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May

22

Create Your Own Nature Scenes With Nature Illusion Studio

 Desktop Enhancement

One of the most popular things to display on a PC is animated images of nature.  Today I will review Nature Illusion Studio.  With this program, you can turn a still picture into a beautiful, fascinating animated image.

It's surprisingly easy to turn a simple photograph into a constantly-changing, realistic outdoor scene.  You can use the animation you have created as a screen saver or save it as a GIF file or video clip. 

You can

  • Add weather such as rain or snow.
  • Make any water in the picture look "alive" with ripples, waves, and animated reflections.
  • Add moving objects.For instance, you can make birds fly across the picture's sky, or fish swim in the water.
  • Add sound effects like birdsong, wind noises, or the sound of flowing water.

 

When you create a project, you select an image to be the background of your nature scene, then add various effects to it.I began with this photo of a pond:

Peterson Pond

Use the "Water" effect to add soothing wave motion to any water in the picture. Just use familiar paint and flood-fill tools to mark the area you want to ripple. All the effects in Nature Illusion Studio have pleasing defaults, and lots of settings you can adjust if you choose For Water you can adjust wave height, speed, direction, and reflection, letting you do everything from a slight riffle on a pond to large waves on an ocean shore. With up to 6 separate water effects in one project, you can really bring water to life.In my project I added a gentle, slow ripple to the pond.

I did not choose to add any weather to this picture. It clearly shows a bright, sunny day, so adding rain or snow would look odd.

I did add an object. Objects are smaller pictures that you can place and animate. I happen to think that a perfect pond scene should have dragonflies (to eat the mosquitoes!), so I found some nice dragonfly clip art and animated one across the image. Nature Illusion Studio can use either JPEG or BMP images.

The final Effect you can add to your scene is Sound. Adding audio is extremely easy—just click Add and pick a sound file.  The program comes with an assortment of nature sounds like waterfalls and crickets.  For this pond scene, Frog.wav was a natural. You can also use your own sound files.  Again, you have many options when deciding how to play the sound: continuously or randomly, or at set intervals.

Nature Illusion Studio's Main Window

 

Animated Nature Scene with Water and Object effects

Notice the dragonfly moving and the water rippling.  GIF files don't support sound, so you can't hear the frogs croaking.  I also saved this scene as a screen saver and a video clip, and the background noises work perfectly there.

There are definitely some quirks to this program.  You cannot scroll using the mouse wheel in Nature Illusion Studio.  I tend to zoom in and out a lot when doing graphics, and I found the progam's use of Ctrl+= for "Zoom in" distracting. I wish the developer had used the standard Ctrl++ and Ctrl+-.  I also found some of the language in the Help file confusing.  The program did freeze on me once and had to be closed and restarted.  Overall, though, Nature Illusion Studio is easy to learn, and quick to master.  Once I understood all the features, turning the pond photo into a GIF and a screensaver took about 5 minutes.

Nature Illusion Studio is an excellent tool if you would like to animate a nature scene.  If you'd like to create cool, interesting-looking screen savers, videos, and animated GIFs it's just what you need. 

There are hundreds of excellent programs in the Desktop Enhancement category on FindApp.  Check them out today!

Apr

01

Create Unique, Realistic 3D images with Quick 3D Cover

 Graphic Design

It matters how things look.  Whether you're trying to sell products, giving a gift, or creating a DVD collection, it's important to you how the package looks.  You can find lots of software packages on FindApp that help create CD labels or box covers.  Quick 3D Cover handles a different job: it directly creates images of the packaging, without your having to make and then photograph the package.  For instance, Figure 1 is a box image, making this 3D illustration took about 10 minutes. Figure 1: My Personal DVD Editor

The program is designed to be easy for anyone to use.  There is a simple text tutorial available from the opening screen, which explains the four-step process:

  1. Choose a template.  In Quick 3D Cover, a template can be a box, a label, a card, and other types of object.
  2. Select graphics to display on each side.
  3. Decide what size image to create.
  4. Save your image.

Despite the name, Quick 3D Cover is not limited to producing covers and box images.  If you do presentations, you'll find its ability to simulate screens, portable devices, and even clipboards very useful.  Here's another example: 

Figure 2: PDA

 

 

I really like this program, but I can't call it perfect.  It's very powerful, but the user interface is not as straightforward as I would like.  For one example, the Gallery of templates should be divided into categories, and the templates should have meaningful names.  This would make it much easier to find the one you're looking for.  As a "power user" type, I would love to see a template editor, so I could create my own images to fit any object I happen to want to stick graphics on.  

It would also be very convenient if Quick 3D Cover worked with software that produces actual cards and/or labels, like Label Designer Plus DELUXE, so I could create both actual labels and the 3D image of them easily. 

 

Overall, I recommend Quick 3D Cover to anyone who needs to create product images or presentation graphics.

Do you have an opinion of this software?  Please review it yourself.

Feb

15

Image Makeover: Bitmap File Converters

 Graphic Design

As I write this, it's February.  Lots of people took hundreds of digital pictures in December, and millions of others got new digital cameras for the holiday and now they have even more pictures on their memory cards and hard drives.

To use image files, you often have to convert them into the proper format.  Most image editors will let you open a picture, then save it in a different format.  However, if you have many files to convert, you should consider using a dedicated conversion program to save yourself hours of boring work.

Probably the single most commonly used image file format is JPEG, the standard defined by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.  Both most cameras and most web pages use JPEG images.  AnyToJpeg from PhotoActions converts dozens of photos in a single operation.  While converting, you can also rotate, stretch, crop, and perform other operations.  Process all your photos with only a few minutes of effort!

If you are comfortable typing commands, or if you would like to include image conversion and manipulation in a script, you should download and evaluate Neomesh Image Console.  Image Console can convert between many different image formats including GIF, JPEG, TIFF, and TGA, and also adjust brightness, create thumbnail images, and much more, all from the command line.  If you need to automate image processing it can be a lifesaver.

If you use CAD or drawing software, you know that photos and other bitmap graphics must be converted into vector format or traced before you can use them.  Vextractor can trace image files in almost any possible format, including BMP, GIF, JPEG, and TIF, and turn them into easily resized vector graphics in an amazing variety of different file formats, including Adobe Illustrator, EPS, AutoCAD DXF, EMF, WMF, and many others. Anyone who has ever struggled to hand-trace a face, building, or flower understands what a huge advantage it is to have excellent software like this do the work for you.

There are dozens of programs in the Converters and Optimizers section of FindApp.  If you work with images at all, take a moment to look around, and you'll probably find something that will save you time and effort while making your work more fun.

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