R E V I E W
- Auto FX Software.
Graham Jupp, Australia
I was recently invited to review the latest software application from Auto FX and after a brief visit to their website I decided to take them up on their offer. A week or so later a package arrived at my home office on the east coast of Australia and I was ready to go. After a week of trialing the software these are my thoughts. Its important to note that I don't grade software using any type of scale, I simply tell it like it is, so if you are looking for a mark out of ten you wont find one here.
To kick off, here's a brief description lifted straight from the Auto FX News Release which adequately describes this very polished software application.
"DreamSuite is a visual enhancement program created to work with images, type and graphics. DreamSuite includes 18 premium effects that are unrivaled in their photo realistic quality, ease of use and creative options. It works as either a stand-alone application or as a plug-in for image editing programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Elements and Paint Shop Pro. DreamSuite Series One is the first of several DreamSuite series to be released by Auto FX Software."
Right from the word go, Auto FX were going to have to win me over on an important issue, PRICE. At an estimated street price of US$299 this was not a cheap piece of software and so would need to shine in other areas to gain a glowing review, luckily for Auto FX, shine it did.
Dropdown/Popout menus feature transparency and dropshadows (at least in windows 2000, I cannot confirm these effects in other operating systems.)
Popup help is very well done and features two levels of popup button descriptions, leave the mouse over an icon for a few moments and a short description of its function appears, wait a few moments more and you will be presented with an in-depth description, two thumbs up for that one.
Some of the preset naming is a little obscure and whilst the manual does provide an image of each preset it would have been nice to somehow incorporate this into the program itself. The program does however sport a "proxy preview" whereby the user can opt to perform a quick render on a lower resolution version of their image before applying it to the full resolution image, this saves a great deal of time rendering as you can quickly test the suitability of an effect without wasting time on complex rendering.
Scrolling through long lists of presets such as the Photoborders tended to be a little slow on the Celeron 450 test machine. I found that it was not keeping up terribly well with rapid mouse clicks. I'm sure with a faster machine this would be less of a problem.
The interface appears to be designed so that future effects can be easily added in further down the track.
Rather than comment on each of the effects, I've picked a few which most impressed me and given a brief description. For more detail and images of each effect I suggest checking the Auto FX website.
Attention to detail is very evident with DreamSuite, take for instance the Crackle effect, this allows you to create either mud cracks or paint crackles over your image in a variety of ways. Click on an individual flake on the image and you are able to 'flick' off that flake to reveal the canvas or surface behind the image, WOW!
Liquid metal is sure to be a big hit amongst users and makes light work of creating highly detailed reflective metal text or shapes.
PhotoDepth gives your images the tattered photo look and allows you to age your photos in ways that would have previously taken a master artist hours to create. This is more than just simple page curls,it really does give the impression of a 50 year old photo that has been mistreated. Like all the effects, this one is highly configurable.
The Deckle effect allows you to create ultra-realistic torn paper effects and works well in conjunction with PhotoDepth. You can easily select the exact path of the tear and proceed to rip till your heart's content, very therapeutic
effect will be appreciated by those who use their Computers as a digital
dark room. Complex focal effect can be created in an instant on what were
once plain photos, turning them into a creative piece of photography in
Rendering speed seems good when working with images for web resolution, naturally though, things tend to slow down when working with high resolution images. The test machine of a Celeron 450mhz with 256mb ram sped along quite nicely with most effects at web resolution but a faster machine is definitely recommended for those of you with little patience. The proxy preview mentioned earlier is a godsend for those of us with slower machines.
Effects are resolution independent so can easily be adapted for either web or print media of differing resolutions.
It is possible to turn off or delay realtime rendering of effects, this is handy for slower machines as the program will wait for a few seconds until after you have finished moving a slider before it proceeds to render. This prevents the machine from rendering every time you move a slider one notch. You can also tell the program to render on demand via a button rather than in realtime.
'Memory Dots' enable you to easily click and capture a custom effect which you can revert to at a later stage, this is in addition to being able to save preset effects. You simple click on the memory dot icon to save the current 'look'.
Auto FX allows customers to save $$$ by purchasing individual effects to suite their needs. This will be a godsend for those on a budget, although the cost of individual effects may seem a little pricey when compared with buying the full suite as a whole, therefore if you intend on purchasing more than 5 individual effects it would be more cost efficient to buy the entire set of 18.
DreamSuite's only real faults are a lack of hardcopy manual and perhaps a price tag that is a little more than you would normally expect for a package of this nature.
DreamSuite is extremely capable software with a high level of configuration options to suit your needs. A worthy addition to any professional designers arsenal of software tools.
Two Thumbs up for DreamSuite.
website for more info on DreamSuite.
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