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Archive for August, 2010

The chosen ones, part V

From Gallery 11, “Lightning”:

This one seems quite a simple image (it is!) but it was really important to me maybe for non-aesthetical reasons. This image called the attention of a band named Disgruntled Postal Workers, and they’ve asked me to use it in their CD called “Wicked”. It was the first time I was asked to have an image used on someone else’s work, and also… it was the first time I made some (really small) money off my work.

I had to follow the rules and ask for a fee, but at the same time, I couldn’t ask them “too much”, mostly when I thought that it was such a simple image and more, made with a freeware software. Sure, it’s my artwork, but it could and can be easily reproduced by nearly anyone that knows a bit about fractals and Fractint. But this is what they liked, and they were not based in reviews or comments in fractal sites or art communities (here goes my anti-Deviant rant again). They just found the fractal image and thought it would fit with their work. And respectfully – the most important part of it all – they asked me for a licensing fee. And how much is too much in this case? I had no idea. I bought a book that helped me a lot to learn about how the licensing process of artwork goes, and it really helped me to decide how much to ask. It’s called “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines“, and it covers all the aspects of licensing and fees and copyright issues, it helped me a lot, really (I bought the 10th edition if I’m not wrong). If they were signed to a big label, of course I could have made a lot more, but as they were an independent band, and as an amateur musician myself, I know how hard can it be to get money to help make your work to be finished and released to the public so if I asked them more than they could afford neither me nor them would be happy.

The whole process ran as smoothly as possible – maybe because there was no involvment of the big guys of record labels or lawyers or anything like that. It was just a few e-mails exchanged between me and Scott (R.I.P.!), the singer. I sent them a “contract” (written with the help of the book) just with the basics only to be sure that we wouldn’t have any problems in the future (what if they exploded and become a new U2 or something?), and that’s it. After some time I got a package with the CD already finished, and there it was, my image, my name in the credits, in a rock’n’roll CD. It’s things like that that make you keep going. Oh yes and the CD was nice as well. It sounded like a mix of Rush and Live and with some influences of grunge and tidbits of “funk metal” or whatever it’s called. After Scott’s death, they have reformed with a new name, The Red Desert,  sometimes I still go there and see what they are doing.

And BTW, the fee was really small. I even made some “extras” for free, like images that could be used as wallpapers, postcards or some promotional stuff. It doesn’t hurt to do things legally, it’s better than use something off the internet without giving the artist any credits. Play nice.

PS.: for those wondering how I could use a GIF image, with 256 colours, in a professional work – it was imported into UltraFractal and rendered there, in a big size and resolution and the colours were smooth as usual, no strips or bands or anything like that. As always, no Photoshop involved whatsoever.

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Last tweaks done

To make things more consistent I’ve finished renaming all the galleries, now they are called “Fractal Gallery XX” instead of just “Gallery”. The reason for this change is quite obvious when you think about searches in Google for fractals and image galleries. Also, another page for the galleries 21 to 30 was added to the main menu. It seems that it’s the preferred way to browse and find the images, as it’s not easy to go through all the posts to find the galleries, and the search and tags isn’t very precise (it’s not the right word though) at times and gives more results than you would like to visit if you are looking just for an image gallery. If a post is tagged with “image” or “fractal” or “gallery” (lots of posts have the first two tags) it will appear in the same search along with the actual gallery posts. Tags are really strange… I’ve also just found that in WordPress the tags for the images in the image galleries aren’t the same as tags used in posts and are in fact different entities, like for example the tag “abstract” that appears in a lot of images in the galleries, but it isn’t listed in my most used tags list. In fact, it has zero entries in posts, so making a search like “abstract fractal” won’t return any results… same happened with some other relatively important tags, like “3D/3-D”.

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Freewares, sharewares and annoyingwares

While doing some searches on something fractal-related, I found one page with a list of fractal softwares. Also there was a brief description for each of these softwares, which most of the times also helps you to have at least a clue about what it is, even though it might be a bit subjective or can even be a forced good review pushing you to choose that special item of that list instead of others.

Anyway, there’s this interesting entry that says (some bits removed to not explicitly tell which software it is –  people can get picky at times and refuse to understand criticism):

“One of the most popular generators of fractal graphics in 24 bit true color.   This freeware 32-bit program, written in Visual C++ by (…), has capabilities far above many that are available, and is well worth taking the time to try out and use.   (Both the executable and source code are available.)”.

Did you read “freeware” there too? OK. Just checking. Also, the source code is available for those that like to see how it goes behind the curtains. Nice, and the description makes you think it’s a very good piece of software. But click the link and… there’s this disclaimer in the page that says:

Entrance to the (…) download area is for registered members only.

Registration is $35 and is made via Paypal.

Upon registration, you will be emailed with a link, password,
and unlimited access to the download area.”

OK, did you read that too? You will only be able to download this freeware (??) software after you pay a fee to enter the download section of the site. Now how can this be called freeware? To me it’s just something I’d call annoyingware. And then programmers complain that their softwares are pirated or shared in P2P networks and warez sites. If they knew how to sell them, they would sell.

I always liked to and did register as many softwares I could that aren’t extremely overpriced (unfortunately, most still are) and that are really useful and/or without bugs, and even I’ve made some small donations to programmers here and there to help the development of their stuff, and like I did with UltraFractal, when I thought I could sometime have a profit from stuff I did with it, it was kind of a moral and obvious decision to register it (and other similar stuff), if I could ever have any benefit from using it – read “benefit”as pure $$$ – it would be nice to “pay” the author of the software for that the same way you pay for a tool you use at work. But when a software is known for being buggy, overpriced, hyped, or that have a clone software that does the same (or almost) in an open source/freeware format as a paid software, I don’t register or buy it at all, and sometimes when I register a software that later becomes buggy or that lacks support or even that charges me a lot more for a stupid upgrade… I have no guilty in getting an “illegal” updated version of that. But this was the first time I’ve seen some stupid thing like that, a “membership” to download a “freeware”. Pffft. Maybe a bad choice of words or advertising, but still stupid.

Just to make things clear, here’s the definition of “freeware” seen in Wikipedia:

Freeware (from “free” and “software”) is computer software that is available for use at no cost or for an optional fee.[1] Software referred to as freeware is almost always proprietary. Software that is commercial is occasionally referred to as payware.

Also…

“Not to be confused with Free software.”

OK, the author might say that he’s asking that fee because you’re downloading the source code blah blah blah. And the asked fee is nothing like “optional” in that site. Don’t pay it and don’t get the software, it’s simple as that. Had the author asked for a donation, he would probably make much more money than using this “pay before you even see what you’re buying” method. This would be a little different than what I’d call a “freeware” as it stated in this definition, it could (and sometimes is) called a “donationware”.

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Starting to test the softwares… and what a surprise!

Let’s try not to get bored and install all these softwares. First part starts here. Little I knew that I was going to have a nice surprise…

First I’ve unzipped most of the downloaded stuff that doesn’t come as a single .exe file (.RARs and .ZIPs), then what was left (a bunch of .EXEs) I decided to install already after that so I didn’t have to redownload boring stuff by accident. All these files and installation packages are quite small and simple, so I’m already expecting to find very basic softwares…

First installed softwares were: Aros Magic, Double Fractal and Fractint 21 beta (it appears as “Fractint for Windows” in the menu, although it’s not called WinFract!)

Aros Magic: a toy. Full of small jokes here and there, and nothing but a toy. Seems that its “millions of colours” feature is like when you set Fractint to work with more than 256 colours, it goes to a default blue and black gradient and all your previous colour schemes are set to that instead. Seems that it works with the basic images and formulas only.

Double Fractal: another toy. It’s not very easy to guess that you must click one of the images that appear in the window that opens when you launch the software. Then another window opens which seems to be the “editor”. Very basic images as well.

Fractint 21 beta (actually it seems to be v. 20.99): YAY. Fast, Evolution method is available, big resolutions, works smoothly in Windows 7, which means… it’s all I ever wanted from Fractint to be. Now it’s time to install my alternative formula collections and my colour maps to that version and have some real good fun again. I couldn’t really be more pleased. Sorry but the project of testing all these other softwares will be stopped for a while, it’s Fractint time again!

Note: it says “not for public release” in big bold letters in the Fractint beta main window. I can’t be sure how stable it is yet (seems quite stable so far) and I’ll respect this and won’t publish the link for a download of this version, in case you are interested. Just do a search or visit some of the links in my menu, it’s hidden there somewhere and it’s quite easy to be found. Also remember if you wish to install that it’s a beta software, and it might (still) have bugs, use it at your own risk.

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Why I don’t use Photoshop or Gimp?

There’s a big discussion involving fractal images and Photoshop, with several different points of view, but the main one usually is that if a fractal image is manipulated in Photoshop (or Gimp, or any other software like that) “it’s not a true fractal image anymore”.

I’m not interested in this technical discussion – each side of it has its own correct assumptions, but I’ve decided not to use Photoshop or any other image manipulation softwares because to me I feel that with them it’s much simpler to create something interesting with virtually no effort, I guess this is the same way I don’t like how Apophysis is misused by most of its users nowadays – the random, automated way to create an image or a batch of images. With Photoshop/Gimp etc. sometimes I feel the same happens.

Yesterday I gave Gimp another try (I really can’t get used to that interface!) but mostly to try something like the Droste effect which is quite interesting. I found that there is a plug-in for Gimp that does that effect (and many others) called MathMap, and it can give some interesting fractal-like results in regular pictures. I couldn’t make it work (I need an older version of Gimp it seems, and I’m using Windows), but I found some other quite interesting plug-ins that can make very nice effects and changes to your fractal images in a very easy way. I might even post some of these attempts here just for fun, the map to sphere stuff for example is really interesting mostly because I need some fractal that can look like a planet/world for a logo/icon to be used here, and an animated ” fractal planet” spinning using one of my own images will definitely look nice. But the easiness to make a fractal look “better” with a few default settings of a plug-in is what makes me go away from these image editors and not even try to use them. Not even for a simple sharpening, which gives a nice effect with images that have lots of details.

Other day I found one of these links named “amazing fractal images” (or some variation of that) and there was a bunch of images of “fractal animals” – lions, birds, dogs, whatever. All had a fractal texture applied to the original images of the animals and one that doesn’t know fractals might think that the fractal software generated a true fractal image that was shaped like a dog – it didn’t, it was just a simple dog image with some Apophysis image “pasted” on top of it working as a texture, blended with the original image. You can actually see some of these here. Is this person a good fractal artist? No, he’s just someone that knows how to work with layers in Photoshop, and this is much easier to find than someone that can really make a (traditional) fractal from scratch. I remember when I found these images. In the first image I was like “wow, that’s nice” and while looking at about the 3rd or 4th I was like… “boring!…”. It won’t take you more than a few minutes to replicate that kind of effect, much different than waiting 50 hours for a real fractal image to be rendered.

Edit: with a few more clicks, I found the culprit: a plug-in named Fractalius. Annoying, really annoying. I didn’t know it was that easy.

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