Issue: Volume: 22 Issue: 12 (December 1999)

Spotlight: Synthetik Debuts 'Intelligent' Paint Program

For users who desire fewer choices, Studio Artist offers 600 factory preset paints (though these too can be customized). And because the program contains proprietary code that, according to Synthetik, is modeled on the human visual system, Studio Artist can paint on its own. If, for example, you'd like to create an impressionist-style image based on a photograph of a flower (or other QuickTime-compatible files), Studio Artist will, with the setting of a few parameters and the the click of a menu button, proceed to actually paint (rather than simply apply a filter to) its own impressionist interpretation of the flower. This capability is exciting, or frightening, depending on your point of view. But Studio Artist's "intelligent-assisted" painting and drawing capability can also be harnessed to perform repetitive drawing tasks, or to create images on an interactive basis, with the user controlling the automated process on a step-by-step basis.

"Working with Studio Artist is a lot like improvising on a musical instrument," says Michael Hanish, whose post house, Free Lunch Media Production, is located in Green River, Vermont. "I love the [brush] stroking and the possibility of interacting while it is executing its algorithms."

Studio Artist paints in raster mode, but has an optional Bezier Recording feature that will save editable vector paths underneath. Users also have the option to work in raster-only or vector-only modes. The program is resolution independent, so that paintings created at low-res can be re-rendered later at higher resolution and with added detail.

Other Studio Artist features include the ability to autopaint or autorotoscope a QuickTime video, frame by frame. The user sets up a series of paint and image-processing operations, then lets Studio Artist automatically generate a "hand-painted" video sequence. The program also allows keyframe image warps, morphs, and video feedback effects, as well as real-time warping and kaleidoscope effects.

The product requires a PowerPC-based Macintosh, OS 8, and at least 32mb to run. A PC-based version is due out next year. The program costs $295, but a limited-capability demo version is available from the company's Web site. (Synthetik Soft ware; San Francisco, CA; 415-864-6582;