Plug-in packs high-quality filters to slice, dice images

Plug-in packs high-quality filters to slice, dice images

By William M. Frazier
Special to GCN

When I saw that the Kai's Power Tools plug-in package had leapfrogged to Version 5 over a nonexistent Version 4, I wondered why.

It turned out that MetaCreations simply synchronized it with the 5.0 version numbers of Adobe Photoshop and MetaCreations' Fractal Painter. No one who uses Photoshop should be without Kai's Power Tools. Its variety of high-quality filters is unmatched.

Although you must specify the plug-in directory of the host application to install Kai's Power Tools, the rest is easy. If you plan to use it with Photoshop, install it right in the Photoshop/Plug-Ins directory.

The resource requirements'a fairly fast processor and 64M of RAM'are not unreasonable considering the heavy-duty company this package keeps.

On a 200-MHz Pentium Pro with 48M of RAM, I found performance acceptable for simple drawings, although it took time to load the various filters. A Pentium II would improve performance, and the more memory the better.

The previous version's user guide was not platform-specific. This time around, there is no printed documentation at all except for an eight-page reference card. But the online documentation has excellent Adobe Portable Document Format files. Call up the documentation for a specific filter by pressing the F1 key, or open the entire guide with Acrobat Reader.

Technical support is free to registered users via the Web, telephone and e-mail. I needed help three times. Once I found the answer among the Web site's frequently asked questions. The other times I sent e-mail and received a reply the next morning. In both instances, it was right on the mark.

Version 5 introduces 10 new filters that complement those in Version 3. They are Blurrr, Noise, RadWarp, Smoothie, FiberOptix, Orb-It, ShapeShifter and three fractal filters.

If Version 5 is your first copy of Kai's Power Tools, all the earlier filters from Version 3 are included on the CD-ROM. The user interface will seem different from anything you've ever experienced, but the new filters are consistent and easy to learn.

My favorite, ShapeShifter, is worth the full price of the package. It is perfect for making Web page buttons and complex text effects. ShapeShifter starts by beveling a mask in a 3-D effect.

You can add a bump map, apply 3-D lighting, and add glow and shadows. You can create environmental mapping to project a pattern in the shape's reflections. Finally, you can add a top mask for an embossed look.

Fitting forms

ShapeShifter has seven panels to control its effects and a variable-size preview window. Although the control panels perform different functions, they have a consistent design and operation. New panel slider controls adjust in one-tenth-pixel increments. As you adjust the control panels, the preview window updates in real time, showing how final results will look.

My next favorite filter is the FraxPlorer. First, select one of three basic fractal types'Mandelbrot, Mandelcube or Newtonbrot'from the Universe Mapper control panel.

After selecting the base fractal, you can select three variations in the lower portion of the Universe Mapper. VCR-like buttons at the bottom of the window adjust the speed and direction of zooming and panning. There are controls for rotation, color cycling and level of detail.

The Frax Style panel provides 11 coloring models you can apply to a fractal. What sets FraxPlorer apart from other fractal tools is its nearly infinite ability to zoom at high speed.

I did encounter one case where the user interface did not work properly. The FiberOptix filter has a Mask Control Panel where you would expect to load a mask by clicking on the mask window, as in the other control panels. The tutorial even shows this method of loading a mask.

It doesn't work. When I checked the Web site, I learned that the only way to load a mask is to make a selection in Photoshop before choosing the FiberOptix filter.

William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Taholah, Wash.

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