Mighty Morphin' GS Graphics

In our first issue, I wrote about Mike Westerfield's Quick Click Calc, a new IIGS spreadsheet that includes new features like Publish & Subscribe. The Quick Click line of products is expanding, and it's newest product is Quick Click Morph.

The idea behind a Morph is simple. Take two pictures and change the first one gradually into the second, and then display the changes as an animation or movie. Getting a morph made is not as easy, however...changing the graphic involves subtle shifts in the shape of the graphic, as well as shifts in color.

This is where a morphing program comes in. The program will create the individual frames of a gradually changing graphic, then allow the user to play back the frames as a movie.

Quick Click Morph does all of that. It can work with standard Super High Res (SHR) graphics, or with Tagged Image Format File (TIFF) graphics, in 16, 128 or 256 colors. In order to make a morph you load at least two key frames into the program, and se t one or more control points, points that get mapped to each other. For example, you might load a picture of a person as an infant and a picture of that person as an adult. Then you make the centers of the eyes control points. When you morph the first pi cture into the second, the eyes will become fixed points that the rest of the morph evolves around. You could have more than two keyframes, with the morphs going from one to the other.

What would you do with a morphing program in the classroom? Morphing is a great vehicle for displaying information that changes over time. An example of this is included with the program, in which the skull of an australopethicus africanus morphs into the skull of a homo erectus, which in turn morphs into the skull of a homo sapiens. Other uses could be having a caterpillar become a pupae then a butterfly, or showing continental drift, or the growth of the United States from 13 Atlantic colonies thr ough the Louisiana purchase to the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny. As a part of a multimedia report in HyperCard or HyperStudio, a morph enhances the audience's understanding, because time-based information actually occurs over time. This is a much more effective method of presentation than a series of still shots, and students will have fun doing this.

Quick Click Morph is a resource intensive program, however. You won't be rendering morphs in a few minutes. On my 4.25 MB IIGS without an accelerator it took 35 minutes to render a 10 frame Morph, using two 16 color APF files as the key frames. Larger , more complex morphs might take hours. Of course, a simple classroom solution would be to have a student import the key frames, set the control points, and then save the morph file. At the end of the day, open any saved morph files on your classroom IIG S's and let them render overnight. When you come back in the morning your morphs will be waiting. Also, large movie files might not be able to be played back within QC Morph (I ran into this problem when I generated a 15 frame morph). However, there is a n option for saving a movie to disk which works frame by frame, reducing the memory overhead. The movie can then be played with an external movie player. In fact, one is included with the program.

As with all of the ByteWorks programs that I have seen so far, the manual for QC Morph is pretty clearly laid out, and it has a very good tutorial. I really suggest that you follow the tutorial; I ran into some problems on my first few morphs, as I ju mped right in and started clicking away (perhaps forgivably, as I had waited nearly two months for the program to arrive!), and I would have had better luck had I paid closer attention to the manual (big surprise there!). My problem was that I set up a m orph with two key frames and then generated the fifth frame only to get a look at the morph before starting the whole process. But I did not remove the fifth frame when I generated the entire sequence of ten frames, and that was what messed up my morph. Once I realized the mistake and generated the morph file with only the key frames, it produced a great morph (a movie showing Bill Gates changing into Steve Jobs). With some tweaking of the original colors and location on the page of the graphics, an eve n nicer job is possible.

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