Amberlight Updated for Unique Graphics Effect Creation

There seems to be less focus on creating new desktop graphics applications these days, with most of the development energy having shifted to mobile devices. But a few small developers are hanging in there and continue to provide specialized Mac and Windows programs. A notable one is Escape Motions, which launched its Flame Painter application a few years ago and followed that up with Amberlight, an algorithm-driven image generation program and then Rebelle, a natural-media paint application.

Amberlight seems like an extension of the capabilities of Flame Painter. As with Flame Painter the idea is that anyone can jump in and begin messing around to create interesting effects, while pros will tap its unique capabilities to generate images for integration into their workflow. However, since Amberlight is an algorithmic graphics application, not a paint program, the approach is certainly different enough — the developer encourages users to "imagine cosmic particles flying through the universe through your canvas, and it's your role to catch them and drive them with the special Amber fields. You can easily change and play with different field parameters." The program is positioned as being similar to fractal-generation programs but driven by a "unique math algorithm which generates beautiful, complex patterns." Pros will certainly appreciate being able to generate high-resolution images or export them to common graphic file formats.

A timeline panel makes it possible to control animations via keyframes, with the final effect saved as a sequence of images in JPG, BMP, TIF or PNG format with alpha channel, or as a lossless or 4K compressed video. Field editing allows users to copy a field’s parameters to another field, duplicate fields or select all fields at once. It's also possible to set a number of grids to position fields more precisely. A multi-selection tool is said to ease editing by adding the ability to quickly scale, pan and rotate selected fields. A range of preferences can also be set, such as memory usage, keyboard shortcuts and the compression level of JPG exports. Two Modifiers — Variations and Wave — which the developer describes being "a coherent system of magnetic fields and particles in deformed space." To get a sense of that, below are examples of a square wave modifier with different frequency and amplitude settings.

Version 2.1 adds support for the huffYUV, VP8 and H.265 codecs, the latter of which is said to provide a 40-50% bit rate reduction compared with H.264 at the same visual quality. Support for the AVI and WEBM video formats was also added. Users can now edit the position of keyframes directly on the animation curve, with keys displayed as draggable nodes.

It's also possible to precisely edit the animation trajectory by moving the tangents of a key, as shown at right. Other improvements include the display of the estimated time of the final render; auto animation looping when the first and last frame are identical; and improved snap to grid. Following just four months after the release of version 2, it's encouraging to see this pace of development for such a modest program.

Amberlight 2.1 for Mac and Windows can be purchased for $59.99 on the Escape Motions site. A trial version is also available for download.