Saturday, February 13, 2010

Enhancing An Image Sequence With PhotoShop Filters

I've been working on an article about incorporating PhotoShop filters into my time-lapse workflow, and decided to post this tutorial separately.  Note that this requires the Extended versions of PhotoShop.

Two Things I Didn't Know About PhotoShop

I need efficient methods to enhance the images in my time-lapse projects.  For some projects I want to use PhotoShop and the question is how best to apply it to a large number of images.  PhotoShop provides  automation, batch tools, and a scripting interface, so there are lots of ways to do this.  But my first efforts suggested that it might be too slow.

As I investigated that further, I learned two new things about PhotoShop (Extended):
  1. PhotoShop supports image sequences.  I should be able to load a sequence into PS and apply powerful photographic filters such as Topaz to each frame automatically without additional scripting.
  2. PhotoShop supports video.  You can indeed set up filters and apply them to the entire video. 

You need the Extended version of PhotoShop for either of these.

The rest of this article is a step-by-step guide to filtering each frame of an image sequence.  I'll discuss the workflow considerations in a separate article.

Filtering an Image Sequence, Step-By-Step

I'm using Photoshop CS4 Extended on Windows Vista.  The procedure is essentially the same on Mac.

1. Start PhotoShop and from the menu choose File::Open.  Navigate to the folder containing your image sequence.

2. Select the first file in your sequence and select the "Image Sequence" button.  Then click "Open".

3. Choose a frame rate -- I happen to be using 60 for this project -- and click "OK".  PhotoShop takes about 10 seconds to open my 1,139 frame sample project.

4. I like to see the Animation Timeline, though it really isn't needed for what we're doing here.  If you don't see it, click on the workspace dropdown at the top right and switch to the "Video" workspace.

5. In order to apply filters to all frames in the sequence, you need to first convert it to a "Smart Object".  You can use the main menu Layer::Smart Objects::Convert to Smart Object, or just right click in the Layer panel and select "Convert to Smart Object".

6. Now apply your filter to the layer.  In this example I'm using Topaz Adjust 3 from Topaz Labs.

7. Each filter will be different, so I won't go through the Topaz dialog here.  By the way, Trey Ratcliff has a great review of Topaz Adjust on his blog, StuckInCustoms, and provides a discount code for purchase.

8. When you finish the filter dialog, PhotoShop works for a while and shows you the result on the selected frame.  Notice the new "Smart Filters" section appearing in your layers panel.

9. Now we're going to save our sequence as a new set of images with the filtering applied.  In the main menu choose "File::Export::Render Video".  No, we are not actually going to render video, and yes, it is quite confusing.

10. You have many choices here. I'll explain each of the ones that we're going to use right now.  The numbers in the screen shot are keyed to each item in the explanation.

  • Item 1: Location Name.  This is where you will set the "prefix name" of your image sequence filenames.  My screen shot is a bad example!  The prefix name of "Untitled-1" results in an image sequence with names like Untitled-10001.jpg, Untitled-10002.jpg and so forth.
  • Item 2: Select Folder and Create New Subfolder. You have choices; I leave "Select Folder" set to my "project" folder and click "Create New Subfolder" so that all my images will go into a new subfolder.  This is faster than using Select Folder to create a new folder.
  • Item 3: File Options. Select "Image Sequence", not "QuickTime Export".  You are welcome to experiment for yourself, but I've had nothing but problems attempting to perform the filter rendering and video rendering in the same step.
  • Item 4: Details about the exported files.  Keep the original image size ("Size: Document Size"), export "All frames" rather than a subset, and render them at same frame rate you started with ("Document Frame Rate").
  • Item 5: JPEG Settings. Click the "Settings" button to popup the JPEG Options dialog.  Set the quality level however suits you -- if you check the "preview" box it will estimate the file size for you.

11. Click "OK" on the JPEG Options dialog and then click the "Render" button.  After 10-20 seconds you should see an "Exporting Video" progress bar.  Now find something else to do, because it is s-l-o-w.  My machine, with these settings, will render at 12-13 frames per minute.  For this example, the sequence consists of 1,139 frames and I expect it to take about 90 minutes.

You can also watch its progress by looking in the output directory and watching the files appear.  I find this more soothing than the progress bar.

When PhotoShop is finished, you have a new image sequence that has been filtered.  This result is the same as applying a batch operation to all the files, but in my experience it is much faster.

I'll be discussing this technique in the workflow article, coming soon.

1 comment:

Kells said...

Thanks! For beginners,in order to apply filters to all frames in the sequence, you need to convert it first to a smart object.You can use Adobe photo shop and Dreamweaver for your web designing projects.