Thomas Edison conceptualized the moving picture more than a century ago. Since then "we've been refining . . . but not innovating it," according to FrameFree Technologies president Tom Randolph. FrameFree Technologies plans to pick up where Edison left off with its May 15, 2006, launch of FrameFree Studio, digital imaging software that Randolph hopes will set new standards for ease of use, picture quality, and even bring motion to still images.
When you watch a movie, your eye is fooled into thinking that a reel of still images is actually moving. Rather than relying on an optical illusion to create motion, FrameFree Studio's software analyzes still images' pixels and predicts how the edges will change their position from one image to the next second. "All the detail is in the edges," explains FrameFree business director John North, and with FrameFree, those edges morph and move according to the mathematical algorithm underpinning the Studio software. Starting with two static images, the dynamic motion that FrameFree Studio creates can be incredibly subtle, like the way the wind moves two nearly identical pictures of leaves, or visually arresting, like a car melting into an apple. Depending on the designer, the motion can span a second or stretch into an entire movie.
The video files created by FrameFree Studio contain just the two images in addition to the mathematical code that creates the motion. Randolph describes them as being "obnoxiously small," squeezing a chunk of video into only a few kilobytes without compressing the file, and making them ideal for fast Web or mobile delivery. The animation process is largely automated, so the time that it normally takes to manufacture moving graphics frame by frame is dramatically reduced. An added bonus, according to North: "The images never lose their original resolution."
FrameFree Studio is releasing four different versions to target specific consumer and professional needs. The two high-end versions, HD and SD, create a higher-resolution image that can be used in broadcast and digital cinema, with image resolution up to 4096x4096 and ten layers of detail. The other two, Pro and Express, are more lightweight, intended for users working on the Web with resolutions up to 640x480 and up to four layers of detail (two layers maximum for Express). HD and SD are available for licensing via the FrameFree Web site, and Pro and Express can be downloaded from the site for a small monthly subscription fee.
Besides releasing the software, FrameFree has also announced the FrameFree United Network (FUN), which is equal parts global hosted server and collective distributor, allowing Studio users to search, store, and share their creations for a one-time certification fee. In addition to being fully hosted, FUN helps the content creators to keep track of licensing fees and distribution.
FrameFree Technologies is the result of a 2004 international joint venture between the UK's FrameFree International and Japan's Monolith Co., Ltd. Randolph and his crew have an ambitious slate of launches scheduled for the next few years, for which he claims Studio is "just a teaser." With a number of digital imagery products in development and testing, FrameFree is already looking ahead to rolling out the next four or five versions of Studio. FrameFree Studio is available for a free 14-day trial download. Try it for yourself and feel free to believe your eyes.