Genuine Fractals

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Recommended

Resolution-on-demand for bitmap images - but only for high-end users.

One of the fundamental differences between vector and bitmap images is that the images produced by drawing applications are resolution-independent which means that they can be scaled to any size and output will remain pin-sharp. Enlarge a scanned photo, however, and the pixels that make it up soon become apparent and quality deteriorates. According to Altamira, however, this fundamental distinction is about to disappear thanks to its Genuine Fractals Photoshop-compatible plug-in which promises resolution-independent bitmap imaging!

And the system could hardly be simpler. Once the plug-in has been installed all you need to do is select the new STN file format option from the File>Save As dialog and then select whether you want your file to be saved losslessly, at around a 2:1 compression ratio, or "visually losslessly", at around a 5:1 ratio. Based on its "proprietary mathematical algorithms" Genuine Fractals then "replaces the pixels of the image with a new mathematically based file format".

1. (optional) fracsave.png: The STN format offers too options.

The clever part comes when you open your STN file from Photoshop's normal File>Open dialog. Now you are presented with a dialog in which you can set your desired image size either in terms of pixels, measurements or scaling percentage and Genuine Fractals processes the file accordingly. This can take some considerable time for large increases, in which case you can choose options for quicker processing at the expense of final quality. More useful is the ability to interactively crop the image via its image preview to make sure that you are only processing pixels that you will actually use.

On opening the STN file you can set any size of image.

To test the system I began with the Photoshop sample image of a zebra which starts off at just 400 x 560 pixels and saved a copy to STN format. I then opened versions that were four times and ten times larger and also created similarly sized versions using Photoshop's own Image Size command set to its highest quality, bicubic resampling option.

The obvious question is does the system work? And the simple answer is yes. Photoshop's own native resizing helps cut down on obvious pixelization and the production of "jaggies" but in the process the whole image softens and loses detail. By comparison, even at ten times the size, the delineation of the zebra stripes in the Genuine Fractals image remained much more clearly defined. When I tried images with higher starting resolution, which presumably give the Genuine Fractals algorithms more information to play with, the results were even more impressive.

:

The end results aren't perfect but there's more detail than with Photoshop's own enlargements.

However it's important not to get too carried away. The resulting images were certainly sharper than the versions created using Photoshop's own resizing capabilities, but with some noise and some artefacting they certainly weren't perfect. Genuine Fractals isn't magic then - and it certainly can't create detail that wasn't there in the first place. Sadly you're still not going to be able to produce magazine covers with a 640 x 480 pixel digital camera.

Genuine Fractals isn't a mainstream solution for the average user then, but it does come into its own for high-end users and especially for print-oriented designers (who might want to invest in the PrintPro version of the plug-in which supports CMYK and Lab modes as well as RGB). For these users it offers two main benefits. Rather than working with full-resolution scanned files with hundreds of megabytes of data, Genuine Fractals opens up the option of working with far more manageable data sizes of around 50Mb and then scaling up. And for those occasions when you don't have the luxury of rescanning to gain resolution, such as with digital photographs, Genuine Fractals offer the best resizing option available.

Genuine Fractals doesn't give bitmaps the true resolution-independence of vectors - but its resolution-on-demand solution certainly closes the gap.

Features
5
Ease of Use
5
Value for Money
5
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

February 2001

 


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