Saturday, June 2, 2012

Photoshop's Content Aware & Gimp's Resynthesizer Plugin

I still remember when Adobe's Photoshop CS5 was introduced with the then new Content Aware Fill feature and how incredible the new technology looked. Each demo video quickly and seamlessly removed "unwanted" items from a photo effortlessly - a true wow moment for sure. This feature has also previously existed in the form of the resynthesizer plugin for the GIMP image editor prior to the release of Adobe's Photoshop CS5.

Within the last couple of months I have had a chance to play with both, thanks to Adobe opening up Photoshop CS6 to a public beta. Keep in mind that while the demo video's for this technology make it look borderline unbelievable, it does have limits to what it can accomplish - as I found out during my testing of both the Adobe product and the open source version.

Now, lets look at my case study and do some comparing. Picture the following scenario: A student club photo with several rows of students lined up in front of a stage curtain. One of these students did not belong to the club and the question was posed if he could be removed from said photograph. Thankfully for this test, the offending student was at the end of one of the rows and I thought it just might be possible with the resynthesizer plugin for the GIMP (my work copy of CS3 lacks the content aware technology). So, with the resynthesizer plug-in setup on my machine (then with GIMP 2.6) I set out and masked out the photo bomber (as one student dubbed those sneaking into photos they do not belong in) and ran the resynthesizer. After some tweaking, the photo bomber was removed, though not a perfectly seamless removal as we saw in Adobe demo videos. When viewed at full size, you can definitey tell something was done to the photo, though this was less evident on a copy printed on a laser printer.

This scenario did not play out as well using Adobe's Content Aware offerings. The algorithms cloned hair from an adjacent student and did not produce as clean of a clone that I was able to attain with the open source alternative. This is not to say with some tweaking a more acceptable result could not be attained, simply that for this experiment the winner is the free and open source application.

This was definitely not the ideal test for either program, but an interesting case study. Both work much better at patterns that would not be as tight as a stage curtain and need more of the pattern surrounding all sides of the subject to be removed.

If you are interested in experimenting with the GIMP version, you can find the download information for the resynthesizer plug-in here. If you are using GIMP on a Windows system don't fret over the old version that is available, I did my above testing on Windows XP and it works great. You may need to download an updated Heal Selection script from the Gimp Plugin registry and then use the Heal Selection option found under the Filter - Enhance menu. The updated .scm file fixed an error I encountered with the resynthesizer plugin. After I had downloaded and copied this file over I was able to do all the testing referenced above.

I will have a sample photo up I have been working on using the resynthesizer with Gimp 2.8 to follow up soon, stay tuned!



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