FluidMask Not Quite There

For some time, I’ve been trying different techniques for extracting animals from photos and isolating them on white backgrounds. (Note that these are wild animals. These are not studio shots, and backgrounds and lighting are what they are. White boxes and umbrellas are not an option. This is not product photography. Photoshop works, sometimes, but it’s tedious. Topaz Remask also works, and can usually get the job done; but is extremely time-consuming: an hour or more per photo. OnOne PerfectMask is buggy and crashed on me, losing my work. Today I discovered Vertus’s FluidMask, downloaded the demo, and fired it up. Capsule summary:

Promising, but not yet good enough to replace the more complicated tools.

Vertus’s UI is interesting different form the other options in this space. It shows you the edges of the regions it’s divided the photo into, and then lets you keep or exclude individual regions. You can control how many regions the photo is divided into, and how sensitively edges are detected. You can also draw in edges around areas of low contrast it doesn’t auto-detect. This is much simpler than Remask, PerfectMask, or Photoshop; though not quite up to the standard set by PowerPoint 2011. The initial mask is pretty damn good, but like all such products when used with real world photos (i.e. not green screen studio shots or carefully cherry picked trade show demos) you need to do some touching up to the mask; and that’s where FluidMask stops being so fluid.

Most importantly, you can’t edit the mask in the cut-out mode. That makes it very hard to see what is and isn’t included, and where you need to fix things after the initial mask.

Second, I was not able to say, “these pixels must be included” or “these pixels must excluded.” The keep exact and delete exact brushes are supposed to do this, but they don’t actually work. The program insisted on coloring particular parts of the mask blue (marking it as a border) and sometimes green (keep) or red (delete) no matter how many times I went over it with the relevant brush. This is so obviously contrary to what’s supposed to happen that I wonder if I’m doing something wrong, and misunderstanding how the program works? But if so, the best I can say is that the program, manual, and tutorials are confusing and incomplete since they offered no clues as to what might be going wrong.

This is disappointing, because Fluidmask got me to a plausible start much quicker and with less effort than Topaz Remask, or OnOne PerfectMask, but it wasn’t able to finish the job. :-(

Leave a Reply