Macphun is one of the unsung heroes of the image editing software business. Their Intensify Pro application recently brought to life some production stills I had all but given up on and now it is an essential component of my kit. Here is why.
The folks at Macphun Software have a long pedigree as makers of some of the smartest and most useful image processing software ever, for longer than Macphun itself has existed as a company. Remember Nik, before it was sold to Google?
Nik’s developers came up with some unique products and unique controls within them like their control points technology for selecting similar areas within an image. Many photographers once swore that Silver Efex Pro was the best black-and white conversion software ever.
I was particularly fond of Viveza, a product like no other I have seen before or since. I used it heavily during my early days in digital photography when the cameras and sensors then were much less capable that those of today. The ability to easily select discrete spots in an image and change their tone and color almost to the point where it looked like I had wheeled in an entire movie lighting truck always astounded me and saved my bacon again and again.
But now those days have passed. Image editing software has moved on and so have some of the folks at Nik, many of them to Macphun. The name, by the way, refers to the fact that they only make software for Macintosh computers. I have had to process images on non-Mac computers and for me that is anything but fun.
Bringing light and detail into the gloom
There is that word again, gloom. I have been wrestling with how to grade my motion picture footage shot outdoors in light and weather I haven’t experienced in Sydney before. I mostly only shoot stills for use in movie projects these days and grading them has become a challenge to.
A think blanket of cloud that has almost become permanent. Uninspiring, flat light. Poor separation of colors, tones and object. No more inky black shadows to define the shapes of things. So I have been exploring products like SpeedLooks, KinoLUT and VistaLUT for grading movies by transforming current mundane reality into something a bit more emotional, and detailed when necessary.
Stills that I shoot for use in production documents – treatments, websites, mood boards, storyboards, submissions and the like – demand something more than just tweaking tone and color. Especially when shot under flat light that makes everything mush up together.
They need details, tonal separation, contrast shifts within small areas and the like. Even more so if those images are going to blown up big or imported into a timeline for some radical Ken Burns treatment. Intensify Pro can do all that and plenty else besides.
Subtle or extreme, Intensify Pro does it all
Intensify Pro comes supplied with a range of presets so you click and see what the software is capable of, from extreme to subtle. I have seen some wild effects applied to other people’s images. My needs are a usually a bit more subtle though it is good to know I can easily go nuts if I want to. One day!
Choose a preset or stack several up using the layers feature then play with the sliders to bring some balance back into the picture. Once you have got the balance right you can refine things even further by clicking on the Adjust button and a wealth of controls are opened up to you. I could spend hours in there super-refining my images if I needed to.
Go even further by using the brush control if you want to. Intensify Pro opens up possibilities that may be buried somewhere deep inside Photoshop but you would need to be a Deke McClelland to know how to coax out into the light and with hours to spare for each image. But why bother doing that when Intensify Pro makes it so much easier and quicker?
Speaking of presets, earlier this year Macphun opened its presets marketplace where you can buy preset packs made by image editing experts. I haven’t spent much time there yet but have just downloaded and installed the Pro Sampler Pack containing presets for Intensify Pro and Tonality Pro.
Laurie Rubin’s ‘Wild and Free’ Intensify preset looks terrific for a personal project involving all the Australian wildlife that lives around us. I may fork out for Laurie’s ‘The Wildlife Collection’ for Tonality and Alan Hess’ ‘The Pet Details’ preset collection for Intensify soon. Some of the other preset packs look tempting tool. I like presets – good presets save time of which I have far too little these days.
Consider Macphun’s other products too
There is more to Macphun than Intensify Pro as I hinted above. Tonality Pro was released earlier this year and received a ‘Best of’ award from the Mac App Store. Intensify got one in 2013 and the first Macphun application to be awarded was Snapheal in 2012.
Because most of my current stills-for-movies work is in color I have not spent nearly enough time in Tonality Pro. That’s a little frustrating given how excited I was when I first encountered it at a trade show at Luna Park in Sydney several months ago.
The demo guy flashed up Tonality Pro’s Zone System function on screen and I was hooked. Right now I am looking for a suitable project, perhaps one including intense portraits of men in extreme close-up like I used to shoot for the magazines here. I introduced a number of Art Directors to the idea of reproducing full page close-up portraits in colour by showing them big split-toned blowups and it took off like wildfire after some initial hesitation. I miss creating that sort of imagery.
Just recently I have made good use of Snapheal for quickly removing some distracting elements from stills footage and it worked like a charm. Focus Pro is another Macphun application I have to spend much time in yet. It will come in handy for my blokes-up-close project or for another I am planning involving female celebrities and creative people.
Time to get back into portraiture, methinks, now that we have entered the digital hybrid era and see how far I can go with it again. All of Macphun’s software will come in handy. Each application in their range is available as a free trial and the four I have covered in this article can be bought as the Creative Kit Plus for a discount.
Just one more thing…
Just before completing this article I came across a hint from a Macphun staff member on a forum that “video is on the roadmap”. Timing prevented me from following this up to confirm yea or nay, but if so then this is great news.
The Macphun team's innovative thinking would be a welcome addition to the realm of Final Cut Pro X and other movie creation software for Macs. As someone who spends time in each camp – stills and movies – I relish the idea of using similar products in both.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)