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MD+F Special Effects (Renders) for ColorWorks V2- by Chris Wenham

Following on the heels of Modular Dreams Inc.'s Effects plug-in pack #1 is this new collection of ColorWorks plug-ins designed for rendering a variety of patterns. Most of these effects produce amazing results with outstanding quality but, like the first Effects pack, they still suffer from high CPU load and disregard for other programs running on a multitasking system.

While the first set of utilities from Modular Dreams focused on the idea of manipulating an existing image, these 'Renders plug-ins' generate new images and patterns from scratch -- good for either the starting point of a new image, or as a texture in an existing one. Also useful is the fact that most of the plug-ins can generate tileable images of varying block size, letting you create some cool backgrounds for your Desktop or web page, or for conversion into ColorWorks textures.


The 'Bars' filter (JPG, 15k) generates equally spaced and randomly curved bars. The pattern can't be tiled and there is no way to tell it to 'keep' the pattern you see in the preview window as the one you want to put in the final image. The pattern is regenerated each time you click the 'Preview' or 'Apply' buttons.

This plug-in also introduces the scheme Modular Dreams uses for choosing the main color of the pattern. Using slider controls, you specify the amount of red, green and blue. What I found unhelpful about this method is that there is no indication of the exact RGB value you've entered, either in the standard 0-255 range or in percentages. If I wanted to coordinate the color of the pattern generated with the rest of my image I'd be out of luck -- unless I had a really good eye for color shades.


This plug-in gives you that hazy mirage-like appearance of fire on the horizon. This texture is not tileable either but it does allow you to change the 'iterations', or how high the fire is allowed to grow. You can have it as low as 10 iterations, which will give you a packed and glowing 'lava', to 80 or more for a real blazing inferno. But watch how high you set this value, as 'Fire' will gobble up CPU power rapidly.

What's interesting about this filter is that it allows you to enter the name of a ColorWorks palette (such as 'Vivid', 'Romance', 'Metals' etc.) with which to paint the colors of the fire. The plug-in comes with three built-in palettes ('Fire', 'Plasma' and 'Smoke') but you can get some weird and wonderful effects just by using some of the palettes that either come with ColorWorks or that you make yourself.


With Foil you can pick between three preset patterns; Foil I, Foil II and Cushion. The Foil I pattern looks a bit like those stamped tin kitchen ceilings you see in some Victorian style homes. This is the first of the tileable patterns, and by entering a block size (called "Area size" by Modular Dreams -- the size of each tile in pixels) in the plug-in dialog you can make the pattern repeat over and over for that size.


Loops is somewhat whimsical (and, I first thought, a bit pointless), but fun. It scatters a collection of multicolored swirling loops of a fixed radius. The radius can be changed using a slider (again, no way to enter a specific numeric value) which doesn't just make the loops smaller, it makes them swirl less. A small radius will give you embryonic looking tadpoles, while a higher radius will produce interlacing ripples that spread out like waves in a pond. By changing the density you can control whether there are just a few stray loops, or a whole school of them. Color schemes for this plug-in are limited to the three built-in ones: Grayscale, pastels and random.


The manual describes this plug-in as generating a moire pattern. Although it does, the results are usually more comparable to "plaid shirt." The only properties you can change are the color densities for red, green and blue and the area size for tiling.

Stars and OPC Stars

The "OPC" in "OPC Stars" stands for "Orion Picture Company" as the plug-in renders a field of stars (JPG, 15k) that look remarkably similar to those in the opening sequence for Orion's movies (just before they swirl together into an 'O'). You can't control the size of the stars but you can change the spacing and the 'strictness', or how randomly they are placed. A high strictness value will put them into a neat grid, where a low level will make them scatter about randomly like real stars.

The second 'Stars' plug-in is very similar except that it produces a more 'magic dust' kind of starfield -- diamond or cross-shaped stars instead of round ones. These stars are also multicolored, although you can't pick specific colors or palettes; you can only set how much the plug-in varies the colors with each star.

Pulsars and Radial Stars

Pulsars will render a random scattering of shapes that, in the default configuration look a bit like multicolored sycamore seeds. By adding more spokes or 'shooters' you can turn them into disks instead.

Radial Stars are similar in style and means of configuration, but they have pointed spikes which can be flared out to make them look like either cloverleafs or the Chrysler logo.


Think of space-age confetti (JPG, 15k). Think of bacterium under a microscope that have been lit up by a bank of neon lights. I can't say how weirdly cool these things look, but you can get some interesting effects with them. An option for painting them is to switch on the "Melted" factor and make them blur and fuzz out.


The basic pattern of this plug-in is the humble sine wave, but you can manipulate it into a few new patterns. Apart from painting it either horizontally or vertically, you can change the mode from "single" to "double" and create a sine-wave within a sine-wave. It's possible to select the coloring method too, everything from an even "spread" of gradient colors to "thin", "solid", "hi-thin", "ramp" and "hi-ramp."


Weave is a useful little gadget, producing a simple pattern of ribbons weaving through each other horizontally and vertically. You can set the spacing of the weave and choose a palette with which each ribbon (horizontal and vertical) is painted. By adjusting the area dimensions you can give yourself a big, thick, basic "one weave cell" or create a blanket with hundreds of interlacing ribbons.


The plug-ins in this set are like building blocks to be used for starting a new image, or as components of a more complex one. A number of the included plug-ins are kind of "ho-hum" and feel like they were just chucked into the package as filler. Each plug-in also has the annoying habit of using slider bars in too many places that don't give clear numeric feedback, making it difficult to get the same effect in a different session. You can't save any settings to disk or even write down what RGB values you used last time, for example.

The output quality of nearly all the plug-ins is quite good, though. And they're a lot of fun to play with and explore.

 * MD+F Special Effects (Renders)
by Modular Dreams Inc.
MSRP: US$47.99.
Chris Wenham is a Team OS/2er in Binghamton, NY with a catchy-titled company -- Wenham's Web Works. He has written comedy, sci-fi, HTML, Pascal, C++ and now writes software reviews.

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