Month: June 2016

SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover In-Depth Review

SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover In-Depth Review

I cannot tell you how many times I have had the need to extract an image or element from a composition. I used the selection tool and the magic wand in various graphic design software programs, for this task. The process is time-consuming, and requires finesse and training to do this effectively. This can be compounded and multiply many fold, when you have to do this multiple times, across several images for a project. I have seen many programs that have come down the pipeline and promised an automation process, that streamlines the time needed, requires less technical know-how; yet allow some oversight and nuanced changes. Suffice to say, those that have come before have sorely disappointed and under-performed in their delivery and results.

Flash forward to today, and an up-and-coming design software company has risen to the occasion. I am speaking of SoftOrbits, and you have seen in my reviews of their products (hopefully you have tried their products, by now), you know the can deliver. In fact, a maxim of business is to under promise, and over deliver; SoftOrbits has taken this to heart, and done that with excellence, in their products, customer service, and how they develop and create future features/programs.

In tackling this challenge head on, they have developed a program that solves this problem, entitled Photo Background Remover. This fine product combines several well-sought features that have been desired, (many that I have alluded to earlier in this review) plus one or two that might not jump to mind immediately. Such additions will seem like a natural fit, and you will wonder that why you did not think of them, yourself. Once I go into these features, individually, you will see what I mean, all the more.

 

As I stated before (in my halcyon days of being a graphic design student), many of the assignments that we were giving required us to take stock images and composite them into collages and projects, with image extraction. On top of Molière patterns and digital noise in the images from scanning them into the computer, we had a difficult learning curve in how best to crop and cutout images, and has them look good and clean. Many of my efforts looked crudely cut out and misshapen and starkly out of place in the composition. Granted in time, and with the passing of years in school, I got better, but it get it just right, required extra effort to get it to an exacting place, even as I was graduating.

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While my life went in a different direction, after my art school years, I always appreciated that I knew how to do this task; ever hopeful that computers and technology would advance to better streamline this process. Thankfully, the abilities of SoftOrbits Photo Background Remover makes this task so much simpler than I thought would be possible, until I tried this software, for myself. I was so impressed that whatever I threw at the program, it would just cut it out, without issue and so cleanly. It looked like it was just an image that was made without a background and created in isolation, rather than being taken as a portion from something else.

While I have my, own experiences in the technical arts, my wife has been a professional artist, illustrator, and graphic designer with eleven years’ experience. I have spoken with her on the benefits and potential of this software for her purposes. She said that it might be useful for her creation of stencils and maybe other applications. One, specific example that we thought might work well would be used for “tubing” applications and projects.

You may ask what that might be. The answer was unfamiliar to me, until my wife informed me that many people use avatars of their favorite artist’s work and pop culture references; the source of these avatars and “digital stickers” are processed artwork, run through programs, such as PaintShop Pro. Their backgrounds and non-needed elements are removed, and stripped out of the images, so they can be overlaid over message boards, websites, online profiles, etc.6147989

The finished images are called tubes, and are in demand with a nice sector of the graphic art market. Sadly, if artist/company-endorsed versions of these artworks are not available, people tend to create “unauthorized” versions that lack the polish and professional quality that is needed, much less lost revenue to the creators that make the images, in the first place.

My wife creates these from her artwork, and it is always time-consuming process. Having this software to not only do this semi-automated background removals, but being able to take advantage of batch processing and watermarking of a collection of images; makes it all the more beneficial and impressive tool that she can utilize to a great end. Since she shares her work on social media for her portfolio promotion, being able make sure that her work gets a proper attribution and legal protection is a vital step in her business workflow. In others words, this is a tool that she has needed for years, and now thanks to SoftOrbits, she has one, finally!

This is a specialized example with very specific and specialized applications. However, this program will serve you well, with the fact that it feathers the selection for your cutouts. While “tubes” need this to look polished, just taking anything out of your images and having it appear natural is invaluable. If you want to fantasize of putting you and your family in Hawaii, but only can afford to go to the lake, the compositing will look flawless. When people see your images, they will ask if you got a tan, not why the picture looks off. This is just one, fun example, and your imagination can run wild

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If you have concerns that you might lack the skills to do this effectively, put those to rest. If you have a strong sense of what you want to take from an image, and what is the background you want to leave behind, it is just a matter of clicking on each element, and choosing whether to keep or clear it. It is just as simple as that. No muss, no fuss, and easy as cutting a picture up with a pair of scissors, without the rough edges.

As I have stated in this article, going through this process manually requires a fair it of time for each edit or mask task. This is multiplied numerous times, if you have a large batch of images to work through. A saving grace of Photo Background Remover is that you can do this, with an automated system that does a bulk edit of one or two steps. It simply chooses the main element of the image, selects it, and either clears the background or fills it with a solid color. This is a great way to get a bunch of your images prepped for making tags, badges, or I.D. photos.

As always, SoftOrbits suite of programs has several tiers of their programs for various applications. Photo Background Remover follows this model, and comes in three versions. The first version is the Personal Edition ($49.99 USD), which is the full version and allows unlimited usage for non-commercial, non-business locations on one computer. The Home Edition ($74.99 USD), is the same as the Personal Edition, except it comes with a license for usage on two computers. The last tier of the software, is entitled Business Edition ($99.99 USD), which has allowed usage in commercial and business environments. Each of these versions includes free updates for minor versions, and unlimited e-mail support.  In summation, this program will change the way that your photos can be used. Just try the trial, and I know that you will be hooked. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’!

InComedia WebAnimator GO In-Depth Review

InComedia WebAnimator GO In-Depth Review

You may recall a while back that I reviewed a web creation program/suite from Incomedia, called WebSite X5 V.12. Now those same fine folks have created a companion software program, called WebAnimator Go. This version is designed for basic-to-intermediate animation projects that are very systematic and easy to comprehend for the bulk of the general populace, which wants to add some pizzazz and eye-catching elements to their websites.  Fret not; if you need more advanced features and toolsets than provided in this program, they have fuller-featured versions, simply titled WebAnimator/WebAnimator Plus. No matter which version you might need, this is an excellent program you will need for animation and slideshows that is warranted by the interconnected world of the Internet, today.

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You may be asking yourself, what about WebAnimator GO would make me choose to add this program to my toolbox, over its competitors. First off, this program allows you to import images from almost any format you can think of (.jpg, png, gif, .tiff, etc.), without the need to convert to a specific format, beforehand. As someone, who has had to change my original image to a more usable format for a slideshow/animation, saving a step/generation is a nice change and time-saver.

Secondly, having pre-built, included templates that are ready to use from the get-go, allows you to get a jump-start on your animation, by having a framework to place your images, texts, and overlays into, so you can preview/compile what your final product will be, and then create it, succinctly. This has an added benefit of not having to make a template before you start your work of not having to make a set of templates means that you can start on your work. This difference can be likened to having pre-cut lumber, versus having to fell trees, process the wood, and turn it into lumber before you can build the structure that you have planned out.

Thirdly, once you have your animation finalized, it will save, create, and embed HTML5 code into your object/element, so you can just drop it in the webpage/presentation. As someone who does not have any experience in coding, nor really interest in learning to do so, having a GUI solution that allows me make a viable code snippet is a nice addition. I know that my wife has had to develop websites for construction companies that build custom homes and structures. Many times she has had to create a slideshow that cycle through the images of the various stages of construction. When Flash vulnerabilities began to rear their ugly head, and HTML 5 started to replace that plugin for moving image management, it was an uphill task to try and encode the show in a combination of CSS and PHP. I can only image how much time would have been saved with this tool-set.

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Nor unlike their flagship program, WebSite X5, you just go, step-by-step, with simple to comprehend prompts and dialog boxes. Each step just asks you for what you need nothing more, nothing less, so you always just have enough information to process in your mind and in the program. One key step that you will pay a little more attention to is the animation images/frames that you intend to use for the project. This is not due to an overly complex step, brought on by the program, but rather by the linear nature of animation (first image, second image, third image, etc.; either top to bottom or left to right). You need to place the images on the order that you intend them to be shown.

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If you are not in the place for needing to make a slideshow and/or a presentation, this makes a fine tool for animation and short films, which could be distributed, via the web. I have always enjoyed animation, VFX, and other CGI elements in film and games, but I never had the formal training, nor very much seat-time with software capable of making these (3D Studio MAX, Alias, AfterEffects, etc.) files. However, having a program, such a WebAnimator GO, gives me the option to make flip drawings and minimal, limited animation comic strips as a real possibility. I will not promise to actually make these and share them with you, my readers, but the option is there.

WebAnimator Family

No matter your skill level or potential needs, Incomedia, and their animation software programs have you covered. The cost-effectiveness of WebAnimator GO, WebAnimator, or WebAnimator Plus, makes the value proposition a highly-sought after option for professionals, intermediates, and rank amateurs, alike. The prices for each reflect the various functions and features. If, you are like me, the GO version is all that you will need to get started, with one Template collection, and basic animation functions that writes the code for you. The cost for this is $24.99 USD, and well worth the money. If you need more Template collections (4 or more) and the need to embed audio/video files inside of your animations, I would recommend either the WebAnimator or WebAnimator Plus editions.  The features, sans the media embedded version, is the WebAnimator, and cost $59.95 USD. The top-of-the-line, WebAnimator Plus runs you $89.95 USD, and has the media embed function built-in. Each of these versions can be upgraded, with a customer discount, many times reflective of the differences between cost tiers.

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In my interfacing with Incomedia’s Customer Service, I want to reassure you that they have your best interest in mind, and will do whatever it takes to make sure of your satisfaction. In short, they stand behind what they sell, and works to not only provide you with great products, but beneficial partnerships with ISP’s and DNS/hosting companies, to maximize your savings for web-based commerce. I know that if you have had dealings with them before, or have yet to purchase something, you will enjoy your transactions, going forward, with them, no doubt. Try this animation family of programs, and you will always want to use them for your projects. Tel them I sent you, and until next time, keep on techin’!