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/// Usenet Review: Brilliance
By Marc Rifkin
Brilliance is a paint and animation program which supports AGA,
ANIM-8, and is capable of true 24-bit painting (displayed as HAM).
Name: Digital Creations
Address: PO Box 97
Folsom, CA 95673-0097
Telelphone: (916) 344-4825
Fax: (916) 635-0475
BBS: (916) 983-3288
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
Brilliance works with all Amigas with a minimum 1 megabyte of RAM.
A hardware device (dongle) must be plugged into the joystick port.
Also, the user must enter a serial number the first time Brilliance is
installed. The dongle makes this copy protection quite annoying, but
Brilliance is still worth it.
MACHINES USED FOR TESTING
Amiga 4000 (040, 10MB RAM)
Amiga 1200 (GVP 40Mhz 030, 10MB RAM)
Amiga 3000 (12 MB RAM)
Brilliance is actually two programs. "Brilliance" is register color
only (no HAM) with 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and Extra Halfbright (EHB); and on AGA
64, 128 and 256 colors. "TrueBrilliance" is true color (15-bit or 24-bit)
in memory and uses HAM (or HAM8) for display. A single program would seem
to make more sense; but considering how differently they treat some of the
functions, one program would be too large.
Many people have Deluxe Paint, and several are using the AGA
version. DPaint has become the benchmark to which any other paint/animation
program is compared. The biggest difference with Brilliance is speed; the
magnify mode comes up instantly, the menus can be toggled off and on easily,
and the drawing tools are very responsive. I'll make other comparisons with
DPaint as I discuss other features.
Brilliance's user interface is composed of stackable, button-only,
slices of screens. There are no drop-down menus; and as you move the
pointer over various tools, a window tells you the name of that tool. This
makes it very easy to get working quickly. You can stack slices all the way
up to the top of the screen and still make them vanish with the tap of the
SPACE bar. In Brilliance, drawing operations occur in real time, but in
TrueBrilliance, there is a lag after you finish a drawing operation when it
is updating its 24-bit internal image. Also, brush and filled tools will do
a temporary preview before you release the button. For example, if you have
a gradient-filled rectangle with transparency turned on, Brilliance will
draw the rectangle, transparency and all, if you hold the mouse still. But
then you can still move the pointer and reshape the rectangle before
Brilliance has all of the standard drawing tools, but some have
extensive control. The rectangle and circle/ellipse tools allow you to draw
either from the center or the corner. The curve tool has a Bezier curve
mode where you place four control points and can then move them freely
before committing the drawing with the right mouse button. I wish all of
the tools could use the control point approach.
The Text tool supports scalable fonts, and unlike Deluxe Paint (where
you type right on the screen), you type into a requester and the text
becomes the current brush. But just like DPaint, you cannot create text
with a gradient -- you have to place it down first then fill it.
Although the airbrush tool is more adjustable than DPaint's,
providing radius, focus and shape, it is still just a sprinkle-brush and not
a true airbrush. It is virtually impossible to get a soft looking line -- it
always gets over-dithered. This is a particularly major disappointment with
TrueBrilliance where a soft airbrush should be possible (all other 24-bit
paint programs have it) and was done in Digital Creations' own DCTVPaint.
If you make a mistake, there's an UNDO button. And if you made two
or more mistakes, you can keep hitting UNDO again and again, removing parts
of your drawing. Then you can REDO and add back what you just took away.
UNDO/REDO is modified by sizing the buffer that holds your changes.
Brilliance has a good variety of drawing modes, all of which are
well implemented. They are: (Solid) Color, Tint, Colorize, Brighten,
Darken, Stencil (Draw), Mix, Smooth, Smear, Avg Smear, Range, Cycle, Random,
Dither 1 and 2, Negative, Halfbright (in EHB mode) and Not. Stencil lets
you modify the shape of the stencil with drawing tools, Range cycles colors
you draw over according to the current gradient. Dither is a selectable
(usually checkerboard) pattern. You can always toggle between Color and
whatever mode you have selected.
Gradient modes are: Horizontal, Vertical, Linear, Highlight,
Spherical and Radial. Gradients are created by clicking and placing colors
on a scrollable clothesline. You can alter a numerical value that will give
more apparent colors than the ones you place down. That relieves you from
having to select all of the colors of a range in the palette -- you could
just pick the two ends.
Brushes can be sized, flipped, bent, sheared, rotated or outlined.
You can have eight alternative brushes, each represented by an icon on the
brush screen. Brushes can be loaded from or saved to the Clipboard.
Animbrushes are fully supported with morphing. You can really appreciate
the buttons-based design if you've used DPaint's menus and windows for
animbrushes. The morphing is not bad, but the regions that are created in
the process are divided by what looks like lightning bolts. For real
morphing, you'll want a real morphing program.
The Stencil operates in two ways -- by colors and by drawing shapes.
Color selection is easy by toggling on the ever-present selection palette or
you can lasso an area on the screen and all the colors inside get chosen.
Switching between color selection and drawing shapes is a breeze.
TrueBrilliance has a color variance feature to get a range of colors by
selecting just one. One interesting effect is that the stencil will warp
gradients that are drawn overlapping it.
For those of you who use DPaint, animation is probably either a
practiced science or a mystical art. With Brilliance, it is straightforward
and fast. DPaint AGA is notoriously slow and even locks up when you try to
play some animations. A drag-bar in Brilliance allows you to scroll through
the frames; and if you move too fast, it skips until you stop on one. Frames
can be created, added, deleted and copied. Similar to the Move Requester of
DPaint is the Tween screen. Tweening allows you to animate a brush over all
or part of an animation in X, Y, Z movement and rotation as well as
opacity. Each aspect can be independently set for ease-in or ease out. And
the best part is you can edit the position and rotation of the start and end
values both numerically and visually (with a special editing screen).
Unfortunately you cannot load or save these numbers, which would allow more
complex paths. You can do a wireframe preview and if you don't like it
after rendering, you can UNDO it, frame by frame.
Brilliance uses custom file requestors which have various buttons
relevant to different types of files. One common function is an Info
button that will tell you about a file you have located with the
requestor (like image format or number of frames). Brilliance can
load register based images with up to 256 colors, grey scale images ,
and DCTV display images. TrueBrilliance can load HAM, HAM8, and 15 or
24-bit pictures. Both can read/write ANIM OPT5 (the old standard)
and ANIM OPT 8.
Documentation is a single, small, spiral-bound book. It contains
Installation, Tutorials and Reference for both Brilliance and
TrueBrilliance. The Tutorials are comprehensive but not exciting. The
Reference is extremely useful in explaining the few things that aren't
apparent just by using the program.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
Everything is well organized and operates smoothly. I just wish
they had gone a little further in some areas, rather than just doing what
everyone else already had in a paint program (like more flexible animation
frame editing). Also, there's no ARexx or support for third party graphics
Here's one complaint about Brilliance. I enjoy the way that DPaint
lets you interrupt anything with the SPACE bar or ESCape. You could also
switch from a rectangle to a line to a circle in mid-action. You can't do
either with Brilliance. Not everything can be aborted or changed.
COMPARISONS TO OTHER PRODUCTS
I have been comparing this to DPaint a lot and my verdict is: keep
DPaint on your hard drive for a few weeks while you get used to Brilliance.
But soon you won't need DPaint. Since TrueBrilliance lacks a real airbrush
as well as alpha (transparency) mapping, you'll still need a program like
ADPro, ImageFX or OpalPaint. Those programs also have many more drawing
modes and file formats.
I haven't had any problems serious enough to call Digital Creations
yet. I also own DCTV, which also was very stable in its first release- and
soon the 1.1 version came out which added the features many thought were
missing in 1.0. I expect the same to happen with Brilliance.
The warranty is 90 days and requires the customer to pay all
Marc Rifkin - Graphic and Multimedia Production
121 Shasta Road
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 USA