THE ART DEPARTMENT
ASDG's The Art Department (TAD) is a 24-bit image-processing program for the Amiga. This means that each screen pixel is represented by three bytes (24 bits) of memory, allowing a palette of 16 million colors instead of just 4096. TAD can use this extra information when converting pictures from other computers or when choosing colors to display the best possible Amiga picture.
The Art Department loads Sculpt 4D, Turbo Silver, DigiView, and all IFF files, including Sliced Ham and NewTek's Dynamic modes. It can save in 24-bit IFF and standard IFF modes (including Dynamic, but not Sliced Ham). Separately available disks allow you to import GIF, DeluxePaint IIe for the IBM PC, PCX, TIFF, Targa, and Rendition image files. Unfortunately, while you can load images in these formats, you can't save them in these formats. You can't use TAD as a image processor for VGA or Targa screens.
TAD is related to ASDG's software for the Sharp scanner. As such, it performs many of the same image-processing functions as NewTek's DigiView software. Unfortunately, TAD is missing a few of DigiView's bells and whistles. I especially missed control over color saturation. On the plus side, TAD has a new control, Gamma, and a variety of dithering algorithms. The Gamma control allows you to compensate for the fact that the visual intensity of the Amiga's 16 brightness levels are not linear. Using Gamma can help you bring out hidden detail in your images.
TAD does a very nice job of converting screens from one Amiga screen resolution to another. It does an especially nice job converting to colorful images in HAM and EHB into high-resolution 16-color screens.
Match palettes using The Art Department and combine pictures on one screen.
The user interface is attractive but difficult. I found a few procedures tortuous. One advantage of TAD over DigiView is that you can reserve part of the palette and let TAD automatically make the best selection for the rest of the palette. TAD makes the task difficult, though. Converting a picture from HAM to EHB with a reserved palette of 20 colors took a friend and me the better part of an afternoon. Though we now have the procedure memorized, it's a laborous process that takes numerous mouse clicks and even a bit of typing.
Although many of TAD's features have been seen before, it has one that's been missing from Amiga programs for a long time: the ability to scale an image to any size. This is especially handy for importing GIF and Targa files that were created on screens with a higher resolution. This makes TAD worth its price.
The documentation is adequate, but only so. Although its descriptions are reasonable, it lacks step-by-step tutorials.
Although I am happy with The Art Department, I'd like to see an upgrade that allows you to save in any format you can load. I'd also like to see saturation control and genuine image-processing capabilities such as those in Progressive Peripherals' PIX-Mate. Unfortunately, the memory requirements for this program make it unusable for the great majority of Amiga owners. I would not recommend The Art Department to an Amiga owner with less than two megabytes of memory and a hard drive. ASDG recommends four megabytes. (Editor's note: ASDG recently announced The Art Department Professional, which adds the capability to save in non-IFF formats, full ARexx support, external effects modules, 8-bit rendering, and multiple palette sizes. The upgrade should be available this fall; contact ASDG for details.)
|Ease of Use||**|
Amiga with 2MB, 4MB recommended— $89.85