"Declaring the glory of God
through photography of His created world"
copyright 2007 by Joseph LaQuiere
Bibble Raw Workflow software continues to surprise us with great new and unique features. In the beginning of April Bibble, during the WPPI show (Wedding Photographers International), announced another third party add in from Athentech Technologies Inc. called "Perfectly Clear". I was previously unaware of this product or company. After reading the press release and visiting the Athentech website I was eager to give this new addition to Bibble a try. In my reading of the website I understood the goal of Perfectly Clear was to analyze a photo and make adjustments to lightness, contrast, color, saturation, sharpness and tint, correcting the photo to give a very realistic representation of what real life should look like. All this would take place with just a single click! Amazing!
THE RAW DEAL
I have often wondered why the "Automatic" correction settings in various raw converters do not give us at least as good a results as we would expect if we had used the camera generated jpgs at the time of capture. Let's face it, many of us could not get along without our raw files, we must have them for that perfect tweaking. But just the same we don't always have or want to take the time to work on every image for display, web etc. Can't anyone do better with automatic corrections then the camera manufactures own internal Jpg conversion? Well for a long time the answer to this seemed to be no. The software with the closest and most usable "Auto" feature has been Bibble's "Auto Level" feature which does a great job on 90% of all images. "Auto Level" though, still only makes adjustments to image levels.
Now along comes Perfectly Clear with the promise of one click comprehensive correction!
Here are a couple of quotes from the Athentech site. You can also visit the website to get more details yourself.
"It's the only technology that automatically and instantly optimizes the lighting for each and every pixel while maintaining true color and zero clipping. At the same time Perfectly Clear will automatically remove abnormal tint and restore fade"
"The result is vibrant and accurate photographs that yield what the photographer actually saw when capturing the image - The Real World… Perfectly Clear . "
Athentech's claims sound too fantastic to be true. So the obvious question is "Does it work!" In a word, a resounding, ummm…ahh…yaa…nna…yes well sort of…um some of the time.
But as we shall see that was then this is now read on!
PERFECTLY CLEAR HITS THE MARK ?
When I first started this report with the paragraphs above I had used PC (perfectly Clear) for several hundred images and was disappointed with the consistency of the corrections. I found PC to work well only on 5-10% of my images. The first release of PC often blew out highlights and excessively darkened shadows. The tantalizing part was that on the 5-10% where the correction worked the adjustment to shadow, color, brightness etc was stunning particularly remembering that it only took a single click.
As Bibble seems to be in the habit of doing, the release of PC seemed to be a bit premature with things not quite fine tuned yet.
Perfectly Clear was released first in version 4.7 however now we have beta version 4.7b which has corrected much of the inaccuracies of the PC (Perfectly Clear) corrections. I am happy to report that PC now offers real usability and overall a much higher percentage of good corrections.
PC has gone from a usability of 5-10% to now about 90% of the images that I run through Bibble use the PC correction.
THE CATS MEOW ?
Perfectly Clear works and it works well. In my workflow I process a lot of images for display on plasma screens and for the web. For this type of image conversion PC is extremely effective. As a rule PC brightens images improving contrast, vividness of color and mildly sharpening. One of the benefits to me in using PC is being able to produce images that display electronically well without having to take an image into Photoshop. In PS I give images "Pop" by using "Micro Contrast Enhancement" (to remove "gray haze"), adjusting levels, saturation and sharpness. With PC this now has become a one step, one click, process in Bibble.
The whole idea behind PC is to make corrections with little user input so it does not have any adjustments or settings to tweak except for the "tint" selection box. PC is an adaptive process trying to achieve what is the best image no mater how you adjust the other Bibble sliders. Using the normal Bibble adjustments do not usually offer additional improvements and often yield unpredictable results when used with PC. The one setting that is sometimes helpful is the exposure slider. PC tends to brighten just a touch too much on some images. Adjusting the exposure slider down -0.5 to -1 seems to correct this by mainly darkening the background and shadows yielding a better result. Moving the exposure down does not effect highlights however, and where PC brings highlights just over the edge of acceptable, none of the bibble sliders are able to correct and you will need to go back to conventional adjustments. The "Fill Light" slider can occasionally be useful to brighten shadows. If you find yourself trying to make more adjustments than this, better turn PC off and use Biblbes exceptional set of standard tools.
With the object of PC being to minimize manual adjustments there is only one adjustment specific to the PC correction which is for tint. PC tries to analyze the image and adjust the tint (WB) for proper color. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. Provided are three levels for this setting "Min", "Max" and "Std" it is also possible to select "Off". For the majority of conversions the "Std" setting works well however sometimes PC misinterprets the image and grossly misadjusts the tint. You will have to play with these choices as each of these has different results on any given image. You can select "Off" and use the WB tool to make your own change without PC trying it's own thing.
Perfectly Clear for Bibble, Automatic Raw Image Correction
Perfectly Clear, while falling short of the miraculous claims, is a great tool and often produces exceptional results. If you primarily process only a few images for fine art printing then PC won't be of much use as you likely will want more control over the processing to fine tune things. But if you process images, as I do in quantity, especially for electronic display, you will find PC "The Cats Meow" (Bibble's mascot is a cat). PC provides quick one click adjustments to images that 9 times out of 10 exceed either the cameras own rendition or normal manual adjustments. Images processed using PC have depth, vibrance and are visually appealing. If you like to produce eye catching images in short order than PC will be a tool you cannot live without.
A note of caution:
PC reacts differently with images from different camera models. It is possible that PC may work with a smaller or larger degree of success depending on the source of the file and camera.
I have used PC with the flowing models:
Canon 1d Mark II N
Canon Rebel XT
Konica Minolta 5D
NEARLY PERFECT...MOST OF THE TIME
As I hinted at, PC isn't always well behaved and when it makes a mistake it is frequently very exaggerated with incredibly off colors and wild contrast. Images to watch are those that have strong back lighting like silhouettes. The worst offenders seem to be sunlight with strong reflections such as water. On the infrequent occurrence of this phenomena I simply do not use PC.
Roll your mouse over the picture to see an axample of
Perfectly Clear and the standard Bibble Conversion
Bear in mind that this example is only a to show what
PC comes up with relitive to my standard presets in Bibble.
The Bibble only version can of course be adjusted to be much closer to the PC version, however PC seems to be able to do some remarkable things with dynamic ranges and color that would take some time consuming finess and tweeking to atain with the manual adjustmets
Standard Bibble Conversion