|Flaming Pear Essentials : Adobe Plugins 2
Just the name of the company, Flaming Pear, says audaciousness and generally that runs true throughout the
9 Adobe Plug-ins offered by this Canadian firm. See if you can guess what the different plug-ins do by their names
alone: Aetherize, Blade Pro, Glare, India Ink, Lacquer, Silver, Solar Cell, Swerve, Twirl. These are the Flaming
Pear Essentials packaged together for maximum plugin impact. Flaming Pear has another dozen filters including Flexify,
Glitterato, Hue and Cry, Ornament, and Tesselation. But the nine filters in the Flaming Pear Essentials are, as
we shall see, a very intriguing combination of effects.
What adds to the value of the Flaming Pear filter is their consistent interface. All Flaming Pear filters have
three features: 1)a dice button that allows the user to quickly and randomly change all settings of the controls
for that particular filter. This turn out to useful in order to quickly explore and get a feel for the range of
effects possible with the filter. 2) a preview window shows the user a close up of the filtered image. This preview
can be zoomed in and out or moved about. A single click on the % reading brings the image to 100% filtered view.
3)two buttons are provided, one to save the current settings and the other to allow a user to load back in a saved
settings file. This is very handy with complicated filters like Blade Pro and India Ink that can have literally
thousands of possible settings. Finally Flaming Pro always remembers the setting last used by the filter - again
very useful rather than starting with a set of default settings.
So Flaming Pear has done a very good job of making their filters handy to use. Now the question is whether you
would want to use them. The following Flaming Pear-ed images are from photos taken at the 2001 World Track and
Field Championships in Edmonton, Alberta this last summer.
Think of Aetherize as a filter to control precisely softening and haze effects. Aetherize is an example of the
new breed of filters that are aware of the nature of an image - in particular where its edges versus smooth areas
are and where the hues or luminance of an image vary. Aetherize then takes advantage of this info to concentrate
its softening effects either along edges and /or in brighter areas. Users have 2 controls to broaden/decrease these
effects. Aetherize is particularly effective when the background image is duplicated, then Aetherized and the blended
back into one composite image. Masking specific areas for softening is very effective in portraits as well. This
is a versatile filter.
Blade Pro is yet another button and texture creation filter. But Flaming Pear adds two features that give Blade
Pro a unique and distinctive feature set. First, just like in the Glare filter, users can adjust the Diameter control
setting to make the width of the bevel so small Blade Pro becomes strictly a texture tool. In our example we left
the bevel on and used it to frame the image. The second nifty feature of Blade Pro is the fact that users can create
their own .BMP texture files and thus increase the texture library considerably. We did so using some of the rival
KPT Effects (Ink Dropper and FraxFlame) and then used our LizardSkin.bmp as texture file in the sample image showing
off the Blade Pro filter.
One of the consistent problems of using the color correction controls in most paint programs is that
they are too simple. Often users can only adjust one dimension (for example Gamma correction) or two (brightness
and contrast or saturation and lightness). Glare allows users to vary five settings all at once: Brightness, Cutoff,
Glue, Gamma, and Saturation.This allows for some very subtle color corrections and shadings. And then when the
diameter setting is used as well, users can add glow or haze effects as well.. By increasing the Diameter value
a light glow or glare is created around the brightest or lightest portions of the image as can be seen in the filtered
India Ink has grown to be one of my favorite filters. There are other Adobe plugins that offer similar capabilities;
but again Flaming Pear has done a superb job making this filter very usable. Specifically, users have a choice
of about 15 different ink hatching modes which are effectively doubled by working in black and white or color -
and are doubled again because of the edge blend modes - sharp versus continuous. The sample at right uses color
inks, sharp edges and the flow hatch. Finally, India Ink is one of the fastest ink filters for rendering that I
have used. Nice combination.
Lacquer has so many control parameters and with fascinating names like glitter, sparkle, lucidity, prism, glass,
and bulge - it is good thing that most work their magic within a broad range of settings and picture types because
trying to explain how they work would be a waste of time compared to seeing them in action. Think of Lacquer as
color embossing on steroids. Again this is an edge, brightness and flat surface aware effect that does provide
for a remarkable set of edgy looks.
Silver works like AutoFx's filter Deckle - it allows users to put on a silver border to their prints. Again,
photo print artists may be familiar with paper embossers that put ridges at the edge of their prints - particularly
useful with matte and cotton fibre papers. Well Silver is similar in effect although users can obtain quite baroque,
deep silver frame effects as well. Like Lacquer, some of the controls are so sensitive a change by 1 on a scale
to 100 brings about dramatic changes - and Flaming Pear, in a rare GUI snafu, does not allow users to enter a numeric
I'll be honest, Solar Cell and its interplanetary look-alike filters are not among my favorites - but that is the
bias of one who never did lens flare tricks with his camera or filters, so what do I know. Well simply that Flaming
Pear has provided 36 controls grouped into five principal headings: sun, flare, spikes, halo, and bow. Within this
range of options there is not too many solar looks that are outside Solar Cell's ability to produce with various
colorations and shades of brightness.
I like to add a slightly jazzy, "everything's perfectly out of control" look to my images - Swerve
is much better than most Warp and Twirl filters at adding post-diluvian craziness to a picture. Besides having
controls for such effects as Warp Size, Chop and Chop Mode gives users an inspired craziness matched by what Swerve
does to the image. This one is fun.
Having said that Swirl is my favorite form of inspired craziness - well maybe Twist has some pretty inspired
chaos. In the sample shot, the Solar Cell sample image has had a bit of Twist added to it. Again the range of parameters
available for controlling the Twist filter is impressive - seven, including warping, streaks and glue. As in the
case of the Swirl filter there is a New seed button which retains all the parameter settings - it just starts with
new random number seeds giving the image the same pattern and look but a different morph or view. The only bummer
- Twist takes 2-4 minutes to process a 2MB image.
|Not too shabby for inspired craziness yet also precise control
and subtle effects. But that won't matter if Flaming Pear just duplicates filters
already in your paint program. The chief attraction of Adobe Plugins is that
can serve to supercharge your paint program of choice. Jasc's Paint Shop Pro
has the most to gain with the smallest and narrowest set of filters and effects.
And indeed, Flaming Pear compliments Paint Shop Pro very well - only
Glare, Lacquer and Blade Pro have near equivalents in Paint Shop Pro. Likewise
Corel's PhotoPaint also gets a boost out of Flaming Pear Essentials - with Corel's
Squizz, Warp and ZigZag overlapping parts of Swerve and Twist and
Corel's Brightness/Contrast/Intensity correction is a little easier to control
than FP's Glare. Adobe Photoshop with Image Ready overlaps some FP filters including
Aetherize, Blade Pro, . However,
in general Flaming Pear plugins can add a wild and crazy creativeness to your
images - how much is that worth to you ?
Jacques Surveyer is a developer and photographer; see his World
Track and Field Championship images
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