Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) includes a free application called Core Image Fun House, but you’ll have to install the Xcode Tools from your Tiger installation CD to find it (it’s in the Developer/Applications/Graphics Tools folder). Core Image Fun House lets you experiment with Core Image Units, which are image-processing plug-ins, including filters, transitions, and special effects (like Torus Lens Distortion and Kaleidoscope)—that are made possible by Tiger’s new Core Image technology. But Fun House is a bare-bones application devoid of user refinements. It’s fun to play with, but not practical for any serious work. Enter iMaginator 1.1.
iMaginator puts a user-friendly graphical interface on Tiger’s Core Image underpinnings. It has a simple, straightforward interface and offers usability features such as rulers and guides to help you align objects and crop images, and gives you unlimited levels of undo. It lets you manipulate images with the ease of iPhoto, but with many more options. It makes Apple’s 100 included Core Image Units manageable and also offers nine custom Core Image Unit plug-ins of its own.
Working with Units is easy when you use iMaginator. Add effects from the Effects Library or from a contextual menu and an Effects List displays applied effects and provides access to their controls. You can save favorite effects, or chains of effects, in the Effects Library and favorite images in the Image Library. The program lets you toggle the visibility of effects and add or delete them without destroying your underlying image, just as you can in Fun House.
But, unlike Fun House, iMaginator lets you easily change the order in which effects are applied. Simply rearrange the preview icons (which show the effect applied to a sample image, so most of them are recognizable at a glance) in the Effects Chain. You can also preview effects by selecting the Watch All Effects menu item, which runs an AppleScript that applies each effect, one after the other, to an image. The batch processor lets you apply an effect, or a set of effects, to a folder of images. You can instantly save processed images to TIFF or JPEG, or create QuickTime movies.
| iMaginator lets you apply over 100 Core Image Unit effects, including Color Controls, Gamma Adjustment, and Kaleidoscope, pictured here.
(Click image to open full screenshot)
iMaginator functions as a LinkBack server, which lets you, embed files from one application into another application, somewhat like Adobe’s Smart Objects. That means you can copy iMaginator images into a handful of LinkBack-compatible applications, like Stone Design’s Create, Omni’s OmniGraffle, Nisus’ Nisus Writer Express, or even Apple Keynote (via a plug-in). When you double-click on an iMaginator image that’s been pasted into another application, the image opens in iMaginator, and any changes to the image are show up where the image appears in the host application.
You can add properties to images (such as title, subject, keywords, and comments) and search iMaginator documents via iMaginator’s Spotlight plug-in.
There are a few interface annoyances, but they’re minor. For example, I’d prefer to change the order of effects by rearranging them in the list, similar to layers in Photoshop, and I’d prefer the library and list to be palettes, so I could resize them independently of the document window. Nonetheless, iMaginator is easy to use and Stone Design provides a clear and comprehensive 200-page manual, accessible via the Help menu or as a PDF file.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
iMaginator doesn’t just put a pretty face on Tiger’s Core Image underbelly, it lets you accomplish serious digital imaging special effects with this exciting new technology.
[ Robert Ellis is a freelance writer, Mac fanatic, and avid digital photographer. He publishes the blog