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==  Review:  ImageFX 2.0                             By:  Jason Compton  ==

We're the owners of those computers that are supposed to be great for
graphics, right?

Of course we are.  But these days, it's not enough to just show Juggler
animations.  Of course, some of those Euro-demos still turn heads, but
they're not interactive enough to make your average non-Amigan feel like
the Amiga is a worthwhile machine.

So, what to do?  Load up ImageFX 2.0 and blow something up.  Or electrocute
it.  Or twist it into a tight rod.  Or put inside a crystal ball and set it
on a witches hand. get the idea.

Of course, it'll take more than just the idea of impressing someone to get
everyone to run out and buy the US$250 package from Nova Design.  So let me
point out the sort of thing you'll get.

Actually, let me first tell you what you WANT.  You'll probably want an AGA
or 24-bit card Amiga: don't get me wrong, you can still do fairly nice
things in HAM-6, but the more colors, the nicer things get.

You'll also be wanting some serious hard drive space.  While the software
itself only occupies 4 floppies, pure 24-bit images get rather large, and
if you're doing some amazingly serious work (like, for a color print in a
magazine or the like) you're looking at multiple megs.

And, as always, processor speed.  Nova says any Amiga with a hard drive,
2.04, and 2 megs of RAM is the bare minimum, recommending 8 megs of memory
and an 030.  I'll get right to the point and say that if you don't have an
040, you'll want to work up an appetite before you do any serious effects,
because the time required will be in the "go make a sandwich" realm.  On
the lighter side, ImageFX DOES have built-in virtual memory, but, of
course, it's never as good as the real thing.

Back to the program.  What you get with the ImageFX 2.0 package is:

1 large black box.  It's good to see that Amiga companies are catching on
to the popular conception that "large boxes mean good programs".  Too bad
Amiga programs aren't displayed next to DOS programs, the box sizes of
ImageFX and SoftWood's products would certainly grab attention.

4 aforementioned disks

Some online-service subscription info.  (Hey, gotta pay for that big black
box somehow!)

All that good license/warranty stuff.

1 black manual with hundreds of pages.  It's informative, but has a major
flaw to be mentioned later...

Once you've installed the software (rather painlessly) you'll pop open the
drawer you stuck it in and, if you're observant, you'll notice the gift of
Cinemorph on there!  I can't say I'm overly surprised, since it's virtually
been given away for a good year now.  But here it is, recompiled in late
'94 with an ImageFX "gate" (invoking Cinemorph will also bring up an
ImageFX control panel).

Ah, but don't worry about that, you paid for ImageFX!  So, loading that up
instead, you're greeted with a big black screen and the ImageFX control
panel: a row of "drawing tool" buttons, 3 rows of picture control and
effect buttons, and a side bar of load/save/render options.

So, since it's tough to do serious effects without something to do them to,
you'll want to load up a picture.  ImageFX supports a staggering amount of
loadable formats: 31, according to the count from the manual.  The popular
formats from other platforms are there, meaning that ImageFX fits in neatly
with any multi-platform graphics processing system.  Once you pick your
pic, it loads and...oh, dear, it doesn't look much like you expected. 
ImageFX displays its buffer in "preview" mode, to cut down on display time
and to keep things moving smoothly.  I do understand their reasoning, and
it certainly does keep things moving faster than a full AGA or 24-bit
display would...

Now, you have to choose what to do.  Well, you can have a marvelous time
here.  I can safely say, from mere idle mucking about with ImageFX, that
there are more effects than you'll find useful in your lifetime, unless
perhaps someone is paying you to feel otherwise.  It would take an issue
dedicated to ImageFX to tell you how I feel about each and every effect,
but I have no intention of making this more than a two-part review, so I'll
focus on some of the more interesting ones...

Under the Balance option, you can do just about anything you like to the
appearance of the image, screwing with the sliders in RGB, HSV, or CMYK
format, as well as messing with Gamma levels.  Great stuff.

Composite allows you to play with the mathematical wonders of matching up
images.  A quick stop to the manual will outline the several types of
composite operations available to you. 

If you're bored, or creating an animation, you'll spend a lot of time in
the Transform menu, where you can flip, shear, and roll to your heart's

Color effects formalize the process outlined above of randomly screwing
around with the appearance of an image without actually changing the
drawing.  A good dozen or so will keep you busy.

Distort effects are largely in that category of "impress the masses", with
swirl and warp being the mainstays of the class, along with the
ever-popular spherize, to trap your favorite picture in a ball.

The Effect class is where you let it all hang out.  Here, among others, is
where you find the Lightning, Radial Star, and Lens Flare effects.  One of
the best images we've created involves a sleepy-looking me with a bolt of
blue energy nailing me in the forehead.  There are enough independent
options to the Lens Flare effect to occupy hours of time, if you're worried
about getting that just-right appearance.

Swap and Alpha options allow you to define a number of independent images
from which you can make your magic operate.

Hooks are what seem to be the equivelant of Photoshop "plug-ins", allowing
independent modules to be called from the main program.  (the manual boasts
that many of ImageFX 2.0's built-in features originated as hooks, which
could explain why there are relatively few hooks included.)

ARexx support is...extensive, as evidenced by the dozens of included
scripts for a variety of purposes.  (Some of these will be discussed next

Oh, when you're done with all of this, saving will be in order.  Saving can
be done in 20 different formats, and rendering to 24-bit cards is
supported.  No worries here.

ImageFX 2.0's documentation is quite extensive.  Online help is at every
turn, and covers the bases if you don't want to lunge for the manual.  It
doesn't tell you what a Tibbet quantization is, but if you want to know
what Quantization does, it'll let you know.  (The online documentation was
written by Portal Amiga Zone Sysop Harv Laser, who also frequently can be
found on the pages of Amiga World.  It should come as no surprise that
Portal signup information can be found in the ImageFX box...)

Now, remember what I was saying about the manual?  It does an excellent job
of explaining what is going on and how and why you should/can use an
option.  The problem is that it tries to SHOW you, in pictures, what will
happen.  This wouldn't be so bad if the manual wasn't printed in dithered
grayscale.  I suppose the Amiga market can be blamed for that necessity. 
At any rate, the included picture examples are nearly useless.  But a good
thought, nonetheless.

Next issue I'll cover some of the effects more specifically, and give a
more in-depth look at a few of the program's aspects such as the ARexx

To close for now, I'll say this: I've seen ImageFX and an EGS Spectrum
convince three different people who had never seen an Amiga before that
they should own one.  Too bad it was November 1994 and nobody in the room
was selling one...