Changing the Face of Technology- and Everything Else

Who hasn't heard of morphing? Thanks to music videos and movies, we've all seen what morphing effects can do. Elastic Reality allows you to generate those same effects in your own home or business.

Elastic Reality's installation is easy and uniform across all of the supported NT platforms(Alpha, Intel, MIPS, and PowerPC). However, I did run into some problems on the Alpha and Intel machines in my lab. The error messages for each machine were identical and had to do with some software I had previously installed that had corrupted the Video for Windows system files.

Elastic Reality's interface is well laid out, although it might confuse you if you aren't used to morphing terminology. But, I was so impressed with Elastic Reality's consistency across platforms that I decided to use it as one of Windows NT Magazine Labs' benchmarks.

The documentation that comes with the software is first-rate, and an excellent tutorial steps you through morphing your first images. Don't be fooled by how easy Elastic Reality is to use, though, because it's not just for beginners: It's well suited to both experienced and novice image alchemists. The morphing effects in the recent blockbuster movie "StarGate" were created with Elastic Reality.

Warping: During warping, you create Bezier curves that describe the starting shape and the ending shape of your image. These shapes are linked together and form a correspondence that describes the amount and direction an image will be pulled or distorted.

Compositing: Compositing usually consists of mixing a percentage of each image to obtain a new distinct image. The compositing step gives the illusion that one image is transforming into the other.

Morphing from George to Grant
The tutorial I chose to follow for this review, as well as for our benchmarks, starts with two images (one of George Washington from a $1 bill, and one of Ulysses S. Grant from a $50 bill) and creates a third image that shares features of both Washington and Grant.

After I opened the project file (pres.er), I selected the "A" button from the tool bar to see the beginning image of George Washington (see screen 1). I then pushed the "B" button to view the ending image of Ulysses S. Grant (see screen 2), and the "A/B" button to see both images at the same time (see screen 3).

Next, I outlined the images using the Bezier-curve outlining tools. Here, you outline only the part of the image you want to transform during the morphing process. I then used toolbar buttons--which look like VCR controls--in Elastic Reality's preview feature to see these outlines one frame at a time. This particular example renders 30 frames, and when I stepped through to the midway point at frame 15, I could see a merged image of the two original sources (see screen 4).

Video Effects
Once you are satisfied that the morphing process is doing what you want, you can start rendering your image. You can render either a single frame or the entire project, and you can save the rendered images in a variety of formats. I saved the rendered image in a Video for Windows file so I could play back the results whenever--and wherever--I wanted.

Also bundled with Elastic Reality is Transjammer, a digital video-transitions editor. Don't confuse this with the sliding text or exploding screens that come with presentation packages. Transjammer comes bundled with more than 30 effects that you can modify. These effects range from a simple Band 3 effect to a mesmerizing Tile Fly Away 3. The Band 3 effect is a variation of the classic three-band transition where the on-screen image is split into three bands that slide off to alternating sides to reveal a new image. Tile Fly Away 3 takes the on-screen image and splits it into 30 tiles that recede into the distance in staggered rings until they reveal a new image.

Elastic Reality is a powerful graphics tool in an easy-to-use package. Combine this with quality documentation and excellent technical support, and you've got a real winner. It may even help you turn your leaden presentations and graphics into golden multimedia extravaganzas.

Elastic Reality
Avid Technology * 800-949-2843
Price: Intel version: $495 (list); Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC versions: $795 (list)