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|| News Item: Posted 2001-04-30

Genuine Fractals: Making Chicken S**t Into Chicken Salad
By Mark Yamamoto, San Jose Mercury News

Photo by
Back in 1999 while working at the Orange County Register as the News Imaging Supervisor I shot freelance work on the side. I worked with Photomation in Anaheim, CA. that printed murals for me.

John Hesketh who is the Color Manager for Photomation introduced me to Genuine Fractals back in 1999. He said that the lab used GF for interpolating up digital files for murals. Before adopting GF, Photomation used GF to see how it worked comparing it to Photoshop and Live Picture.

Before GF Photomation would interpolate up digital files using Live Picture. They felt that it produced better interpolation than PhotoShop. He added that images interpolated up in Photoshop had a limit of 2x's the original size. After they tested GF they adopted GF.

So, in 2000 during the Los Angeles Lakers Championship season a photo editor, Mike Pilgrim, fellow imager, Ken Steinhardt, and myself sat down one afternoon and brainstormed a workflow for the playoff series.

Working a major sporting event for the first time using digital cameras we molded a solid plan. We knew that digital files have some limitations including size, and some other factors, so here's what we created as a workflow.

Brain Storming

Ken suggested that the photographers send in the raw tiffs from the Canon DCS520 cameras (1.7megs.) Mike determined that the time for transmission would be about 3 minutes per image using ISDN.

Mike would edit the photos at Staples Center and then emailed the selection to the paper. Imaging would intercept the images and acquire the tiffs in AP Viewer and exposure balance and crop the photos based on the crop guides in AP Viewer.

We would make printouts for the photo editor in the newsroom, so they could discuss the play of photos for the paper. I suggested using GF instead of Photoshop on the images and creating up to 27 meg files from uncropped 5.6 meg uncompressed originals. The images would later be jpeg'd in PhotoShop 5.5 at a quality of 12 (2.6 Megs) and dropped into the system. Note: Our system only excepted jpeg otherwise tiff's would have been ultimate.

Giving Genuine Fractals a Go

Photo by
We gave the system a try during the first playoff series with a photo of Shaquille O'Neal walking off the court after a game and it was extremely impressive. The image ran 5 or 6 columns wide and the picture quality was stunning!

The reaction around photo the next day was like children in a candy store. We adopted GF immediately. The game plan was photographers handed their shot memory cards to runners who in turn handed them to a photo editor at Staples.

The photo editor selected the best images and Emailed the raw tiff's to the paper via ISDN. The imaging department downloaded the images and acquired them in AP Viewer and made necessary brightness adjustments on a calibrated monitor, and followed the editor's crop.

The images were brought into Photoshop where the tiff images were saved as a GF image to the desktop as a "Lossless" file. Printouts were given to photo editors in the newsroom to confirm picture play. The images were opened in GF and interpolated up to usually 8-12 megs depending on the play and then jpeg'd at a quality of "12," and dropped into the pagination system.

The images are again cropped to size for the picture hole and then the images were opened in the system and converted to Lab to apply the filter "Dust and Scratches" in the "a" and "b" channels. This eliminates excess noise. Sharpening is done as a last step in the "Lightness" channel to optimize the image.

Note that GF recommends not to sharpen the image before interpolating up the image. Color correction was completed and the image was shipped off. During the final game of the series, we used GF to res an image to 27 megs and made into a full-page poster!

The photo was clean and clear of artifacts. We processed a cropped 2.7 meg file and ran it to 3 columns with clean results. Photographers Michael Goulding, Paul Rodriguez, Leonard Ortiz and Mindy Shauer were very impressed with the results achieved in reproduction for this event using digital cameras.

Problems with Images

If you are shooting events and are not happy with the results I urge you to give this method a try so you can compare for yourself. Some photographers modem images jpeg'd at a quality of 8 (380K) or even 6 (314K) that can compromise your potential image quality. The ultimate image is a "Raw tiff" (1.7 megs.) that can be GF'd to an optimum size. If you have to send a jpeg a "10" quality jpeg (941K) takes a lot of time if you don't have an ISDN line, but will help in creating a better image in a publication. Remember that your name is going on that photo.

A Test for Yourself

You can see for yourself. Take a good scan that is a 4 meg tiff and make a couple of copies. Make both images a 16 meg file one using Photoshop and one using GF. The Photoshop image save as a jpeg quality of 6. After interpolating up the GF image save a jpeg as a quality of 12. Compare the images at 100% and see the difference. Better yet, to show the better performance of GF save both images at a quality of 10 and compare the images side by side at 100%.

If you have any questions you can email me at

(Mark Yamamoto, formerly of the Orange County Register, is the Director of Editorial Imaging at the San Jose Mercury News.)

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