Extensis Intellihance 3

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A simple plug-in filter that promises better ease-of-use, better control and  - most importantly - better-looking images.

Extensis Intellihance

Extensis Intellihance is not a standalone program, but an add-in utility. Like other add-ins it takes advantage of the Adobe plug-in specification that allows Photoshop and other compatible bitmap editing programs to offer access to third-party filters. However, while other add-ins inevitably tend to be specialized and esoteric, Intellihance is very different. It challenges Photoshop absolutely head-on by claiming to offer a better solution to the most important photo-editing task of all: image enhancement.

What's more Extensis claims to do this in the simplest way possible. Selecting the new Intellihance command from the host program's Filter menu calls up a simple dialog with a large Enhance Image button. Click on this and a few seconds later your image will miraculously appear in new and improved glory. Of course there's actually nothing magical about the process at all. Behind the scenes Intellihance is simply massaging the image's pixel values just as any other filter does.

What makes Intellihance different is that it attempts to combine a whole range of operations simultaneously and intelligently. The most important of these are the four colour correction functions which control contrast, brightness, saturation and cast removal. Together these are designed to ensure that the image has the optimum tonal range while maintaining colour richness and balance. Descreen and despeckle filters are then applied to try and remove unwanted line screens and noise and then a final sharpness filter is added to bring out the hidden detail.

That's the theory, does it work in practice? The answer for the most part has to be a definite yes. In fact, for the average scan of an overexposed photo or an out-of-focus digital snap, the effect as the new depth of colour and detail in the image are revealed can really be breathtaking. Of course though there are limitations. Intellihance is intelligent enough not to apply the same settings across the board to all images, but still there will be times when greater individual control is needed.

This extra control is offered through Intellihance's Preferences and Fine Tuning dialogs. The Preferences panel allows program defaults to be set so that if you were planning on enhancing a number of images scanned from printed material, for example, you could change the descreen setting from newspaper to magazine. To get absolute control over individual images, the Fine Tuning panel offers access to each of Intellihance filters' parameters. The sharpness filter, for example, can be minutely controlled by setting the amount, radius, definition, threshold and smoothness of the effect.

Such power is advanced, but what really sets Intellihance apart is the ability to see how different settings for different effects will combine. It is possible, for example, to simultaneously descreen a scanned image to blur the undesired moiré pattern while at the same time sharpening the image to bring out the desired detail. Only when the preview shows that you have contrived the best possible compromise do you have to commit yourself.

By combining one-click ease-of-use with unparalleled control, Intellihance has something to offer all users and all images. Intellihance has become the Photoshop command I turn to first.

Ease of Use

6

Features

5

Value for Money

5

Overall

5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

March 1998


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