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Thursday, 23 August 2007


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Welcome to the thrilling and scary world of the Epson 9800.
One trap to remember is that the spooler space required on your system disk may be at least 4 Gb for large prints. I discovered this printing my first very big canvas at 39 x 57 inches, only to have the job fail half way through (repeatedly). Mike Chaney (Qimage) saved the show.

Welcome to the modern world of printing.


Ctein, may I ask how do you scan your film?
I shoot 6x9 every now and then with a Fujica rangefinder and then I get drum scans made at something between 3000 and 4000 dpi. What's your take on the optimum resolution to get all the information on film but not overdoing it with the file sizes? At 10000x15000 pixels (a little more than 4000 dpi) I think it's done (the lens resolution gets there too).
With such a file, is there a limit relative to size and looking distance? I mean, at that point, you might print at almost any size you want, since the distance required to be able to view the whole print makes it impossible to notice many minor defects that only will (but as you said, they will) show up in closer inspection.

Don't stress too much about the fact that you can only get 4GB of ram into a laptop, as there are inherent limits in the software realm that will trip you up.

For example, as far as I'm aware Photoshop is still only 32bit and therefore can only access about 4 GB of memory, once we have 64bit Photoshop we'll be looking a bit better.

Ohh and also if you get a desktop, it may not even be worth putting in 4gb of ram becasue you'll probably not be able to use most of that last Gigabyte, due to the way pc's allocate ram to hardware, like your video card.

EG. a pc with 4gb of ram and a 500mb video card will only be able to access at most 3.5gb of memory as the top of the 4th Gig will be mapped to your video card.

I'm sure we'll get there one day :)

PS. They are some serious prints :)

Please share with us what is new scan resolution on what scanner?

What slows your PS down, relatively slow CPU (how fast is the one), or not enough RAM (how much RAM do you have)?


You might want to read my Mac articles at diglloyd.com on the Mac Pro and its memory:


"My 32-bit machine is simply not adequate for this; nowhere near enough RAM. Photoshop works, but it's horridly slow. "

Photoshop CS3 was not redesigned to solve this problem. It is limited to 3GB of memory (at best), even on Mac OS X. Adobe could have solved this issue, but chose not to in CS3. So my MacPro with 16GB will hit the disk in CS3 while 10GB of memory are idle, with CS3 playing with itself in a measly 3GB.

So is digital really that much easier and cheaper than silver gelatin work?

So you got a bargain on the printer and now need to spend mega-bucks on a new computer. Aah, capitalism working at its best! :-)

The comments by Stuart Stent aren't quite right. First, 32 bit yields 4GB of address space *per process*. But some of it is reserved for various purposes, so 3GB is about all a single process (eg Photoshop) can use on Mac OS X. Having 8GB is still valuable; running other programs at the same time (Safari, Mail, Dreamweaver, printer drivers, etc) all need memory too, and Mac OS X uses "excess" memory for caching disk access. I recommend 6GB to 8GB, but the latest laptops can only take 4GB. Stick with the MacPro for its expansion and up to 32GB of memory. Mac OS X 10.5 will offer 64bit through the system, though Photoshop will have to be revised to use it.

Dear Max,

I'm scanning with a Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro, using a liquid gate carrier. I'm scanning at the finest pitch of the scanner, 4800 ppi, which produces a true resolution of 4000-4200 ppi according to my measurements.

Maximum useful scan size depends on what you're after. In terms of resolving subject detail, tests I've run on my Pentax 67 indicate that it maxes out at about 75 lp/mm on film. So a true 5000 ppi scan would pretty much capture any detail I could record on the film. In practical terms, resolving 4000 ppi is good enough for me.

In fact, I don't need the 800 MB files that the scans generate ... at this time. I think I'm going to be entirely happy with prints of arbitrary size from 400 MB files. But (a) I could be wrong about right now and (b) every time in the past when I thought I've made a scan that was much larger than I could imagine using, I've been wrong at some point in the future. So it makes sense for me to scan at the maximum resolution I can. If I don't need those 800 MB files right now, I'll just archive them on DVD . The way my history has run, I'll need them eventually.

There's another angle on scanning, which is how fine you want your film grain to get? A problem with scanning film is that the grain can never be smaller than one pixel. Furthermore, grain acts like random noise, which means as you drop your resolution the grain doesn't average out very well. A low resolution scan doesn't give you smooth tonality; it just gives you large mushy grain. The higher the resolution you scan at, the finer the grain will be in the photograph. I don't know what the limit to this is; Bruce Fraser and I discussed this at some length and we guessed that it was definitely above 5000 ppi but probably not above 10,000 ppi.

The implications of that are sufficiently horrendous that I would rather use software tools to suppress the grain in the scans.

pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://www.ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear David,

I addressed that last fall:


Nothing's changed since then.

pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://www.ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Lloyd,

We are entirely on the same page about this (and people should really read Lloyd's articles. He's one of the few guys writing about this stuff who actually knows what he's talking about). The issue for me is that 4 GB is merely adequate.

It will cause me two slight performance hits: I won't have as much space between 3 GB and 4 GB for plug-ins to use and I won't be able to take advantage of the space above 4 GB as a virtual scratch disk (and with me working on 400-800 MB files, I know that's going to happen).

But they aren't big performance hits, and I will be doing what I can to minimize them, like putting my scratch on a fast external drive (friends don't let friends put scratch files on their system disks).

A year from now, it's likely a very different matter. Unless Adobe really screws things up, I'm expecting CS4 to be recompiled for the 64-bit OS. Truthfully, one expert I really respect thinks that Adobe will come out with a recompiled mid-version release very quickly after OS X 10.5. My gut feeling is it's going to wait until next version cycle.

But no matter how you slice it, it's not all that far off. Unlike a lot of other hackers, I've had really good luck planning and buying for the long haul. My average machine life is five-seven years (with a certain amount of internal upgrading) before I'm forced to buy a new machine. From that perspective, I should really be buying a new desktop machine rather than a new laptop. But I seriously need a new laptop (it's way past its pull date) so that comes now, and a year from now I'll buy new desktop with a lot more RAM and move back to that being my primary Photoshop machine.

I've owned a fair amount of your software over the years, by the way. Couldn't imagine running my PB100 without Disk Doubler and Auto Doubler.

pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://www.ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com


Thanks for the kind words, and I hope your current machine is not the PowerBook 100! :;

The MacBook Pro at 2.4GHz is pretty darn fast (I have one), but you are quite right that disk performance will be the dominant factor that limits Photoshop responsiveness (assuming 4GB memory). I recommend a 2-drive striped RAID running off an SATA Express slot adapter for best performance with the size files you mention. Such an array can do about 120MB/sec, or triple what the internal drive can do. I'd put files *and* scratch on that drive, and when traveling files can live on the internal drive.

My gut feeling, which seems to match yours, is that Adobe won't produce any minor upgrade to go to 64 bit, and will probably call it a major upgrade with corresponding payment required--after all, it's a great excuse, legitimate or not, and a good way to pump out more revenue.

BTW, diglloyd.com runs on a 500MHz PowerBook G3 with 384MB RAM!


Thanks Ctein, I agree with most you say (although I believe your amount of experience is a lot more meaningful as evidence than mine!) and also you addressed a big issue I always find of importance when tweaking the feel of an image: The only way you can manipulate how the film grain looks is scanning beyond grain resolution. I believe a good drum scan at 3200 dpi is already beyond Velvia's resolution (you can tell grain dots apart clearly), but a little more than that always makes the texture of the image a lot easier to fine tune.
Just as a curiosity, I posted a frame and a 100% center crop of a 4200 dpi drum scan of a shot taken with my Fujica 50mm lens here:

When I printed larger format I had a little under 500sqft to handle my Epson 9000. Get a 4x8 cutting board, handled it with an 8ft folding table and a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Worked well.
Some 64 bit machines don't handle the software drivers for printers, don't jump into it too fast, find out if the printer drivers can handle a 64 bit OS. What controls the speed of printing is the connection to the printer rather than the computer. Firewire or USB2 seem fast until you send a huge file.
Look into RIPs you get better control of the printer and in my experience are much more efficient with memory than printing out of Photoshop.
Have fun, live in Vermont and couldn't put the printer in the garage if I wanted to so downsized to a Canon iPF5000.


Good lord, I don't know as I could ever handle anything on that order without a couple assistants and (as you said) a few reams of tissue paper. I guess my "grandiose" scheme of generating prints at 11x14 and framed at 16x20 is nothing in comparison! LOL

On a humorous note, I did want to share that your blog post title "Size Matters" caught my eye and I'd been meaning to stop over and say that Great Minds Think Alike as I ahd just made the opposite statement in my blog title post (Size Doesn't Always Matter) from the same day! Too funny. Anyway, thanks for keeping it real for me. You think you're "not there" yet? Look at me and my piddly presence online...not even close bub! I got ya beat in spades on the mediocrity level! :) Anyway, just a funny story to share that is totally off-topic...now resume the discussion on super-sized printing!

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