Forgive me for being self-serving, but I wanted to bring to the public’s attention the U.S. Government Social Security Regulatory Bylaw to affects disabled people, like myself. As you will see, on my petition on Change.org, a little, know bylaw that is crippling vital financial support and assistance programs from truly helping disabled people and their families from fully being able to be independent and self-sufficient. Please take a look at the petition and considering signing this vital change to our elected representatives, here in America, and in other nations that have similar misguided laws on their books. Thank You!
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.
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.
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
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’!
Our world has dramatically changed in the last sixteen years, as it relates to media consumption and portability. Pre-2000, we watched movies on VHS or DVD, listened to music on CD, and watched TV shows on what else, TV. Now days, we watch movies and TV on Blu-ray, online, on our computers, not to mention on our electronic devices in our pockets and backpacks. The same can be said for enjoying our music and other entertainment pursuits. Such a dramatic shift means the old rules no longer apply. Sensing the trend change in the wind, pioneers, such as Apple, Creative, and Microsoft laid a groundwork for personal consumption and taking our fun with us, wherever we go (in the car, on the bus, walking to and from school/work, etc.). While their contributions cannot be undersold or downplayed, the numerous companies, technologies, and platforms on the tech landscape, today, necessitate flexibility and usability. That in mind, being trapped into one ecosystem or software suite or program is far too limiting in scope and functionality.
This is especially true of the advent of the divergence between Apple devices (closed-loop proprietary O/S) and the emergence of the Android operating system (a fork of Linux; an open-source kernel O/S). Trying to take your media (music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc) back and forth between these two presents incompatibility issues, in terms of file format, DRM, and sync profiles. Addressing these has been frustrating and infuriating, especially as my household is now both iOS and Android; needing this key interoperability. Thankfully, I recently discovered a turn-key solution for cataloging, tagging metadata, and syncing my media files between my iPhone/iPad devices, and my wife’s iPhone and her Amazon Kindle Fire. This saving grace is called MediaMonkey from Ventis Media.
Once you open this media organizer software, you are presented with a multi-pane window, which is in the vein of a hybrid of Windows File Explorer and Winamp. You have the directory tree on the left, with your media files (showing artwork, details, or a combo of each) in the center, and on the far right you have a Now Playing List and an Art and Details sub-panel. From here, you can choose which category of media you want to browse (music, movies, podcasts, etc.) and you can select individual tracks and files, play them, and see the upcoming files to be played next.
These tasks will take place, after you have imported your media into your MediaMonkey’s internal library. The nice feature of this is that you can manage/sync your files, separate from iTunes, which is very handy if you need to do so, on non-Apple devices. This media import function is easy to setup, as you set a directory/hard drive to monitor for changes, and it will do so, automatically, so any additions or subtractions of you files will match up with its iTunes counterpart (contingent on using the same directory or drive used for the iTunes library). The wizard takes several minutes, but worth the wait, as it speeds up bringing your files into MediaMonkey, in a streamlined manner. One thing of note, if you have iTunes FairPlay DRM–Based video files (such as copyrighted TV shows and movies), these do not usually work, as playback of these files requires iTunes decryption algorithms. I have read that if you have Apple QuickTime 7 or later installed, they might playback, but I did not have this result. To play these back, you might have to use alternative means to transcode these files for non-Apple playback.
Getting my media files and library organized, so I could use them across my wife and I’s Apple and Android devices, and I feel that this is MediaMonkey’s greatest asset and reason to buy the Gold Edition. My wife uses both an iPhone 5C and an Android Kindle Fire tablet, so syncing our movies, podcasts, and music, without having to buy two copies (Amazon Store version and an iTunes Music store version), and having to manually adding said files to each device, in a clunky fashion is not for us. Rest assured, MediaMonkey has the plugins built-in, so you can just connect your Android or Apple devices, via USB, open the software, and choose a one-time sync or auto-sync list, so your device has your files you want it to have.
Whether or not you have all of your media files metadata tagged, MediaMonkey can come to the rescue. Since I was trying to find an Android solution for our iTunes Media Library, I wanted a better way to make sure the data was correct and up-to-date, over iTunes. Last thing I wanted was to keep propagating errors on my portable devices; bad enough on my computer. Just choose a file, right-click it, and choose from the Web, and presto, it will bring up the internet database page for that file, and you can add that info, easily. I concede that Apple iTunes will do this, too, but not nearly as good or accurately. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten bad metadata or missing fields or artwork. Best experience I have ever had getting the correct tag info, hands down.
I could go on and on about the elegant and simple media library client that MediaMonkey is, but I will cut to the chase as to why you should elect to buy the Gold Edition of this fine piece of software. The price tier comes in two flavors, Gold Edition (4.x only) $24.95 USD, and Gold Edition (Lifetime) – $49.95 USD. While the Basic version works well, the premium features for Gold Edition are well worth the price of admission. There is a fairly long list of added features that comes with Gold Edition, but I want to highlight a couple of them, which are worth going gold for. The first feature set that is well worth it is the Auto Artwork and tag lookup from the Web, which I have mentioned, previously. If you have spent any time, trying to find artwork and info on your files, the lost productivity, alone is worth the cost, not to mention that ease that comes with just a right-click. The second feature set worth the cost is cross-check/sort/catalog of your media files. This really comes into play, if you have a large library, and want to dig deep and easily find what you are looking for. Having the option of selecting the Composer, Conductor, Original Year (published), cross-fade tracks, by genre, etc. makes it much better and nuanced way to file your media, and create playlists and custom Collections (both additional features of Gold Edition).
Either way, try out MediaMonkey from Ventis Media, and see what you think. After all, once you see the potential, I know that you will want to go for the Gold. Until next time, Happy Belated New Year 2016, and I hope you have a nice Valentine’s Day, too!
Sorry to have been away from my virtual desk the last week or so, but real-life problems have come up. For security sake, I will not talk specifics, but my wife began having some health problems that required some hospitalization, which allowed finding some uncommon potential diagnosis cause(s). That has taken up my time, as well as getting her some follow-up appointments to see what the next step is. Have no fear that my blog is going away, but rather scaled back until she gets better situated. I am working on new projects and columns for the coming weeks, so hold tight. Until then, keep me in your prayers. Thank You!