Digital Innovations
Hidden Treasures In Imaging Software

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Samsung's SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT flat panel monitors offer scaling features for the graphics professional as well as the ability to directly connect DVD players, camcorders, and VCRs.
Photos © Joe Farace, 2000

I try to have fun with digital images every day. This usually involves manipulating a few images then making prints using different kinds of papers on whatever printer I'm currently testing. Right now, that's an Epson Stylus Photo 1270 whose new inks and Lightfast paper will produce a print with a life of up to 24 years (www.wilhelm-research.com). The output of this printer is impressive but no more than a hidden collection of Photoshop Actions I found while playing with some image files from a recent model shoot.

Actions was one of the important features that Adobe Systems added to Photoshop 4.0 and has been part of every subsequent edition. They are simply "macros" or lists of instructions that enable users to save a sequence of image-editing steps, then apply them to another file in the future. An action can be applied to an entire photograph, a selected part of an image, or to many different files in a batch operation. You can run or "play" an action with certain steps disabled or have the script display selected dialog boxes allowing you to interactively adjust settings. Some actions are provided by Adobe on their Photoshop CD-ROM in the "Goodies" folder, but only a few are actually in place when you initially install the program. It's up to you to install some of the others that are stored in the actions folder. In order to use them, they must first be installed on the actions palette by using the Load Actions command.

Agfa's new e50 flat-bed scanner, sporting its translucent orange handle, has a built-in transparency adapter along with one touch buttons for sending the digitized image via e-mail, optical character recognition, printing, or directly to your image-editing software.

I recently discovered 14 actions called Image Effects while poking around the Windows version of Photoshop. After installation, the actions appear as a set of yellow buttons with descriptive names that accomplish pretty much what the label says. One exception is Soft Edge Glow which creates an effect on portraits that approximates a Zeiss Softar filter better than any plug-in or software product I've tried. The Soft Focus Action, on the other hand, produces an effect similar to a traditional soft focus filter. Two "weather" effects--Blizzard and Light Rain--produce results that you can use to create your own bad weather images (see Shutterbug June, 2000, page 92). Although I didn't care for Lizard Skin or Neon Nights, I may just need to find an appropriate image for them to effectively work. My favorites are the ones that combine black and white with color effects. Image Effects includes two Sepia Actions that work well, but three others are designed to fade part of a color photograph into black and white. They are the Colorful Center, Horizontal Color Fade, and Vertical Color Fade. The Soft Posterization and Soft Pastel Actions produce the kind of dreamy images--if you start with the right photograph--seen in some of Robert Farber's fashion work and images of women.

Take the time to explore your own favorite digital imaging program. You never know what kind of hidden treasures you might find.

The www.clevercontent.com is a free web service that allows individuals to create an online portfolio containing 10 images and protect them from being copied, printed or screen captured.

Black And White Ink Jet Printing. Cone Edition's PiezographyBW is a simplified approach to QuadBlack (printing with four different shades of black ink) output. The package includes a set of fade-resistant pigment based QuadBlack inks and a Photoshop compatible Export plug-in for the Epson 3000 printer. Everything you need is included in one easy to use package that installs in seconds. The software works from Adobe Photoshop but there are no curves or transfer functions to worry about. Your image file remains in gray scale mode and the output contains no crossover dots of darker ink in the lighter tones. The software contains a built-in paper/profile selector, but manual overrides are provided for those who love to experiment.

PiezographyBW software allows the user to image in single channel gray scale mode, permitting full resolution files. The Export command automatically assigns each of the four inks a range of tones to print, resulting in the output of impressive black and white prints. Cone Editions has released a new range of papers including book and fine art weight 100 percent rag papers and the software includes ICQ profiles for Arches Watercolor, Concord Rag, ConeTech, Orwell, Tunbridge, Sheffield, Forest Dale, Epson Photo Paper, Photo Quality Inkjet or Glossy, Lysonic Media; Luminos Preservation Media, Somerset, Velvet Enhanced; TaraJet Canvas; Weber-Valentine Heavy Weight Hi-Res; and "unsupported" for unprofiled papers. For more information about this product, including a detailed Frequently Asked Question section visit: www.inkjet mall.com/store/piezographyBW.html

The Image Effects Actions are the yellow buttons in the actions palette on the screen's right-hand side. The photograph of model Amy Cleary is shown before applying any effects.

Scan This. Agfa recently announced two new flat-bed scanners. The SnapScan e40 is the first in the company's new "e" series that are designed for electronic communications. It features 42-bit color depth and an optical resolution of 2400x1200. The maximum scanning area is 8.5x11.7" and its USB connectivity is compatible with Mac OS and Windows computers. Agfa's ScanWise software is part of this package and automatically formats scanned images for e-mail, word processing, text conversion, web pages, or image manipulation programs. Agfa has integrated its ColorTune color management software and PhotoGenie image enhancement into the ScanWise software. Those of us who like a touch of fashion in their peripherals will enjoy the interchangeable handles that are provided in translucent orange, blue, or graphite. Users can change the scanner trim colors based on their personal taste or to match their computer. The SnapScan e40 has a suggested price of $169. The SnapScan e50 has all of the features of the e40 but has a built-in transparency adapter and four programmable buttons--ala Agfa's SnapScan Touch--for greater ease of use. It has a suggested price of $199. For more information about Agfa's "e" series and their other flat-bed scanners, visit the company's web site at: www.agfahome.com.

To produce a hand-tinted look, the author first softened the image using the Soft Edge Glow Action, then finished with the Vertical Color Fade Action. To create the effect you see here, all it took was two mouse clicks. To further achieve the hand-tinted look, the image was printed on Adorama's ProJet Double-Sided Matte paper using an Epson Stylus Photo 1270.

Monitor This. The availability of flat panel LCD monitors have enabled designers to create monitors that are a far cry from the clunky Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) models of the soon-to-be-distant past. Sometimes this design can take a whimsical turn, such as the Shelby Cobra PC that's designed to look like Carroll Shelby's fabulous sports car (www.shelbypc.com) or more practically the gray (they call it "silver") Samsung SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT. Once you get past the inelegant name, you'll see the first 15" flat panel monitor to offer image downscaling capabilities. Using the Windows-only software that's provided, you can downscale to large screen (1280x1024) resolution, and have continuous zoom--up to 64x--allowing you to zoom and pan across any part of an image that you might be retouching. For you techies who want to know specifications, the monitor has a .297mm dot pit and a refresh rate of 85Hz. For those of you who could care less about numbers, the monitor looks and works great. This Samsung is a true 15" TFT (Thin Film Transistor) monitor whose usable screen area is only slightly smaller than the 17" monitor it replaces. The base of SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT pivots allowing you to view the screen in traditional landscape (horizontal) mode or vertically in portrait mode. This monitor also has a direct hook-up to DVD players, camcorders, and VCRs that combined with Picture In Picture viewing lets you work on your Quicken budget while stealing a glance at Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The SynchMaster 570pPlusTFT has a retail price of $1139. For more information about Samsung's monitors including their short-neck 19" CRT that occupies the same desktop space as a 15" model, visit their web site at: www.samsungmonitor.com.

One of the author's favorite pictures is of his wife Mary. This shot was taken several years ago at Disney World just after a rain shower. He loves this photograph because it captures the essence of fun that is Mary and it was used in one of his books to demonstrate how to add digital raindrops to a photograph. Here, he used the Light Rain Action to add a spring shower.

Clever Content. In my PMA 2000 report I mentioned a company called Alchemedia that offers online copyright protection for images via its PixSafe product that is designed for corporations or stock photo libraries. While the company works to bring this technology to individual photographers, they've established a free web site at: www.clevercontent.com which allows pixographers to post a limited number of protected images. The only problem has been that the Clever Content image viewer needed for people to view these protected images was only available for Windows computers. Recently, Alchemedia announced that the Macintosh version of the Viewer was available. This technology prevents the copying, printing, or screen capturing of digital images. Mac users, many of whom work in photography, graphic design or related fields, will now be able to use the free Clever Content Viewer to see protected image catalogs. Other products include:

· Clever Content Server: An application for companies that have dedicated servers allowing content owners to protect and control the use of their digital images. The Clever Content platform is comprised of image protection software for Windows NT and Sun Micro-systems' Solaris, installed on the host server along with a JAVA based, platform independent, remote management tool that is used to select which images are to be protected.

· Clever Content Viewer: This is a free browser plug-in supporting Windows and Macintosh browsers, implemented as an ActiveX Control for Microsoft Internet Explorer and a SmartUpdate for Netscape Navigator.

· Clevercontent.com: A free web service that allows individuals to create an online portfolio containing 10 images and protect them from being copied, printed, or screen captured.

For more information about any of these products and services, visit Alchemedia's web site at: www.alche media.com or www.clevercontent.com.

Medium Format Digital Imaging. Phase One has announced that its LightPhase digital camera back will be available with an infrared cutoff filter mounted directly on the back. Like most imaging sensors, the LightPhase also captures a big chunk of the infrared spectrum. Mounting the filter on the lens has many advantages including minimizing problems with dust or scratches on the filter. It also lets you substitute an 87C IR filter, enabling you to create digital infrared images. The disadvantage is that it drastically reduces the amount of light in the viewfinder, making it more difficult to precisely focus. The LightPhase family of digital camera backs is available for the Hasselblad, Mamiya 645AF, and there is a new model for the Contax 645. Backs with the IR filter mounted have a suggested retail price of $22,900. For more information on Phase One digital backs, visit their web site at: www.phase one.com
More Scanners. UMAX Technolo-gies announced the professional PowerLook 2100XL. A one-size-fits-all scanner for graphics professionals who require high resolution and fast color scanning of odd-sized or large documents in a small-footprint package. It consumes minimal space on the desktop, yet provides tabloid-sized scanning. The PowerLook 2100XL features UMAX's proprietary Mirror Moving Technology which utilizes mirrors to project scanned images directly to a stationary CCD element which minimizes signal noise to produce higher quality, more consistent scans. It also reduces the scanner's overall power consumption and scanning time. Despite a footprint of just over 18x24", the scanning bed measures 12x17" and, when used with the optional transparency adapter, it can accommodate up to 32 35mm slides. With its auto-detect slide holders, the Power-Look 2100XL can crop and scan up to 32 slides automatically at a D-max of 3.4. The PowerLook 2100XL is available in several bundles that combine accessories and software, including:

· The Photo/Prepress bundle, includes a scanner, transparency adapter, along with PowerColor scanning and asset management software and has a suggested retail price of $2699.

· The Pro Design (Mac or Windows) bundle, includes a scanner and transparency adapter for $2399. Software includes MagicScan scanning software, binuscan PhotoPerfect CMYK and RGB for automatic color correction and separation, image-editing, asset management, and OCR software.

· The Design (Mac or Windows) bundles a scanner and transparency adapter for $2199. Software package includes MagicScan scanning software, binuscan PhotoPerfect RGB, image-editing, and OCR software.

· The Scanner and Duo Design bundle, includes the scanner for $1699 and MagicScan scanning software, binuscan PhotoPerfect RGB, image-editing, and OCR software.

For additional information about UMAX and its other products, call (800) 562-0311 or visit: www.umax.com.

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