Digital Innovations
The Times They Are A Changin, Digitally That Is

Microtek's ScanMaker V6USL flat-bed scanner delivers up to legal-sized print scans and can also digitize 35mm film for a price tag under $150.

Take a look at the photograph of me that accompanies this month's column. Nothing remarkable, wouldn't you say? I am standing in front of the Applied Science Fiction (ASF) stand at the photokina 2000 show in Köln, Germany, last September. I was photographed by an ASF employee who used a Nikon F100 camera with a 25-80mm zoom and Kodak Gold 200 color negative film, but the output from that brief photo session was a digital JPEG file e-mailed to me back in the U.S.A. The digital capture method used was ASF's Digital Dry Film Process (DDFP) and the image itself is quite remarkable. Using the company's DDFP technology, the film was processed and analyzed on a pixel-by-pixel basis before being digitized as a TIFF, JPEG, or BMP file. In my case, the JPEG file was e-mailed to me, I saved it as a TIFF file and sent it to Shutterbug on a CD-ROM to produce what you see here.

What struck me most about the DDFP image is that it has a unique "look." First there is no grain evident at all. Using Adobe Photoshop's Magnifying Glass tool to blow the image up on screen produced none, although I did notice a wayward JPEG artifact located (naturally) in my eye. A dip of the Clone brush took care of that problem in a few seconds. The image also appears to have soft wraparound lighting that I know wasn't present when the photograph was made, so the process itself appears to extract the maximum quality out of the film and situation. The overall quality of the ASF image is as good as any digital image made from film using any kind of image capture that I've tried.

ASF's Digital Dry Film Process is targeted for availability in photo kiosks and minilabs in the fourth quarter of 2001. I talked with the company about processing and digitizing some of my film from a future photo session, and expect to be able to provide an update in the future. More details of the DDFP technology can be found at Applied Science Fiction's web site at: www.asf.com.

The author, pictured here at Applied Science Fiction's booth during photokina 2000, was captured using conventional silver halide film, but ASF's Digital Dry Film Processing technology was used to develop the color negative film and create a digital file almost simultaneously.
Courtesy Applied Science Fiction

Well, we're halfway through the year 2001 and I'm finally getting used to the idea of living at the start of a new century. When we're all tucked away in the old photographers home we'll look back on this period as a time of major turmoil and exciting new opportunities in the photo world. There's new technology, new ways to view images, and new ways to take images. What has remained pretty constant is the desire of buyers of photography--magazines, ad agencies, graphic design firms, etc.--to look for the latest and freshest images.

My work is subject to the same scrutiny as any other artist. If I were to stick with the style and look that made me so successful in the 1980s I surely would have a hard time finding any work. Even if I had kept my style static from the '90s I would find more and more clients looking for something newer and fresher. Don't get me wrong. Slavishly following trends and creating a raft of "me-too" images will get your portfolio bounced just as fast as a bunch of amateur snapshots. Like any artist I'm affected by the culture around me. I react to the slow but steady style shift that affects all artistic endeavors. My work has evolved over the years, even though it was hard to notice as it happened.

Recently I assembled a new portfolio for my rep to show to prospective clients. The difference in styles became readily apparent. As I pulled out 10-year-old ads and replaced them with work from 2000 and 2001 I noticed a strong trend that has crept into my work--color. I don't mean bright color, I mean a strong, saturated fluid sense of color that most working pros today have to be able to create if they want to work.

If you have image problems with pincushion or barrel distortion, or maybe your architectural photos are out of perspective, Andromeda Software's LensDoc will fix what's ailing.

New Legal-Sized Scanner
Microtek started shipping its Scan-Maker V6USL flat-bed scanner which delivers legal-sized scans with a 1200x600dpi optical resolution for a price tag under $150. The 42-bit scanner is bundled with Microtek's LightLid 35 that lets you scan 35mm film as well as prints. The ScanMaker has a FlexScan lid that lets you scan bulky objects like books. The Scan-Wizard software bundled with the scanner automatically determines photo size and adjusts color, brightness, and contrast for optimum results. The interface includes SCSI and USB. ScanWizard features built-in e-mail and copy functions and can automatically transfer images to printer, e-mail, web browser, or image-editing software. Other software bundled with the scanner includes Adobe Photoshop LE and Ulead PhotoImpact for image editing as well as Caere OmniPage LE optical character recognition software. Trellix Web is also included and allows users to create their own web pages. For more information about Microtek's scanners, visit their web site at: www.microtekusa.com.

Plug-In Update
During a briefing prior to the launch of Photoshop 6.0, Adobe Systems told me that the specifications for compatible plug-ins were the same as previous versions. Nevertheless, my copy of the SilverFast Photo CD 5.0 plug-in wouldn't work when installed in the latest version of Photoshop. My guess is that LaserSoft's registration method, which is designed to prevent pirating, is the culprit and the company has promised a fix. Look for it on their web site at: www.lasersoftint.com. In the meantime, I've noticed that several other plug-ins, such as those from TECHnik, run slower and choppier than under Photoshop 5.5, but my guess here is that Photoshop 6.0 require lots more memory than previous versions.

VST's Flash Media Reader, shown here in Mac OS version, has small LEDs at the bottom of each vertical card slot. When you insert a card, the light flickers between green, yellow, and red before turning solid green, letting you know that the card has been mounted.

Got so many plug-ins that you can't keep track of them? Germany's Harald Heim Software announced the release of Plugin Commander Pro 1.50, an application that lets you control which plug-ins are displayed in your host application. It supports 30 different plug-in types, including Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects. You can make Photoshop and After Effects plug-ins appear anywhere in the Filter menu and effects from Photoshop compatible and some Premiere plug-ins can be viewed in a preview window, thumbnail browser, or its built-in Picture Editor. You can apply Photoshop compatible plug-ins directly to images within Plugin Commander and process one image at a time in Picture Editor or use the Batch function to apply a series of image effects to a list of images. A Batch dialog will convert different image formats and can resize and rename images at the same time. Plugin Commander is available for Windows 95, 98, Me, NT, and 2000. A free feature limited edition is available or you can purchase the real deal for $49.95 from www.thepluginsite.com/products/picopro.

HindSight's web site has a section that lets you see how its searchLynx search engine works under a real world test. You can enter a keyword to do a search and see what's displayed.

Plug-In Of The Month
Need a tilt-shift lens but haven't got the cash? What about all those "falling over" buildings you shot, before you even knew you needed a tilt-shift lens or view camera? If you have some sick photographs in your files, it's time you used this month's Plug-in of the Month, LensDoc from Andromeda Software. LensDoc not only performs perspective corrections to architectural images that need help in postproduction but can also correct the barrel and pincushion image distortions produced by some zoom and wide angle lenses. The Andromeda LensDoc Filter is based on real world testing of more than 100 lens and focal length combinations. Common patterns were selected and synthesized into generic groups that were designed to work with all the tested lenses. For pixographers using wide angle adapters on digital cameras or photographers who are dissatisfied with the distortion found in their lenses, LensDoc is a quick and easy solution. The user interface combines accuracy with ease of use. To correct lens distortion, simply line-up special markers along a line that should be straight and click the correct button. LensDoc searches through the available curves for the best fit and applies the correction. For more information about LensDoc and Andromeda's other cool plug-ins, visit their web site at: www.amdromeda.com.

Digital LCD Monitor
CTX announced their new Executive Series of LCD monitors that includes the PV710MDV, a 17" TFT (Thin Film Transistor) 1280x1024 maximum SXGA resolution model. The monitor uses active matrix technology and supports 16.7 million colors with a .264mm pixel pitch. As a digital monitor, it's much better suited to image editing than the typical LCD screens which tend to pixelize when viewing shadow areas under high magnification. The PV710MDV also has built-in amplifier and stereo speakers and there's a direct plug-in power cord, so no clunky adapter is needed. A USB Hub is built-in and provided with one Up-stream and four Down-stream USB inputs. The monitor is compatible with Windows computers as well as Power Macintosh models, up to 1024x768 resolution. Size is a non-desktop hogging 18.6x18.6x8.2" and the whole enchilada weighs under 21 lbs. For more information, visit CTX's web site at: www.ctxintl.com.

Digital Film Card Reader
I hate connecting digital cameras to a computer. Having a multi-format card reader is the only way to go and lately I've been using the VST Flash Media Reader from SmartDisk Corporation. The VST Flash Media Reader is available in two styles. Both share the same upright wedge shape and tiny footprint, but one is trimmed out in black and silver, while the other is white with a snap-on color kit that lets you match your Apple iBook, iMac, or G3/G4 Power Macintosh. I snapped a blueberry faceplate on to match my G3 and placed it in the space between my monitor and G3 tower. A single USB cord connects it to the computer and all power for this tiny drive is provided by the USB connection itself. Unlike other card readers I've tested, the VST Flash Media Reader has small LEDs at the bottom of each vertical card slot. When you insert a card, the light flickers between green, yellow, and red before turning solid green, letting you know that the card has been mounted. Once mounted your computer treats that card as if it were any other kind of removable media. You can open images with your favorite digital imaging program or copy files to your hard disk. You can even copy image files from a CompactFlash card to a SmartMedia card inserted in the drive without having to first save them to your hard disk. The VST Flash Media Reader costs $69.95 and can be purchased at your favorite computer retailer or SmartDisk's web site at: www.smartdisk.com.

Digital Panoramics
Kaidan's new KiWi 990 Panoramic Tripod Head is designed for Nikon's CoolPix 990 digital camera. The bracket supports the standard, 24mm wide angle lens and the Nikon fisheye lens. The KiWi 990 is also useful for photographers who shoot their CoolPix 990 with a variety of lenses and panoramic software tools, such as QuickTime VR, MGI PhotoVista, and iPIX photography. The KiWi 990 comes with the click-stop enabled tripod head, a two-axis bubble level, a camera slider/positioner, a captive attachment knob, and four (2, 5, 14, 18) detent discs. The KiWi 990 has three mounting locations to accommodate Nikon's standard lens, 24mm wide angle and 8mm fisheye lenses. There's also a slot that will let you position the camera anywhere along the bracket to support other lenses you may own. The KiWi 990 is available from Kaidan and Kaidan resellers in various packages starting at $199.95, including four discs. For more information, visit www.kaidan.com.

See Me, Hear Me
Voice Pilot has introduced a product that lets you do just that! Hear-Look is a $49 software package that lets you e-mail a digital photograph that's accompanied by a voice recording of a personal message. The resulting file is quite small: sound is compressed up to 36 times the size of the original voice recording and photographs compressed at up to 80 times their original size. The good news is that anyone you e-mail the combined voice messages and digital images to doesn't need a copy of Hear-Look to open and listen to your messages. Free Hear-Look and Hear-Say players are available for download from the company's web site at: www.voicepilot. com By the time you read this, Voice Pilot will be introducing two accessory products. Hear-See is a moderately priced product that lets you save a photograph and embed multiple voices into one file and Hear-Pro includes web site options. Voice Pilot products are sold in all major retail stores, including Best Buy.

Selling Stock Images On The Web
HindSight Ltd has announced the release of a major upgrade to search-Lynx, a web-based image library with a search engine for photographers selling stock images on the Internet. The searchLynx 3.0 quickly finds images that fit a photo buyer's search criteria and generate pages of thumbnails displaying the results. With the optional Lightbox feature enabled, photo researchers can edit and save selections and then pass the image's URL on to others for review. In the meantime, they can conduct new searches and save those results separately.

There are unlimited light boxes for every visitor. In addition, searchLynx uses a variety of response methods that the researcher can use to query the site owner about a specific set of images. A copy protection feature automatically blocks the ability to use the browser's "Copy This Image" command or drag an image to the hard disk. Built-in hit reports let you monitor searches and recognize any deficiencies in the library content. Currently searchLynx requires a Macintosh server but a Windows version is planned for early 2001. This searchLynx is available for $495 per site license. HindSight's StockView software for Macintosh or Windows is a necessary part of the total package and serves as the point of original entry for all of the image data and cross-references with specialized export functions. When a researcher generates an inquiry about selected images, StockView has the built-in capability to process and track the inquiry. A demonstration site is online at: www.hindsightltd.com/hsstock/searchLynx_Home.html.

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