re familiar with working in the Trapcode products or Plexus, you’ll be right at home with Nodes 2. There are lots of drop down menus, tons of familiar terms and features, and the rendering speed is on par with the rest of the particle system plugins.

Unlike Form and Plexus where you’re pretty much limited to displacement maps or noise displacement to distort your designs, Nodes 2 comes with a ton of ways to displacement your designs, including wave and noise oscillators. The plugin is really math oriented, giving you control over every aspect of the procedural design. You can create sine curves, change amplitude, period, and phase, and much more. It’s no wonder the plugin is fantastic at procedural screen/digital designs.

Nodes 2 also makes animation very easy. You don’t even need to set keyframes if you don’t want to, you can simply switch on a few switches and Nodes 2 can auto-animate node size, rotation, phase, evolution, color, etc. It’s a great way to achieve some auto-animating abstract designs that evolve over time.

You also have the similar controls of Plexus, meaning you can control the connect lines, tweak the node size, color, etc, and define how nodes are connected (serial, distance, index, etc).

The Downsides

The hugest drawback is that the plugin is Mac only, severely limiting its potential (although nothing new for FxFactory plugins). You also don’t get any Depth of Field options! How are we suppose to do those crazy fancy macro shots of our awesome UI designs? Nodes 2 does offer something called Depth Effects which attempts to give your designs some depth using Opacity, Fog, and Luminosity, but still doesn’t make up for no DoF support. The plugin is also limited in terms of stacking effects, unlike Plexus with it’s limitless modular workflow. Nodes 2 has so many different options and effects, it’s unfortunate we can’t stack or combine all those effects like we can with Plexus. With Nodes 2, you’ll have to settle.

Conclusion

Nodes 2 is simply fantastic for what it’s trying to achieve: generative, procedural, connection based motion graphics. It’s relatively fast at rendering, offers you everything that all the other particle plugins are offering, and it makes it a breeze to create complex yet organized designs. If you’re constantly working with Form or Plexus, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Nodes 2 to expand your arsenal. Nodes 2 is a solid product that allows even a novice to create beautiful generative and complex interactive designs.