This week I have been playing with a few older freeware or free trial filters to see if I like any of them and are they still relevant. I ran across a free filter called buzz Simplifier, that had been packed with the Digital Camera Magazine number 17’s CD. I started reseaching this filter and found out the company that made the filter, Fo2PiX, had gone bankrupt and the filter was no longer supported. I also discovered that the Simplifier filter on the CD was listed as “SimplyFair” and created by Amphisoft in 2003 – it is freeware software and you can download it here. So it looks like Amphisoft may have given it to Fo2PiX. They in turn include it in their larger Buzz Pro 3 package. Anyway, I thought I would show what both of these filters do – I rather liked the effects although I used other filters to get the look I wanted. I am using the image above of London Eye that I took two years ago on vacation for my base image.
Quoting from Trimoon’s Blog “The Simplifier effect is based on patented Sieve transform technology, which ‘allows an image to be segmented into its component parts, in order that they may be identified, understood, labeled, and indexed.’ In essence Simplifier removes unimportant detail from a photo while preserving color, focus, shape and edge leaving one with an improved base image for applying other effects. You control how much or how little detail you wish to remove from the original photo by adjusting the Simplifier controls.” Below it the result I got using the single Amphisoft Simplifier filter from the magazine.
I used these settings in the Simplify dialog box to get this result:
Dark Edge 255
Light Edge 36
I really like the way it darkened the Ferris Wheel lines against the sky but I had to mask the effect from the sky since it gave too many edges in this area. Using the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 collection, I selected the Skylight Filter at Strength 70% to bring out the sky, and then added a layer mask to mask out everything but the sky since this filter turned the water and buildings yellowish. You can actually get this filter free along with the Tonal Contrast and the Contrast filters by buying Vincent Versace’s new book, Welcome to Oz 2.0. I also used Nik’s CEP 3 Vignette to center the image on “The Eye” itself but you can make your own vignette fairly easily to do the same thing.
Now to the complicated part. I have also used the Buzz Simplifier One filter from the Buzz Pro 3 plug in that can be downloaded here and which was made by the now defunct Fo2PiX. (Note: There was also a Buzz.Lite plug in offered free with several British magazines and came with three pre-set filter stacks and six filters that included: Simplifier One; Edges Mono; Edges Colour; Emboss; Radial Blur; Radial Simplifier. The Buzz Pro 3 included everything in Buzz.Lite and more – 25 pre-set Stacks and 22 filters as follows: Simplifier One; Simplifier Two; Simplifier Three; Blur; Blur More; Bright/Contrast; Directional Blur; Edges Colour; Edges Mono; Emboss; Gaussian Blur; Highlights White; Lowlights Black; Highlights Colour; Pure Colour; Radial Blur; Radial Screen; Radial Simplifier; Simplifier HSV; Spread Black; Spread White; and Unsharp Mask.)
To use this filter, you must add effects from the Available Effects column into the Current Stack. Simplifier One, Simplifier Two and Simplifier Three are included along with several other effects. (There is a really nice pdf manual that explains each of the effects in detail that came with the download.) I was mainly just interested in the Simplifier filters for this post. I started adjusting the settings and ended up with the result below. This filter can take quite a while to load the effects you added so keep the amounts lower to preview if it slows down too much (I use Windows 7). When comparing the two filters, the Amphisoft Simplifier has basically 4 sliders (radius, dark edge, light edge, and spread) while the Buzz Pro Simplifier filter has only one slider (remove) and a choice for light, dark or both. I believe the Buzz filter looks much more artistic and painterly than the Amphisoft Simplifier. I used the same layer masks and Nik filters on each image so the results could be accurately compared. Here is a link to several images where someone had applied the Buzz Simplifier filter.
It has been suggested that Topaz Simplify has very similar effects. In fact, many people on the internet seem to think this is better than Buzz Simplifier ever was. They say that Topaz does not crash their computers and has more sliders to get the results you want. I created the same image with Topaz Simplify Image Crisp Edge setting – used default settings except for Simplify Size of 0.10 and Details Strength of 1.0. Only with this setting could I bring the wires in cleanly from the Ferris Wheel and it was not that great. Otherwise it does appear to be comparable to the other images. I have noticed before that the Topaz Simplify filters have trouble with colors in segmented regions (like the region between the ferris wheel wires) and often discolors these little areas so they do not match up with the background areas. Oddly enough, this is one of the complaints I see about the Buzz Simplifier so I will have to experiment more to see. Topaz Simplify does have a setting called BuzSim which I know does look somewhat like the other two and has similar sliders including Remove Small and Remove Weak. I would definitely download a trial and try it as it is still a great filter to own and experiment with on your images.
Finally, I added an example of the same image using the Simplifier Three filter effect from Buzz Pro applied twice to get the rich dark sky. First I had adjusted the tone and contrast of the image and converted a layer to a sepia color at 50% opacity.
I actually liked the results of both older filters although there appears to be subtle differences between them. The ones I reviewed here still do a good job for what they were intended to do. I believe I will continue using them even though they are older, as their looks are a little different from what can be done with newer filters like the Topaz Simplify filters. I personally love to have choices when trying to create an artistic look. I hope you enjoyed this post and will try some of your old filters again. You might be surprised by some of your results!…..Digital Lady Syd