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DeBabelizer Pro -
Internet Essential Processing Power
Finally Gets a Face Lift

by Jon Leland
Originally published in Computer Graphics World Magazine

I've 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.

Thus, 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.

Debabelizer 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.

A Great Translator
File 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.

Debabelizer 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.

One 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 dropping.

"Equilibrium invented the term SuperPalette;
and it's a function which can only be
performed effectively with DeBabelizer."

Also 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 site.

Debabelizer 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.

Likewise, 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.

Another 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 with Debabelizer.


With 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."

DEBABELIZER 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.

Equilibrium (

 US domestic suggested list price: $595.

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