Magma Effects

When Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was released, headline features such as Automator, Dashboard and Spotlight hogged column inches. Core Image is one of Tiger’s most powerful new technologies yet it was glossed over; people struggled
to visualise what it could do for them. Now though, with the release of plug-ins such as Magma Effects for InDesign CS, people really are starting to “get it”.

For the record, Core Image provides a plug-in-style architecture for accessing filters, transitions and effects called Image Units. These provide centralised management for image-processing plug-ins that can be shared across all host applications, allowing developers to spend more time creating new Image Units instead of porting code to work across multiple applications. This is exactly what the developers of Magma Effects have done.

Magma Effects allows you to apply a variety of image-enhancement and stylising effects directly to any bitmap image placed in InDesign CS. This means you can enhance photos with colour tweaks, sharpen and blur, and set white-point sliders. It’s also possible to apply special effects such as star-shines and zoom-blurs,
glass distortion and material effects.

The plug-in is accessed via InDesign’s Object menu, and is simple to use. The image to be edited appears in a preview pane on the left of the Magma Effects window, and adjustments can be viewed in real time. You can also ‘chain link’ effects so they apply one after another – especially useful if you’d like to apply a succession of image enhancements by changing the white point, sharpness and exposure, because you don’t have to exit each mode to move to the next. It’s also possible to add, remove and reorder effects in the chain to get the desired result, and the editing is non-destructive, so you can experiment as much as required. Once the editing is done, simply hit Apply and the image is automatically updated in your layout.

The range of filters that ships with the plug-in is essentially the 100 or so that are available to Tiger via Core Image. Categories include Color Adjustment, Stylize, Blur, Sharpen Tile and Geometry. However, Magma Effects can also load third-party Image Units present on your system, upping the ante somewhat.

OUR VERDICT

For anyone who’s serious about design Magma Effects cannot be viewed as a replacement for Photoshop any more than iPhoto can, whose image-editing functions draw upon the same Core Image technology. However, being able to apply such a wide range of enhancements, filters and effects from within InDesign is undeniably a boon, especially when you begin importing other third-party effects to widen its scope. For anyone who’s serious about design Magma Effects cannot be viewed as a replacement for Photoshop any more than iPhoto can, whose image-editing functions draw upon the same Core Image technology. However, being able to apply such a wide range of enhancements, filters and effects from within InDesign is undeniably a boon, especially when you begin importing other third-party effects to widen its scope.

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