Wildform Wild FX

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A range of high impact and efficient Flash text effects - but offering little control..

Wild FX advanced effects are both eye-catching and efficient.

One of most common uses for Macromedia Flash is to produce eye-catching text effects to make your banner advert or company logo stand out from the crowd. It might be a regular task but Flash actually provides very little in the way of dedicated functionality so that the poor designer is left trying to synchronize dozens of manual layer-based effects - a chore that can easily turn into a nightmare. That's where Wildform Wild FX comes in, letting you produce high impact effects in seconds.

Wild FX comes from Wildform the makers of Flix, the excellent Flash video application (review issue ). And, like Flix, Wild FX is built on a basic shareware-style interface. It's not exactly leading-edge but it is functional: you enter your font, movie and output settings and the text that you want to animate in the main tabbed dialog and then preview the possible effects in a second floating dialog.

Once you've set everything up, it's just a question of browsing the Explorer-style outlinable list of effects until you find one that catches your eye - and will catch the eye of the end user. And there are plenty to choose from as Wild FX provides no less than 417 (plus another 200+ if you buy the optional $25 Power Effects add-on)! These include a vast range of spins, rotations, reflections, jumps, scales and fades plus hundreds of less obvious effects such as rainbow colour shifts, Matrix-style drifts, masking effects and even effects that include animated coloured shapes to highlight the central text.

When choosing your effect you obviously take into account its impact and its suitability, but there are other factors to consider such as compatibility, efficiency and control. To help you make decisions about these Wild FX divides its effects into three main categories. The first is "Flash 3" which means that its 176 effects are viewable in all releases of the Flash player right back to version 3 and that they can also be opened directly into Macromedia Flash for editing.

By contrast the 196 effects in the second category, "Flash 4", are controlled programmatically rather than frame-by-frame. Relying on Flash 4 technology means a slightly smaller potential audience (though as we're now on to Flash Player 6 this difference will be minimal) and also means that the resulting movies need to be loaded into larger Flash projects via the "loadmovie" ActionScript command. The plus side is that the Flash 4 effects tend both to be more striking and also much smaller - often under 5K compared to 15K for a similar Flash 3 effect - which is particularly important in the Web context.

The third and final category is "Custom" and here the 45 effects are all Flash 4, or occasionally Flash 5, compatible. As its name suggests, what makes these effects different is that they are customizable. Disappointingly however what this boils down to in practice is the ability to change just a couple of parameters per effect such as the scaling factor, delay or speed. It's simply not enough power to make you feel that you have any real control. In other words you really have to see all the Wild FX effects as one-offs: if an effect doesn't immediately do exactly what you want, forget about fine-tuning it and instead try and find one that does.

It's a big disappointment and especially when you compare Wild FX to its most obvious rival SWiSH 2 (review issue ) which provides huge control alongside the ability to build much more advanced text-based projects. It doesn't rule Wild FX out however as it offers a wider range of effects that are more efficient and, most important of all, more eye-catching. And, if you find just one effect that fits the bill, Wild FX will have already paid for itself.

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

August 2003

requirements Pentium II, 64Mb of RAM, 20Mb of hard disk space, Windows 98, ME, NT4, 2000 or XP, Internet Explorer 4 or higher.

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