Extensis Intellihance Pro 4.0

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Although Adobe Photoshop offers an array of tools for improving the look of your images, figuring out the best mix of brightness, color cast, and other adjustments for a particular photograph can be a challenge. Extensis Intellihance Pro 4.0, a Photoshop plug-in, makes it easy to see how different combinations of settings will affect your image. Once you've got the right mix of adjustments, you can apply them with a single mouse-click. It's a great idea, but the most significant addition to this upgrade–the new Power Variations mode–is implemented more successfully in a competing plug-in, Vivid Details' Test Strip (see Reviews, May 1998).

Power Variations, one of Intellihance's three modes, is almost a feature-by-feature copy of Test Strip (prompting Vivid Details to file a patent- and trademark-infringement lawsuit against Extensis). The plug-in presents your image in a multiple-pane layout; each pane shows variations in a single attribute, such as Green/Magenta Cast (see "Copycat?"). Click on the pane that looks best to you, and that becomes the active image. You can also print the variations to proof them on paper.

Some features in Power Variations go beyond their Test Strip counterparts. You get a larger selection of layouts, up to a five-by-five grid. Any layout can include a single subdivided image or repeating images; Test Strip offers a repeating-image option in only one of its color-adjustment modes. And you can store any combination of settings in a single preset and run them directly from an Extensis menu that appears in Photoshop; Test Strip presets can be run only from the plug-in. But where it really counts–making precise color corrections–Intellihance falls short.

Color theory holds that adding a certain percentage of one primary color is the same as subtracting its opposite. For example, adding 10 percent green to an image is the same as subtracting 10 percent magenta, as you can see in Photoshop's Color Balance dialog box. It follows that if you add 10 percent green and 10 percent magenta, you're back where you started and your image should be unchanged. That's what happens when you add the two colors in Test Strip. But add them–or any other complementary pair–in Intellihance's Power Variations mode, and the colors shift noticeably.

Other omissions make it look as if the upgrade was rushed out the door. In all three modes, Intellihance lacks an Undo feature, and its functions don't show up in Photoshop's Actions palette (Extensis says it will address the latter problem in a forthcoming update). The Power Variations interface is also a bit sloppy: the labels that identify each pane in the layout appear to be pop-up menus until you click on them and see that there are no additional selections.

Intellihance's other two modes, Intelligent Adjustment and Fine Tuning, also borrow from Test Strip. These modes let you experiment with different mixes of contrast, brightness, descreening, saturation, color cast, sharpness, despeckling, and dust and scratch removal. You can compare the effects using the same layouts available in Power Variations mode.

The Intelligent Adjustment mode offers limited options for each setting, but you can adjust those settings manually using the plug-in's Fine Tuning mode. For example, the brightness choices in Intelligent Adjustment mode are Off, Deeper Shadows, Shadow Emphasis, Balanced Tone, Midtone Emphasis, and Highlight Emphasis. In Fine Tuning mode, you can modify brightness through a Photoshop-style Curves function or by entering numeric values for shadows, midtones, and highlights.

As in Power Variations, you can store the effects as presets and apply them directly from the Extensis menu. Presets also appear in a pop-up menu above each pane in the layout.

Intellihance ships with dozens of presets that theoretically cover most common image-correction scenarios, such as compensating for too much flash in a digital photograph. However, only a few presets seem useful where real-world photos are concerned, and there's little you can do with them that you can't do with Photoshop's Actions palette and built-in image-correction tools. One exception is Intellihance's descreening function, which converts scanned halftones from a magazine or newspaper into moiré-free continuous-tone images suitable for printing. Intellihance's Fine Tuning mode also gives you greater control over despeckling than Photoshop does.

Extensis Intellihance Pro 4.0 is easy to use and lets you compare and apply a wide range of image modifications. However, its Intelligent Adjustment and Fine Tuning modes add little to Photoshop's built-in image-correction functions, and the Power Variations mode suffers from a flawed implementation of color theory. Extensis may call it Intellihance Pro, but most imaging professionals are better off sticking with Test Strip.


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PROS: Easy to use; extensive image-correction options. CONS: No Undo function; interface quirks; flawed color-correction tools. COMPANY: Extensis (503/274-2020, http://www.extensis.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $199.

April 1999 page: 44

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