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How to Make Your Own "If They Mated" Photos
Conan O'Brien has a bit he does every few weeks called If They Mated where he shows two celebrity photos and then combines them into a hilarious photo of what their offspring might look like. Of course, the results are comical: Burt Reynold's eyebrows and mustache planted on a Martha Stewart-looking creature. If Conan's art director isn't using FantaMorph to do these, he or she uses something very similar.
When you start FantaMorph, you can choose to create a morph or a warp. A morph is a movie between two or more images, while a warp just works with one image. I am reviewing the FantaMorph SE version, so I am limited to working with two images. With two images you can do interesting things like create a before-and-after animation on a website to show landscaping improvements. My first test, though, was decidedly less serious. My friend wanted a morph animation of himself and Anthony Michael Hall, whom I've said he looks like.
[See image 1 (amh.gif)]
To create the morph, once you have two images loaded, you simply start adding dots onto the two images that show the important points of the animation. For example, you might place the first dot on the left eye in the left image and then move the corresponding dot to the same position on the left eye on the right image. Just rinse and repeat until you have a smooth animation. A third image will start showing the animation as you make your edits.
[See image 2 (kayleen.jpg)]
At any point you can take a snapshot of an in-between frame or save your work as an animation; formats include an animated GIF, an AVI movie, a Flash movie, a screensaver, a standalone EXE, or just a sequence of images. The animated GIFs are high quality, so you need to watch your image dimensions or you will find yourself with a 10 MB file.
Besides morphs you can create warps, by just moving points around in a single image animation. I tried growing my ears:
[See image 3 (ears.gif)]
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User InterfaceRating What's Hot:
FantaMorph is a study in good user interface design, and I will point to it in the future as software that demonstrates the value of creating a good user interface.
There are no wasted menu items. Each feature has a productive use. Hotkeys are so natural you don't have to think about them. Screen real estate is used wisely and Abrosoft considered workflow with each user interface choice. In other words, they didn't just make software, but made a tool.
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Help & SupportRating What's Hot:
You can get email support from within FantaMorph by selecting Help -> Submit My Question and then writing an email that includes your registration number.
Abrosoft also hosts user forums so you can see what others have created and ask technical questions of the morphing community.
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I found FantaMorph to be tremendously frugal with memory. To stress the software, I took some photos with my 10 megapixel Nikon D-200 and previewed some large photos being morphed. On a Core 2 Duo machine with 2 GB of memory, it held up nicely. Of course, a morph like that would have to be for a high-definition video output. The Flash and animated GIF formats are meant for smaller-resolution files.
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If you've installed your share of software over the years, you're justifiably inclined to be nervous about screwing up your system with badly written software--software that writes all over the registry, doesn't clean up after itself, replaces DLLs, and installs little tray icons. Abrosoft, the makers of FantaMorph, has restored my faith in good software. They are a model Windows citizen, giving you nothing more than what you want: morphing in a clean little application. I was astonished by the fact that I actually used each and every menu item.
Each feature in the program was carefully designed and has a real purpose. For example, if you need help to align your images, you have two nice tools available to you. One is a little magnifier that follows your cursor around and shows a blow-up of whatever you are working on. The other is a grid overlay that I found tremendously helpful, especially when working with a warp.
[See image 4 (grid.jpg)]
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Installation & SetupRating What's Hot:
I was able to install FantaMorph on Windows XP, Windows Vista 32-bit, and Windows Vista 64-bit without any issues. The installer was signed and conformed to the Vista installation guidelines.
One feature worth highlighting is the "Check for Updates" menu item, where FantaMorph points you to a web page with the latest version. I much prefer this approach to other applications that actively and frequently check for updates. Do I really want a tray icon that monitors my application health? No.
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Find out more about FantaMorph's features and how it compares to other morphing software.
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Price to ValueRating What's Hot:
FantaMorph comes in three flavors: SE ($29.95), Pro ($49.95), and Deluxe ($99.95). The SE version limits you to morphing two images. The Pro version ups the image limit, and the Deluxe version includes a face locator and the ability to download powerful add-ins.
There are more differentiating features and Abrosoft has made it easy to upgrade. If you want to go from SE to Pro to Deluxe, you have an easy upgrade path.
I have FantaMorph SE, which I outgrew within an hour of using the product. The two-image limit is too restrictive. I suppose it's fun if all you want to do is create before-and-after pictures, but I have to wonder if the SE version is even worth Abrosoft's trouble. Why have this version?
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Suggested FeaturesI would like a version of FantaMorph that is a Photoshop plugin. I've seen some great tools be both standalone programs as well as Photoshop plugins, and that's a really nice option. From within Photoshop, I could do some background removal and photo editing and then use the FantaMorph plugin for morphing.
A hosted version also might be quite interesing. Imagine logging into the FantaMorph site for a quick online morphing of two images. It wouldn't be as rich an experience as the full FantaMorph package, but still would be a nice option.
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ConclusionI'm still lukewarm on the value of the SE version of FantaMorph. The two-image limit will restrict even the most novice morpher. Thankfully, Abrosoft allows you to upgrade your version from SE to Pro or Deluxe. That said, the whole application is polished like a shiny apple. It's hard to find many things wrong. In fact, I was enjoying morphing pictures so much it was hard to keep a critical eye on the software.
I think Abrosoft sets a high bar for software quality. Each feature they chose to implement works as advertised and was very clean. They did not skimp the help files, manuals, or language packs. They've created a solid program that is fun to use.
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