I personally think that on the fly processing needs to be clarified and some form or way for allowing more than just stacking needs to be given consideration. Since software is advancing to allow on the fly things that were separate discrete processing steps done in “post” before. Please stand by. This may take a bit of time.
You probably already know all this, but if it will help in the administrator/moderator conversations I'd like to point out some stuff which is technically related.
When I was doing some IOTA stuff we were very careful about which analog CCD video cameras we were using. The newer ones were starting to cause us problems with their DSPs which were doing enough processing in firmware to cause a technically significant delay in the time from collection of the frame to the time it was transmitted to the video time inserter. I don't think you can buy a new video camera and try to do things old-school without actually doing processing on the fly. Some experts probably know how to turn off much of the DSP stuff in the firmware but that doesn't seem to be accessible to most of us.
And if you say that processing in-hardware is acceptable? I used to have things like a Procamp, vidcraft hardware as well so that I could do processing of the signal after it left the camera and before it got to the monitor. That was still hardware and analog but it was some pretty serious processing.
And when I started using a video capture device? Just getting the signal into a computer meant processing to change what was typically a 10- or 12-bit signal into an 8-bit signal which was digitized. We really put those drivers to work!
I also did OAP with the Mallincam Universe. Yup, I did a very little of what some might consider to be post-processing with that but I was actually doing OAP every single time but simply saved some subs and sometimes tried to process them. I found I really don't like conventional AP although there are certain things I think I'll have to do in the future which will require some post-processing.
But the thing is, in order to do OAP with the MU you had to optimize a lot of settings and there was still a lot of processing going on even though it was on-the-fly.
Now? Among other things I have the ASI071, the ASI1600, the ASI183. Each and every one of them has more pixels than is comfortably displayed on the computer display which I have been using most recently. That means that if I want to get everything onto my screen at once I have to do binning. Binning is post-processing. And you might note that when you bin in software you actually do get shot noise reduction which means that it is improving SNR at least somewhat for most of us. Binning is not insignificant post-processing but it is also necessary for many of us as we observe.
To go back to my current cameras? Being CMOS they all have System-on-Chip firmware. This means that there is processing going on, on-the-fly before the signal ever leaves the camera. Now it does make significant sense to say that in regard to that we can use the SoC processing but not in the external computer, but you simply cannot generate an image with these cameras without on-the-fly processing in-hardware/firmware.
I'm also going to assume that processing done by any driver with a USB camera is going to be exempt as I don't think they are doing what we'd consider to be photo-processing.
But now we get into the acquisition software.
Is there any way to use the Atik Infinity software without processing on-the-fly? I've never used the software so maybe there might be. Same concerns with Starlight Live - I've had the impression it could be similar.
I'm more into SharpCap. I'm not sure you can generate a useful image with that software without some Processing On The Fly (POTF?). You end up working the color balances, the histogram, and various other things. And again, we have the binning issue.
I've not tried working with APT but I might have similar issues if I found it worthwhile.
Also, no POTF would mean the Stellina is utterly unacceptable as would be the eVscope and the Hiuni (assuming they come to market). As best I can tell you cannot acquire images without significant post-processing which is baked into the software and database.
Sort of parenthetically, the Stellina, eVscope, Hiuni, and potential future examples may be a technical card problem. The user may not be able to access all the required information and even if they can, the users may not have the level of sophistication in this area to be sure to find, identify, and post the tech details as required.
Anyway, when I look at the technical details of no POTF I think that without some really careful (and possibly extensive) defining it may be technically impossible to post any image on this sub-forum. To enable such posting of some images I think it will be necessary to let us know whether that means only certain software packages are acceptable, whether one must figure out how to disable some of the processing. Whether or not setting a black point is acceptable and balancing the color, etc. Whether prior settings for observing without posting must be zeroed out somehow prior to acquiring the subs for the image which might be posted.
Personally, I think forbidding POTF will prove to be nightmarish for administrators and moderators because it is pretty heavily embedded into everything which most of us do today. Even if one tries to comply they may mess up.
One other thing? If POTF or integration beyond 5 minutes is not acceptable might I suggest doing away with the monthly challenge? Even if there is an attempt to stay with the really easy targets - they/we will eventually (maybe soon?) run out of targets. The more challenging ones will be just too challenging for folks with small aperture OTAs if they are not able to do much integration. If I wanted to participate I could make some adjustments to what I'm enjoying at the moment and use a lot more aperture and maybe still succeed but now we're pushing the members to bigger and more expensive equipment and to me that starts looking more like conventional AP.
But again, I'm OK with whatever is decided. No one forces me to be on the forum and no one forces me to post images. I think I'll enjoy however it turns out.