Canopus Imaginate test

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Canopus Imaginate

Canopus is best known as a maker of first-rate Windows video editing hardware. But it also produces some interesting software, the latest being a program that promises easy manipulation of stills for video use.

Whether it's panning across a group portrait, following a route on a map, or swooping over a broad landscape, the animation of still images can enhance almost any video footage. Rostrum camera equipment is expensive, however, and the stills-manipulation capabilities of many video editing programs are weak or tricky to use - with the honourable exception of Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video.

Spotting a gap in the market, Canopus has come up with Imaginate - a Windows program that works on its own or as a plug-in for Adobe Premiere, and promises easy animation of stills and the ability to output its workings to video in a range of file formats.

Imaginateís interface is dominated by a large working canvas onto which a still image is imported. There are three other main elements - a timeline along the bottom, a preview window at the top right and, beneath that, a keyframe configuration window with two tabbed panes, each with controls for different aspects of the movement of a virtual camera. There are also two toolbars - one running down the left side, and another along the top, below the menu bar, which has video-play controls. The four main elements can be resized and undocked and moved around the screen - as can the toolbars.

Changes to the camera view (and, hence, to the image) can be achieved either from controls within the keyframe configuration window or by activating one of four tools on the left-hand tool bar, then directly manipulating a picture-frame on the main canvas. Changes are immediately reflected in the preview window, and can be played back reasonably smoothly on even quite lowly PCs ñ though we found a Windows 2000, PIII 450MHz machine just a bit too lowly. There is no preview output to FireWire, so projects can't be viewed full-screen on a TV set or video monitor until they've been rendered to video and brought into an editing program that has FireWire output.

Canopus has put a lot of thought into Imaginate, making the process of manipulating stills for video more intuitive than on any other program we've seen. But there is one thing about the program we don't like - its price, £175. While appreciating that this is specialised software, we believe it is a program with very wide appeal. That means that if Canopus makes it a lot more affordable, it can reasonably expect the program to sell in very large numbers - which is exactly what it deserves to do.

Hugo Frazer

Read the full review in February 2003's Computer Video magazine.



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