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Author Topic: 16bit images... worth maintaining right to the end?  (Read 4119 times)
narikin
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« on: October 20, 2010, 05:29:11 AM »
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Is it really worth maintaining a 16bit workflow to the very final print?

If you have a correctly exposed high quality file (eg Phase One digital output in ProPhoto) with no large tonal/color moves required, how long should you maintain the file in 16bit?   I see many plug ins now enable 16 bit printing, and the OS/monitor/editing program/video card can now all be >10bit pipeline, so would I see any advantage in keeping the image in 16bit right through to the final print file?

Large MF files in 16bit become huge with layers... multiply that file many times over for large bodies of work... storage needs balloon... simple things like Bridge previews bog down, many options (filters etc) are not available in 16bit mode,  and everything slows down even on powerful workstations full of RAM. It takes twice as long to open, process or save anything... so... is it worth it?

Yes, I am talking about museum quality fine art printing, not price sensitive commercial grade - but do you in fact see zero difference for 99% of images?!
 
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kers
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2010, 05:57:18 AM »
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Yes, I am talking about museum quality fine art printing, not price sensitive commercial grade - but do you in fact see zero difference for 99% of images?!

Speaking from my own experience.
I work with d3x and 16bit proPhoto.
No usually you do not see any difference- but that depends on what you do and what sort of image.
yes - when it comes to gradual gradations in tones you have a risk of banding in 8bit.
Never use proPhoto in 8bit;  the steps are too big.- again banding is likely to occur.
Then it also depend on the output size of the print. If the output size remains in the 300dpi native - then you are safer then when it is 180 dpi.
-
in a few years all these issues of speed are gone and you will still have the higher quality 16bit image...Why buy a good camera and throw away the quality it is capable of?
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narikin
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 06:40:41 AM »
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sure, in an ideal world I'd agree, but we am talking about over 1200 P65+ processed files in 16bit, for this project alone.
add multiple layers, masks, channels and...

none of these images require serious contrast/tonal changes, so theory aside, will it make an ounce of difference?



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neile
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2010, 09:35:25 AM »
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Here's my blog entry with my personal experience on the subject: http://www.danecreekfolios.com/blog/2010/7/6/is-there-a-difference-printing-16-bit-instead-of-8-bit.html.

Neil
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Rob Reiter
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2010, 11:24:25 AM »
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No difference for 99% seems about right. I've never worked with files from a P65 but I can imagine their size if you have many layers in them. I do feel it's worth it to do processing in 16 bit and if you keep a Master File in all its unflattened hi res 16 bit glory, you'll be positioned well to take advantages of whatever improvements we might see in the future.

A conversion to 8 bit for printing makes sense. My experience with thousands of files from smaller cameras confirms my belief in this workflow, but since my files typically a manageable 400-600 MB at the most, I usually print 16 bit. I have seen the occasional banding/posterization that went away when going back to a 16 bit printing file, and about 1% of the time seems about right. If you don't want even to store huge 16 bit Master Files, once the work has been done, a conversion to 8 bit probably won't make a difference worth agonizing over, even if we do get miracle printers, inks and papers that might have some theoretical sliver of improvement for a 16 bit printing workflow.

Once upon a time, 8 bit images-film scans-were the norm, and more than a few good pictures came out of those days.
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Schewe
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2010, 11:47:18 AM »
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A conversion to 8 bit for printing makes sense.

No, actually it doesn't. Even if you don't have a system print pipeline that can't take 16 bit (such as Windows) if you are having Photoshop Manage Colors and are using a good profile, you still get the benefits of high bit depth color transforms because the transform is being done in 16 bit (with 20 bit precision if you use Adobe ACE as the color engine) by Photoshop before sending the transformed image to the printer. So, even though the last step is pushed down to 8 bit, Photoshop keeps it in 16 bit for the final transform.

So, depending on your working space and your output profiles (and how big the potential gamut is) you would be loosing the benefit of 16 bit processing on the last step of the print workflow.

It's one thing to flatten (or at least simplify) a complex multi-layered file to save space. But if you started off in 16 bit, you loose the benefits of that 16 bit processing at the last step before going to print. If quality is in the least bit important, I think it's a poor choice.
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Rob Reiter
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2010, 12:04:54 PM »
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I think the question being asked is whether or not you see that difference in a print. I always print in 16 bit when I can, but I've done enough comparisons to believe that there is not a visible difference in most prints.

Schewe, are you saying that in your experience, you can see a difference most of the time, when comparing a 16 bit workflow through printing compared to one where the file is converted to 8 bit at the printing stage?
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Schewe
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2010, 12:15:33 PM »
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Schewe, are you saying that in your experience, you can see a difference most of the time, when comparing a 16 bit workflow through printing compared to one where the file is converted to 8 bit at the printing stage?

If you are asking me whether or not I've seen differences between converting to 8 bit in Photoshop prior to transforming to the printer profile for printing vs. letting Photoshop do the final working space to output profile in 16 bit, yes...you can often see print banding in delicate gradients in 8 bit to printer profile vs 16 bit to printer profile. This will, of course be image and printer dependent.

Again, if you are starting your workflow in 16 bit, I think it's suboptimal to reduce to 8 bit before getting the benefits of a 16 to 16 bit final transform.
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Rob Reiter
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2010, 12:53:21 PM »
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A slow morning here so I pulled out my favorite test file, the Profile Test Image Bill Atkinson provides and that Neil used in his tests mentioned above:

http://homepage.mac.com/billatkinson/FileSharing2.html

and printed up a 16 bit version and an 8 bit version. I viewed each image in the collage side by side and could only discern banding in the 8 bit version on one, the sunset in the lower left corner, which is the one I usually go to when I'm checking for banding for any reason. Slight, but it's there.

I think that rather confirms the accuracy of both statements.

Personally, I keep all my workflow in 16 bit all the way through. But I'm not dealing with files of the size someone shooting a P65 back deals with. If file size is so cumbersome as to make printing an arduous task, the damage to your file when converting to 8 bit in printing does not seem to be across the board in any way that is visible in a print, most of the time. If delicate gradations band, or posterization in shadows seems to point to a problem, one can always go back and reprint that specific picture in 16 bit.
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Wayne Fox
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2010, 02:09:55 PM »
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Is it really worth maintaining a 16bit workflow to the very final print?

If you have a correctly exposed high quality file (eg Phase One digital output in ProPhoto) with no large tonal/color moves required, how long should you maintain the file in 16bit?   I see many plug ins now enable 16 bit printing, and the OS/monitor/editing program/video card can now all be >10bit pipeline, so would I see any advantage in keeping the image in 16bit right through to the final print file?

Large MF files in 16bit become huge with layers... multiply that file many times over for large bodies of work... storage needs balloon... simple things like Bridge previews bog down, many options (filters etc) are not available in 16bit mode,  and everything slows down even on powerful workstations full of RAM. It takes twice as long to open, process or save anything... so... is it worth it?

Yes, I am talking about museum quality fine art printing, not price sensitive commercial grade - but do you in fact see zero difference for 99% of images?!

I guess I'm not quite sure of the question.  It sounds like your question is whether or not you can leave the 16bit workflow earlier in the process than printing so you can have smaller file sizes, since you really don't need 16bit files to print.  Even if you don't have a 16bit printing path, you aren't going to accomplish anything such as less space/smaller file sizes/ quicker response from bridge unless you move to an 8bit workflow much earlier in the process.

If you are maintaining a 16bit workflow all the way to printing, I see no point in reducing the file to 8bit before printing.  If you are indeed talking about museum quality fine art printing ... printing of the very highest quality ... I would assume you are going to maintain your master file in its highest quality, so at some point in the future you could take advantages of new technologies in output.

If on the other hand these really are more of a commercial job with short lived needs (as opposed to a landscape that you might produce for decades), consider that there has been a lot of terrific images produced from digital images using an 8bit AdobeRGB workflow.  If you run into the odd image that has some banding or other issues, you could always rework that image in ProPhotoRGB/16bit.

Personally I find my storage requirements getting less and less, since 80% of my images never get opened in Photoshop anymore at all.  Using local adjustments in Lightroom and printing from Lightroom means my only storage requirements are the raw file itself and a little space in lightroom for 1:1 previews and metadata .. prob only a couple of megs.
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narikin
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2010, 03:20:19 PM »
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Personally I find my storage requirements getting less and less, since 80% of my images never get opened in Photoshop anymore at all.  Using local adjustments in Lightroom and printing from Lightroom means my only storage requirements are the raw file itself and a little space in lightroom for 1:1 previews and metadata .. prob only a couple of megs.

yes, sadly Lightroom is not the best for Phase Backs - the raw conversions are much better in Capture One, which means... full 16bit TIFFs on your machine, end of story.

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neile
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2010, 03:47:26 PM »
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I viewed each image in the collage side by side and could only discern banding in the 8 bit version on one, the sunset in the lower left corner, which is the one I usually go to when I'm checking for banding for any reason. Slight, but it's there.

That sun is a pain, isn't it? Smiley I personally have found the amount of banding in that particular part of the test image is directly related to the quality of the printer profile. When I was generating quick and dirty profiles using 255 patches and Spyder 3 Print it was pretty bad. When I did the full 700+ patch test the banding was virtually unnoticable.

Neil
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tho_mas
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« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2010, 06:02:12 PM »
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Large MF files in 16bit become huge with layers... multiply that file many times over for large bodies of work... storage needs balloon... simple things like Bridge previews bog down, many options (filters etc) are not available in 16bit mode,  and everything slows down even on powerful workstations full of RAM. It takes twice as long to open, process or save anything... so... is it worth it?

Yes, I am talking about museum quality fine art printing, not price sensitive commercial grade - but do you in fact see zero difference for 99% of images?!
+1 ... yes, 16bit is worth the hassle.
First, if you are working in ProPhoto literally any image-transformation in 8bit is critical.
But even if your are working in more "real world" color spaces the most critical transformation in 8bit is a conversion from one (color space-) TRC to another TRC (for instance from Gamma 1.8 to Gamma 2.2 or sRGB or L*). Now, any printer (resp. paper) has its own TRC and this is why a translation to the printer profile in 16bit is basically the best way to avoid unwanted banding and/or posterizing effects.
Maybe you can save space by organising your layers in a different way... or maybe even flatten all the layered TIFs?

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John.Murray
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2010, 06:24:20 PM »
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@Schewe:

Windows does support 16bit printing via XPS:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/adrianford/archive/2008/10/22/16-bits-and-more-printing-on-windows.aspx

Not many hardware makers are using it save Canon....
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Wayne Fox
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2010, 11:02:40 PM »
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yes, sadly Lightroom is not the best for Phase Backs - the raw conversions are much better in Capture One, which means... full 16bit TIFFs on your machine, end of story.


True.  For me it works OK.  As a landscape shooter  I do the original conversions  from my p65+ in Lightroom (fortunately the latest LR does a decent job unlike the prior version which was unusable).  For web jpegs and small prints its' good enough.  Those that are "keepers" (relatively few) worth printing large are reprocessed to tiff through CaptureOne, back through Lightroom for local adjustments, and most of those out to print from Lightroom.  Only rarely to I end up with a multi-layer tiff file in photoshop.

To your original question, if investing in a phase system and pursuing "museum quality" images, it seems counter productive to jettison some of that quality by using an 8bit workflow.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2010, 11:27:03 PM »
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Hi,

I very much agree with Wayne on this. IF you can do with a parametric workflow, you can save an awful lot of disk space and have a lot more of flexibility. On the other hand Lightroom and other tools cannot do pixel level edits, masking and so on. Jeff, Michael Reichmann, Wayne and others say that 80% + of the work can be done in Lightroom, but it's quite obvious that this does not apply to all kind of shooting and postprocessing.

The solution may be to get bigger and faster disks. A Mac Pro filled with 4x2TByte disks in RAID 5 would give 6 TBytes of storage with excellent throughput. Getting more storage obviously makes backup more difficult.

Best regards
Erik



Personally I find my storage requirements getting less and less, since 80% of my images never get opened in Photoshop anymore at all.  Using local adjustments in Lightroom and printing from Lightroom means my only storage requirements are the raw file itself and a little space in lightroom for 1:1 previews and metadata .. prob only a couple of megs.

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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2010, 11:41:39 PM »
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Hi!

You are wrong on that! LR can do parametric editing on TIFFs. The issue is that it cannot regain what is clipped in the TIFF. I often run into this when doing Panos. A panorama may consist of many frames and it's hard to adjust tonality until it is assembled. What I do is to prepare TIFFs containing the full tonal scale. These would be quite dull, merge the TIFFs using Autopano Pro and than reimport the Pano image to Lightroom. So now I have a dull image containing all info in the original TIFFs. After that I adjust tonality in Lightroom. Works as a charm.

Best regards
Erik

yes, sadly Lightroom is not the best for Phase Backs - the raw conversions are much better in Capture One, which means... full 16bit TIFFs on your machine, end of story.


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Rob Reiter
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2010, 12:34:30 AM »
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I'd rather buy another hard disk than worry about the problems of converting to 8 bits. I love having the Canon plug-in and 16 bit profiles. I use Bill Atkinson's 1728 patch target for generating my profiles. But unless there is a gradation like a big sky, it's hard to see the advantage in most pictures. Since I just don't want to worry about whether or not it might have been better printing in 16bit, so I always do, for my own stuff. My clients split about 50/50 on 8bit and 16bit files. When their skies band, I can usually trace it to the 8 bit workflow. It doesn't happen very often.

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John R Smith
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2010, 06:04:21 AM »
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Are there any Epson printers which have XPS drivers to support 16-bit output under Windows 7?
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hjulenissen
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2010, 07:27:53 AM »
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Do you think that image noise hides 8-bit banding?
-h
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