DreamSuite is the latest offering from effects specialists, AutoFX. As the name suggests, it is a suite, or collection, of effects and are accessible from either a stand-alone application or from a Photoshop compatible plug-in. They are available for PC and Mac including native support for Mac OSX.
The current program is called Series One which suggests that it is the first in a range and offers what AutoFX describe as "photo realistic" visual imaging solutions and includes effects such as 35mm Frame, Chisel, Crackle, Crease, Cubism, Deckle, Dimension X, Focus, Hot Stamp, Instamatic, Liquid Metal, Metal Mixer, Photo Border, Photo Depth, Photo Tone, Putty, Ripple and Tape. Some effects are intended to embellish photographs and some are more suited for type effects and logos.
The effects are resolution independent so thay can be used for high resolution print jobs and low resolution Web images. Each effect has its own set of user-adjustable settings which can be saved using small buttons called "memory dots" so that the same effect can be recalled at a later date for reuse or modificaion.
In use, the DreamSuite interface takes over the whole screen and has a number of customisation options for the overall colour and background textures. I know that gratuitous interface over-styling like this is common in effects packages but somehow it gives the impression of a cheap computer game rather than a serious tool.
The effects themselves are a mixed bag. Although they are of a high quality and very convincing, I found some reasonably useful and others less so. The concept of a specialist effects package to do something as simple as a decked edge or creased photograph on the few occasions that I might want to simulate such things questions their value. I have used images of 35mm slides and Polaroid prints on occasions in the past and it was just a matter of scanning-in the basic object and replacing the image inside - no big deal.
Some of the other effects are also fairly easily created using regular Photoshop filters and masking techniques - not quite so instantly, admitedly but at $299, is this package going to be bought by novices?
To me, the text effects, LiquidMetal, MetalMixer and DimensionX and Chisel are more compelling and would be virtually impossible to achieve using regular filters. The various sliders allow control over depth, edge radius, smoothness, colour and so on producing some very realistic liquid and metal effects.
At three times the price of Adobe Photoshop Elements, $299 is a lot to pay for an effects package. If only a few of those effects are going to be used, they become very expensive. I would prefer to see the effects split into smaller bundles or even sold individually so that I would only have to buy the ones that pay for themselves. The photographic effects and text effects don't really address the same audience and make a fairly natural split.
DreamSuite's effects are undoubtely very good but whether it will pay for itself depends very much on the type of work you do and your level of expertise. The effects are too specialised to fall under the term "general purpose" and too expensive to buy on the off chance that you might need them.
|Ease of Use||85%|
|Value for Money||40%|
|'Must Have' factor||55%|
|Price||$299 for Mac or PC|
|Summary||High quality effects - but somewhat overpriced.|