:: Saturday, November 18, 2006 ::
Product review: SoftSkies, eye candy for iTunes
SoftSkies screen shotI'm not in the habit of writing product reviews, but the folks at SoundSpectrum (makers of the excellent audio visualization software G-Force) were kind enough to offer me a free one-year license for their new product, SoftSkies, as reward for my customer loyalty. Although I'm under no obligation to write a review of this latest product, I'm doing it because I want to and because I think it's a cool plug-in for any music lover.

So. End of disclaimer. Here's the review.

SoftSkies is a visualization plug-in that works with iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp and about half a dozen other audio players. (It also has a stand-alone feature if you prefer.) The main feature is SoftSkies' "patent-pending real-time cloud rendering engine."

SoftSkies screen shotLike G-Force before it, SoftSkies gives you a visual to go with your music (screen shot, right), so you can stare at your computer screen, mesmerized by the swirls and shifting colors of the clouds as they roll by to the tempo of whatever music you happen to be listening to at the moment.

The description from the SoftSkies website is pretty straightforward:

SoftSkies is a music visualizer and screensaver that produces mood-enhancing animated cloudscapes, rich with color and realistic motion. SoftSkies features professional color design, patent-pending cloud animation, dynamic image scenery and fine-grained visual control. SoftSkies is ideal for relaxation, music appreciation, and enhancing the ambiance of any social setting.
Unlike G-Force, however, SoftSkies offers a more placid, laid-back ambience and would probably be a nice addition to an emergent worship service. G-Force seems to be tailored more for raves, house parties or concerts, where the visualizations hop and vibrate to a more pulsating beat. Not that SoftSkies won't work for your house music (I've got it plugged in to some Ladytron right now, and the clouds are floating along just fine to the up-tempo experience) but it doesn't seem quite as "active" as the G-Force visualizations. SoftSkies seems more appropriate for softer stuff. But, just as you can use G-Force for softer stuff, so can SoftSkies adapt to rowdier rock.

The photo below, posted on the SoftSkies forum, gives a side-by-side comparison of the two programs. G-Force is on the left.

The other nice thing about SoftSkies is its V-Bar feature (available with the "gold" package). This allows you to actually work while running SoftSkies as a vertical or horizontal strip on your screen. The V-Bar doesn't take up much real estate on your monitor, so if you're programming, writing or blogging, you can still enjoy SoftSkies.

According to some posts in the SoftSkies forum, some iTunes users have experienced some glitches (like no clouds, just "a nice blue gradient"). So, if you're an iTunes user, you might want to download the trial version for testing before plunking down the $20 for the gold package (or $30 for the platinum). It's a good idea to experiment with the trial version first, anyway.

I originally discovered SoundSpectrum's G-Force via Andrew Jones, who was using it as an alternative to staid PowerPoint presentations in his ministerial work. This was way back in 2002. I've also written about Andy O'Meara, the guy who created the software and the company, back in 2004 on my (now mainly inactive) e-vangelism website.

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:: Andrew 10:51 + ::

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