DCP 138: Skin Smoothing, Dead Pixel Repair, and Red Giant Universe

Episode 138 of the Digital Convergence Podcast is all about plugins for video editing.

I haven’t talked about what’s in my toolbox in quite some time. So I thought I would pull the curtains back and let you peak inside my studio and show you a few cool plugins that solve a couple of common problems in my footage.

Skin Smoothing and Blemish Repair

The first issue is rather embarrassing. As a result of the skin on my face being severely burned several years ago in a flash powder explosion (caused by my own stupidity), my face is easily susceptible to infection. About five or six years ago, I came down with rosacea. There is no cure. All I can do is manage it. Some days are worse than others. When it flares up at its worst I don’t like being filmed or photographed or being out in public for that matter. When I first started this podcast, my intention was to create a series of videos. I wanted to be on camera - similar to what Dave Dugdale does so well with his videos, but I just couldn’t get past my face. The bottom line is I have a face for podcasting–not video. I still want to do it, but I don’t want my appearance to be a distraction from my message.

Enter three plugins to save the day… they each address common issues with skin tones and blemishes. Some go beyond simple skin smoothing–they also create a “glamour shot” effect. For me, all I want is something to reduce the distraction of the contrast between my normal skin tone and the more red blemish of rosacea and the sores it sometimes creates. Here are the three skin smoothing plugins I talk about in this episode:

Cosmo by Red Giant Software ($99 stand-alone or as part of the $599 Color Suite)

Dashwood Smooth Skin ($99 on FxFactory)

Sheffield Softworks Makeup Artist (available via FxFactory)

All three plugins work in multiple hosts including Apple Final Cut Pro and Motion, Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.

All three work well. You have to have a light hand in applying the effect so as to avoid the plastic “droid” look. Of the three plugins, Sheffield Softworks Cover Up (a part of the Makeup Artist suite) works best for my particular situation. That’s not to say the other products are subpar. That’s simply not the case. They all do an amazing job. You will have to select what works best for your projects. Free trials are available for all so you can evaluate and see what works for you before you buy.

Dead, Stuck, or Hot Pixel Repair

When I first started shooting DSLR video back in 2009, the first problem I encountered was a stuck pixel that glowed bright white in some of my footage. I had just finished covering a live training event and was horrified to see that a lot of the footage was affected by the hot pixel. I called Canon and they said I would have to send my camera in so they could remap the pixel so it would not appear in my video. Ug! I had too many video shoots lined up and didn’t want to part with my gear just yet.

I searched the web and found that the issue was common. I found a plugin developer in the Atlanta metro area that had developed a suite of plugins called the CHV Repair Collection. One of the plugins in the suite is called Dead Pixel. This plugin saved my footage. You position the crosshair on the pixel, adjust the mask size, and presto! the hot pixel is gone. That plugin has since been updated for Final Cut Pro X. It costs about $90. It's a very good tool. It includes separate plugins for dirt / spot removal (where you may have several spots in the frame, and noise removal.

Today I try to avoid situations that cause hot pixels to turn on by shooting at lower ISOs wherever possible, and doing everything I can to keep the sensor from overheating. Every once in a while I may still have to deal with a hot or dead pixel. Today there are several tools and techniques to deal with those. Here are a few that work well:

CHV Repair FX ($99 for FCP X)

DH_ReincarnationX ($59.95 for FCP X, a separate version available for FCP 7 - but you are not using that anymore are you? Are you?)

Boris Bad Pixel Fixer (starts at $299 as part of the Image Restoration suite for FCP X, Motion 5, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Avid, Vegas, DaVinci Resolve 11)

Dashwood Editor Essentials Dead Pixel Fixer ($49 for FCP X, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Motion 5)

Tokyo ReAnimator ($49 for FCP X)

A problem with some of the dead pixel fixer plugins is that they don’t worked on scaled footage. You may have to fix the dead pixels or dust spots and render that footage out before working with it in your editing project.

If you have After Effects, the CC Simple Wire Removal effect works well. Kevin McGowan brilliantly demonstrates this short video tutorial.


If you are willing to spend a little extra time, you can remove errant pixels and dust spots by using Motion 5 and FCP X. Iain Anderson walks you through the steps to do this in the article Removing Dead or Stuck Pixels in Final Cut Pro X and Motion.

Red Giant Universe

In this episode I also answer Kenn Bell’s question: “Did you join Red Giant Universe? Would love to hear your thoughts on the podcast.” Spoiler alert! The answer is Yes and I love it. Universe is a membership subscription. You can pay monthly ($10 each month), annually ($99 per year), or lifetime ($399 once). You can sign up for free and access a limited number of useful plugins. However, going premium is the way to go as there are so many cool and useful plugins in the Universe toolkit. As of writing this blog post, there are over 80 plugins available. Every 6 weeks or so a few more tools show up.

Knoll Light Factory EZ is an example of one of the many excellent plugins available. It's a streamlined version of the older Knoll Light Factory. The Universe version includes 90 lens flare presets to add realistic imperfections, chromatic and geometric lens aberrations. Use it on your next Star Trek reboot movie.

One thing I love about Universe is that several of my favorite CrumplePop plugins are included such as RetrogradeCarouselFinisherGrain16Noir Moderne Light, GoPro Fisheye Fixer, OverLight, ShrinkRay and SplitScreen Blocks. These plugins were originally available exclusively for FCP X. That is no longer true. The CrumplePop plugins in Universe can be used not only in Apple FCP X and Motion 5, but also Adobe Premiere Pro and AfterEffects, Sony Vegas, and DaVinci Resolve 11. It's so good to see these wonderful plugins available to a wider audience.

It's A Dog's Life

If you are a dog lover you should check out Kenn’s website The Dog Files. Kenn has put his awesome digital media skills to good use.

One final note about this episode: all the music you hear–except for the show open–is music that I created in my home studio. I hereby grant myself a license to use it :)

Thank you for listening to my podcast. Keep your questions and comments coming. You can use the voice mail tab to leave me an audio VM, or send me an email using my contact form, or connect with me on Twitter.

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