Morpheus Photo Morpher - Morph With The Challenging Yet Powerful Morpheus
written by: Jeremy Rule•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009
If you're a photographer, artist, or anyone assembling a video with special effects, you will want morphing software in your bag of tricks. Morpheus will do the job in a pinch, but it does not stand up well against other morphing software.
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This was a hard review to write. I would like to think Morpheus has features and nuances that are innovative, but the reality is Morpheus does not stand up well to any other morphing software. Morphing software, by definition, should be fun, but Morpheus is just tedious. Major features like image resizing are missing, and the process of placing dots to set up a morph could not possibly be more difficult. [Mainscreen.jpg]
Installing Morpheus meant slogging through some adware offers--more on this later. I loaded up two images to morph between and started placing dots. (Dots in morphing are corresponding points between the two images; for example, you want to match up eyes, and the sides of mouths, and so on.) For some inexplicable reason, Morpheus requires you to switch between three modes to place, move, and select dots. This is the single worst feature of Morpheus and makes creating morphs time-consuming and difficult. The natural flow of creating morphs is to place a dot and then to immediately move the corresponding dot to the right place. Morpheus seems to want you to place all of the dots first and then go move them all around. Even with color-coded dots, it's insane to try to remember where each one needs to go.
Despite the tedious process, I was able to morph between two bird photos: [crow_and_parrot.gif]
After trying unsuccessfully to animate three images, I headed to the support forums and found people with the same problem. It turns out Morpheus comes in "beginner mode" by default, and you have to turn that off in the options before you can work with more than two files. After turning off beginner mode, many other features became available. Drawing lines to exactly control the morph was one powerful feature that I was now able to use.
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Rating What's Not: The three-mode editing makes the user interface one of the worst I've seen. Even if that feature were fixed, though, the user interface needs a lot of help.
The menu items are very poorly named. Want to export a movie? Try "render timeline ...." The floating and docking toolbar system is completely overused and eats up valuable screen real estate. It took me a long time to figure out how to morph using more than two images or videos. Turns out there is a beginner mode that is turned on by default and hidden the menus. Once I turned that off, the rest of the software opened up. Overall, the user interface isn't ancient-looking--it's just hard to use!
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Price to Value
Rating What's Hot: To output AVI files you need to step up to the $60 professional version, and to use movie files as inputs you need to move up to the $100 industrial version. The standard version weighs in at $30 and provides basic before-and-after morphing. The one area at which Morpheus performs well, video morphing, requires the most expensive version.
If you're willing to put up with the difficult user interface, the value may be there for you.
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Rating What's Hot: The highlight of Morpheus has to be the video morphing. Once you figure out how to turn off beginner mode in the Options menu, you can create a timeline with multiple videos. All of your dot and line placing and editing can be done with video frames. Of course, you have a moving target so it's a little less exact.
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Rating What's Not: When you install Morpheus you are prompted to also install something called Snap and something called Dealeo. I wasn't familiar with either but assumed they were some sort of adware. After doing a little research, Snap appears to be some sort of adware, and Dealeo is a browser toolbar to search for deals.
I've never been a fan of these bundled toolbars. Morpheus doesn't install them silently, but why include them at all? Especially considering Morpheus is commercial software, I'd rather not see them.
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Rating What's Hot: One neat feature of Morpheus is that you can share your creation with a blog called Animania. Once you've created a morph you are happy with, you can have Morpheus upload your layout for review by the blog editors, and then it will be posted if they like it. [blog-it.jpg]
I really like community features within software. This is an excellent use of blogging to enhance the software and build a community.
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Installation & Setup
Rating What's Hot: Morpheus installs and runs well on Vista 32-bit, Vista 64-bit, and Windows XP. The installer is signed, so it behaves well in Vista.
What's Not: Of course, the adware I mentioned in an earlier section makes the rating lower on the overall install process than it should be.
The trial version comes with the complete feature set of the standard, professional, and industrial versions. Features like AVI exporting aren't available on the standard version, so be careful when you choose a version, if you do upgrade.
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A reworked user interface with a single editing mode so that moving and placing dots and lines is seamless would be the single best feature to add.
Morpheus would also do well to add cropping and aspect-ratio tools so users can do some basic edits with pictures as they are imported. It's a feature that would save users a lot of time and energy with quick morphing jobs.
Another minor feature would be to strengthen the preview video so that it has the quality of the final output.
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Morpheus has some powerful features, but to use all of them you have to be sure to turn off beginner mode first. I suppose that typifies my experience with Morpheus: interesting and powerful capabilities, all hidden behind a difficult user interface. The adware isn't terribly malicious (because it's not silently installed), but it certainly doesn't add anything useful to the program.
In the end, I can't give Morpheus a high rating until these issues are fixed, but I should point out that if all you need is to get your morphing done, Morpheus will do the trick. And its video editing capabilities are more than adequate for the job.