Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mystical Focus from Auto FX

It's been a bumper crop for new releases from the long silent Auto FX. You'll see information on Mystical Lighting & Ambiance 2.0 a little further down. But brand new on the market is another package called Mystical Focus.

I spent some time with Auto FX's Cliff Weems and asked him about Mystical Focus.

What sets this Mystical Focus apart from other options on the market?

Our framework allows us to dynamically render and combine different filters together. We can combine a Focal Plane with a Focal Brush effect then add in a Panning Focus to just a small part of the image. We have robust brush-on / brush-off tools as well as ellipse controls / path controls and focal mask controls that are really easy and fast to work with.

There is another release on the market that seems to have a similar "focus." How does Mystical Focus compare to Alien Skin's Bokeh release?

Jeff Butterworth has done a fantastic job with all the plug-ins at Alien Skin - they are a top notch company and we like all of their products. Our Focus has taken a creative approach to setting moods and looks and combining different filters together to generate new and exciting looks. Bokeh has taken more of a traditional approach to matching the camera lens types that a photographer can identify with.

When Bokeh was launched, the reaction from some parts of the market were "I can already do that in Photoshop." Can people make the same comment about MF?

If you take enough time you can do just about anything in Photoshop - but we have some looks that you'd be hard pressed to duplicate in Photoshop without spending tons of time. You can rapidly (in just a minute or less) combine filters and capture a look - I will stress that Mystical Focus is not a collection of Blur filters - it is MUCH, MUCH more.

What was the toughest part of this development?

Capturing the looks and making it easy to just brush-on / and go. Our customers need a FAST solution that lets them get creative right without spending a lot of time trying to get what they want. I am really anxious to see our multi-core engine come out as that will make much of our software close-to-real time and we want to do this for our customers very soon.

Who's the primary market for this package?

We see this being attractive to photographers who are both novice and looking to capture some high-end professional looks and moods as well as being attractive to the pro who values the artistry of the software and how it can help them in post-production. Even the best photographer / Photoshop artist has one commonality - saving time while providing a superior end-result / work of art to their customer.

That's it for the interview with Cliff Weens of Auto FX.

I've been working with Mystical Focus for a week and a half now, trying out the various filters.

The effect at the top of this posting was accomplished in less than a minute. It uses the Radial Focus, which has a "global effect." An Ellipse can be applied to change the effect of the blur on the image.

The filter applies with lightning speed and I have been utterly delighted with how quickly professional effects can be applied and then customized to suit the precise parameters of the project.

There are eight Focal effects simulating a really broad spectrum of results.

The really interesting options are presented under the Atmosphere Menu. Here are six outstanding options that add the kind of stuff you expect like "Grain and Noise" to stuff you never expected like Highlight Smear and a Vignetting option guaranteed to blow your socks off.

Here is a filter set that hits a home run in areas like ease of use, and application speed. The interface is intuitive and extra Auto FX touches like instant explanation of the control your cursor is resting on eases the learning curve very significantly.

It's a package designed to save you time, vast amounts of it, even as it delivers genuinely clean and easy-to-customize results.

Overall rating: 9/10

You owe it to yourself to take a hard look at Mystical Focus. It's one of the best new filter sets on the market. It's selling for $149. You can get an additional 10% off using a time limited code.

If a rich relative has died, or you are casting about for something worthwhile to "invest" that income tax refund money in, you may even want to consider the whole Mystical Suite, composed of Mystical Lighting & Ambiance 2.0, Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 and Mystical Focus. This suite is marketed for $399.00 and qualifies for the 10% discount.

Auto FX makes some of the most inventive software around for graphic designers and photographers. Take a few minutes to download the demo version. And let me know what YOU think, okay?

As Weems said, the real power of this package, in addition to the speed and specialization of the effects, is in the ability to blend them. Layers can be created within Mystical Focus and then blended and combined with other effects from the Atmosphere menu OR any of the other Mystical Suite effects. As you can probably tell: I really like this whole package.

Find all the goodies at

A FINAL NOTE ABOUT REVIEWS: I don't make anything for recommending or reviewing the software on this site. I don't get a commission and you will notice there are NO banner ads for any of the software companies -- even the ones I like. I know times are tight for a lot of us in the design/photography field and it's important that you be able to trust someone to tell you what they REALLY think.

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