The Unblurring Line Between Photoshop and GIMP

I have just finished reading an article about Adobe’s demo of their new “incredible unblur feature for Photoshop”. While this feature is undoubtedly very useful, I wonder how many people understand what is actually going on here.

I am reminded of a similar video a year or two ago that demonstrated a new feature that is now part of Photoshop CS5, the Content Aware Fill. Again, this is a very useful and impressive feature, but many people don’t realise that this technology has been available before Adobe developed their version, and for free too.

In the case of the Content Aware Fill tool, I am referring to a GIMP plugin called Resynthesizer. This plugin’s only apparent disadvantage over Adobe’s tool is that it’s not nearly as well known. Apart from that, it produces nearly identical results, seems faster and actually has more options if they are needed. On top of that, of course, it’s completely free and has been for many years now.

Now Adobe are clearly wowing audiences with their new “unblur” demo, but again this is something that has to be put into perspective. From the video, it seems that their algorithm first analyses the image to find out how it was blurred (i.e. what path the camera travelled whilst the shutter was open). It then uses this blur kernel to de-blur the image. The interesting point about this is that the open-source tool Imagemagick can do almost the same thing. All you need is to obtain the blur kernel and apply it to a Fourier transformed version of the source image, then perform an inverse Fourier transform. All you need to do…?

My main point here is that many people don’t seem to realise the power and flexibility of open source. Adobe’s marketing team has the power to make sure that most people in the industry have heard about Content Aware Fill and have convinced them that they must invest in Photoshop CS5 to be able to use this new technology. But this simply is not the case – it can all be done legally for free – but how many people have heard of GIMP let alone the Resynthesizer plugin? My other point is that, while I can’t offer a good solution, it would be nice if the open source community could work on making these amazing technologies more accessible. While image motion de-blurring can be done for free with Imagemagick, how many people are going to invest the time to learn the complex mathematics and command line usage when they can just pay for Photoshop CS6 (maybe) and do it with a few clicks?

It’s good to remember sometimes that while these companies and software packages are so pervasive, they are not the only and sometimes not even the best solution to a problem. Of course, it’s not Adobe’s job to promote open-source, but it definitely needs some serious promotion.