Price: 49 . 24
Pros: Works well; inexpensive.
Cons: Fiddly, badly explained interface.
At the Siggraph 3D trade show last year, two researchers showed off a technique called ‘seam carving’, for resizing images to different aspect ratios while maintaining the proportions of core elements.
The first tool to take advantage of this is Xfile 2, an updated version of a little-known resizing plug-in for Photoshop that now allows users to, for example, turn the 4:3 photograph below into an almost square image without losing either of the herons or squeezing them out of proportion.
It does this by selectively resizing parts of the image, squeezing areas of background detail where the compression is less noticeable while leaving foreground or subject areas alone. Xfile can decide on these areas automatically – and it generally does a decent job of identifying the right areas – or you can give it a helping hand by manually painting on areas to maintain in proportion or concentrate its resizing powers on.
These manual controls are most useful with images like the one above, where both the foreground and background have the similar amounts of detail and texture. If you have detailed subjects and a simple background, then the automatic controls are more than up to the job.
Using Xfile 2’s interface can be bit fiddly, especially to begin with, as the manual explains the workflow and tools rather poorly. There’s no built-in help, and the tool tips have some notable omissions (including one for the key resizing tab). The Carve Wiping mode for removing objects from a scene can be a pain to use, too.
Xfile 2 is a tool most designers will want and it works well, but the interface is in need of a tidy-up.
Photoshop 7/CS/CS2/CS3, Corel PhotoPaint and Painter