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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Automation at the input stage

Automate, Batch File, Actions, & Scripts

There are a lot of things that we do everyday, to every image, when we are working in Forensics. I like to work in ProPhoto RGB and 16bpc, so I created an action called Open File. This action runs as a script on every file that Photoshop opens. How did I do this? Good question.

First you must create the action. With a photo open, bring up the Actions palette and select New Action. Call it something descriptive. Begin recording. Select Image>Mode>16 Bits/Channel. This converts your image from 8bpc to 16bpc. Then select Edit>Convert to Profile. For my settings, I chose ProPhoto RGB as my destination space (huge gamut), Adobe (ACE) as my Engine, and Relative Colormetric as my Intent. Additionally, I check the box to Use Black Point Compensation hopefully ensuring that shadow detail is preserved. After all of that, I click ok and stop the recording. I now have my Action.

The next step in this process is to tell Photoshop to run this Action on each image as it opens. This is done with the Script Events Manager, File>Scripts>Script Events Manager. In the dialog box, we want to make sure the check the box to Enable Events to Run Scripts/Actions. Pull the Photoshop Event drop-down menu and select Open Document. Then click the radio button for Action and pull the drop-down menu for your Set, then for your Action. When you've selected the Action that you want to run when your documents open, click on the Add Button to add this event to the list in the top part of the dialog box. When you're done, click the done button. You've now scripted Photoshop!

Your repetitive tasks can be easily changed into Actions. I have an action that set my files up so that I can begin to work on them, creating a duplicate layer and a blank curves adjustment layer. I have one that adjusts the Pixel Aspect Ratio for correctly viewing stills from NTSC tapes. I have another that adjusts the Pixel Aspect Ratio for correctly printing stills from NTSC tapes. I have many more for de-interlacing (4 ways), for interpolating, for preparing stills from digital CCTV sources, and so forth. I have sets for creative actions, a set for common forensic actions, and often create temporary sets for use in a single case. Make sure that you save your actions! This can be done from the fly-out menu in the Actions palette. If I have used actions that I made specifically for a case, I will generally include the saved action file with the case files as a courtesy. If you ever receive an action file, you can load it from the same fly-out menu.

In the next installment, we'll wrap up this introduction. In future editions, we'll look closer at some of steps in the workflow, look at some 3rd party plug-ins, and review a few good books.

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