Thursday, October 25, 2007
I was just dusting off my notes for next week's LEVA classes and realized that I had yet to post on the topic of non-destructive editing in Photoshop. While this is not a new topic, several changes in Photoshop (from CS2 to CS3) have altered the landscape a wee bit.
In Photoshop CS3, non-destructive editing allows an analyst to try all sorts of effects and and get really crazy without modifying the original image. The preservation of the original file has always been the key in our line of work. You can use non-destructive editing in many different areas of Photoshop CS3. These include transforming with Smart Objects (new), global filtering with Smart Filters (new), adjusting lighting using shadows and highlights with Smart Objects (Yay!)(new), editing in Camera Raw (tiff and jpeg are new), adjusting variations with Smart Objects (new), opening Camera Raw images as Smart Objects (new), and the old standards like masking, and using adjustment layers. But be warned, there's one thing about Smart Objects and layers that might catch you off guard when you first add this to your work flow; if you duplicate a Smart Object (as in layers), Photoshop only stores the original source data whilst creating a second copy of the composite data. Thus, when you edit a Smart Object, Photoshop updates all copies. Why?
A Smart Object can be thought of as a container that holds raster or pixel image data from another Photoshop or Illustrator file (much like an AVI is really a container that holds multimedia data). It retains all its original data and, using the composite data, remains fully editable. As you are working on composite data and not original data, a Smart Object can thus be edited non-destructively in Photoshop without effecting original image data. Another way of looking at it is to say that Smart Objects store source data with the original object, so you can work on a copy of the image without changing the original—one file embedded within another.
Using Smart Objects in your image's layers wouldn't be of much use if you couldn't apply filters to them. When you apply a filter to a Smart Object, the filter is transformed into a Smart Filter. Adjustment layers stack above the layers that they affect. Smart Filters show up in the opposite way, appearing in the layers palette below the Smart Object layer. Like adjustments layers, you can show or hide them independently and they are nondestructive. So, if they are just like adjustment layers, only they stack down rather than up; what's so special about them? With Smart Filters, you can apply any filter, except Extract, Liquify, Pattern Maker, and Vanishing Point as a Smart Filter. Yes, this means Shadows and Highlights becomes a non-destructive Smart Filter option! I can hear the cheers erupting.
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, this will be the last post until I return from Calgary next week. Thanks for your support. Be well and stay safe.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Adjusting Curves can be intimidating, even for the most experienced analyst. The dialog and controls are not necessarily intuitive. For the novice, most don't even venture close to a curves adjustment. Today, we'll go over the basics and show you how the Tone Curve works in Adobe Camera Raw 4.2.
Remember, you can now work with JPEGs and Tiffs in Camera Raw. If you are shooting stills in the field, you should be shooting in Raw. If you have an older camera that doesn't support Raw, you should be able to shoot in JPEG. Either way, you'll be able to follow along with today's post.
Contrast is the measure of the grey values between an image's shadows and highlights. Not enough contrast and the image seems flat. Too much contrast and the image becomes a modern art masterpiece. Brightness is the overall measure of lighting in an image. Too dark, shadow detail is lost. Too light, highlight detail is lost. Just right usually equals a balanced image with detail retained in shadows, midtones, and highlights. How do we get there? The Contrast Slider in the Basic Panel can help, but is not the best tool in solving this problem. There is simply not enough control built into that slider to be of much use to us. Skip it and click on the Tone Curve panel's icon, the tab just to the right of the Basic panel's icon.
If you are upgrading from a previous version of Camera Raw, you'll notice that the familiar Point Curve has been shoved aside by the new Parametric Curve tab. What's the difference? We'll see.
The Point Curve is a good place to start as it performs much like the Curves dialog in Photoshop, but not exactly the same. One of the first things that you'll see is a drop-down menu called Curve. The default setting for this menu is Medium Contrast. Click on it and you'll see all of your choices; Linear, Medium Contrast, Strong Contrast, and Custom. Choosing Linear returns the image to its initial curve state, Medium Contrast kicks it up a notch, and Strong Contrast really gives it some punch. Remember, the steeper the curve, the more contrast it creates.
The easiest place to start is to choose one of the preset curves. For the moment, we'll stick with the Medium Contrast settings. You'll see that the line that runs from bottom left to top right has some points already mapped. Click on one of them and drag it up and down a bit. Notice that when you drag it up, the image lightens and when you drag it down, the image darkens. If you don't have the steadiest of hands, you can click on a point and use the arrow keys to move the control point around. If you are new to curves, you'll notice that the left side of the curve adjusts the shadows and the right side of the curve adjusts the highlights.
Having made some simple changes to the preset curve, you can see the difference in your image. More or less contrast is added as you slide the points up and down. If you want to start from scratch, you can choose Linear from the menu and add the points yourself. A simple click on the line adds a control point. You can then adjust them as described above. If you don't want that point anymore, just click and hold it - then drag it off the screen to throw it away.
If you are working on a lot of images from the same source and want to save these settings and use them again, click over on the Presets Icon (the furthest to the right). You may see a large white area, that's OK. Click on the fly out menu just to the top of the white space and select Save Settings. you can check or un-check settings as you like or use the drop-down menu. Since we just worked in the Point Curve panel, we can choose that from the drop-down menu and click save. When you go back to work in the Point Curve panel, click on the preset drop-down menu and you will see your saved settings at the bottom.
Congratulations, you've just adjusted the contrast in your image using Curves in ACR! But wait, there's more!
Remember when you first clicked on the Tone Curve icon, it was the Parametric Curve panel that was displayed. From there, we clicked on the Point Curve tab. Let's go back and look at the Parametric Curve panel.
You'll notice that there are four sliders on the bottom of the panel that control the Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows, or the four different areas of the curve. Before you start, click back to the Point Curve panel and make sure that Linear is selected. When you first open the dialog, Medium Contrast is selected by default. Therefore, if you start with the Parametric Curve, all the changes you make will be on top of the Medium Contrast curve. Selecting Linear returns the image to its starting point.
The easy way to work the sliders is to remember that right=brighter and left=darker and the controls work the curve from top to bottom, or from highlights to shadows. To drive up the contrast, we need to create space between the highlights and shadows. We can do this by sliding the highlights and lights sliders to the right and the darks and shadows sliders to the left. The more we slide the sliders, the steeper the curve becomes and the more kick we give to the contrast.
You can have even more control over the effect using the Region Divider controls. These are the the triangle shaped controls directly under the vertical lines that dissect the curve. Click the control on the far right to effect the lights/highlights. Slide the control to the right and you give more control of the area to the lights slider and less to the highlights slider, and so forth. Feel free to experiment. Dragging the outside controls to the center steepens the curve even further, adding a ton of punch to your image.
Now that you've worked with both curve panels, give it a try. Once you start working with ACR as the entry point for your work flow, I think you'll be hooked.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Oh how I love the measurement tool ... let me count the ways.
Many in the forensic realm have heard of Photogrammetry, but have shied away from trying it for fear of that dreaded word ... math. Never heard of Photogrammetry? In a general sense, its a method used to determine the geometric properties (ie. height, width, distance, etc) of an object in an image. It is far more complicated than the simplistic definition that I've offered, but I think that you get the point. I bring this up as a way to introduce the new Measurement feature in Photoshop CS3 Extended.
So lets say that you need to measure an area or an object in an image. No problem, right? You should be able to get that using the info palette, right?. Well, almost ... What happens when you want to track and log the measurement data for forensic purposes?. Still want to use the info pallet? No? No worries, Photoshop CS3 Extended is here to help.
You can measure any area defined with one of the Selection tools, the Ruler tool, or the Count tool. The measurement feature in Photoshop CS3 Extended allows you to compute and track data points, such as height, width, area, and perimeter. It conveniently tracks the measurement data in the Measurement Log palette, which you can customize to display the information you want.
Important Tip: before you start to measure, set the measurement scale to specify what you want X number of pixels to represent in units, such as inches or millimeters (damn that metric system). An especially cool feature lets you place scale markers on an image to display the measurement scale.
Want to give it a go? Let's try it together.
Click Analysis>Set Measurement Scale>Custom.
Enter the pixel length and logical length, and then specify the logical units. You will have to have some info from the scene. For example, if a desk in the scene measures 42" from floor to its top, and the ruler measures it as 237 pixels in the image, then your pixel length would be 237, your logical length would be 42, and your units would be inches.
(If you have a lot of similar images to process, you can save the measurement scale as a preset. Click Save Preset, type a name, and then click OK.)
When all of this is finished, click OK.
Placing a Scale Marker in your image
A scale marker can be a helpful visual reminder of the scale used in the measurements.
Analysis>Place Scale Marker.
Enter a number for the length of the scale marker in pixels.
To show the logical length and units for the scale marker, select the Display Textcheck box.
Click the Bottom or Top option to specify where you want the text caption. It's your choice here. Use your best judgement based on what's relevant in the image.
Click the Black or White option to set the scale marker and caption color. If your image is dark, you'll want to click white. If your image is light, you'll want to click black.
Open a document.
Click Analysis>Select Data Points>Custom.
Select the check boxes next to the data points you want to measure and track for the different tools. You may only want to check width, length, or height.
Select the Ruler tool in the toolbox, and then click and drag the tool to measure what you want.
Click Window>Measurement Log to open the Measurement Log palette.
Click Analysis>Record Measurements to record the count to the Measurement Log.
When you are finished, click on Select All from the palette's fly-out menu. Then click on Export Selected. This will save your results in a text file that can be imported to your word processor or spread sheet application.
Give it a try. It's accuracy depends on accurate measurements of known objects at the scene. Also be aware of the camera's angle and height relative to the scene. There may be a keystone effect happening in your image that may effect the accuracy of your measurements.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
As I mentioned in a previous post, a large part of the forensic process involves presenting your results to a judge and jury; and getting cross examined by the opposing attorney. There are several ways to present in court. I've heard from analysts who bring their Ocean Systems' Luggable to court. I've heard from others who output their files to Flash, or AVI, or WMV, or MOV, or DVD.
When those clips or individual images end up as part of presentation, many still choose to use Microsoft's PowerPoint to present them in court. I don't want to name names, but I've seen some horrendous presentations that have blitzed jurors with tons of information in bullet point form and put these poor jurors to sleep. What's wrong with this picture?
The key to an effective presentation is to keep the audience's focus on you, the presenter. If you are focused on the screen whilst reading the bullet points to the jury, so too will their focus be on the screen. You don't want that. You want them to be focused on you and what you are saying to them. Have a conversation with them. Invite them into your world. Explain complex things in a simple (but not condescending) way. If forensics is presentation and debate, then the key to being successful is to control the attention of your audience. Look at me and hear what I have to say. Look at this image. This is what I found. Look at me as I explain why my findings are important. And so on ...
Presentation skills are tough to master as most people shy away from the spotlight. No worries ... there is help out there. Cliff Atkinson has a great book called Beyond Bullet Points that really helps you explore ways to connect with your audience.
You can achieve a mastery over your tools and produce brilliant work in Photoshop. But, you are handicapped if you can't effectively present your findings (forensics). More often than nought, our work speaks for itself and attorneys can come to an agreement based on what they see (plea agreement). But, when your work goes to trial, you can make or break the case with your testimony. At $30, Cliff Atkinson's book goes a long way in helping you make your case.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
George Reis has gone and done it. He has been talking about his book for a while. Now, it's in the stores and available for sale. I am glad that he has taken the time to get this on the market. George has been around for a long time and is a regular Photoshop instructor with Resolution Video. I am a proponent of buying as many good books on a subject as possible, and this one is a must have for my library. Good job George!
I saw this site and just had to share it with you. Here is a company, Bounty Fishing, that is using image authentication to validate the images being sent to them by folks who compete in their fishing tournaments. No more lying about how big that fish was, they've sorted out the details and are keeping contestants honest. Good for them. I love stuff like this.
One of the hard parts about our job is making the complex understandable to the common juror. Once we've achieve a mastery of our tools, this becomes a bit easier. As we talk with our peers about the processes that we use, our discussion comfort level increases. Most of us, however, have trouble making compression understandable, even to ourselves.
There are many types of compression out there. I have found a few links that may help you in explaining the various compression schemes that you may encounter.
General notes on image compression
General notes on video compression
General notes on multimedia containers
Chroma Subsampling favours luma over chroma - used in JPEG.
Transform Coding can be used as a precursor to compression - as in JPEG and MPEG.
General notes on video codecs.
As with any link on the web, check it's accuracy and don't take it for granted that it's factually correct. These links are just suggested starting points on discovery tour. Another great place to find information is O'Reilly's Safari Book Service. You can also find a lot of information about DVR viewers and programs at Larry Compton's site (highly recommended!).
Have you ever had a bunch of Tiff images from the same source with the same lighting problems? Maybe you did a sequential Tiff image export from Adobe Premier Pro CS3 or from your Avid Media Composer Adrenaline. Everything seems fine with these images, but the exposure seems just a bit off. You want a way to quickly bump the exposure, but you are not sure how. Well, here's a quick way using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw 4.2:
- In Bridge, browse to the folder containing your images.
- Press Ctrl-A (or Edit>Select All) to highlight all of the Tiff images in the folder.
- Press Ctrl-R (or File>Open in Camera Raw) to open all of them in Adobe Camera Raw 4.2.
- Press Ctrl-A to highlight all of the thumbnails in the Filmstrip or click the Select All button in the upper left corner.
- Make your exposure adjustments
- Click on the Done button when you are finished.
You can now see your changes in the Bridge Content and Preview Panels. If you want to clear these settings later and return the files to their original state, right click on the image(s) and choose Develop Settings>Clear Settings.
This can be a simple way to make simple lighting adjustments when time is of the essence. Remember, this is only a temporary fix to facilitate a quick viewing of the enhanced images. To make the changes permanent, you have to open the images in Photoshop and save them.
Monday, October 15, 2007
This little guy is an indespensible member of my team. From the moment that I saw one, I knew that I had to have one. Now that I own one, I can't imagine life without it. I used to carry around a 12lb laptop. Now I have one of these ... and it outperforms that old laptop. I demonstrated its uses in our DCCTV class at NATIA and I'm bringing it to LEVA; if you want to see it in person. Otherwise, click on the link to find out more.
In the Forensic Photoshop work flow, the first step after acquiring the image is to address issues of focus. One of the easiest ways to deal with focus is with Adobe's deconvolution filter, also known as Smart Sharpen. Here is a quick overview of the settings:
There are two ways of working with the Smart Sharpen interface, Basic and Advanced. The Advanced mode has the same settings as Basic and allows you to fade the effect in the shadows and/or highlights.
Amount: Like Unsharp Mask, a higher value increases the contrast between edge pixels, giving the appearance of greater sharpness.
Radius: How far out do you want to apply the effect? The greater the radius value, the wider the area that will be subject to an increase in contrast. Enter too large a number and you will have noticeable halos.
Remove: Offers a selection of three ways to find and minimize the blur, thus sharpening the image:
- Gaussian Blur - This option works like the Unsharp Mask filter and is the fastest.
- Lens Blur - This option does a great job looking for edges and detail and thus produces finer sharpening of detail.
- Motion Blur - Got camera or subject motion blur? This option looks for it and reduces the effect. Be sure to measure the angle of blur with the Measure Tool, if you plan to use the Motion Blur option. (Make note of the measured value in the Options bar before entering the Smart Sharpen interface, and then input it into the Angle control field).
More Accurate: Processes the file twice for better removal of blur and enhanced sharpness. Be warned, this option can double processing time.
From the Advanced Settings:
Fade Amount: This adjusts the amount of sharpening in the highlights and/or shadows. Fade it all the way (100%) to conceal the sharpening. No fade (0%) gives maximum sharpening. Think of it as a Blending Mode's opacity slider in reverse.
Tonal Width: This controls the range of tones that are modified by Smart Sharpening. The lower the setting the more subtle the result.
Radius: The slider works like Radius in Basic mode and controls the size of the area around each pixel that is used to determine whether a pixel is in the shadows or highlights.
Now that you've seen how each of the settings works, give it a try on your images. Input your images. Then correct the focus. Then look at contrast, lighting, and colour. Then deal with noise. Then sharpen edges and detail. Interpolate if necessary and add a final touch of sharpening before you print or archive.
There are some photographers who advise moving into LAB mode before using Smart Sharpen. I tend to agree, but with certain exceptions and it depends on the image. Mostly, I would convert to LAB mode during the final sharpening step, not necessarily at the focus correction step. Try it for yourself and see if you can tell the difference.
Today, I want to look at metadata. For Forensic Video Analysts, this might be an under used part of the work flow. For photographers, this might be a bit of a review. I want to highlight a few easy ways to add metadata info to multiple images, thus saving you a ton of time. For these exercises, we will be working in Bridge.
With all of the images that you want to work with in the same folder, you can select them all by clicking on Control-A. With all of the images selected, click to the right of the info field that you want to work with to activate it. Then start typing. When you are finished, press Enter. All of your images will now have this custom metadata. If you only want to apply custom metadata to certain images within the folder, Control-Click on the images to select the images that you want to work with. Then work with the info as stated above. Remember to click Enter when you are done to apply the changes.
You'll need to start with an image on which to base your template. Select the image and choose Tools>Create Metadata Template. This will bring up the template dialog. Turn on the check boxes for those metadata categories that you want to be visible. Then, in the fields to the right of the descriptions, type in your data. This can be your basic case information such as investigating officer, case file number, defendant's name, and so forth. Use the scroll bar on the right to get to the bottom of the template. At the top of the box is Template Name. Make sure to name the template as this will be the name that you'll see listed when you go to apply the template later. When you are done, click on the Save button on the bottom of the dialog box.
Not that you've created your template, applying it is easy. Simply Click / Control-Click on the relevant images and select Tools>Append Metadata. Then choose your template from the list. Once chosen, the metadata is appended to the images. Each one of these options takes just a few seconds to perform.
You can change how the metadata is displayed by clicking on/off the check boxes. You will also have to decide on where to put info for your case, such as case record number; as there is not yet a law enforcement version of the standard metadata dialog.
A Third Option?
One company, Pound Hill, has a promising product called MetaGrove. This product lets you design and deploy custom metadata fields and works with Adobe's suite of products. Here is a blurb from their web site:
MetaGrove™: A Comprehensive Toolkit for XMP Metadata Cultivation.
Based on the XMP open standard for metadata, the integrated MetaGrove software toolkit greatly enhances the metadata capturing and storing capabilities of Adobe Creative Suite. MetaGrove capabilities include:
- Definition of custom schema and metadata properties.
- Creation of custom user interfaces.
- Automated custom links to external media management systems.
- Unlimited automation possibilities.
The comprehensive toolkit consists of MetaGrove Developer and MetaGrove Plug-ins for Adobe’s Creative Suite.
This product looks promising. I have received a demo version from the company, but have yet to deploy it. With my agency, I need to identify funding prior to using trial ware on case work, so that it can be purchased after the trial expires. There was the issue of the plug-ins. At this time, users need a plug-in to view the custom metadata and Pound Hill charges for the plug-ins. I understand that they are working with Adobe on licensing issues that would allow them to distribute a read-only version of the plug-in for free. This would be an absolute necessity for those of us in law enforcement. I can't image having to tell an attorney that he has to pay $199 to view my metadata.
In the next installments, we'll get right into the work flow.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The latest version of Bridge lets us extend our workspace across two monitors. That's right. You heard me. For those of us who use 2 monitors, this is huge. Here is how to set it up.
Go to Bridge's Window menu and choose New Synchronized Window. Window>New Synchronized Window
This creates an identical window ... not exactly what we were looking for. But wait, there's more. Before you slide it over to your second monitor, there's a few things we need to do to set it up to display just your preview pane.
With the new window on top, choose the Window menu and you'll see that most of the panel names have a check mark by them (this means that they will be visible). All we want to see with this new window is the Preview panel. Choose each one but the Preview panel. This should remove the check mark and remove them from view.
With everything hidden, you now have the Content Panel and the Preview Panel. You can't hide the Content Panel, so just slide the divider bar all the way to the left of the screen. This hides the Content Panel and leaves just the Preview Panel.
Now you can drag the panel over to your second monitor. When you click on an image in the Content Panel on your 1st monitor, the Preview Panel displays that image in the 2nd monitor. Synchronized Windows. Amazing.
You'll want to save this work space. Go to Window>Save Workspace. Additionally, you can assign this work space to one of the three buttons (1 2 3) on the bottom right of the screen. Simply click and hold on one of the buttons and then choose Save Workspace from the pop-up menu.
Thanks Adobe. You've got to love it when a software company actually listens to it's users ... and Adobe really does.
Stay tuned ... next time we'll look at Metadata and various ways to get your important information in there (including Metadata Templates).
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I wanted to take the occasion of things being really busy in the office to digress a wee bit. We've talked about calibrating your equipment and managing your work flow in previous posts. In future posts we'll touch on the issue of balance in images. In this post, I want to turn the lens of examination inward. What does that mean, you might ask? We take great care of our equipment, but do we treat ourselves with the same affection?
Years ago, I had a client who ran one the most successful speakers' bureaus in the world. She, herself, was a pioneer in the field and a best selling author. Dottie Walters recently passed away, leaving an incredible legacy to her grandson, Michael MacFarlane, who had been competently running the business as Vice President as Dottie's health failed. Working with Dottie and Michael as a contractor, I handled their web sites as well as developing a web presence for some of their speaking clients. One of these clients was Karl LaRowe.
I built one of Karl's first web sites and got to know him and his business. Then, as time passed, he wanted to handle his own site so I wished him well and handed it over to him ...
Fast forward to 2001. I've started with the LAPD and began to establish the Forensic Video Lab. Equipment is ordered from Ocean Systems and Boxx and arrives in 2002. I start working cases; in the beginning it was just me. Fast forward again to 2005 ... After hundreds of cases and tens of thousands of images of some of the most vile and violent acts, I am starting to have trouble sleeping. I am also having some other symptoms that I would later be told was PTSD.
One the biggest things that law enforcement image/video analysts get subjected to is something called Vicarious Trauma. Our department is really good about counselling and whatnot, but their remedy wasn't helping, mainly because I was still doing the very thing that caused the trauma in the first place.
Out of the blue, Karl sends me a note. His webmaster has moved on and he needed some advice. Remembering what he did, I asked him about PTSD and how his Flow Motion worked. He sent me his book and my life has never been the same. As I began to work with his Flow Motion exercises, the changes in me were subtle at first. I kept with it. Later I added QiGong into the mix. I have been amazed with the results. Just like many of us (myself included) take vitamins daily, I now have Flow Motion and QiGong as part of my daily routine. Needless to say, the PTSD symptoms are gone.
Keeping along the balance theme, as all of the PTSD stuff was happening, I weighed 29 stone. I was finishing up a championship career as a caber tosser and didn't need the bulk anymore. When I had left for college at 17 to play football, I was 20 stone. I wanted to get back into that shape again. I joined the California Blue Knights of the National Public Safety Football League. I figured that playing football again would be a fun way to get back into shape. At 1.98m and 29 stone, they were glad to have me.
I played my first season with them (2005) at Tackle and at 29 stone. We won a few games, but had a losing season. The Blue Knights had never had a winning season in the NPSFL, which is very competitive. I decided to lose some weight and move to guard. I lost four and a half stone in the off season and felt great. I entered the season at Guard and we were winning. We had a really great team for the 2006 season. Then, in a game against LA Fire, I got clipped and burst my right MCL. We had a winning season, but my knee was toast.
How do you work out and stay in shape with a busted knee? Why should I still be 25 stone if I wasn't playing sports? What to do?
Enter Matt Furey. I found Matt Furey's site by accident. I remembered that when I was younger, I had the hardest time keeping weight on when I was wrestling. It had been over 20 years since I wrestled so I was a bit foggy on the workouts and how to do them properly. I did a Google search for wrestling workouts and found Matt's site. I saw his book on conditioning and ab work and stretching and knew that this was for me. I bought Combat Conditioning first. Then I bought Combat Abs. I poured over these books and tried all of the exercises. I worked the in with my daily Flow Motion and QiGong until I found "my workout." Now that I have "my workout," the pounds have flown off.
People at my gym are amazed at how many Hindu Squats I can do. They are equally amazed that a man of my size, now 19 stone, can literally bend over backwards and hold a bridge position for minutes on end. My workout stretches and strengthens all of my muscles over the course of about an hour. I can do this workout anywhere as it doesn't require any equipment. I have used it to rehab my knee to as good as it can possibly get without surgery.
Breathing, stretching ... focus ... balance. I now have a way to prevent PTSD, to shield against vicarious trauma, and to feel in complete control of my life. I have examined myself completely and found what works. I have used the power of my rational mind, what Dr. Maxwell Maltz calls Psycho-Cybernetics, to solve my problems myself ... without gimmicks and without medications.
I hope that you don't mind this little digression. My hope is that you can understand a little better about the process and life's balance by seeing a little bit about how I got here and who helped me along the way. Karl LaRowe, Matt Furey, Dr. Maltz, Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang, and of course ... my family, have all played a valuable part in making this all a reality. My eternal gratitude is extended to them all. If you are struggling with PTSD, seek help. You are not alone. If you need to lose weight, start now. There is always a way to do it. If you can't sort it out for yourself, others are there to help show you the way, just as they have been for me. Ours is a tight-knit community and helping each other is what this blog is about. If you want to know more, feel free to contact me or anyone mentioned in this blog.
Be well ...
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Automate, Batch File, Actions, & Scripts
There are a lot of things that we do everyday, to every image, when we are working in Forensics. I like to work in ProPhoto RGB and 16bpc, so I created an action called Open File. This action runs as a script on every file that Photoshop opens. How did I do this? Good question.
First you must create the action. With a photo open, bring up the Actions palette and select New Action. Call it something descriptive. Begin recording. Select Image>Mode>16 Bits/Channel. This converts your image from 8bpc to 16bpc. Then select Edit>Convert to Profile. For my settings, I chose ProPhoto RGB as my destination space (huge gamut), Adobe (ACE) as my Engine, and Relative Colormetric as my Intent. Additionally, I check the box to Use Black Point Compensation hopefully ensuring that shadow detail is preserved. After all of that, I click ok and stop the recording. I now have my Action.
The next step in this process is to tell Photoshop to run this Action on each image as it opens. This is done with the Script Events Manager, File>Scripts>Script Events Manager. In the dialog box, we want to make sure the check the box to Enable Events to Run Scripts/Actions. Pull the Photoshop Event drop-down menu and select Open Document. Then click the radio button for Action and pull the drop-down menu for your Set, then for your Action. When you've selected the Action that you want to run when your documents open, click on the Add Button to add this event to the list in the top part of the dialog box. When you're done, click the done button. You've now scripted Photoshop!
Your repetitive tasks can be easily changed into Actions. I have an action that set my files up so that I can begin to work on them, creating a duplicate layer and a blank curves adjustment layer. I have one that adjusts the Pixel Aspect Ratio for correctly viewing stills from NTSC tapes. I have another that adjusts the Pixel Aspect Ratio for correctly printing stills from NTSC tapes. I have many more for de-interlacing (4 ways), for interpolating, for preparing stills from digital CCTV sources, and so forth. I have sets for creative actions, a set for common forensic actions, and often create temporary sets for use in a single case. Make sure that you save your actions! This can be done from the fly-out menu in the Actions palette. If I have used actions that I made specifically for a case, I will generally include the saved action file with the case files as a courtesy. If you ever receive an action file, you can load it from the same fly-out menu.
In the next installment, we'll wrap up this introduction. In future editions, we'll look closer at some of steps in the workflow, look at some 3rd party plug-ins, and review a few good books.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
When we left off, we were talking about managing colour throughout the entire suite using Adobe's Bridge. Again, the great thing about setting up colour management in Bridge is that colour settings are automatically synchronized across all the Creative Suite programs. From a workflow standpoint, its always a good idea to configure the colour settings before you begin to work with your equipment on casework. If you haven't already performed theses steps, its best to do so now.
To review, in order to manage colour with Bridge, you need to enable it as a function:
Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Enable Color Management in Bridge (check box)>OK.
Let's look at some of the common terms that you'll see in some of the colour management settings*.
Working Spaces: Defines the working colour profiles for each colour model.
Color Management Policies: Defines how the colors in a colour model are managed. Choose to embed or convert the selected profile ... or just ignore it.
Conversion Options: Defines exactly how you want the conversion process handled. Using a colour-defined Engine and colour conversion Intent.
Advanced Controls: Desaturate Monitor Colours gives you the ability to control the viewing of a colour space on different monitors but if you activate it your images will print differently than viewed on your monitor.
Rendering intents deal with how a colour profile is converted from one colour space into another. In specifying a rendering intent you are saying how you want the colours to be displayed (Click on the title link for a great explanation and graphs on Rendering Intents). This can cause issues if your target gamut does not have enough space for all of the colours in your image. Some of this problem can be solved moving your image to a large gamut space like ProPhoto RGB and converting the image to 16bpc.
Here are your options:
Perceptual. Preserves the natural colours of an image, as viewed by the human eye, sometimes at the expense of the true colour values.
Saturation. Creates vivid colours in an image, with little consideration given to the original colour values of the image.
Relative Colorimetric. Shifts the colour space of the document to that of the maximum highlight values of the destination. Preserves more of the original colour than Perceptual and may be the best choice for moving from your source space to ProPhoto RGB. As with everything in the forensic world, test your theories on your own equipment and be able to explain what you did - in case you are questioned later in court (forensics).
Absolute Colorimetric. Clips any colours in the destination image that do not fall into the colour gamut of the destination.
Another great resource for this discussion is Bruce Lindbloom's web site.
*The Photoshop help files are a great resource for further reading.
In the next installment, we'll look at some starting tasks that we can automate before we begin to process our images.
Monday, October 1, 2007
How many monitors do your have in your work area? Do you use an LCD monitor or a CRT? What type of lighting do you have in your office? Do you have incandescent or fluorescent lights? How much sunlight gets into your area? If you have a window, does it face north, south, east, or west? Colors in an image can appear different when you view them using different monitors or under differing lighting conditions.
What about your printers? How much did you spend and what features did you receive for the money? If you have an Epson Stylus Photo R2400, you can manage colour quite effectively. You can even do some interesting things with black and white images using Jon Cone's Piezography inks. Never heard of Piezography? How many gray ink cartridges does your inkjet support? Many of the lower end printers just have a single black cartridge. The Piezography K7 inks support seven shades of gray, essentially replacing all of your inks in your R2400 with shades of grey. Talk about great black and white prints.
Our work in Photoshop requires the reproduction of consistent colour across different devices, thus managing color should be an essential part of our workflow. Adobe's Creative Suite 3 provides a group of built-in color management systems that are designed to help reproduce consistent colour. The necessity of colour management in a forensic workflow lies in its ability to reproduce consistent colours with a system that harmonizes differences between the colour spaces of each device. Forensic = reporducable or explainable ...
So, where do we start with colour management? Photoshop? You certainly can. Edit>Color Settings. You can do this from any application within the Creative Suite. But, there's a better way.
Colour management with Adobe's Bridge.
Like with Photoshop, choose Edit>Creative Suite Color Settings. Click on Show Expanded List of Color Settings Files. Managing colour from this point allows you to control the entire Creative Suite's colour management, not just Photoshop. Colour management is not just consistency across devices, but also across applications. Managing colour in Bridge allows you to do just that. If you are like me, and you use the entire Suite in your workflow, then this becomes a huge bonus. From your entry point in Bridge, to Camera Raw, to Photoshop ... going to print? InDesign and Acrobat ... going to video? Premier Pro, Encore, Flash, and After Effects ... going to the web or a mobile device? Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash ... see what I mean?
In the next installment, we'll look at profiles, gamuts, spaces, and rendering intents.