HOW TO GET THE BEST FROM YOUR IMAGES
Important Note: This page contains several "Screengrabs". To view the Screengrabs at their full resolution, download each one by dragging it to your desktop and then open it in your own imaging program.
Image editing software allows us to make significant improvements to the apparent sharpness and colour balance and exposure of the old camcorders.
I used Adobe Photoshop to tweak the old camcorder image, improving the contrast, colour balance and saturation and sharpness.
Before you start, make sure that you have saved the image. This gives you the confidence to experiment - if you screw up the adjustments, it's easy to select 'File' then 'Revert', to get back to the point from which you started.
Using Adjust Curves (from the Image, Adjust, Curves menu - shortcut Ctrl M on a PC, Command M on a Mac) I lifted the mid tones of the whole image by clicking on the mid point of the RGB curve and dragging it up and left slightly. Clicking the Preview box ensured that the effect could be seen immediately.
Clicking the triangle to the right of the RGB channel box gives access to the individual colour channels. Clicking on the individual curves adds anchor points, which can be dragged up and left to boost the colour, or down and right to reduce the amount of colour, at any tonal value. I adjusted the curves for the red and blue, trying to match the overall effect to the picture produced by the DV camcorder. I managed make the car red but this lightened the green elsewhere.
At this point I decided to Save the rather complex curve which I had just made, for future use as a starting point for adjusting other images from the same camcorder. Just click Load to use the curve again. Not happy with the effect? Hold down Alt (PC and Mac) and the Cancel button changes to Reset. But if you're happy, click OK. Save the image, using a different file name.
Next I increased Saturation in the Image, Adjust, Hue/Saturation menu - shortcut Ctrl/Cmd U - by dragging the slider to the right, then clicking OK. Save the image, using another file name.
Finally, sharpness. As with so many actions in Photoshop, there are a number of ways of 'sharpening' an image. Experiment with them in the Filter, Sharpen menu. I found Sharpen alone was not enough, Sharpen Edges even less and Sharpen More was too much. So I used the advanced method, Unsharp Mask (USM) which allows you to set your own parameters. Where you set the Amount, Radius and Threshold sliders is a matter of personal preference but, first, double click the magnifier tool to display the image at 100% and see the effects clearly.
USM works by increasing the contrast of pixels near an edge in the picture. The three adjustments are interactive, so it's important to adjust all three before judging the effect. Drag the slider to select an Amount to determine how much the contrast of the pixels is increased, Radius to select the number of pixels either side of the edge which will be affected, and Threshold to select how big the brightness difference must be between the pixels before sharpening takes effect. Clicking in the small preview box toggles the preview of the sharpening on and off.
Save, using yet another filename - you can delete the in between files when you are happy with the result but, until then, they enable you go back to any intermediate point with ease. This important because Photoshop has only one level of undo (select Undo in the Edit menu or Ctrl/Cmd Z).
Compare these 'tweaked' versions with the unretouched versions
Left: Sony CCD-V90E Analogue Camcorder and
Right: Sony DCR-PC7E Digital Camcorder on the previous page.
Win/TV Primio. (Hauppauge Computer Works Inc)
PCI video digitiser card for Windows 95, with built-in tv tuner. Must be installed inside computer. Requires Direct Draw support. £81 (PC World). Also available with teletext (£91) and radio (£105).
UK distributors: Hauppauge UK 0171 378 7309
Snappy (Play Inc)
Digitising device which simply plugs into the parallel (printer) port. Requires PC with a '486 processor or better, Windows 95/NT3.51 or later or Windows 3.11, 4MB RAM, at least 8MB of free hard drive space and an unused parallel port. Delay between the frame you see when you click 'Snap' and the frame you get is irritating. Version 3 of software, due soon, will reduce this. Produces good quality stills from good video signals.£95 rrp.
UK distributors: Logitech 01306 734300
PhotoDV (Radius Inc)
Greased lightning has nothing on this kit. You'll never want to go back to using a slow serial connection between digital camera and computer after you use Radius PhotoDV to acquire images from a DV camcorder in under two seconds. PhotoDV uses the new FireWire interconnect standard to connect to digital camcorders. Adobe Photoshop-type plug-in with FireWire PCI card. Big 720 x 540 images. Supports PAL (European) and NTSC (USA/Japan) standards, 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. Easy software upgrade (MotoDV) for importing moving images. Needs PCI Macintosh with MacOS 7.6.1 or later, 16MB RAM, minimum 10MB free space and Adobe Photoshop 3.0.5. PC users: watch out for FireWire products from Sony and Panasonic.
UK distributors: Computers Unlimited 0181 200 8282