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Morphing is an image editing technique in which images are blended into each other or manipulated so that they change radically over the course of several frames. The key feature of this technique is that it should be seamless, with a smooth transition which is almost imperceptible to the viewer. While morphing has been utilized since the early days of film, it really came into its own in the 1990s, when computer programs were developed to create seamlessly smooth morphed images.
One of the earliest forms of morphing was the cross-fade, a technique used in many 20th century films in which the camera slowly faded from one actor or object to another. Later, crossfading was replaced by dissolving, in which an image slowly faded away to reveal another image. Once film editing began to move into the digitized realm, morphing became much smoother and more sophisticated, and many early films with attempts at morphing look clumsy and obvious to modern viewers, although the technology was quite exciting at the time.
People can utilize morphing for a wide range of tasks. For example, in a video about a missing person, morphs might be used to show how the person may have aged since he or she was last seen, or how the person's appearance might change with the addition of wigs, glasses, and other methods of disguise. Morphing is also used in many films as a special effect, and in commercial advertising to do things like creating before and after shots to promote diet plans. Scientists can utilize morphing to study evolution, and to do things like creating realistic pictures of early humans with basic data about skull measurements and other dimensions of the body.
Sophisticated morphing programs can eat up a lot of memory, and they may only be available on high powered computers. However, smaller programs for home users are available, and some of these programs are even free. They range from basic programs which can approximate a morph between two images with little input from the user, to complex programs in which the user can control every aspect of the morph.
The smooth transitions and manipulations available through image morphing are appealing to everyone from political satirists to forensic anthropologists. Because of the widespread use of this and other image editing techniques, individual consumers should remember that images they see on the screen or on the page may not necessarily be accurate depictions of the real world, no matter how smooth and realistic they seem.