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Synthetik Studio Artist 3.5

Paint, effects, animation and rotoscoping suite By Dave Nagel
Summary: Studio Artist is unique in the worlds of graphics and motion graphics. It offers paint, rotoscoping, effects processing and animation all in one package and with a level of depth you'd be crazy to expect in four separate applications, let alone one. The new 3.5 release expands the creative potential even further with new painting capabilities, an infinite variety of new effects and more.
Manufacturer: Synthetik Software (
Platform: Mac OS X and Classic
Price: $379 for the full version; $99 for the upgrade from version 3.0 (introductory offer); and $179 for upgrades from versions prior to 3.0.
Users: Graphic designers and others who require precision from their input devices
Recommendation: Must Buy

I've been using Synthetik Studio Artist since version 1.0, and I can characterize its progress over the years in a single word: generosity. With each successive release of Studio Artist, Synthetik gives its users abundant new tools, new ways to paint, new presets, new effects, new ways to control effects, new ways to animate, new ways to be creative--well above and beyond any reasonable expectations. Studio Artist 3.5 is no exception. Though it's only a half-version update numerically, it could easily have been sold as a full-version release.

This program's ever-more-expansive development is especially incredible when you consider that Studio Artist started off its life conceptually as an extraordinarily complex graphics tool. It was designed to fulfill four primary functions that easily could have resulted in four separate applications:

1. A complex paint engine allowing for maximum flexibility so that users could generate literally an infinite number of varieties of painting tools. To this end, Studio Artist is built around something called a "Paint Synthesizer," which is basically a paint engine modeled on audio synthesizers. (The program's chief developer, John Dalton, was also the creator of the original version of Pro Tools and Deck, so it makes sense that you'd see an audio metaphor incorporated into a graphics program.) Like an audio synthesizer, Studio Artist's Paint Synthesizer allows you to work with any of the hundreds (maybe thousands by now) of preset tools/instruments/paint patches included with the program. And it allows you to go in and work directly with the literally hundreds of parameters to create new and completely unique painting tools. Here's a very small sampling of some of the preset brushes in Studio Artist. The examples below show just a single stroke of various types of presets.

2. Rotoscoping of video and still images. It was designed to let artists paint directly over video footage and to automate the rotoscoping process to produce painterly effects. To this end, Studio Artist's paint engine includes an automatic rotoscoping feature. When used, it goes far beyond the kinds of paint filters you've probably seen in the past. It actually paints each stroke on the canvas individually based on parameters that you set up, though those parameters are also built into many of the program's presets. Furthermore, the program can combine paint strokes, effects and other adjustments into fully recordable action steps. The containers for these action steps, called Paint Action Sequences, can be saved and applied to any number of video or still image files, each time producing results that are unique based on the footage being rotoscoped.

Studio Artist's main interface, showing paint presets on the left.
The image on the main canvas has been rotoscoped from the
source image on the top left using a sketch effect brush and
color wash preset, as well as a color compression effect.

3. Animation. Studio Artist can also be used to create 2D animations from scratch. You can work frame by frame, just as you would in any 2D animation program, or you can let Studio Artist interpolate your paint strokes to draw in between frames for you. You can even record what you do onscreen directly to a QuickTime file, which is fantastic for producing paint-on or write-on effects that aren't effects, but actual paint strokes. Here are two examples of paint-on/write-on effects.

4. And, finally, Studio Artist is also a full-fledged image processor, with its own suite of filters, image adjustments and expandable plugins (even more expandable in version 3.5, as we'll see below).

That is, to say the least, a very tall order for any graphics program. But Studio Artist doesn't even come close to stopping there. Those are just what I see as the program's four primary purposes. Beyond these are tools and features that include things like vectorization of raster images (including movie files), texture synthesis (for creating custom textures that can be used stand-alone or incorporated into the painting tools), batch processing of images and movies and many, many other features that you'll discover on your own as you explore this expansive tool.

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Related Keywords:synthetik studio artist, review, studio artist 3.5, msg evolver, supersizer, painting, rotoscoping, natiural media emulation


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