eXtensions - Monday 3 July 2017

Imagengine Vector Camera: Unusual iOS Cartoon App - Had me from the word, Go

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By Graham K. Rogers

Imaengine Vector Camera

In the last few days, following a few updates of older apps so that they can run in iOS 11, I have been looking at a number of apps that produce output in cartoon format. I went looking for more. There are several available, but I excluded some because they only worked with photos and not video, and others that looked too frivolous. I excluded one other that was listed as a Pro app, because the price of in-app purchases was too high for me.

One I did like was the oddly-named, Imaengine Vector Camera from Laranxaworks - Luis Manuel Rivas - although there is not much information on the website. There is also Imaengine School Edition, which is identical to Imaengine Vector Camera when the in-app purchases are made.

Imaengine Vector Camera

Once initial permissions are granted, the main panel offers 4 editing options: Real time, which gives access to the camera; Import Photo; Import video; and the last library import, so the user may edit a photo just taken. The camera access opens in FaceTime (selfie) mode with the still camera, although video or camera selection depends on the last use.

Apart from photos in the library, filters are always applied in the app. There are 32 of these, although some are locked initially. Even so, they are accessible, so I was able to see the types of output available. With my first look round, I was impressed with the potential here. I quickly decided to make the in-app purchase. The screen that appeared initially quoted $2, but within a second or so, a small banner slid onto the screen indicating a 69 baht price, which was confirmed in the App Store and by the TouchID.

Imaengine Vector Camera Imaengine Vector Camera Imaengine Vector Camera

Each filter has 3 or 4 sliders to control the effect, but these sliders are not the same for each. Nor are the filters all the same in the way they work: for example, one filter icon is a Question Mark and by tapping the icon, a different effect is applied each time. Another filter may have a series of color selectors; and one has a series of globe-like icons for changing the filter format.

Most of the icons have what seems to be a Spanish lady on them. These and any sliders or other controls may be hidden by pressing a Controls icon that sits on the top left of the screen. Only the Home and photo (or video) control buttons remain visible.

The more I looked at the potential for output from the app, the more I was impressed, even with the non-standard interfacing. If anything, the near-randomness (including that icon with the question mark) added to the charm of this app, especially considering the hundreds (or even thousands) of output variations possible. A specific output style could be saved, using a Presets button, just to the right of a control that is marked REC (or Stop Recording) for video, or Pause when the camera mode is active.

Pressing Pause freezes the image and shows an Editor option on the top right of the screen. This gives access to RGB sliders, color selectors, brushes and other tools so that the image can be almost fully redrawn. A Pinch to Zoom option means that some quite fine adjustments can be made. While this was quite useful on the iPhone, the screen size of an iPad - especially the 12.9" iPad Pro, added a new range of possibilities to this app.

Imaengine Vector Camera
Editing in Imaengine Vector Camera on iPad Pro

Pause is also used to export or share an image and this gives several options. Social networking sites are offered, but other possibilities include direct to Dropbox, Adobe Illustrator or Creative Cloud as PDF or vector images. This is unusual and perhaps aimed at design professionals who would find scalable images of considerable value. Photo images can be saved either as JPG or PNG with 5 levels of quality to choose from.

Imaengine Vector Camera
Imaengine Vector Camera export options

The default is level 3 and an expected image size of 4703 x 2645. The largest (5) is 5878 x 5878. This actually produced a PNG image that was 7838 x 4409 and some 2.3MB. No other metadata was included. I exported one of these images in TIFF format at full size and that gave me an image 109" x 61" - quite respectable from a smartphone.

Imaengine Vector Camera

The images that I was producing have a fluid look to them: no firm outlines, and a decidedly retro (cartoon) look. While scenes and buildings are recognizable, people (especially faces) are far less easy to identify. This was perhaps more evident in video output.

I recorded several video clips with Imaengine and selected a couple of these for this page. There are more comments after the videos.

The first is here:

The second video is here:

This app has been around for a couple of years, but as I have commented a number of times before, unless an app attracts the attention of an Editor, or hits the Best of lists, it sinks into the massive library of the App Store and may never see light again.

Imaengine Vector Camera was originally released in March 2014 and has seen a number of updates since then, showing a general number of fixes and improvements. The most recent update (5.3.0) was released just before the end of June, but there is a note on the App Store rubric, "Version 6 is coming with great enhancements. Available in a few weeks."

I look forward to this.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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