at a Glance

Maker: CValley
Price: $129
Platforms: Macintosh
Demo Available: Yes
URL: http://www.cvalley

Overall Impression: Like its predecessor, FILTERiT 3, version 4 offers amazing tools for manipulating objects in Adobe Illustrator. The new version adds even more powerful features, including 3D transformations, for what has to be considered the final, ultimate set of filters available anywhere. I honestly don't know what they could possibly add for a version 5 release.

Key Benefits: The new 3D transformation capability is completely cool. You can take any object and manipulate it in 3D space, and watch the progress as you go. Live effects are also terrific, allowing you to manipulate objects, including regular text, while maintaining editability. Finally, the dozens of vector manipulation tools make Illustrator behave almost like a paint program, but keeping all the advantages of vectors.

Disappointments: None. This set of filters has it all: tons of effects, innovative tools and a price point that comes in way below what you ought to be paying for this.

Recommendation: Strong Buy



The palette for the Live Galaxy effect shows the degree of control typical of FILTERiT's effects. Live Galaxy is a live effect that can be applied to text or objects. It's called "live" because it will automatically update the effect whenever the original object is edited.


REVIEW MAY 2 , 2001

CValley FILTERiT 4
Filter effects for Adobe Illustrator 8/9

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

FILTERiT is probably the most remarkable set of tools I've ever seen for a vector illustration program. This is a package of innumerable effects for Adobe Illustrator 8 and 9, ranging from new types of transformations to object distortions to effects that can be applied to text without even converting text to paths.

I reviewed version 3.0 of this set of filters last year and was impressed with its variety, power, stability, performance, ease of use, versatility and price point. (You can read this review here.) Version 4.0 adds even more to the package, while still maintaining the incredibly modest price of $129.

Do I sound a bit enthusiastic about FILTERiT 4? I am. This brings features to Illustrator for the Mac that are unheard of in any vector program on any platform.

3D transformations
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a 3D transformation, just think of it as scaling and skewing an object, but in three dimensions and with near limitless possibilities for the shapes of your transformation. For example, you can apply a 3D transformation to an object, turn it into a 3D spiral, and then rotate around and increase or decrease perspective for various styles.

The image below is actually a flower that has gone through several 3D transformations, mostly spirals, and then repeated in a circular pattern to produce this Spirograph-looking effect.


Original with 3D transformations (and a "live" effect) applied.
See below for more on live effects.

You accomplish these 3D effects simply by selecting an object and then choosing Filter > FILTERiT 4 > 3D Transform. Here's what you get:

The 3D Transform window gives you a whole host of options for manipulating objects in 3D space, from amplitudes and rotations to preset styles accessible through a pull-down menu.

The live effects
But 3D Transform is just the shiniest of the new tools included in version 4. You still get all of the great effects found in version 3 as well, including "live effects." Live effects are applied to a single object or piece of text, and the effects change as the original object changes. This includes text, which you do not have to convert to outlines. Type your text. Apply and effect. And then insert your cursor and edit the text, and the effects change with it.

Live effects include 13 individual, general effects, and each one has its own palette for changing settings. Only one live effect can be applied to an object at one time, but these effects can be "expanded" so that the effects in themselves become paths.

Effects range from Galaxy (above), which replicates the original object in a galactic spiral pattern, to simple embosses and drop shadows. Version 4 includes support for transparency in Illustrator 9. (Of course, Illustrator 8 doesn't have support for transparency.)

Other filters in the "Live" category include Spiral (above), Border, Circle (below), Cutout, Emboss, Explosion, Frame, Generation, Neon, Reflection, Shadow, Tiling and Trail. The flower used in the example below, incidentally, is the same one used in the first example for 3D transformations.

I find the performance of FILTERiT's live effects to be quite good. When you start dealing with very complex objects, such as ones that have had several live effects applied, you do start to see a performance lag. This is a function of the speed of your particular machine. But something like the circle of flowers above is drawn pretty much in real time on a lower-end G4 400.

The regular effects
Live effects are great for their editability and also range of styles. But you don't get the full picture of FILTERiT 4's power until you start messing around with the new tools this set of plugins gives you. These new tools appear in the tool palette in Illustrator just below all of the standard tools. It includes six new tools, five of which call up a palette of subtools, along with various control settings. These include Craft, Lens, Warp, Wave, Metabrush and Align Points.

The Craft Tools includes four subtools for "crafting" objects. In use, this translates as smudging, nudging and otherwise freely and interactively deforming paths using a variable-radius brush. Using the Craft tool is as simple as dragging around the brush over an existing object. All of the magic happens in the background. The image below shows the original flower and a "Crafted" flower, which had been smudged around the original simply by dragging the Craft brush over and around it.

The Lens tool is similar to the Craft tool except that it creates, as its name suggests, lens effects. These include fisheye, magnification, twirl and tone. You simply drag the brush over the object, and the effect is immediately applied. The examples below show normal (left), twirl and fisheye. You can increase the size of the lens for more dramatic effects.

The Warp tool is not like Craft and Lens in that it doesn't use a brush. Rather, you select one of 22 warp styles and then interactively apply the warp to an object by moving your cursor around the screen. The examples below show the original (left) and two of the warp styles.

The Wave tool is similar to the Warp tool in the way you apply it. But rather than creating warps, it places waves on an object interactively. You can adjust the number of cycles numerically and then apply the waves to the object by dragging around your cursor on the screen. Where you move your cursor determines the height and width of the waves. The examples below show three types.

Finally we get to the Metabrush tool. This is a serious piece of work. Rather than tweaking an object, it takes a selected abject and allows you to use it as a brush. More than this, it offers a tremendous amount of control over how the brush is applied.

Above you see a screen shot of the Metabrush palette, which is automatically called up when you select the tool. With it, you can set the fade of the brush and apply various parameters for setting size, spacing, shear, color, etc. You can set tablet pressure, speed or direction to control all of these parameters. And you can reverse them and throw in some randomness to boot.

The bottom line
Man, this thing is great. You can see the results in several of the examples I've created for this review, but to appreciate FILTERiT 4 fully, you really need to see it in action. I hope to have a QuickTime demonstration of this product up within the next month because the way this thing works is just so fluid and simple that it makes the process of creating images in Illustrator enjoyable. You get a ton of effects. You get a bunch of live effects. And you get 3D transformations, along with support for Illustrator 9's transparency. All of this for $129. It's so clean and so well implemented that you have to wonder how they can sell it for so little. My recommendation is an immediate strong buy. Get it while you can. One day these people are going to realize what they have and start selling it for much more.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.
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