Image Sharpening Plugins for Video Footage – Part III – Samurai Sharpen Review
This is an edge aware sharpening software plugin by Digital Anarchy that uses a number of algorithms along with GPU acceleration to provide a flexible way to sharpen video footage. The user can utilize masks to protect shadows and highlights, an example application being the ability to sharpen eyes and hair features while leaving the skin untouched. The kind people at Digital Anarchy provided me with a review copy of the plugin for this purpose.
The interface is very straightforward and just messing about with the settings is intuitive so you will be up and running quickly. One of the most important features is the Masking rollout.
The edge masking feature will allow you to protect the talent’s skin from oversharpening while still applying it to the rest of the image.
Additional controls to mask highlights and shadows are available too, since you typically will not need to sharpen anything outside of the middle exposure range.
Here are some images I applied the plugin to, and my thoughts:
In this example, samurai sharpen does a decent job of bringing out the details along the feather at the bottom of the image. You can see how the plugin detects the edges of objects and adds contrast to that edge. It reminds me of the “pop” filter you’d find in Colorista. But you can see as that element enters the yellow band on the lower right, there is a halo effect as the edge is enhanced. Using the mask feature to block the shadows from being sharpened keeps the noise down as well. When comparing to unsharp mask the quality is much higher.
Here is a strong example of what you can achieve with the plugin. I think this is a good balance of being heavily sharpened but not looking too harsh. I really like the details in the lower right of the face, the pores pop out and you see each hair. The eye details are very sharp. Overall though the result is pleasing – whether bringing out all of those details is good for the talent, that’s a story for another day. (Which through use of the masking feature you can leave soft if desired)
This is the out of focus shot, a classic case for attempting to recover an image for use in edit. I think Samurai Sharpen does well with it. Soft images when sharpened usually look like ‘video’ as the areas of contrast become grouped together and sharpened leaving that classic oversharpened look. I believe this looks pretty natural for how soft the image started off as and the noise levels aren’t affected.
Part IV Coming next – looking at the results from Pixelan’s Smart Sharpen Pro and a video wrap-up comparing all 3 methods.