Color Theory, Part 1
Heraldry, Part I
The New Masters of Fantasy volume IIIProduct Review
by Ellen Million
The subtitle of this very polished-looking CD is ''A collection of the year's best fantasy and science fiction artwork,'' and The New Masters of Fantasy Volume III certainly lives up to that!
The browsing on this interactive CD is fairly straightforward. There is a gallery of artwork, broken into 48 pages of 8 thumbnails. There is an artist information list, with name, e-mail and Web page listed, and there is a slideshow. A little credits link from the main page hails the artists as a whole, lists the judges, and credits the composer for the slideshow music as well as Chad Lockwood as producer. The disc and case itself are lovely�nice printing, very professional appearance.
The galleries are where the real joy is. Juicy, lovely artwork! It was a delight to find some pieces I was unfamiliar with, and browsing without ads is always a treat. Unfortunately, there was no way to find out more about the artists without retreating to the main menu and going into the artist information area�it seems as if a link from each piece of artwork to their information would be a feasible piece of code to include, or even alternate text over their name that tells me something more. Clicking on their link from the artist information page appeared to do nothing. The browsing engine is one of those that insists on hiding your toolbar, and asks �Are you sure?� when you finally find a little X to click. Escaping from the program, you'll find that you drew up the artist's page in an already-open browser window.
There is, unfortunately, no way to skip ahead in the 48 pages of galleries--it's one page forward or back at a time, and it's entirely alphabetical by first name, so I feel sorry for any Zanders or Xaviers in the list. I spent a disproportionate amount of time in the Amys and Brendas, myself.
I had to do a double-take on some of the artwork I was already familiar with�several of the portrait-oriented pieces were cropped off at the top, often to the detriment of the composition. I poked around in the guts of the CD for a while to determine that the image was intact, but the translation to the browsing program was covering some of the information at the top�perhaps the images had not been sized for display? I was testing using a PC; I would be curious to know if this effect occurs on Macs as well.
Kiandra, by Amy Edwards, full image on the right, cropped screenshot to the left.
The slideshow had wonderful music, done by Ron Vreeland! The slideshow followed the same order the gallery did, every piece in alphabetical order by first name, so again, I found myself sorry for those at the end of the queue�I didn't have time to wait for the entire presentation to complete, and I wonder who does. The transitions were all the same�a rather jarring and slow scatter fade; not awful, but not flattering in its in-between stages, and rather painfully drawn out.
There was also an HTML version of the same basic thing included, but even more bare-bones than the primary program, without actual image titles or artist names or client copyright notices; the pages draw only on the file names. There was no slideshow with the html version, but at least the HTML version stayed neatly in its own window! The HTML version fortunately shows the full images, but the galleries have the same browsing forward by single page limitations as the main program. The artist information page proudly posts that it's the 2004 NMOF (clearly leftover from Volume II). The link to return to the main menu does not work. (Nor did last year's!) Strangely, the HTML version had one extra piece�it contained a 49th gallery with one image. I couldn't figure out which one was not included in the main program, or had been duplicated.
Also on the disc are screensavers! These are much more nicely done than the slideshow, with a tasteful, fast, simple fade between each picture. The pictures are also random. Each image had a small copyright notice with the name of the artist in the corner, which is very appropriate for a screensaver. I loved that it had a preview option, to allow you to check out the program operation without actually installing it on your computer. The screensaver is definitely a highlight of the disc. It would be nice if the screensaver program was accessible through the main menu of the autorun program�I wonder how many people will miss it by not thinking to go look for it on the disc.
If I had to pick one descriptor, it would be �pretty.� The collection spans the horror and science fiction genre as well as fantasy, and is highly enjoyable eye candy all across the board. There is a wonderful range of mediums, including traditional, digital, and sculpture, and a great variety in subjects. The artists showcased are wildly talented, and if you're looking for artwork to spend a few drool-worthy moments on, this is a great resource.
However, if you were one of the artists involved in the project, I wouldn't blame you for wanting your money back.
The project, which was supposed to be launched at the beginning of September for release at Dragon*Con 2005, suffered tremendous delays. After much wondering and puzzlement on the part of artists, a list of those included was released in October, with promises that the disc itself would be out very shortly. In the third week of March, the collection was available for purchase, a whopping six months after it was scheduled. They wisely dropped �2005� from their title.
For all that wait, the support graphics and engines are very much the same as last years . . . er . . . 2004's�it has the exact same ultra-clean, sparse design, with minimal browsing options and few bells and whistles. The artwork was certainly excellent, but rather randomly organized, creating poor flow; there is no way to sort or search, and artist information is awkward to acquire directly from the artwork. The cropped artwork display makes me cringe for the artists affected.
Was it worth the wait? This is still a mighty tasty disc of some of the best current fantasy and science fiction artwork out there, and the presentation is glossy at a quick glance. Unfortunately, the slapped-together, rushed feel when you look closer, on an item six months overdue, makes me say: Not Epilogue Quality.
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