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Astrophotography and Sketching >> Beginning and Intermediate Imaging

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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Processing Software - StarTools
      #5411437 - 09/09/12 10:36 AM

I've been reviewing different software packages for processing my Astro images. I've come across this package that seems to promise a lot at a very inexpensive price. Have any of you experience with this?
http://www.StarTools.org/


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zerro1
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Reged: 08/02/09

Loc: Smokey Point , 48.12°N 122.25...
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5411577 - 09/09/12 12:24 PM

I'll give it a try. it does seem to be very clear that it is a huge resource hog. So unless you have a pretty high end 64bit machine with a lot of RAM, you'll be seeing an out of memory message a lot.

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CounterWeight
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Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: zerro1]
      #5412078 - 09/09/12 06:35 PM

Sure looks interesting! I've just finished going through the site and reading about the features. Some, not all look like a great help. Others look like they might introduce artifact - this just looking at their examples, if there are 'knobs' then might be nice too. Price very reasonable for the features, this I say just looking at the site - haven't downloaded and tried it.

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NorthBoundTrain
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/23/11

Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5412721 - 09/10/12 02:34 AM

Looks interesting, but I prefer my trusty PS action sets from Noel & Anna. Combined they are less then that program, plus I am used to them.

I would be curious how you like that software if you do try it out though.


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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: NorthBoundTrain]
      #5413422 - 09/10/12 02:02 PM

I finally tried StarTools. Chris, it's not a set of plug-ins like Noel and Anna's tools for PS. It actually replaces PS and provides everything to process your Astro images - At about a tenth of the price of PS.

I've also been playing with PixInsight. StarTools and PixInsight both are written for Astrophotography and both allow you to adjust the image while in linear format via a screen stretch. However, they seem to take opposite approaches after that.

Pixinsight is a very powerfull program. While Pixinsight gives you total control over everything, the downside is it has a much steeper learning curve. StarTools is much easier to use. It's not black box like Noel and Anna's plug-ins but some of the ideas behind it are similar. It prevented me from making some poor decisions.

I've only tried the one image and it was fairly easy and quick to do and the results were similar to what I was able to get in PS with Noel's actions. They were also similar to my PixInsight results. However, the PixIsight took a lot longer to do because I'm not familiar with it. On the other hand StarTools has a minimal learning curve.

I'd be very interested in any other opinions. Will post my final opinion after I try a few more images.


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CounterWeight
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Reged: 10/05/08

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Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5413640 - 09/10/12 04:04 PM

Tim,

Is the free trial version the same as the full version? I have the data on my processing box so could rune a quick test or two.


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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5413717 - 09/10/12 04:58 PM

From what I can see, all the functions work in the trial version. The only difference seems to be the disabling of the save function. Makes it harder to compare.

Let me know what you think.


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CounterWeight
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Reged: 10/05/08

Loc: Palo alto, CA.
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5413737 - 09/10/12 05:11 PM

Thanks Tim, I'll have a go at it.

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shawnhar
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Reged: 06/25/10

Loc: Knoxville, TN
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5414133 - 09/10/12 09:21 PM Attachment (96 downloads)

Well I aint no master, but I have been using Fitswork and Paint.net..cause they are free. I downloaded the demo and went through the tutorial files a couple of times...so weird...no curves...no levels...odd workflow...but I was impressed! Now if I can just figure out how to use the darn thing. Seems like it was made by Mac users.
I will say this, I pulled out dust lanes in the core of Andromed I didn't even know were there... and I played with this data a BUNCH. Now if I can just get the rest of it to come out.


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shawnhar
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Reged: 06/25/10

Loc: Knoxville, TN
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: shawnhar]
      #5414230 - 09/10/12 10:03 PM Attachment (154 downloads)

Hey just for giggles I ran my Scutum 210mm lens test through Star Tools...I think I may have to have this program.
15 2:00 subs with darks in an Orange zone, 70-210mm zoom lens on Canon XS
Edit: Whoops, that M26 should be lower!

Edited by shawnhar (09/10/12 10:05 PM)


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NorthBoundTrain
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/23/11

Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5414471 - 09/11/12 01:52 AM

Quote:

I finally tried StarTools. Chris, it's not a set of plug-ins like Noel and Anna's tools for PS. It actually replaces PS and provides everything to process your Astro images - At about a tenth of the price of PS.

I've also been playing with PixInsight. StarTools and PixInsight both are written for Astrophotography and both allow you to adjust the image while in linear format via a screen stretch. However, they seem to take opposite approaches after that.

Pixinsight is a very powerfull program. While Pixinsight gives you total control over everything, the downside is it has a much steeper learning curve. StarTools is much easier to use. It's not black box like Noel and Anna's plug-ins but some of the ideas behind it are similar. It prevented me from making some poor decisions.

I've only tried the one image and it was fairly easy and quick to do and the results were similar to what I was able to get in PS with Noel's actions. They were also similar to my PixInsight results. However, the PixIsight took a lot longer to do because I'm not familiar with it. On the other hand StarTools has a minimal learning curve.

I'd be very interested in any other opinions. Will post my final opinion after I try a few more images.




Oh ok, I did a quick glance so I didn't realize it was an entire processing platform. I am comfortable with the setup I have now. My wife got me CS5.1 extended with her University employee discount. As for the action sets, I use them mostly for touch ups. It is so easy for me to get set in my ways with a certain program or set thereof.

I should have read more before posting, sorry


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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: NorthBoundTrain]
      #5417398 - 09/12/12 02:16 PM

I've been playing with PS, PixInsight and StarTools to try and decide which one to buy. I have been able to do a lot of research on PS and PxInsight but have found very little on StarTools. That's why I posted this question.

I'm not a knowledgable user of any of these products - I own PS Elements 10 - so the following comments are from a newbie perspective.

In PS CS6 I tried levels and curves from Annie's tutorial and mostly used Noel's plugins to touch things up.

In PixInsight I used Harry's tutorials.

In StarTools I used the tutorial on the authors site.

My view is that if you already have PS and are familiar with it, I don't see a lot of benefit to change. However, if you are starting out I feel Pixinsight is a better product at a third of the cost. It's written for astrophotography and doesn't require special Astro plug-ins. However, it is difficult to learn and as a newbie I wish they had some scripts that did what Noel's plug ins did. If I buy Pixinsight, I will do the major processing with it and maybe load the result into Elements to touch up with Noel's plug ins - at least until I'm more familiar with Pixinsight.

Finally there is StarTools. It has the easiest learning curve by far. It's also the least expensive and can produce good results - at least compared to my results with the other packages.

My concern is that StarTools may be great for beginners, but it may not allow me to progress the way I would with PixInsight. I really haven't come across an experienced person that uses it. Any insight would be appreciated.


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terry59
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Reged: 07/18/11

Loc: Colorado, USA
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5417769 - 09/12/12 05:55 PM

Tim - I have no experience with StarTools and am still learning processing so take this with large grains of salt. I did reach the point where I wanted to align and scale different images and looked at several packages. I decided on PI because it was a complete AP package as opposed to others such as RegiStar. Since then, I've found the alignment and registration function to be great. I've learned more on how to use CS5 and am making connections between CS5 and PI functionality so I'm experimenting more in PI. There are things I like about both programs but I like the control over things in PI a lot when I think I understand how it works.
At this point I'd have to recommend you purchase PI and use the things in Elements that you are comfortable with. Best luck with your choice!


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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: terry59]
      #5418729 - 09/13/12 08:35 AM

Thanks Terry. I figure processing is about 50% of the result. I guess when you figure the time spent researching and buying all the equipment plus learning all the relevant software to control it - it's really worth doing the best you can with the processing.

Pixinsight seems to be the best available for AP. It's certainly worth spending the time to learn it - if I want to continue to progress. Will take your advice.


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Ranger Tim
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 03/25/08

Loc: SE Idaho, USA
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5420764 - 09/14/12 11:20 AM

I have used StarTools for about 6 months. I mostly use it for the initial stretching of an image. It has some different algorithms to try for different effects, but I like the basic workflow. I always finish with PS, doing LAB saturation and star color with Carboni's actions.

StarTools has some valuable masking techniques and has excellent control over keeping the image from losing dark data. I have found the deconvolution tool to be really good - when it works - many times it just sits and spins, forcing me to trash the file and start over.

For the money it is a good SW package for the hobbyist that wants a simple work flow and doesn't have a mission to milk every last pixel for all it's worth. I think it fits well with the rest of my SW and I use it for specific tasks, not as an all-in-one package. If you are financially challenged and can't afford the large SW (Images Plus, PS, etc.) then it might make sense for the budding mac-based imager. I found Pixinsight to be confusing and too elaborate for my taste, although I concede that it has tons of control. I am more of an autopilot kind of processing dude. I like taking the pics but hate processing. My eyes glaze over when the computer color wheel begins to spin.

To sum it up, (for the money) StarTools has a lot of features and can lead to some pleasing images, but be prepared for some tweaking in PS or Elements to finish.


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Ivo Jager
Vendor ( Star Tools )


Reged: 03/19/11

Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: Ranger Tim]
      #5421784 - 09/15/12 12:04 AM

Hi all,

Being the author of StarTools, I thought I'd chime in as well.

StarTools takes an approach to image post-processing that is completely different to anything else out there. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, is up to your willingness to get to know ST in depth. Rest assured, the effort that the latter involves is something that has my constant attention.

No less than 50% of development time is spent on actually reducing the amount of settings and parameters while increasing predictability and automation. Don't be fooled by ST's simple appearance - it is very, very powerful, capable of giving any other (astro) image post-processing software and/or plug-ins a serious run for their money.

The difference with other software is that StarTools, in essence, tries to be provide the experience of 'one big preview'. Whereas other software is a disjointed collection of completely separate non-communicating algorithms - incredibly, one particular misguided developer touts this 90s object oriented approach as a benefit! - that have been implemented straight from text books or research papers, StarTools attempts to integrate all processing steps into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

What this means is that StarTools knows more about what your intents are, what sequence you processed your image in and how your image evolved from the raw data.
Having access to this 'metadata', StarTools then uses this to estimate what (hidden) parameters to use for the different algorithms (i.e. the algorithms are made context sensitive and context aware) so that the results make sense 100% of the time and are always usable to some degree, no matter how outrageous the settings chosen. From a UI point of view, this means that StarTools will not have to bother you with heaps of parameters that it can determine itself for you; things look really simple and 'just work' (the back-end that makes it all happen is a different story, but that's for me to worry about!). Importantly, from a signal quality point of view, this also means that data is used more efficiently by always recycling previous iterations of the data where possible to reduce noise propagation and rounding errors.

Further demonstrating the power of this unique approach, StarTools 1.3 will be released in the coming weeks. 1.3 will take things a few steps further, with one-of-a-kind features like mathematically correct retroactive deconvolution (i.e. deconvolution that you can apply at any time, even on post-processed and stretched non-linear data). It will be equipped with an new regularization algorithm that always behaves optimally, giving you a predictable way to balance detail and noise. Other upcoming features that stem from ST 'meta' approach include things like cross-operation per-pixel noise tracking, allowing for extremely targeted noise reduction that takes into account every single operation you performed on the data so that detail preservation is maximal and unintended noise propagation is eliminated. No other noise reduction routine can come close, because no other noise reduction routine has a priori knowledge of the full noise propagation evolution that occurred while you were processing your image.

Additionally, 1.3 will completely abstract away the notion of linear vs non-linear data from the user, removing all the hassle that this important distinction entails from the user's point of view.

Software should be written so that it is maximally empowers human beings. We astrophotographers are in the business of interpretation of data - there is no one 'right way' or look for an particular data set. Your software should merely be a tool to help you express your ideas and vision for an image. It should think with you and be a companion, rather than an obstacle you must conquer. This is the 21st century and our computers (and phones) are now powerful enough to provide this sort of experience. It is my firm belief that, in this day and age, we should settle for nothing less, and it is this belief that brought me to write StarTools.

The StarTools project's (not-for-profit) aim is to make imaging our skies as easy as possible by lowering the bar to entry through software innovation. So whether StarTools is your cup of tea or not, please send us your opinion, bug reports and feedback - you will be doing a lot of current and future fellow astrophotographers a favor!

Thanks for reading & all the best,


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TimN
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/20/08

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: Ivo Jager]
      #5422530 - 09/15/12 03:42 PM

Thanks Tim for the first hand knowledge of using StarTools. A special thanks to Ivo for taking the the time to explain the rational behind his product.

Although I had decided to buy Pixinsight, I continued to keep testing StarTools and PS as well. StarTools is giving me equal - sometimes better - results than the other 2 packages.

Considering the relative low cost of the package ($60.00), I have purchased StarTools. Whether I use it as a stand alone package or use parts of it with Pixinsight or Elements remains to be seen. Regardless, for me, the value is there.

Thanks to everyone who gave me input.


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CounterWeight
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Reged: 10/05/08

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Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: TimN]
      #5424772 - 09/17/12 02:04 AM

I'd like to keep this thread alive have vowed to try it with some of my data after I figure out which calibration files go with which images. Unfortunatly I've been exhausting myself try to fix an issue or two with my imaging setup and also trying out the new mini guider that i just added to the mix. Just wanted say that from my brief playing with the package I'm quite interested and will buy it for two reasons - i like the way it works and it's approach to processing.... and also i like it's approach to procesing...

I've often wondered why folks authoring other packages did things the way they did... this one I didn't ! I think Startools deserves far more of my attention, and as soon as I get things ironed out will give the acid test 'narrowband image from the white LP zone!' If it can make my images look good I'll be quite happy.

Quote:

It is my firm belief that, in this day and age, we should settle for nothing less, and it is this belief that brought me to write StarTools.





Just wanted to say 'bravo' and congratulations! from brief encounter so far you have certainly succeeded vs. my efforts with maximDLpro+CS5 and my PI adventures. I think you are on to something and going in the right direction! Always interested me that though many programs ask for CCD info - so few actually apply it to real world imaging/processing - maybe that is a feature that could added? that and light pollution, the bane of us backyard imagers...

Congratulations, Ivo - I'm impressed so far ! Also thanks for posting in to the group here


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Ivo Jager
Vendor ( Star Tools )


Reged: 03/19/11

Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Re: Processing Software - StarTools new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #5428810 - 09/19/12 07:26 AM

Quote:

Just wanted to say 'bravo' and congratulations! from brief encounter so far you have certainly succeeded vs. my efforts with maximDLpro+CS5 and my PI adventures. I think you are on to something and going in the right direction! Always interested me that though many programs ask for CCD info - so few actually apply it to real world imaging/processing - maybe that is a feature that could added? that and light pollution, the bane of us backyard imagers...



Thanks so much for your praise Jim. It's feedback like this that makes it all worthwhile!
You bring up an interesting area for optimization - CCD characteristics. I'm sure something could be done to use knowledge about model-specific noise floors & electron well responses at the stacking stage.

StarTools limits itself exclusively to post-processing though, as this is where good powerful low cost alternatives seem to lack. We do have the GIMP 2.10 coming soon which will finally allow for high-bit depth processing.

It's funny you should mention light pollution. This is really where it all started! StarWipe was the first tool that later made up the StarTools toolchain. It was a command-line tool that removed light pollution very effectively from my inner city Melbourne backyard. Its great-grandson is the Wipe functionality now found in StarTools which still uses the same algorithm at its core. The preset values work very well on most images without the need for user intervention. And for the more outlandish gradients and problems it has a manual mode that works in a similar fashion to PixInsight's DBE.


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shawnhar
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Reged: 06/25/10

Loc: Knoxville, TN
Re: Processing Software - StarTools [Re: Ivo Jager]
      #5429728 - 09/19/12 07:02 PM Attachment (140 downloads)

I am loving and hating this program.
I have been using it since this thread started and I have reprocessed everything I ever shot with it, which is only like 15 things.
I love the star correction, it's awesome, love the noise suppression, the binning. I hate the lack of understanding on my part about the black level and stretching the image, there are so many options and I am unclear which direction to take them. I just barely got a grasp of processing and this is like starting all over. I read the tutorials and the manual, but I really wish there was a step by step start to final tutorial, most of my images are REALLY dark with low signal, short subs and light pollution so it's hard enough to pull out details.
I really like the detail it pulls out in the brighter portions, I always blow out the core.
I really wish you could undo more than one function.

I know it's not a fair comparision due to the fact that I am really incompetent, but here is my best M8 with Fitswork and Paint.net vs. the best I have been able to do with StarTools.


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