[Review] Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition

Version reviewed:

v3.41

Software description as per the developer:

Transform your real-world photo into an animated nature scene by adding a wide array of water, weather and sound effects to your own photos and images. All visual effects have been recreated with accurate physics, so ripples on the water or subtle movements of the air look and behave just like they might in the physical life. The end result is a superbly lifelike and atmospheric presentation that can be saved as a screensaver, a standalone executable, an AVI or animated GIF file and distributed to other people, who can admire your creation.

Supported OS:

Windows 2000 and higher

Price:

$24.95 (USD)

Ashraf’s note:

Nature Illusion Studio comes in two editions: Standard and Professional. There are only two differences between Standard Edition and Professional Edition:

  • Professional Edition can add animated objects, while Standard Edition cannot.
  • Professional Edition can add background sound, while Standard Edition cannot.

This review is on Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition. However, the screenshots in this review show Professional Edition because I was provided with the Professional Edition by the developer. But, to make this review be on Standard Edition and not Professional Edition, I have not discussed the two Professional Edition-only features (adding animated objects and background sound). My final verdict is based on Standard Edition not Professional Edition. Please just ignore the Professional Edition-only features in the screenshots. I apologize for the inconvenience.

{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Allows users to add water (6 different ones), snow, and rain effects.
  • Effects can be custom modified to change their parameters.
  • Allows users to output animated scenes as screensavers, EXE Flash files, AVI videos, or animated GIFs.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • Lacks in diversity of animated effects – need more than just water/rain/snow effects.
  • Only allows users to animate JPEG/JPG and BMP images – does not support PNG or GIF.
  • Only supports AVI format for output as video; lacks support for other popular format such as FLV or MP4.
  • Uses non-standard hotkey for “Redo” (Shift + Ctrl + Z instead of Ctrl + Y).
  • Incites users to download another program (Nature Illusion Screensaver) without clearly mentioning in the program that it costs $19.95
  • Has the EULA automatically checked for acceptance. Users must opt-out of the EULA instead of the customary opt-in.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”9″}Very easy to use with a few minor caveats: The hotkey for “Redo” is Shift + Ctrl + Z instead of the standard Ctrl + Y and users are half-tricked into downloading another program (Nature Illusion Screensaver) without clearly mentioning in the program that it costs $19.95
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”7″}For the features it does have, it works really well. However, I feel Nature Illusion Studio is a bit thin on features: The available effects to use is limited to water, rain, and snow (there are 6 different water effects, though); only JPEG/JPG and BMP images are supported for animation; And only AVI is supported for output as video.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”5″}If the program was fully featured I could see many people finding it useful (for fun, at least, if not for work). However, as it stands, the program is a bit thin on features in my opinion and thus usefulness is a hit or miss.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”6″}For a fully featured program $24.95 is an extremely fair price tag. But, as it stands I believe $15-20 is better for this software.
{/for}
{for=”Final Score” value=”6″}
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_badb}During installation EULA is accepted for the user by default:

Not only is this unorthodox, but this is wrong: Users should always opt-in to accept a EULA.

Furthermore, the developer of Nature Illusion Studio has another program called Nature Illusion Screensaver, which costs $19.95. The developer includes advertisement for Nature Illusion Screensaver in Nature Illusion Studio, inticing users to download Nature Illusion Screensaver without clearly mentioning it costs $19.95 (the user learns about its price after the developer’s website loads, though):

While I am not a fan of advertising within paid software, if the developer wants to do that, okay fine. But, he/she should clearly label it so the user knows before being taken to the developer’s website that Nature Illusion Screensaver costs $19.95.

{/rw_badb} –>

{rw_verdict}[to]
{/rw_verdict} –>

Similar to previously reviewed ArtStudio, Nature Illusion Studio is an image animation program that allows users to easily and quickly animate images.

When you run Nature Illusion Studio, you are prompted with the preface window which prompts you to 1) load a previous project 2) create a new project or 3) use one of the example projects:

When creating a new project, you need to import a JPEG/JPG or BMP image which you can then animate:

Yes, unfortunately, only JPEG/JPG and BMP images are supported.

Once an image has been loaded, you can start animating it:

You can animate images with three different effects: Water, snow, and rain. Nature Illusion Studio comes with 6 different water effects, one snow, and one rain. Each effect can be manually customized, if desired. Applying effects works just like painting – just use the pen and “paint” over the area you want the effect. There is also a paint bucket tool for applying effects over large areas quickly. Right-clicking over an area deletes any effects.

In some images it may be hard to see mask colors, so users have the ability to invert mask colors (to make the masks easier to see) via “View” -> “Invert Mask Color”.

When you are done adding effects, you can preview what the animated scene will look like after you publish it:

The “Preview” button will allow you to preview the animated scene as if it were a screensaver; the “Auto View” button allows you to preview the animated scene from within the program window.

When all is set and done, users are allowed to publish the animated scene as a screensaver, a Flash EXE file, an AVI video, or an animated GIF:

With the features it does have, Nature Illusion Studio creates great animated screensavers/Flash EXEs/AVI videos/animated GIFs. The quality is nothing short of excellent. The only problem is I feel Nature Illusion Studio is a bit thin on features:

  • Nature Illusion Studio only has water, rain, and snow effects. Although creative people may find creative unorthodox ways to apply these effects, this is very disappointing; I would like the developer to add more effects such as cloud, smoke, blur, stars, etc.
  • Nature Illusion Studio only allows users to animate JPEG/JPG and BMP images. Where is the PNG and (still) GIF support?
  • Nature Illusion Studio only supports AVI format for output as video. Where is support for other popular video formats, likeFLV and MP4?

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}I don’t know of any free alternatives. Post in the comments below if you do.
{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition is a good program for the features it does have. However, I feel it doesn’t have enough features – the lack of effects is especially disappointing. If you want Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition get it, but with only three effects I find this program to be just ordinary. While I don’t know of any free substitutes to Nature Illusion Studio, if you want to purchase an easy-animator program ArtStudio is well worth $25.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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12 comments

  1. donotcrack

    Free Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition @bitsdujour

    Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition transforms your nature photos into living works of art with weather effects that are sure to astound! Using Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition, you can add realistic snow, water, rain, and more, then throw in some butterflies, birds, and other objects to increase the level of nature in your nature photography. You don’t need to be a professional graphic designer, either, since Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition offers an intuitive interface that lets anyone transform their photos.

    Get Free Nature Illusion Studio Standard Edition – only March, 15, 2013

    http://www.bitsdujour.com/software/nature-illusion-studio-standard-edition

  2. Wallace

    I tried downloading this program.  Could not activate.  Received message, “Failed to connect.  Please try again later”.  I tried to activate program with firewall and anti-virus turned off, same result.  Any suggestions.  Thanks.

  3. KingJasper

    Hi Ashraf. Just a quick thing.
    You say :-

    Uses non-standard hotkey for “Undo” (Shift + Ctrl + Z instead of Ctrl + Y).

    Unless I am mistaken, Undo is usually CTRL+Z. CTRL+Y is usually Redo?
    Anyway, another excellent review as always.
    Cheers.

  4. phoenix_rising

    I was having a look around for some freeware progs that can add water, sound, etc, effects to pics and found Life Photo Maker (free version). It can add water and sound effects (limited to two each on the free edition). Snow and rain effects are only available on the Pro version, but it might be worth a look if you’re into that type of thing. It’s available at http://www.lifephotomaker.com/download.php
     
     I also came across Sqirlz Water Reflections, also freeware. It doesn’t add sound effects, but according to the website it adds: “rippling pools of water, and rain or snow effects, to images or existing AVI videos. The pools can be animated to give lifelike rippling reflections of the scene above them, and can be of any shape. Choose from a variety of ripple shapes, and control details such as wave size, perspective, water transparency and flow direction.”

    “The raindrops and snow flakes can be adjusted in many ways, including size, speed, direction, transparency and scene depth effects. Animations can be saved as Macromedia Flash (SWF) files, animated GIF files, AVI video clips, and sets of bitmap, JPEG, PNG and TIFF files.”

    It’s available at http://www.xiberpix.net/SqirlzReflect.html

  5. Trev

    Hey Ashraf, may I ask why it is on the GOTD website, your comment review summary LINK> to Dottech, takes an hour or so before it works or for the review to show on Dotech.
    Is your review automatically posted on Dotech -about 3am or something I believe over there- or do you have to be awake to post it.
    GOTD new giveaways start at 5pm or 6pm here in Australia (the hour change I guess due to daylight saving over there), so I am always nicely awake and on to it.
    Dottech is a great web site!
    Thanks for all the work you put in.
    Don’t burn your self out!