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Synthetik Studio Artist 1.5

Painting and rotoscoping software for the Mac By Dave Nagel
It occurs to me that with all the squawking I've done about the virtues of Synthetik Studio Artist, I haven't yet done a review of version 1.5 or explained its broad range of features all in one place. I'll rectify this now.

What it does
Studio Artist does everything, so it's a difficult application to pin down. However, it's not too hard to describe the overall effect of Studio Artist. Since it's only available on the Mac, I'll describe it this way: It makes you feel the way you felt the first time you used your Mac. That is, it's the kind of thing you use and then have dreams about. (Yes, I have dreams about my Mac and Studio Artist. Further details are unavailable at the moment.)

Studio Artist is, in some ways, a painting application. In some ways it's an animation program. It also happens to do a very nice job of rotoscoping—actually unique in the world of rotoscoping—as well as morphing and warping. So, basically, it does everything.

Studio Artist's interface, showing the Source Image (top left), Presets (left)
and Paint Action and Layers windows and timelines (the two lower windows).
The large area is, of course, the canvas.

Studio Artist does a bit of everything, and it does it incredibly well. (In this review, I'll just focus on its two primary functions—paint synthesis and rotoscoping.)

Probably the first thing you'll notice about Studio Artist when you launch it is that it doesn't look like anything you've ever used. For one thing, it uses the concept of a source image and a canvas. A source image can be either an image you will be tweaking in the canvas or simply an interactive source of color, meaning that Studio Artist will grab color from various portions of your source image corresponding to the points on your canvas where you're painting.

The second thing you'll notice is that the program looks a bit complex. It's not, really, once you know where to look for things. It's just that the interface in Studio Artist has not yet been Adobefied. Brushes don't appear as little icons in a floating tool box. You don't have a bunch of palettes floating around. Etc.

What you do have is an incredibly sophisticated piece of software based on the metaphor of an audio synthesizer. (Actually, John Dalton, the guy who created Studio Artist, also happens to have written several very popular audio programs, including Deck and Deck II, Pro Tools—the first version—and the original audio engine for Avid.) What this metaphor means to you and me is that we get a bunch of functions presented to us that can be tweaked in hundreds of ways for each individual parameter we want to set. These parameters then produce something you might call a brush, only it's a lot more sophisticated than a color being connected to the canvas via artificial bristles. It is, in fact, a paint synthesizer. Let's take a look at what it does.

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