Thursday, 17 July 2014

Cerebus Restoration Update: 'Proving' Proofs

Things are mostly quiet on the restoration front, as we wait to see the results of the Lebonfon Cerebus 16th edition replacement signatures.

Because of a few delays, I ended up traveling on the day that the proofs were supposed to arrive, but thanks to a Fedex redirect, I was able to pick them up in Seattle when I got off the plane. It's always disorienting to see “proofs,” these days, as most printers use what are generally referred to as “soft proofs” – either screen proofs that are worse than useless, or laser printer proofs that aren't fundamentally different than what you might generate by yourself using a desktop laser printer. 

The proofs looks just about as expected, and I spent most of my time looking them over making a mental checklist of possible “Legacy edition” style edits and tweaks to the pages, mostly involving tone cloning to shore up any areas of tone shrinkage from pages sourced from aged original art. These are the type of time-consuming fixes that Dave and I had talked about but that for the most part I restrained myself from executing, only fixing what seemed to me to be the worst instances, and making sure I demonstrated all of these potential techniques in a few places for demonstration purposes

The only other real news this week is that I took an hour or so to page through the source material available for High Society, and I think we are going to be in much better shape. I separated out the material by source and resolution, and spent a little time adjusting my automated formula, and then pointed Photoshop's batch action command at the whole folder of negatives and said “go.” Two days later, the three hundred or so pages were done being processed. Right before we headed out to the airport I flipped through the folder and took a look at a dozen or so pages. They looked perfect.

Why the difference from the Cerebus material to High Society? I'll go into more depth later, but the short reason is that my automated process relies on several steps of different types of sharpening, and that this sharpening is prone to bringing out the noise in newsprint scans. I dealt with this a few different ways in the Cerebus pages, but there's not really one solution to the problem. You either use some kind of noise reduction and then have to compensate by bringing back any lost line detail by sharpening by hand, or you can use more mild noise reduction and have to spend time solidifying your blacks afterwards. (“Noise” in the case of newsprint is just whatever the computer sees and brings out that your eye doesn't perceive as signal – pulpy colored portions of the paper, gaps in the blacks that create the “dusky” solid black look, anything undesirable that's there, but that under normal circumstances your brain is capable of filtering out. Take all those things and sharpen and contrast-adjust them, and all of the sudden they're much more visually prominent than they were before.)

None of these things are problems at all if you're sourcing your material from negatives, which, if properly scanned, have almost no “noise” to bring up. You can nuke them with sharpening, layer upon layer of the most aggressive sharpening you have, and they just look sharper.

I'll have step-by-step pictures for this when the book comes back from Lebonfon.

But for now, the future – for the next book, things are looking up. But no more real work until we get the results from the Lebonfon printing. And when that happens, I'll give everyone a walk through the process of the replacement signatures, and talk about some of the challenges they presented, and what those challenges say about the eventual Cerebus Legacy edition.

Sean Michael Robinson can be found online at Living The Line.


Jason Winter said...

Looking forward to the step by step. Glad things are going well.

Dave Kopperman said...

Looks fantastic, Sean.

Man, that Sim knows how to spot his blacks. Really dynamic panels.

David Birdsong said...

The deep black and the brightest of white on the computer screen make those panels look better than anything I have. All I can say about the Legacy edition is: BETTER PAPER PLEASE!