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Review-AutoFX's DreamSuite, a series of 18 plug-in filter effects

Suite Dreams...don't let the memory bugs bite.

DreamSuite_box_small.jpg DreamSuite is the latest offering from AutoFX that can be used either as a standalone application, or as a plug-in package that works in conjunction with Photoshop or other programs that support Photoshop's plug-in standard. With 18 different effects, it is no wonder why Dream Suite is a rather pricey investment, with a suggested retail of just under $300. Fortunately for those who do not want to invest that amount, or for those who only want certain effects, AutoFX has also made the individual effects available for $50 each.

DreamSuite's effects are very, very nice, and are geared toward the serious graphic designer/digital artist who uses Photoshop as a workhorse application, as well as the hobbyists who would like to add some flair to online pictures that couldn't be achieved any other way other without employing some serious digital art rendering techniques.

Unfortunately, DreamSuite has some serious memory issues. Working on a 733 mhz G4 in System X with 640 megs of RAM, I didn't think memory would be a problem, but I frequently get out of memory messages, or the program would quit, even though I was usually working on files not much more than a megabyte or two. And although DreamSuite actually renders the effects quickly after they are applied to the image, rendering in preview mode takes quite a while. Each little change that is made causes the image preview to be re-rendered again. I would would prefer a quick preview render to get my effects the way I want them, and then I'd rather wait longer for it to apply to the image if I had to choose one or the other.

DreamSuite does give a lot of great ready-to-use presets, or one can save their own or even create their own jpeg or png graphics to use as environment maps, reflection maps, photoborders and textures. I wish that there was a preview of the various effects in the program so that I didn't have to rely only on a verbal description.

Guaranteed to be popular effects are Liquid Metal, Chisel, Dimension X and Metal Mixer, which dimensionalize, texturize and metallicize flat selections. These could be rivals to Flaming Pear's Super Blade Pro. Sometimes Super Blade's metallic textures can be a little rough, whereas DreamSuite's Metal effects are luscious and flowing. And in DreamSuite one can view the whole image at full size whereas Blade only allows a small portion or a reduced view if one is working large. DreamSuite also offers Tool Tips which Blade doesn't have; very useful when you're wondering just exactly what the little adjustment sliders and knobs do. I wouldn't call DreamSuite a Blade killer just yet, however. Flaming Pear's product still has a great price advantage among other features (graphic preset preview, randomizing feature, faster preview) that makes it one of my personal favorite plug-in programs.

Other effects such as PhotoBorder, Instamatic, 35mm Frame and Deckle would come in very handy for those interested in showing off photos in a unique manner or with slight alterations or aged and distressed looks. The Tape effect truly made me giggle. I can't think of too many instances where I'd require it, but it makes exquisitely beautiful realistic "tape" that would require a lot of picky rendering if one were to make one's own.

DreamSuite is definitely recommendable if you have a very fast system and a budget that will allow a nearly $300 plug-in package. Otherwise, I would suggest picking out only those that you require for your projects. And if you have limited RAM, forget it. I cannot get DreamSuite to work on my iBook with 160 megs of RAM, either as a plug-in or as a stand alone program. I'm hoping AutoFX will address some of the memory issues in the future either with an upgrade (they're calling this "DreamSuite 1" so I suspect they're anticipating future versions) or with some sort of fix. With a few improvements in regards to memory, speed, and graphical previews, this elegantly interfaced design tool has the makings of a superb plug-in package.

More information on and a demo version of DreamSuite and the individual effects can be found at AutoFX's website.

The images below are examples of the 18 different effects that come with DreamSuite. I have included full-size examples of all of them on a separate page. Keep in mind that each DreamSuite effect has many different possibilities for variations, and that one representative image from each effect cannot do justice to the incredible diverseness available.

ds-chisel-thumb.jpg

Chisel

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Liquid Metal

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Metal Mixer

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Dimension X

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Hot Stamp

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35mm Frame

ds-instamatic-thumb.jpg

Instamatic

ds-crackle-thumb.jpg

Crackle

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Crease

ds-photoborder-thumb.jpg

PhotoBorder

ds-cubism-thumb.jpg

Cubism

ds-photodepth-thumb.jpg

PhotoDepth

ds-deckle-thumb.jpg

Deckle

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PhotoTone

ds-putty-thumb.jpg

Putty

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Focus

ds-ripple-thumb.jpg

Ripple

ds-tape-thumb.jpg

Tape

Etcetera

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