a.viary Review and Invite Giveaway

Aviary LogoOver the last few months I’ve posted on numerous occasions about how great Picnik is. As a blogger, it suits my needs pretty perfectly. The simple interface, and the ease with which I can get images into and out of it are the major selling points. Some have criticized the lack of features compared to other image editors, but it does enough for me to cover my blogging needs. For me, Picnik has my needs covered, but I still felt keen to spread my wings (ah, a pun!) a bit. So I got myself into the a.viary beta and started playing around.

Whats in the a.viary?

The Basics

a.viary is an online image editor. It differs from Picnik in that it’s more focused on creating and heavy imaging rather than one-click fixes. It’s more Photoshop than MS Paint. In fact, I was genuinely impressed with the range of tools available. a.viary doesn’t just stack up well against services such as Picnik, it stacks up well against desktop applications such as The GIMP.

a.viary Layer OptionsAn advantage a.viary has over some of it’s competitors is the addition of layers. This opens up a world of opportunities other “flat” image editors simply don’t have. Along with layers come some nice blendinga.viary Blending Options and layer adjustment options. There is also the ability to work on more than one image at a time (i.e. you can import images into your current workspace), something else that’s missing from Picnik. Have a look at this blog post to see what’s possible with a.viary compared to some of the other popular online image editors. Just bare in mind that whilst the comparisons seem fair and just, it is written by a member of a.viary’s staff. I don’t question the conclusions they come to though, in my experience.

Practical Features

A Camera superimposed on a wall made using aviaryI really wanted to put a.viary through its paces, so i came up with a test scenario. I have a wall image and an image of a camera. I want to put the camera on the wall. Simple enough, and a task that greats many people on a regular basis. This turned out to be incredibly easy. Despite not being familiar with the layout of the application, I had cropped and masked the camera in a couple of minutes and added it to the wall. Very easy.

That’s barely scratching the surface though. As you can probably tell from the images I’ve posted in this article, I didn’t spend a huge amount of time creating the images. There are people out there who have spent allot of time with a.viary, and the results are very impressive. This blog post covers off some of Photoshop’s bread and butter, retouching.

The Tool Set

PeacockSomething that I’ve not mentioned so far is that a.viary is actually a suite of applications. So far I’ve been talking about Phoenix, the image editor. The other application currently available is Peacock, which bills itself as Pattern generator. It’s a strange tool and resembles something like Final Cut Pro. The Peacock workspaceThere are numerous nodes, each of which take an input, do something, and given an output. So, for example, you may have an image as your starting resource, feed it into an adjustment node, which changes the saturation, and then it outputs the image with the changed saturation. This all sounds fairly straight forward, but you can chain together numerous nodes and then merge them. One of the great uses I can see for this tool is quickly visualising changes filters and changes make to an image. You can then go and try them in an image editor. It’s drag and drop simplicity for really quite complex ideas and techniques.

Room for improvement

Identifying areas for improvement is difficult. a.viary is a suite of applications that will eventually include vector and 3d editors along with audio and video editors, desktop publishing and a file storage application. It’s clear that the development path is taking it towards this distributed platform, as opposed to one central application. So in suggesting areas for improvement, it’s difficult to know whether they fall into one of the other applications.

So, concentrating on Phoenix, the image editor, there are some areas that could do with tightening up. A problem I had with it was some slight lag in mouse movements. This may very well be down to my setup, or indeed the architecture they use (flash), but it’s there and I notice it. When you’re trying to do some precise pixel editing, you lose your confidence in the application. Quite frankly, it’s not a problem you’ll ever have with a desktop application.

Something else that surprised me was the time it took to upload documents. Uploading a moderately sized image, about 1000 pixels square, seemed to take much longer than it should. Applying filters also seemed to take a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on a MacBook so applying filters in Photoshop isn’t exactly instant, but Phoenix certainly took noticeably longer. What I couldn’t figure out was whether the filter was being rendered locally using Flash or whether it was being rendered on the server and served back to me. I guess either way would take longer than a desktop application. This is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no preview when applying filters, so tweaking some of the settings is a a massively cumbersome and time consuming process.

Conclusion & Invites

Overall, I’m hugely impressed with what a.viary has to offer. Phoenix is a capable and powerful image editor and Peacock is certainly an interesting concept. I was surprised to find such capable, verging on professional-level, tools in a web application.

So, do you fancy having a go yourself? I’ve got a handful of invites to give away. If you fancy one, just leave a comment below and I’ll try and hook you up.

Photo by Osbornb