Bend Reality with Flexify 2
Flexify 2 is definitely my favourite Photoshop plug-in and a must have for all those amateur photographers who want to take their panoramic images one step further. You can get this plug-in from Flaming Pear, where you can either download a free demo or purchase the full version.
Flexify 2 is the brainchild of Lloyd Burchill, a graphics software developer and connoisseur of pathological eclectica and, as Lloyd told me, there’s a really interesting story behind the whole concept:
“I suppose Flexify’s story started around Christmas 2000 when I noticed the reflection in a silver-ball tree ornament contained the ball’s entire environment, not just the half on the side facing me. If I could digitally straighten out the reflection, I could produce a basic spherical photo without dropping $20,000 on a Panoscan.”
“The result: a plug-in named Ornament. It untwisted the reflection into an equirectangular format. I had a lot of fun roaming my city, hanging the ball in unlikely places and making QTVR panoramas.”
Driven by the fundamental belief that “a principal strength of computer graphics is its ability to show us the world in a way previously unattainable” Lloyd worked on the Ornament plug-in, complemented it with a Graphical User Interface and expanded its capabilities by adding a great deal of projection types heavily inspired by cartography and the notion of ‘conformality’. In the following years, Lloyd teamed up with a group of passionate Flickr users in order to crunch “the tricky mathematics needed to revive the Peirce Quincuncial, a very strange world map that produces charmingly topsy-turvy photographs many people describe as having an Alice in Wonderland quality”. Next on the list of features was the HDR and isotropic sharpening and that’s how over the last 10 years Flexify 2 has been shaped to its final version.
As Lloyd concludes, the real strength of Flexify 2 is that “most of its possibilities put the emphasis on fun and weirdness”.
Currently, Lloyd is working on the 64-bit Mac version which, I believe, has already been anticipated.
In the next few steps, I’ll guide you through the simple steps of processing an image with Flexify 2.
Once you download the plug-in, simply copy it to your Photoshop plug-in folder and restart the programme. Flexify 2 should appear in the ‘Filter’ tab under ‘Flaming Pear’ as seen in the screenshot below.
Then, a separate window will appear where you can work on your projection. Flexify 2 offers over a hundred different projection types with different settings that can be adjusted in order to achieve different results.
First of all, you have to define your input and output images in the options labelled ‘1’ in the screenshot below. For best results, use an equirectangular image as input and then select a desired projection as output. My favourite output projections are: hyperdouble, hypertriple, stereographic, mirrorball and Peirce quincunx but there is plenty more to choose from.
Once you specify these settings, your image will appear in the preview box on the right. You can also adjust the size of the preview box for better view.
Then, you can start adjusting the settings labelled ‘2’ in the screenshot below in order to fine tune your projections. Notice that not all projections will allow you to adjust the ‘Field of View’ (FOV). Experiment with the ‘Latitude’, “Longitude’ and ‘Spin’ sliders in order to achieve a desired effect. Remember, there is no right or wrong setting and a little experimentation will get you there eventually. Once you manage to compose your projection you can sharpen and de-halo your image for better results.
Flexify 2 also offers a number of projections such as cube, octahedron etc. that will project your image onto a cut-out that can be printed and assembled into a solid.
Finally, a number of settings labelled ‘3’ below, let you export your image, use a default setting for each projection or undo your settings.
Below are several examples from other creative photographers on the Web. Please bear in mind that their work is subject to copyright, therefore, please contact the authors for permission to use their images.
Garret Veley aka ‘Mantis of Destiny‘
For more examples and inspiration please visit the Flexify Flickr pool
Thanks for reading and have fun with Flexify 2
Please see the ‘About’ section for copyright information.