heard Debabelizer described as a graphic artist's Swiss army knife,
as a computer graphic Cuisinart and as an indispensable "software
appliance." In fact, multimedia artists on the Macintosh have been
swearing by it for years. Now, through a very unusual cycle of product
evolution, Debabelizer Pro, including a long awaited interface make-over,
is available for the Windows 95/NT platform. Finally, after six
years of development, the folks at Equilibrium
have addressed the need to redesign this highly utilitarian, but
awkwardly implemented, graphics processor. At the same time, they
have decided they need to seek a broader market.
given the company's limited resources, the new version I'm reviewing
here, Debabelizer Pro, runs only on Windows 95/NT 4.0. The Mac version
of Debabelizer (currently shipping version 1.6.5) continues to support
veteran Mac users (such as myself) who have found Debabelizer so
useful that we have been willing to crack the code of its anti-intuitive
interface. Apparently, the Mac version of Debabelizer Pro will not
be available for about six months.
has defined its own niche by successfully addressing some essential
needs that are not addressed so comprehensively in any other program;
and there are three main areas of functionality: file conversion,
batch processing and color palette manipulation.
translation and conversion is where Debabelizer originally got its
name because of the way it cuts through the alphabet soup of graphic
file formats. Boasting the ability to read and write over 90 graphic
and digital movie file types, Debabelizer is the ultimate tool for
multi-platform graphics production environments. For example, multimedia
production studios who are using PC's or workstations to create
3-D animations and who are also using Macs and QuickTime for multimedia
authoring frequently need Debabelizer to share files.
also supports workstations such as SGI and Sun, other UNIX file
formats as well as even more unusual file formats such as Pro Video's
Abekas and Consumer Electronics' Phillips CD-I Batches & Scripts.
of Debabelizer's most valuable features comes from Equilibrium's
commitment to automating the graphics processing process. These
capabilities can save time, big time. Because Debabelizer leverages
its broad array of functions including file conversion, resizing,
simple rotations and cropping, any Photoshop compatible plug-in,
and palette reductions within a simple scripting format, graphics
processing that most other programs must do one file at a time becomes
automatic for as many files as you like -- including the ability
to process digital movies. With Debabelizer, multiple commands (called
a Script) are applied to multiple files (called a Batch List) with
one drag and drop command. And the Scripts can be created very easily
with an intuitive and automatic "show me" command that records your
actions. In fact, one of the real advantages of Debabelizer Pro's
new interface is the utilization of drag and drop for almost every
function. Most operations have become far more intuitive because
the program's new multi-window format allows you to view numerous
images, batch lists, scripts and palette windows simultaneously.
Then, by using a new "ActionArrow" that sits next to the Minimize,
Maximize and Close buttons in the upper right corner of otherwise
standard windows, you simply apply a script from one window to a
document or batch list sitting in another window by dragging and
invented the term SuperPalette;
and it's a function which can only be
performed effectively with DeBabelizer."
new with Debabelizer Pro is the ability to analyze the graphic files
of an entire web site. For example, if you want to map the colors
of an entire web site to the Netscape color palette (Netscape uses
its own set of 216 colors that is different than the Windows 256-color
"system palette"), you can create the Script and then drag that
Script as an object onto the Web site's folder and Debabelizer will
distinguish the graphics files from the HTML text files and apply
the color processing to every relevant graphics file within the
Pro can also automate alpha and other channel manipulations, mask
creation and more. SuperPalette Essentials & Reductions Color
palette manipulation is a frequently misunderstood, but essential
art for multimedia and web site creators, and as far as I know,
there is no other program that provides the degree of palette control
that Debabelizer Pro offers. For example, on Debabelizer's demo
CD-ROM, Rick Smolins, the producer of the award-winning CD- ROM
"Passage to Vietnam" explains that he depended on Debabelizer to
reduce the file sizes of this disk's high quality photos without
a noticeable reduction in quality.
web developers need to get graphic file sizes as small as possible
in order to facilitate fast downloads that minimize the "wait" in
World Wide Wait. Debabelizer lets you reduce the color-depth to
virtually any size, and it does so with remarkable quality, either
with dithering or without. It also supports interlaced, transparent
and animated GIFs. Lack of knowledge of how to reduce file size
by reducing the graphic file's color depth (number of colors) is
one of the biggest problems on the Web. Palette manipulations can
be applied to digital movies as well, including the ability to apply
effects or other scripts to one frame, a selection of frames or
to the entire movie. One current limitation of the animated GIF
support is that processing can only be applied to the entire animation.
essential palette function is the creation of SuperPalettes, a palette
that can be applied to multiple documents. This is critical in CD-ROM
production where, for example, an interface background may have
an animation and a digital movie matted on top of it. In order for
these files to all appear correctly and efficiently on an 8-bit
monitor, they must be using the same 256 colors. This requires the
creation of one SuperPalette which is then applied to all of these
different file types. Debabelizer invented the term SuperPalette;
and, as far as I know, this is a function which can only be performed
the big news that Debabelizer Pro's new interface has finally made
this important program much easier to use, the conclusion is simple.
Because there is no other product that automates the critical graphic
processing, translating and optimizing functions that Debabelizer
performs, this is an essential tool. If you use a Windows machine,
work in a multi-platform graphics environment, produce graphics
or digital video for multimedia or the web, Debabelizer Pro can
save you time while it helps your images "perform" more efficiently.
You couldn't ask much more from a "software appliance."
PRO SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: 486 or faster processor (Pentium recommended);
Windows 95 or NT 4.0; 16MB of RAM (32 recommended); 20MB of hard
drive space for installation; 20MB of hard drive space for operation;
256-color or better display; CD-ROM drive.
domestic suggested list price: $595.