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FaceFilter Studio 2 - Improve faces in five easy stages? It's a dream come true for Duncan Evans.
Once loaded there are some quick fix options including removing red eye, or for tinting the eye colour, but frankly this is suitable for red-eye removal only as the colour mask is a circle and if the eyes are half closed, it will over-run onto the lids. So, forget about tinting unless the eyes are wide open. There are also options for automatic correction of colour, manual correction of colour balance and levels. There's a smart portrait option as well which performs the automatic functions, then selects the face areas for you. This is a little pointless as it's simply duplicating two areas of the program in one place - it corrects the colour then adds the face detection system. The next stage in the process otherwise is... the face detection system. So, same thing.
Anyway, the face detection part is the most important for tweaking the image. The facial mask is automatically added and the key points surround eyebrows, eye edges and four points around lips are placed in roughly the right places. These require manual repositioning. The important point about the facial mask is that it should cover all of the forehead, otherwise any colour or tone adjustments will leave an area unretouched. However, this stage, though critical, is very easy and quick to do. However, there's a blinding oversight by the programmers here. This is easy to do if the head is quite large in the photo. If it isn't it's very hard to accurately position the key points because... there's no facility to zoom in. D'oh! Even if the face was zoomed in on the previous screen, when this one is selected the view drops back out to show the entire picture. Also, the facial mask can't be edited at this stage, but can be moved around.
The other major option here, before moving on to the expressions, is the Filter Skin menu. As usual, this brings up a dialogue box that can't be resized, but compounds the problems of sizing by having a before and after screen competing for space. There are three main options here - smoothing skin, removing shadows and shine and adjusting the skin tone. The Smooth Skin option retains the shape of facial features like cheeks and the nose and smooths the skin on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything other a setting of 1 looks completely unnatural on the preview screen however, this should be taken with a pinch of salt as the full screen picture effect is much more subtle. This is obviously highly unsatisfactory when you cannot rely on the preview screen to give an accurate representation of what the final effect will be like. Lots of back and forth ensue.
The ability to remove shadows should be employed only if the subject is half in and half out of very deep shadows, otherwise it's a case of removing definition from the face. The Gloss reduction is where shiny surfaces from flash can be toned down but note that this tends to smooth out and flatten skin texture as well. Even though there are some templates to use for quick results, it would have been nice to see a wider range of skin tone changes as well.
On then to the final stage before printing and saving - that of expressions. Here is where that facial feature mapping is now put to good use as there are a range of settings to apply to change the look of the face. Some of these work well, others produce bizarre and freakish results. A lot depends on the expression the subject was pulling in the first place. As has been mentioned, a blank expression is the easiest to change into other shapes. Some of these are quite subtle, and you can see where the program is going with the intent - confident, cool, kind and so on are all obvious. Some of the others, like sexy and young are less obvious. These are the standard expressions, there are also a range of fun ones that cover angry faces, pouting and bizarrely, looking like animals - fox, bull, koala. Again, if the initial expression wasn't fairly bland, some of look like plastic surgery gone horribly wrong. There is also the option to manually adjust the features, but this is quite a bit of effort which surely defeats the object of using the program in the first place.
There are some issues with the usability of the program, there are idiosyncrasies that need to be learnt, which is a bit disappointing on a program that is supposed to make the process of beautifying images simpler. There's decent results from the smoothing and de-glossing options, even if the preview is entirely unreliable, which leaves the expressions as the main feature to sell the program. These are variable in result, and work best with a close up of a well proportioned face, but once again, this is the type of face that probably requires least work anyway. However, they do work and if, for example, a wedding shot is ruined because three guests are smiling happily, but one is looking moody, this could correct the expression - providing you can get close enough in to the face to apply the masking. Obviously there's also a lot of fun to be had with the program anyway, and it does simply the process of correcting flaws in a basic fashion, and changing expressions without undue effort.
Simple to use
Wide range of expressions
Can tone and smooth skin
Can be very effective
Supports up to 12Mp images
Skin smoothing preview not accurate
Some expressions are very distorted
FaceFilter Studio 2.0 costs around £29.99 and is available from the Reallusion website and dealers.