I have no idea how I did this.I have no idea how I did this.

Okay, here’s my review of Amberlight.

It’s a fractal program with a unique set of features and a nearly-decent price (more on that), and it comes up with some interesting effects.  Capable of merging with your pictures and even into Photoshop, it’s a pretty nifty tool – but can it stand up against others in its class, like Chaotica?

Let’s find out.

Graphics

The particle effects look absolutely wonderful – even if you have no idea what you’re doing.

I assure you, as soon as I figure out how how I did any of this, I’ll let you know.I assure you, as soon as I figure out how how I did any of this, I’ll let you know.

That’s mainly because most fractal programs are run and gun; that is, you press a button, and it will pretty much do the work for you if all you know how to do is to just press buttons and stare at a screen.  Seriously, it’s that simple, and that amazing.  But really, all fractal programs do this, so Amberlight’s not winning any points for originality there.

But what it does, it does marvelously.  I played around with a couple other fractal renders just to stack them up, and Amberlight is pretty good at what it does, focusing more on the particle sprays and waves than hard fractals or the like.  as a result, it comes up with rather interesting, ghostly images like the one above.  While I have seen some truly impressive renders from other programs, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like what Amberlight offers, and that is its strength.

Controls

Amberlight’s UI. Note the control circles in the image – that’s for direct manipulation.Amberlight’s UI. Note the control circles in the image – that’s for direct manipulation.

As noted above, the control schematic is simple enough for beginners to work with, but has enough versatility for experts to schlep around with.  Note the circles directly above the image – that’s the control system to directly manipulate the image, controlling force, intensity, radius and cutoff.  The left side controls the rendering, while the right side controls the colors, variation and your image manipulation (if you’re throwing other pics into the mix; more on that later.)  All in all, the layout is pretty tight.

Unfortunately….

Usability

This is where the program, in my opinion, takes a huge nosedive: its export methods.  For starters, there’s not many methods that you can export to (PNG, JPEG, BMP and TIF) outside of the proprietary AMB file, and you have to export those other formats by saving in the same manner you would your AMB workfile.  If you’re coming from Photoshop, Illustrator or some other imaging program, this is going to be a bit of a curveball.  Not a big one, mind, but one of those things that make you go “hmmm….”

The other major deal is the default upload to the Escape Motions gallery.  Uh, why not DeviantArt, Behance, Pixiv or a dozen other ones out there?  For a program that’s not well known, you would think that getting the word out would be a priority.  I think they do themselves a huge disservice here by defaulting to their own setup, and while there may be a way around that, the only one I’ve found is the esoteric export.

Another problem is the inability to upload custom gradient maps.  Yeah, another minor quibble, but with readymade ones out in the wild, there’s no excuse not to be able to do this.

But ultimately, these are all minor issues, and it’s possible that they’ll be weeded out in future editions.

Versatility

Oh, look – I managed to do this much….Oh, look – I managed to do this much….

As you can see, it plays well with rendering programs such as Poser or DAZ Studio.  However, it should be noted that it’s image on image, not direct import of the mesh.  Still, if you manage to play around with it, it can be pretty cool.  The above was done in a few minutes just to see how the thing worked; I’m sure that i could whip up something a little more impressive in a few minutes more.

This is another strength of Amberlight: the ability to tie your particle generations into other art and not make it just abstract.  Need a wormhole in your webcomic?  There you go.  Require a flaming sword in your render?  Voila!  And so forth and so on.  I could go more on this, but I think you get the idea – whether still frame or animation.

Overall

Yeah, you can get other fractal programs free.  Not knocking those.  But Amberlight brings something new to the table that you rarely see in programs like this.  Plus, at less than $30 dollars (and in truth, you can often even get it for less than $10 at Mighty Deals), it’s worth adding to your collection.  You’ll get some use out of it, I’m sure, and it’s very much worth the run.

Amberlight is available at Escape Motions and Mighty Deals for $29.99.

Disclosure: Wataridori purchased a copy of Amberlight.

Amberlight Review

Graphics: 93% - 1 votes
93%
Brilliant particle rendering
Controls: 83% - 1 votes
83%
Simple but deep controls help with the art
Usability: 70% - 1 votes
70%
Export is awkward and has very odd defaults.
Versatility: 95% - 1 votes
95%
Works great in tandem with other programs

Buy

A nice little entry into the paid fractals scene