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Auto FX DreamSuite Series 1

Special effects suite and plugin for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
A couple of months ago, Auto FX Software sent me their complete DreamSuite effects package, and I have to say I've found one major flaw with it: There's simply too much to review all at once. Fortunately, the DreamSuite Bundle is also available in three separate, smaller packages--Series 1, Series 2 and Gels--so I have a logical (and merciful) stopping point. This time around we'll take a look at the first package, DreamSuite Series 1.

How it works: interface and workflow
DreamSuite Series 1 is a set of 18 special effects for still images. I'll get to the effects themselves--which are excellent--a little later; but first I want to talk about how (and how well) DreamSuite works as a package in and of itself. Like its counterpart, Mystical Lighting, which I reviewed back in May, DreamSuite is a standalone application for generating effects. It also includes a Photoshop plugin component so that the application can be accessed directly through that application, alleviating any interruptions in workflow. DreamSuite works on individual Photoshop layers and behaves just like a native Photoshop plugin, but with all of the advantages of a standalone application, including its own set of editing tools, its own palettes, the capability to layer and composite multiple effects at one time, etc.

Once selected through the Filter menu in Photoshop, DreamSuite launches, and you're presented with a full-screen interface, complete with its own menus, palettes and control panels. The interface, by default, takes over your system's GUI, though it can also be reduced into its own smaller, less intrusive window.

DreamSuite is, to put it briefly, far more sophisticated than anything you'll find in a standard plugin. There are filters for Photoshop that offer excellent functionality. Don't get me wrong. But DreamSuite goes far beyond this. For example, if you look at the Layers palette, you'll see several icons down at the bottom. These are little hidden treasures that I didn't even know existed when I first got the program (since I am apparently incapable of reading manuals).

The first provides another access point to the Special Effects menu. The second allows you to add one of two types of layers: a correction layer or a photo layer. What do these mean?

Well, a correction layer is, in short, a complete color correction suite built right into this application. It includes independent red, blue and green controls, as well as brightness, contrast, hue and saturation all in one convenient control panel that's accessible throughout the process of creating your effect.

What's more, you can apply multiple color correction layers to affect other layers. And each correction layer is fully editable, so you can change your color corrections at any time.

The second type of layer is a photo layer. What this means is that you can add in multiple images into your effect, placing them directly into masked areas, outside of masked areas or simply over your existing image. It also provides controls for brightness and contrast, as well as transformations.

The third button over is a simple tool for cloning the current layer.

The fourth is a button for creating a new mask layer. This, in short, allows you to draw selections for varying your effects over different parts of your image, so you want have to go back in forth to Photoshop to select different sections of your image for different effects. You can do it all within the DreamSuite. When you create a new masking layer, you see a new control panel appearing, providing you with paintbrush, airbrush, lasso, straightedge and polygon masking tools. The brushes include individual controls for softness, opacity and size, and you can even select your smoothing and antialiasing. And guess what. The smoothing and antialiasing are live. Don't like the softness of the mask you created? Just make a quick adjustment. It's fantastic.

And, as with the other Add Layer buttons, masking layers can be applied multiple times, each with their own individual regions, each governing their own effects.

Other niceties in the interface include full menus for saving and loading (including saving and loading masks), undo capabilities, zoom, stored memories for saving various effect sets in the process, the ability to hide selection lines, customizable interface textures and colors and the ability to load and save effect presets.

Did I mention "effects?" Oh yes, I do believe DreamSuite can do those as well....

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