ArtMatic 1.2: Psychedelic Art Synthesizer

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - High-school trigonometry students might take an opposing view, but mathematics can be beautiful. While only the most mathematically adept may grasp this notion when dealing with raw numbers, U&I Software LLC's ArtMatic 1.2 clearly demonstrates the concept. This graphics application uses mathematics to let you create vibrant, psychedelic images with almost no effort.

ArtMatic generates its art by feeding fractal images through a series of mathematical functions called components. The program includes 20 collections of components, called structures, which operate like a synthesizer's filters-the data undergoes a transformation as it proceeds through a structure.

Frighteningly confusing as this underlying architecture sounds, ArtMatic is very easy to use and a lot of fun to play with. Just launch the program, select a structure, and click on a large die to randomize the parameters within the selected structure; ArtMatic generates an image. The parameters range from the intuitive (Skew, Circles) to the arcane, and each component has its own set.

You can tweak the image by zooming in and out, selecting a new parameter from one of the components, or clicking on a smaller die to mutate the parameters slightly or randomize the picture's color values. You can also move sliders to manipulate the parameters of the currently selected component. Use the controls at the bottom of the ArtMatic window to adjust the image's hue and contrast, as well as animate it. You can save animations as QuickTime movies.

The results of your explorations can be breathtakingly beautiful, evoking exquisitely textured stained-glass windows, haunting insectoid images, and burbling fluid forms reminiscent of '60s light shows. However, because the program generates these images randomly, they can be intensely ugly or just plain dull as well. More often than not, though, you'll generate something interesting. Those seeking intriguing patterns-for backgrounds, clothing, or MetaCreations Bryce landscapes, for example-might gain inspiration from ArtMatic's output.

ArtMatic demands a fair amount of processing power-for smooth animation, you need at least a G3 processor. This need for speed may also explain why ArtMatic can't manipulate images in real time-you can't alter parameters while animations play. Unfortunately, that means you have to stop playback to zoom in and out or adjust colors. Also, the program can't render antialiased animations on the fly; you must export files as QuickTime movies for fluid animation.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Artists and nonartists alike-at least, those with fast Macs-will enjoy working and playing with ArtMatic 1.2. It's easy and fun to use, generates wondrously engaging images, and offers you the opportunity to zone out with your Mac.

Rating: 4.0 mice

Pro: Easy to use; produces intriguing images. Con: Can't alter images during animation playback. Comp: U&I Software (650/367-6161, www.uisoftware.com).

List: Download, $79; CD-ROM, $99.

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