TweetFollow Us on Twitter

May 92 - THE VETERAN NEOPHYTE

THE VETERAN NEOPHYTE

YEAH, BUT IS IT ART?

DAVE JOHNSON

[IMAGE DaveJ.gif]


Digital image processing has come a very long way. Remember when MacPaint® was a revolutionary concept? Now we've got a plethora of sophisticated graphics programs available on the Macintosh for regular folks: 32-bit painting programs, image-processing programs, CAD programs, photo-realistic rendering programs, solid modeling programs, animation programs--you name it. The power to be your best, or the power to run off into the weeds? I guess it depends on who's at the keyboard. One thing is sure: art will never be the same.

I've been messing around lately with digital filtering of scanned images: taking an existing image and applying some sort of mathematical transformation to it. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful, often ugly, but always fun.

One of the programs I've been spending time with lets you interactively type in mathematical expressions and apply them to an image. This application, called Pico, is a Macintosh implementation of an image-processing language developed by Gerard J. Holzmann at AT&T Bell Laboratories, and described in his bookBeyond Photography: The Digital Darkroom.  (The Macintosh version I've been using was written by John W. Peterson here at Apple, and I've included it on theDeveloper CD Series  disc so that you can play with it, too.) If you're the least bit interested in image processing, you should read Holzmann's slim, friendly book. It describes the language in detail and gives lots of examples of its use. The book is full of fascinating photographs that have been tweaked and transformed using the language, ranging from the hilarious (in particular, see the Einstein caricature on page 35), to the sublimely beautiful (make up your own mind). The overall feel is one of whimsy and fun, with a strong dose of the joy of discovery. The book also includes a very instructive and in- depth discussion of the software that implements the language (a lexical analyzer, a recursive-descent parser, and an interpreter) and source code in C.

Holzmann's language allows you to invent, implement, and try out digital filters on the fly. It uses a C-like syntax and is decidedly mathematical, but that's where a lot of the fun comes in: seeing a photographic image quickly transformed by a simple mathematical formula is really fascinating. The language makes it easy to mess around and discover unusual things about math and filters: you can just type in an expression, hit the Enter key, and see the results immediately. The program operates only on 8-bit gray-scale images that are 256 by 256 pixels, but the power of the language far outshines this limitation. Try it, you'll like it.

There's another kind of digital filtering that I first learned about a little over a year ago in an article by Paul Haeberli at Silicon Graphics:Paint By Numbers: Abstract Image Representations , in the SIGGRAPH '90 Conference Proceedings. This is an interactive kind of filtering, which makes it a lot of fun. The concept is simple: Start with a given image, any image (call it the source). Create a new, blank one (the destination) that's the same size. Then you "paint" on the destination with the mouse, and at each point you touch, the color of the source image is determined at that same location. A"brush stroke" is then drawn in the destination at that position, with the source's color. If the brush just drew single pixels, you would be copying the source image exactly, which would be a pretty tedious way to copy it. Ah, but the brush can do anything it wants to, and that's where the fun begins. If the brush draws, say, a circle a few pixels in diameter, you get a sort of "blot" effect, with the blots overlapping each other haphazardly. Or you could draw a line in some random direction from the source pixel's location, or add some noise to the color so that it varies a little from the source color, or draw a clump of dots centered at the source pixel, or draw a silhouette of a wiener dog in the appropriate color, or . . . the possibilities are endless. In a way you're tracing the source, but the brush you use to trace with isn't exact, and the results can be striking.

The finished images tend to look very "painterly" and are often evocative of impressionist paintings like those of Monet or Renoir, or of the pointillist "divisionist" technique of Seurat. (Can you tell I've been spending some time with my handy-dandyRandom House Encyclopedia ? Thanks, Mom.) This is a refreshing move away from the trend toward photo-realistic rendering that you see so much of in computer graphics.

I wrote a Macintosh application that implements a simplified version of what Haeberli did, so I could play around with it. (The application and all the source code are on this month's CD, for you to mess around with. If you find any problems, please let me know.) The most fun part turned out to be writing the brush routines, and I was curious to see just how hard it is to incorporate plug-ins into an application, so I made up a simple plug-in interface for the brushes (plug-ins are code resources separate from the application that are loaded and run as needed). Surprisingly, it turned out to be pretty trivial to implement plug-ins. I figured I was going to be forced to descend to the level of A5 worlds and code resource headers, but with the exception of one subtle gotcha it was easy. Basically you just get a handle to the code resource with GetResource, lock it, dereference it, and call it. I had to do some ugly casting to convince the C compiler to let me make the call, but other than that there were almost no problems.

One thing turned up that I couldn't figure out, and I was forced to seek help. I was writing a filter routine (the application supports both brushes and filters as plug-ins) that was a modified version of the RedGreenInvert routine from the article "Drawing in GWorlds for Speed and Versatility" in this issue. I first tried it linked into my application, so I could use the source debugger on it. Once it was working, I converted it to a plug-in and BOOM, it crashed with a bus error. Some investigative work pointed to SwapMMUMode as the culprit, but I couldn't figure out why. (Trumpet fanfare) Bo3b Johnson to the rescue once again! It turns out that since I was calling the plug-in in 24-bit mode, when it came time to call SwapMMUMode the PC contained an address that had some of its high bits set (in this case the "locked" bit since I had locked the handle and the "resource" bit since it was a handle to a code resource). This is a bad thing. The solution, of course, is to call StripAddress on the pointer to the plug-in before calling it. That way the address in the PC is clean and SwapMMUMode is happy.

There are several commercially available applications that do Haeberli-like image manipulation. Monet, by Delta Tao Software, is a much more complete and sophisticated implementation of Haeberli's concepts, incorporating some of the cooler features like opacity control, getting the direction of the brush strokes from the movement of the mouse, and so on. (You gotta love Delta Tao Software: when a customer asks for an IBM version of one of their products, they gleefully answer "Buy a Macintosh.") There's also Painter, a truly unique and remarkable paint program from Fractal Design that simulates very naturally the media artists use--chalk, pencil, charcoal, and so on. It has a "cloning" function that's similar to Haeberli's in concept: you can manually or automatically draw over the "source" image with any of the brushes. Aldus Gallery Effects by Silicon Beach Software is a product that basically consists of canned filters that can be applied to images to transform them in interesting ways, many of which are similar to the effects you get with Haeberli's technique. And then of course there's Adobe Photoshop, the brilliant, precocious teenager of image- processing programs.

Photoshop seems to have become the de facto industry standard image-processing program. Its versatility is, so far, unmatched by any other program I've seen. And its plug-in interface has also become something of a standard: many Macintosh graphics programs (Painter, for one) now support Photoshop plug-ins, and I know of at least one software company that does nothingbut  writePhotoshop plug-ins. I think plug-ins are a very cool thing: they allow extension and customization of an application on the fly, bringing us a tiny step closer to the dream of "erector set" applications that can be taken apart, rearranged, and rebuilt by users to suit their needs. If you want to write some Photoshop plug-ins, you can find the documentation for the plug-in interface (along with examples in MPW C, MPW Pascal, and THINK C) on the CD.

Here's the big, deep question about these digitally transformed images: Are They Art? An image produced by any of these applications can indeed be "arty"; of that there is no doubt. But is it really art? Many graphic artists would immediately answer with a resounding "NO!" They'd say that it just looks like art, that it imitates art (kinda like life), but isn't really art because it'sautomatic . But many painters in the surrealist and abstract impressionist movements took great interest in what they termed "automatic" painting, painting without the intervention of conscious control. Jackson Pollock was a notable practitioner of this technique. Is the creation of a painting by automatic means any different, in principle, from what these computer-based tools do?

"Wait a minute!" these artists might cry, "Pollock began with a blank canvas! What he did was truly original! You (smug smirk) are just taking an existing image and transforming it with a computer. That's not art, that's just (expression of extreme distaste)filtering ."

"Wipe that smug smirk off your face," I might smirk smugly, "what about the dadaists? They claimed that art was anything that anyone decided tocall art, and I'm calling these images art." (Fun dadaist tales: Marcel Duchamp, a dadaist in New York, bought a urinal, signed it "R. Mutt," and called it art. He claimed that the signature alone made any manufactured item into a work of art. These "readymades," as he called them, sold quite well. And then there's Kurt Schwitters, a Hanover dadaist, who made collages from rubbish. Now the dadaist movement, admittedly, was intended to upset the status quo, rip apart the definition of art, and shock people out of their bourgeois sensibilities, but their influence is still strongly felt in modern art, and has forever muddied the definition of what art is. For that I heartily thank them.)

There's another eminently pragmatic definition of art: it's art if someone is willing to buy it. This one is distasteful in its materialistic slant, but I must admit that it's a useful one, at least to people who make a living making art. Then there's the Marshall McLuhan stance that "art is anything you can get away with." I personally love this one for its nebulousness, and I'm willing to leave it at that.

Whatever definition we pick, we still can't conclusively say whether these computer-transformed images are art. Art is just too slippery a thing to pin down, like trying to put a cloud in a chair. I think art is primarily a dialog between the creator and the experiencer: if something is communicated, I'll call it art. But in the final analysis, does it really matter? These tools are just another kind of computer fun, andeveryone , artist or not, can play.

RECOMMENDED READING

  • Beyond Photography: The Digital Darkroom  by Gerard J. Holzmann (Prentice-Hall, 1988).
  • Paint By Numbers: Abstract Image Representations  by Paul Haeberli (in the SIGGRAPH '90 Conference Proceedings).
  • Elbert's Bad Word  by Audrey Wood (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988).

DAVE JOHNSON would like to share with you a quote from The Three-Pound Universe  by Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi, a wonderful book about the human brain: "Research at Yale University's Center for Behavioral Medicine turned up the surprising fact that regular 'reading therapy'--that is, reading a book for half an hour a day--is neurophysiologically equivalent to the practice of TM. (Whether this means the Maharishi's mantras are comparable to Heidi  or merely reflects the crudeness of our measuring devices, we'll let you decide.)" This finding vindicates Dave's habits in a way no heartfelt argument ever could. *

Dave welcomes feedback on his musings. He can be reached at JOHNSON.DK on AppleLink, dkj@apple.com on the Internet, or 75300,715 on CompuServe. *

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Monodraw 1.2.1 - Powerful ASCII art edit...
Monodraw allows you to easily create text-based art (like diagrams, layouts, flow charts) and visually represent algorithms, data structures, binary formats and more. Because it's all just text, it... Read more
Monodraw 1.2.1 - Powerful ASCII art edit...
Monodraw allows you to easily create text-based art (like diagrams, layouts, flow charts) and visually represent algorithms, data structures, binary formats and more. Because it's all just text, it... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.1.3 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
beaTunes 4.6.11 - Organize your music co...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music Library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more
Typinator 7.1 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Geekbench 4.0.4 - Measure processor and...
Geekbench provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand,... Read more
Skype 7.44.0.364 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Skype 7.44.0.364 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
beaTunes 4.6.11 - Organize your music co...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music Library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.1.3 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more

ROME: Total War - Barbarian Invasion set...
To the delight of mobile strategy fans, Feral Interactive released ROME: Total War just a few months ago. Now the game's expansion, Barbarian Invasion is marching onto iPads as a standalone release. [Read more] | Read more »
Yuri (Games)
Yuri 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It's night. Yuri opens his eyes. He wakes up in a strange forest.The small, courageous explorer rides on his bed on casters in this... | Read more »
Space schmup Xenoraid launches on the Ap...
10Tons Xenoraid is out today on the App Store, bringing some high-speed space action to your mobile gadgets just in time for the weekend. The company's last premium title, another sci-fi game titled Neon Chrome, did quite well for itself, so... | Read more »
Star Wars: Force Arena Beginner's G...
Star Wars: Force Arena joined the populous ranks of Star Wars games on mobile today. It's a two-lane MOBA starring many familiar faces from George Lucas's famed sci-fi franchise. As with most games of this nature, Force Arena can be a little obtuse... | Read more »
Mysterium: The Board Game (Games)
Mysterium: The Board Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The official adaptation of the famous board game Mysterium! | Read more »
Sonny (Games)
Sonny 1.0.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.4 (iTunes) Description: Reimagined for iOS, cult-hit RPG Sonny brings challenging turn-based combat that requires strategy and mastery of each new skill to... | Read more »
Towaga (Games)
Towaga 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: "It has been foretold that a masked being would stand atop the legendary Towaga Temple, dwelling among shadows to fulfil The Black Moon... | Read more »
Bubble Witch 3 Saga Guide: How to get th...
King's bringing its fairytale bubble-popping puzzler back for its 3rd outing in Bubble Witch 3 Saga. If you're familiar with the series, not much has changed here on the surface level, though you'll likely be pleased with the improvements. If you'... | Read more »
Sunless Sea sails onto iPad this spring
Failbetter Games, the folks who brought you Fallen London, are celebrating their 7th birthday today. To commemorate the event, the team revealed that Sunless Sea is coming to iPad this spring. | Read more »
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (Games)
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $14.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Gameplay | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save with Apple refurbished iPad Pros, models...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 9″ and 12″ Apple iPad Pros available for up to $160 off the cost of new iPads. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 32GB 9″... Read more
Amazon drops 12-inch Retina MacBook prices to...
Amazon has 2016 12″ Apple Retina MacBooks on sale for $300 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free. The following configurations are available: - 12″ 1.1GHz Silver Retina MacBook: $999.99 $300... Read more
Cartella Slim Cases Put The ‘Book’ Back Into...
Minneapolis based Pad and Quill has just released the Cartella Slim Case for the 2016 Macbook Pro that puts the ‘book’ back into Macbooks! When you hold it, it looks & feels like an actual book…... Read more
iOS Reference App Terminology Goes Free with...
Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced Terminology 4.0.1, an updated version of its iPhone and iPad reference app. Since it hit the App Store in July 2010, Terminology has been one of the most... Read more
Sale! New 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pros for $12...
Amazon has the new 2016 13″ 2.0GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for a limited time for $200 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro, Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1299.99 $200 off... Read more
Back in stock: 2015 12-inch Retina MacBooks,...
Apple has restocked a full line of Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks, now available for up to $410 off original MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook,... Read more
Major PC Vendors, Apple, Grow Despite Fifth C...
Worldwide PC shipments totaled 72.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 3.7 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2015, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro. An Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
2016 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale f...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 13″ Touch Bar Apple MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch... Read more
Week’s Best Deals: 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Premier Retailer - PT Service Specia...
DescriptionSimply Mac is the largest premier retailer for Apple products and solutions. At Simply Mac we are all Apple , all the time. Same products. Same prices. Read more
*Apple* Premier Retailer - Service Manager -...
DescriptionSimply Mac is the largest premier retailer for Apple products and solutions. At Simply Mac we are all Apple , all the time. Same products. Same prices. Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 54267729 Altamonte Springs, Florida, United States Posted: Jan. 6, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Read more
Senior Workstation Administrator - *Apple*...
…you'll realize yours, too. QualificationsJOB SUMMARY/OVERVIEWThe Senior Workstation Administrator - Apple supports the mission of TriNet by providing advanced level Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.