Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fauve Matisse

Fauve Matisse screenshot with even and gradual transparent objects and
an overlaying and selected line drawn with 50% bleed. Some of the "tools"
icons expand for more tools (click to enlarge)
Back when the Internet was young, when most people had a 14.4 dial-up modem, and having a web graphic heavier than 80k was a mortal sin, the Snappy Video Capture by Play Incorporated was a great way to get images onto your computer. Poor resolution web-cams existed, of course, and there were scanners for transferring old photos, but the high resolution digital cameras that anyone could afford did not exist yet and your options were limited. Everyone had a VCR, though, and camcorders were very popular. The Snappy became a hit: you could set up your camcorder to run to the Snappy plugged into your computer and instantly transfer a live picture or a still frame from one of your movies.

Most importantly, though, the Snappy came with two pieces of software: Gryphon Morph and Fauve Matisse. The latter had limited functionality in the free version so I bought the full version. One of the many things that I liked about Fauve Matisse is that its marqueing capabilities beat anything else ― they still do. The regular marquee tool only sets part of the line when you click the mouse. At that time, most marqueeing was freehand and that was accomplished very shakily (for me). You had to do it all at once and could not correct anything. I found that, for marqueeing a curved shape, I could use the curve shape painting tool which built its curves according to your mouse movement, using it to trace over the image I was copying. I could then marquee the resulting object (like a freely movable "layer"), delete the shape (which kept the marquee area over the original picture) and then "float" the selection.

While the software came with pre-set brushes, you could also design any brush you like with the Brush Shape and Brush Options windows.. I particularly found the "bleed" function very useful as it changed the colour of a line according to what was underneath as you drew it. The software also allowed gradients and varying transparency. You could also easily change the order of overlapping objects.

As time went on, things changed: Fauve Matisse became impossible to use with jpegs and showed bands of colour in the image, but if you pasted a modern jpeg into the program it was displayed as a bitmap and there were no problems at all. You just had to convert the bitmap to a jpeg in a different program.

Fauve Matisse was built for Windows 3.1 but it still worked for Windows 95, 98, and XP. It no longer worked for Windows 7 and while I might have been able to get it working after a fashion for the 32 bit version, my new 64 bit system was not being recommended for such old software. I struggled doing the same sorts of things (except for fully designing brushes) on my later graphics software but it felt like trying to thread a needle while wearing boxing gloves. Happily, a friend gave me a reconditioned machine with XP, so I now have two computers on my desk with a thumb drive for moving graphics back and forth from Fauve Matisse and my more recent graphics software.

Play Incorporated expanded into other things like the Trinity system which was a TV/Video studio in a box. Kiki Stockhammer became one of the Internet's first human icons. The company soon became a target and was bought out by Macromedia, itself being later bought out by Adobe. These companies mined some of Fauve Matisse's functions for their own products but nothing comparable has been made. You can, however, still buy the original Fauve Matisse from Adobe (they just do not advertise it). Keep it on an XP or earlier machine though. Sadly, Gryphon Morph stopped working with Windows 98 and I cannot get it to open files in XP. You can see a couple of my morphs here and here which my wife changed to a JavaScript "slide show". The first was shown at an exhibition of early Celtic art in France in the late 90's. FantaMorph seems a good substitution and it works on Windows 7 64 bit.


  1. Nice to hear that also someone else still likes FM and uses it! I have just the same system, win7-64 as main computer and old XP beside it, just for Fauve Matisse. I didn't know that FM is still available from Adobe. On cd maybe, and not suitable for win7?

  2. Likewise! I've heard that companies have to offer old software from those whom they have bought out, but they do not have to advertise it or offer any support.

  3. I still use FM on an old XP machine. And you are so right! Nothing like it exists, even today! I designed many brushes on the fly (even photoshop cannot do this the way this little program does) with such a fluid working method. I love FM. But I was able to run it on windows 7 32bit at one point. My recommendation is to work in .BMP in it, and save as that format as well. Photoshop and affinity can them open them up without too much trouble.

    1. Yes, Claude, I should have mentioned about using .bmp and not jpegs as the latter do not render well any more. Targa (TGA) format does work and can be compressed.

      The brush-making facility is amazing. That sort of thing became extinct when people started paying for brushes!