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Author Topic: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?  (Read 2529 times)

EricWHiss

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Hi,
Just hoping someone here will have some neat ideas for sharpening film scans without pronouncing the grain.  I've tried some plugins including topaz and pixel genius but currently think the PS CC reduce shake filter does the best job, however it also does pronounce the grain too.   Any ideas?   I have tried the frequency / graphic equalizer type methods also but it's hit and miss and time intensive.   I'm using an iQsmart3
 - currently scanning at 5000 p/in.
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TonyW

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Have you tried bringing your scans into ACR and using the tools there?
Specifically applying ACR sharpening in combination with the masking slider to limit the sharpening to edges.

By far the best information I have seen on this subject is by Jeff Schewe dealing with building edge masks using Find Edges in PS as described in the book Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom  A little more involved than a one click plugin solution maybe but the potential results could make it very worthwhile for hero images?

https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/real-world-image/9780321679307/
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Mark D Segal

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This is quite easy to deal with, and I've written it up in previous articles on this website. In a nutshell: Download Photokit Sharpener 2 Photoshop Plugin from the Pixelgenius website. Support for the application is now discontinued, but the owners are providing it free and it works with current versions of Photoshop and Mac and Windows operating systems. I think it's still the best sharpening toolset of its kind. It has custom presets for sharpening film scans, so these are combinations of settings that have been tested. Also download a copy of NeatImage from A/B Soft; this is an application one pays for but not expensive. After sharpening, inspect the results for areas of the photo where the grain looks objectionable (if not the whole photo), put them onto a new layer with a layer mask. Run NeatImage on the layer; it will automatically analyze the image and produce a combination of settings for relatively non-destructive mitigation of grain. This application is designed for dealing with digital noise, but it works very well on film grain too, despite the fact that grain isn't digital noise. If you don't like the results it produces automatically, you can operate the program in manual mode, where there are many controls for refined identification, selection and mitigation of noise or grain; you can dial in combinations of settings and examine their impacts almost immediately till you are satisfied. Used properly, it does a good job of protecting edge sharpness.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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howardm

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I wasn't aware of PG/PK ceasing business.

:( :(

Thanks for the memories PG!

Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Hi,
Just hoping someone here will have some neat ideas for sharpening film scans without pronouncing the grain.  I've tried some plugins including topaz and pixel genius but currently think the PS CC reduce shake filter does the best job, however it also does pronounce the grain too.   Any ideas?   I have tried the frequency / graphic equalizer type methods also but it's hit and miss and time intensive.   I'm using an iQsmart3
 - currently scanning at 5000 p/in.

Hi Eric,

NeatImage, as mentioned by Mark, also crossed my mind. It allows a lot of control over which noise to remove, and which (spatial frequency) detail to preserve.

A more recent development, which I have not tried myself on filmscans yet, is Topaz A.I. Clear (with minimal sharpening). I'm not sure how that will work out, because I don't think it was trained on film but on digital images. But who knows, it might work.

To emphasize local contrast but not emphasize very high detail of grain, the Topaz Precision Detail plugin for the free Topaz Studio host would be worthwhile to explore (with negative boost settings).

Cheers,
Bart
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Mark D Segal

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Hi Bart, I once wrote a review on this website for Topaz DeNoise, an earlier version of the current noise mitigation application. I found it very good and it has undoubtedly improved since - I haven't tested it recently. It is a different character of application than Neat Image. Topaz handles the task in a more bundled-up but also effective manner, whereas NeatImage gives the user more variables to play around with, which I appreciate for dealing with film as neither of these applications were really designed for film grain, or more accurately in the case of colour materials - dye clouds.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Mark D Segal

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Yup - also very good, with lots of user control. Close call between the two of them and I could be happy with either, but I still marginally prefer Neat Image for film.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Yup - also very good, with lots of user control. Close call between the two of them and I could be happy with either, but I still marginally prefer Neat Image for film.

Yes, I also used NeatImage on my film-scans when I still did those. That's why I recommended to try it.

Topaz Precision Detail (which is not a noise reduction application/plugin) gets its strength from halo-free contrast enhancements based on feature size (depending on the scanned film resolution). That will allow to somewhat avoid the film grain, yet address the image detail.

Would be useful to have a crop of the level of detail and graininess (varies with filmtype and processing, and diffuseness or collimation of scanner lighting) that Eric is targeting, to test some different scenarios.

Cheers,
Bart
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StephaneB

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On the other hand, what we did in the darkroom was to focus on the grain, meaning that once the grain is sharp, you've got all the sharpness that's in the negative.

I apply the same approach with scanned film. There is no need, in my opinion, to go further. The trick is to get the grain sharp without making it larger than it naturally is. Once you've done that, there is nothing else to get from the scan (resolution-wise). And that's OK.

This will not give digital-like resolution and acutance, but that's all right. The best way to get digital-like resolution and acutance is to shoot digital. The best way to get film gorgeousness is to embrace what film looks like.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2019, 08:12:22 am »

On the other hand, what we did in the darkroom was to focus on the grain, meaning that once the grain is sharp, you've got all the sharpness that's in the negative.

I apply the same approach with scanned film. There is no need, in my opinion, to go further. The trick is to get the grain sharp without making it larger than it naturally is. Once you've done that, there is nothing else to get from the scan (resolution-wise). And that's OK.

This will not give digital-like resolution and acutance, but that's all right. The best way to get digital-like resolution and acutance is to shoot digital. The best way to get film gorgeousness is to embrace what film looks like.

What you do depends on what you are digitizing. If we're talking colour negatives for example, we're not seeing particles of silver, but rather we are seeing tiny dye clouds formed of clumps of silver particulates and dyes through the emulsion, often in a structure of nine layers. Dye clouds diffuse detail, so the objective of good focusing should be to aim for the sharpest visible distinction of contrasted edge detail. Interestingly, there is a by-play between focusing, sharpening and grain mitigation. The focusing part happens pre-capture, while the latter two happen post-capture. Judicious sharpening is needed to restore the acutance lost through the digitization process, while judicious "grain" mitigation can help make the photo appear sharper by eliminating the so-called grain whose appearance interferes with the observation of image detail.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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elliot_n

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2019, 10:45:35 am »

The trick is to get the grain sharp without making it larger than it naturally is.

That's my approach. I've never run noise reduction on film scans (B&W and colour neg).
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Garnick

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2019, 11:26:12 am »

NeatImage has been kicking around for a number of years and I've often had an urge to try it but as with many situations in life, that urge seemed to disappear and was forgotten.  It has now been rekindled and I will definitely give it a try.  PKS-2 has also been mentioned, an app I use with most of the prints I make for output sharpening and wouldn't want to do without.  I print my own images and those of my customers and have never been let down by PKS-2, it's a great sharpener on several levels.  My usual app for noise reduction is Noiseware from Imagenomic, but I'm certainly open to trying others as well.  I have Topaz DeNoise but haven't tried it yet.  The way I see it, having several noise reduction apps is not a bad thing, since if one doesn't seem to be doing the job for a particular image, try another, or perhaps combine two on separate layers and brush in the sections you want.  I'm not sure one noise reduction app can do all for everyone. 

Oh yes, and by the way, here's the current download link for NeatImage - https://ni.neatvideo.com/

Gary   
« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 12:10:17 pm by Garnick »
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Gary N.
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Herbc

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2019, 11:36:35 am »

I tried to download the Pixelgenius package for mac and Photoshop says it doesn't recognize that type of file.  Must be some simple way around that?
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Paul Roark

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2019, 11:51:53 am »

OP (& OT) -- I'm digitizing my old Rollei GX Tech Pan negatives now and am being reminded of just how good that setup was.  Amazing detail and a virtually grainless image.

Paul
www.PaulRoark.com
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Garnick

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2019, 12:30:29 pm »

OP (& OT) -- I'm digitizing my old Rollei GX Tech Pan negatives now and am being reminded of just how good that setup was.  Amazing detail and a virtually grainless image.

Paul
www.PaulRoark.com

+1 for Tech Pan.  For most folks, Tech Pan was a film meant strictly for particular applications, such as high contrast B&W and line work.  However, with careful attention to exposure and proper processing it was a film extremely adept for shooting landscapes etc.  If memory serves me, I believe I always used ISO 25 when shooting landscapes etc. on TP.  Again, a great range and lots of fine detail when handled properly.  I must dig out some of my TP negs and scan them as well.  Make sure you have high magnification grain focuser if printing TP, since grain can be difficult to find.

Thanks for tweaking my memory of Tech Pan again Paul.  Now I have work to do.  ;^)

Gary     
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Gary N.
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howardm

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2019, 01:43:49 pm »

I tried to download the Pixelgenius package for mac and Photoshop says it doesn't recognize that type of file.  Must be some simple way around that?

it downloads as a .zip file that contains all the PG toolkits/plugins  in one.

Expand the .zip file and read the README that is inside for installation.

kirkt

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2019, 02:19:43 pm »

Depending upon the resolution of the original scan and the size of the grain versus the details you are targeting, you might try frequency separation to push the grain to a separate layer and then sharpen the residual image.

kirk
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Mark D Segal

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2019, 02:45:15 pm »

Depending upon the resolution of the original scan and the size of the grain versus the details you are targeting, you might try frequency separation to push the grain to a separate layer and then sharpen the residual image.

kirk

What application do you have in mind that does "frequency separation"?
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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howardm

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Re: what's the best method to sharpen film scans without sharpening the grain?
« Reply #19 on: January 14, 2019, 04:02:56 pm »

I've seen plenty of PS actions/recipes to do frequency separation.  Some of the Luminosity 'toolkits' offer a pushbutton Freq. Sep. (like ADP or Raya)
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