Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#401 - TECHNOLOGY | Enhancing photos of demons (and the like)

While looking for ways to clean up crappy photos of my boogey men, I came across a GIMP tutorial entitled The High Pass Filter for Radical Sharpening, which had easy-to-follow instructions for improving the quality of images that are blurred by the motion of the camera.

Here's a before and after of my first attempt, in which you can see nearly twice as many features in the demon's face in the improved version as you can in the original:

Here's the result of applying the same method to another image, from which I learned that images that are motion-blurry benefit the most from this method:
I enhanced another image, this time, one that is very grainy and unfocused; it would have benefitted most by applying sharpening to individual parts of the face, as multiple renderings revealed thatsome settings work better on one part, while not so good on the other:
Here's another image, which is highly contrasted; like, motion blurs, that seems to be an ideal condition, as well:
This image lacked contrast, which makes it difficult to sharpen because edges are defined by significant contrasts in color, and it is the areas created by these edges to which the various filters used in this particular sharpening procedure that varying degrees of sharpening are applied; so, before attempting the procedure, I applied the Curves filter for a greater contrast of colors in the image.

Also, because the image is very low-resolution, I only used half of the sharpening procedure, opting to use the layers that are Gaussian-blurred as overlays, instead. The result is that the dip in the crook of the extended arm of the demon is more apparent, the fringe on that same arm is now distinguishable from the background, and the face of the hood is completely round (the cut of a demon's black cloak is important, as it is used to identify its variety correctly, since many demons of the same size—but of differing types—wear black cloaks):
NOTE | A contrast between the top of the demon's hood and the object on the table behind was created by cloning a lighter portion of the wall over the darker portion that blended too much with the hood, which made the demon look like he was wearing a pointy hat.
This technique is particularly important for images showing blanket or pillow demons, in that the improvement in contrast and sharpness it makes will often reveal a second demon's face overlapping the first, or a demon's face that could not otherwise be seen very well by others unfamiliar with the style in which such demons are created without the enhancements this procedure provides:
A color-enhanced and sharpened still frame, showing an apprehensive, beret-wearing pillow demon peers sideways out of a fearful eye, with his upper lip coiled in snare, bearing gritted teethFurther adjustments, showing yet another face of a pillow demon, which partially overlaps the first; it is squinting its eyes, and has a wide-open mouth that, like many demons, bears animalistic features
The high-pass filter sharpening technique highlights the three-dimensional nature of a cloaked demon, which is important in photos in which the background behind the semi-transparent demon is the same color as the demon itself.

In this photo, the demon's head could be glare from the surface behind him; but, with the procedure applied (see link below), you can clearly see that it is, in fact, a head (the quality of the rest of the photo notwithstanding):
Sharpening this still frame with the procedure highlights the three-dimensional quality of the head, which would not be present if the round, white circle shown in the original were anything but a head (click image to enlarge)
If the environment surrounding a demon in an image looks unnatural after applying this technique, then apply it only to the demon via selective sharpening. There are multiple ways to select only a portion of an image, many of which are described in tutorials posted to YouTube, as well.

Selective sharpening should also be used instead of border masks in images of blanket demons, wherever masks may be necessary, such as in blurry still frames, or as otherwise appropriate, such as images in which the face of the blanket demon is clearly defined by natural borders:
The demon's face was selectively sharpened, while color enhancements were made overallThe original, unenhanced still frameHighlighting it by using a semi-transparent mask, which is a black-filled layer set at 50% opacity

If you want to try and improve your images using the same method I did, follow the instructions in this video:

There is a second technique that works well, too: