JPEG image compression is fast and efficient, but print-media pros avoid the format because of its tendency to add artifacts to images. So how do you squeeze that eye-popping nature scene down to a manageable size without losing the rich colors and crisp detail? The best solution is Altamira Group's Genuine Fractals Print Pro, an Adobe Photoshop plug-in that uses fractal geometry to compress images with little or no apparent loss of quality. Better yet, it lets you decompress images well past their original dimensions without compromising quality.
An upgrade to Genuine Fractals 1.0, Print Pro adds a lossless-compression option to version 1.0's "near-lossless" technology. Print Pro also addresses Genuine Fractals' major weaknesses with faster performance, better memory management, and support for CMYK and Lab images. (Altamira has also released Genuine Fractals 2.0, a $159 version that offers all the features of Print Pro except CMYK and Lab support.)
Genuine Fractals Print Pro works best with high-quality digital images captured at 15MB to 25MB. Instead of using version 1.0's painfully slow export module to compress a file, you use Photoshop's Save As command and select Genuine Fractals' STN compression format from the standard pop-up list. Not only is this more transparent than in the previous version but it's also much faster.
The program's lossless encoding retains all image data while offering a compression ratio of slightly better than 2:1. Near-lossless encoding offers a higher ratio of about 5:1 but sacrifices a small, generally imperceptible amount of image data. To decompress an STN file (or an FIF file from version 1.0), you select it using Photoshop's File Open command. The plug-in then displays a dialog box with an image preview. You can crop or scale the image or choose from three options for balancing decompression speed with image quality.
If you scale the image to its original size, decompression is reasonably fast. If you enlarge the image, however, prepare to waitand don't forget to stock up on RAM. The new version improves on its predecessor by using virtual memory and disk caching, but you'll still need lots of RAM if you want to convert a 20MB photo into a 100MB poster.
Genuine Fractals Print Pro delivers the same image-compression and -enlargement capabilities as its predecessor in a faster, more flexible package. It's ideal for any print-media professional who frequently transmits high-resolution images.
RATING: PROS: Fast; lossless and lossy image compression; CMYK support. CONS: RAM-hungry. COMPANY: Altamira Group (818/ 556-6099, http://www.altamira-group.com ). LIST PRICE: $299.
March 1999 page: 58