By Marcus Geduld

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder is my client who expects me to iron out every wrinkle and erase every blemish.

Until I stumbled on Beauty Box from Digital Anarchy (, I resorted to laborious frame-by-frame adjustments or gross, unrealistic softening. Beauty Box, am US$100 plug-in for After Effects, has a built-in, face-recognition engine. Just park on a frame in which the actor is facing the camera, click the Analyze Frame button, and you’re done. Beauty Box automatically detects skin, smoothes it out in a realistic way, and it doesn’t touch anything in the frame that isn’t part of the actor’s face.

Okay, it’s not always that easy. You have to adjust the effect’s parameters as the lighting changes and the actor moves. But this plug-in’s automated features get you at least half way to the goal. Then you can keyframe subtle changes in skin color and smoothing, using masks to control which parts of the image are affected.

Amazing as this plug-in is, it’s really built for single-actor shots; multiple actors mean multiple skin tones, and Beauty Box can only deal with one at a time. To solve this, I duplicated the footage and corrected each actor on a separate layer, compositing the result.

The one other frustration is speed—or lack thereof. Beauty Box takes about 3 seconds to process each HD frame, so take that into account as you crawl toward your deadline. As slow as it is, it’s still a lot faster than frame-by-frame correction.

Rating: 8 out of 10

(This review is brought to you courtesy of “Layers Magazine”: ).