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Software Photoshop, Lightroom, Paintshop Pro, Painter, etc., and all their various plugins. Of course, you can also discuss all other programs, as well.

Review: Grain Surgery

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  #11  
Old 10-05-2002, 09:37 PM
RickM RickM is offline
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Grain Surgery vs. SGBNR

Grain Surgery is definitely a good product, but a bit on the pricey side for what most folks need it for - that is, grain removal.

I've bumped into a little *free* goodie called SGBNR, which was developed for astrophotography. Seems that this program also can do a decent job on all kinds of photos. I've run a couple of samples through and find that it is capable of results rivaling that of Grain Surgery (at least the Photoshop plug-in version). In fact, if I use SGBNR followed by a despeckle, I often get results I like better than with Grain Surgery.

You can get SGBNR at:

http://www.pleiades-astrophoto.com/home/home.en.html

The installation is not automated, but not really difficult (you just need to copy a couple of files into your Windows system directory). I used the 1.09.58 beta version, as it seems easier to use, requiring less tinkering to get nice results.

One of the tests I did was to take one of those old, hard to deal with textured school picture prints (one of those that look like they have embossed dots all over), scan it in and then use both Grain Surgery (demo version) and SGBNR against it. Comparing the result, SGBNR did a pretty good job.

Another test was with a fireworks display image scanned from a 35mm negative. This negative and my film scanner have had a hard time getting along in the past - the grain was terrible. Both Grain Surgery and SGBNR did similar handiwork on the image. But SGBNR, in my opinion, removed the grain while staying truer to the original image than Grain Surgery did. In fact, I think the SGBNR results tend to come out sharper with fewer artifacts.

I've attached an image comparing a small section of the original fireworks shot with Grain Surgery (demo, the cross-hatch marks are still there) and SGBNR. As I believe will be apparent, the SGBNR result is quite good.

I'm going to see how far I can go with SGBNR before forking over the cash for Grain Surgery - I personally think their price-point is too high. There are tons of scanner owners out there who might be buying it in droves if it were, say, $79 - and because many scanners these days come packaged with Photoshop Elements (which the plug-in does work with, btw), the market for the Grain Surgery plug-in is much bigger than they are catering to with their current pricing. Then again, I think I've proven to myself that Grain Surgery is not the only tool capable of doing a good job with grain.

My recommendation is to give SGBNR a go and see how well it works for you. There may be cases where Grain Surgery still is the tool of choice, but having SGBNR in the toolbox probably makes sense.
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File Type: jpg test3_comparison.jpg (95.6 KB, 67 views)
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  #12  
Old 10-05-2002, 10:21 PM
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DJ Dubovsky DJ Dubovsky is offline
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Hi Rick,
Welcome to Retouch Pro. That was not only an excellent review and comparison but a great find as well. I did the downloads but haven't gotten any further than that to check it out. looks like you got some real good results with it. How did you find this? If it works that well and is fairly easy to use then that's great. Thanks.
DJ
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  #13  
Old 10-06-2002, 12:01 AM
RickM RickM is offline
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DJ,

I found this by doing an MSN search for "grain reduction" and came up with the following link:

http://www.abmedia.com/astro/res/sgbnr-test.html

I looked at the test pictures and the results peaked my interest. So I did some more searches and found the download page. I also noticed that a lot of astrophotographers seem to be using SGBNR routinely on their images. I figured that if these folks like it that much, I should try it as well...

Generally I've found that the defaults work pretty well, though I've had a case or two where tweaking the "uniform mask" setting or the "radius" was helpful. I'm sure that as I learn more about this tool I'll get better at knowing what to mess with and when.

I'm sure that there are probably some images that GS can handle better than SGBNR (though I haven't found one yet). In any case, free beats upwards of 200 bills.
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  #14  
Old 10-06-2002, 12:27 AM
RickM RickM is offline
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Here's another astrophoto link which compares various of the grain reduction tools against one another:

http://www.whirlpoolgalaxy.com/grain_removal.html

In this evaluation, GS and SGBNR came out on top. GS was noted for its ability to retain detail in low contrast areas. SGBNR was noted for being relatively artifact-free, but more lossy in low contrast areas than GS.
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  #15  
Old 10-06-2002, 10:32 AM
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LQQKER LQQKER is offline
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I too was on the verge of purchasing Grain Surgery "until" I tried my own comparsions with other softwares. The URL RickM sent in pertaining to the comet was one that also sparked my interest sometime ago. Being into atronomy I can appreciate software that can remove grain without substantial detail loss to the image. I found by using programs such as EFT or SGBNR, results can be as good, if not better, than programs like Grain Surgery. Although this can be something that is highly subjective (and Grain Surgery does have other features as well) the bottom line, however, is results.

Just a thought. The image of the comet Hyukatatake was made available at the site you mentioned. Perhaps something on this order would make an interesting mini-challenge? That is, remove grain and maintain image sharpness (without painting in detail). I've found that in many instances, individual methods used in grain removal and keeping detail can be as distinctive as the software used. Just a thought.
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  #16  
Old 10-06-2002, 10:42 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Send me candidate images, and I'll think about it. Grainy pix that are otherwise fine sound interesting (though I'd prefer people to comets).

As always, getting permission from the subjects is the hard part.
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  #17  
Old 10-06-2002, 12:50 PM
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DJ Dubovsky DJ Dubovsky is offline
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RickM,
I don't do much grain removal in Galactic images but I can definately see a use in terrestrial ones. So I may not even need the extras supplied with Grain Surgery. I haven't tried installing them yet. It does seem a little involved but I haven't opened the instructions yet either. What's the learning curve like? I think some of these softwares were written with geeks in mind. I'm no where near Geek status. I'm more like Gawk status.

LQQKER,
It's always nice to get second opinions on things so that really helped. I think you may have a great idea in that grain removal challenge idea. We will probably get entrants using all kinds of standard and plugin and combination methods that might prove to be interesting in comparitive results.
DJ
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  #18  
Old 10-06-2002, 01:36 PM
RickM RickM is offline
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DJ,

I don't think the learning curve is large - though saving a couple hundred bucks was somewhat of a motivating factor in my case .

My recommendation is to use the 1.09.58 version - I think the interface is a bit simpler.

To install, there are a couple of extra files you need to download from the site in addition to SGBNR (libtiff_3_5_7.dll and vcl50.bpl), and you need to extract these from their archive format per instructions and copy them into the appropriate directories - SGBNR itself, you can then just double click on the icon for it in the directory you have it in, or you can make a shortcut on your desktop. Should take all of a few minutes or so to get it running. If you run into any issues, I'll be happy to help.

As far as adjustments, so far I've only found two that I ever need to mess with - one is the "radius" and the other is the "uniform mask". The default values work ok, and that is what I'd start with, but sometimes lowering the radius or the uniform mask setting will achieve a better result if you're just trying to do a slight amount of reduction. You can easily see the effects of the setting in the preview window - when you press the "preview" button, it calculates and displays the effect for the portion of the window being displayed. If you click on the preview display or click left and drag to move around the display it reverts back to the original.

I've been applying SGBNR to various images, including daylight people shots - it gives good results on these as well (I'm not all that into star shots either).

I don't really find SGBNR very difficult to use (then again, I *am* a geek - I'm in the computer business).
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  #19  
Old 10-06-2002, 02:28 PM
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DJ Dubovsky DJ Dubovsky is offline
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Yahoo!!! I did it!! Lord only knows how but I did it.

OK Rick,
I have just moved up a notch from Gawk status. It's installed and working great. I actually had no problem dealing with it right away. Did wonder why I wasn't seeing any results at first in the preview window until I realized I had to hit the preview button each time I made an adjustment. I'm spoiled by instant previews I guess. Anyway, I'm thrilled and I feel pretty darn good having done the installation myself. All I did was extract the 2 extra files and copy them over to Window System 32 then set up an SGBNR folder to house the file and then clicked on it and opened a file to play around with. I even copied it to my desktop for easy access. Not bad for a rooky huh?
Need to look for a real good example of noise to see how it works. So far I like what I see and you were right, it is easy enough to use. Thanks again for your help.
DJ
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