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SharpCap Smart Histogram - love it!

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#1 Noah4x4

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 06:35 PM

The more I use it the more I love this Sharpcap Pro tool.

 

The "Brain" function can be a bit hit or miss, but the Smart Histogram tool itself is awesome. After completing an alignment....

 

1.  I start by using an extreme short exposure (1 second) and a bright star to set my focus. 

2.  I then use GoTo to slew to my intended DSO target.

3.  I open Smart Histogram in Logarithmic mode.

4.  I adjust Gain until the two upper green parallel bars are the same (maximum) length.

5.  I set Exposures so that the left edge of the histogram curve is just to the right of the left end of these bars. 

6.  Invariably, steps 4 & 5 put me very close to where I need to be, and is typically at higher gain and shorter exposures than if I apply these fundamentals using trial and error. .

7.  I press auto-stretch and auto colour balance in Smart Histogram. These features work like magic.

8.  I commence my stacking.

9.  The entire process is software aided. No more guesswork as regards Gain and Exposures.

10. I can later tweak stuff to taste, but the software auto-delivers you close to where you need to be. 

 

Smart Histogram works by using the characteristics of your sensor. For my Atik Horizon camera I had to prior perform a Sensor Analysis. However, for my ZWO ASI294 this step had already been done in SharpCap by the software's author. I believe this is so for all popular ZWO camera models. 

 

Smsrt Histogram is really clever and wholly justifies the modest cost of the upgrade to Sharpcap Pro. I think Smart Histogram makes EAA truly easy,  removing doubt about the best Gain and Exposure settings. Hence, worthy of this thread. As I said, the Brain tool is probably still work in progress, but the rest is really useful. 


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#2 Borodog

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 06:46 PM

Hmm. I don't even know what "Smart Histogram" is. I'll have to look into this. Thanks for the tip.



#3 KTAZ

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 06:51 PM

Im still working on how best to use it to set optimal exposures on AP targets, but it shows promise. I’ve yet to find a good video or step by step guide posted by a user on AP application.



#4 Dynan

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Posted 25 January 2021 - 07:16 PM

+1 for SC Smart Histo!

 

I use it every time I image. However, I sometimes use its optimal recommendations as an estimate for gain and exposure length and go to the closest exposure/gain I have in my dark/bias library.

 

If I have time and sky, I'll use its exact recommendation and shoot darks, biases (never a problem), and flats.

 

This along with SC Polar Alignment make this one of the best 'bang for the buck' programs going.


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#5 KTAZ

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 12:39 AM

+1 for SC Smart Histo!

 

I use it every time I image. However, I sometimes use its optimal recommendations as an estimate for gain and exposure length and go to the closest exposure/gain I have in my dark/bias library.

 

If I have time and sky, I'll use its exact recommendation and shoot darks, biases (never a problem), and flats.

 

This along with SC Polar Alignment make this one of the best 'bang for the buck' programs going.

I'd love to hear your AP workflow with SC. I have used it to determine skyglow in a dark area of sky, but was unsure about how to use it when pointed at my target. Do you isolate a part of the frame for analysis or just use the entire FOV?

 

I don't want to hijack this thread since it is for EAA. Maybe you could shoot me a PM?



#6 Noah4x4

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 02:10 AM

Im still working on how best to use it to set optimal exposures on AP targets, but it shows promise. I’ve yet to find a good video or step by step guide posted by a user on AP application.

The absence of guidance is why I started this thread.

 

I get so few clear nights, the learning curve has been long. However, I found that Smart Histogram even works in daylight on a distant chimney pot, albeit optimum focus, gain and exposures differ (much lower) than for DSOs. The same principles that I describe in post #1 apply. So you can even practice in daylight to some extent. 

 

The hardest thing I found when switching from Atik Horizon on Hyperstar at f/2 to ZWO ASI294 at f/6.3 was finding the optimum settings. It doesn't help that Atik/Infinity and ZWO/SharpCap have different graduations for Gain (ZWO = Atik x 10). But using Smart Histogram takes out the guesswork. Like all matters Sharpcap, there is a learning curve. But once you have worked it out its as easy as falling off a log. For example, I spent ages fiddling with the frustating colour balance sliders before I accidently pressed the automated colour balance and auto--stretch buttons that work like magic with popular ZWO cameras (where Sensor Analysis has been prior done for you by Robin Glover), 


Edited by Noah4x4, 26 January 2021 - 02:17 AM.

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#7 Noah4x4

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 02:49 AM

Last night I produced this image of the Orion Nebula inside about three minutes of opening Sharpcap (having prior aligned scope etc using Starsense). I first used Betelguese to find focus. Then did a GoTo in CPWI. Then followed the steps I described in post #1. This image is merely 11 exposures x 8 seconds. I know it is an easy target, but I wanted to demonstrate the power of the Smart Histogram.

 

SharpCap's Smart Histogram semi-automatically found a suitable exposure, gain and colour balance combination for me, hence removing all guesswork. I hit auto-colour balance and auto-stretch, I could potentially tweak it further, and add darks etc, but thought I would post this just as it arrived based on original Smart Histogram auto-calculated outputs. There is a bit of vignetting and clearly more work might be done on the fundamentals, but it is "just as it came out of the tin", suffice to satisfy those that want to pursue EAA to beat light pollution rather than win awards for photography. The only processing has been a reduction in resolution/image size to fit within Cloudy Nights image size limits. This looked awesome in its original full 4K UHD on my screen, but has lost a lot in getting it down to under 100 kbs. Smart Histogram makes EAA really easy.

 

746bdd29-db3c-44c7-9934-373cfddf4230.JPG


Edited by Noah4x4, 26 January 2021 - 03:01 AM.

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#8 Gamewarden

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 08:31 AM

Noah

 

I just received an ZWO 294 uncooled camera like yours. I have noticed when using the camera it gets quite warm on the back. I also have a ZWO 224 colour camera and this does not heat up like this.

 

Does yours get warm to the touch.

 

Thanks Mark



#9 glend

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 08:54 AM

Noah

 

I just received an ZWO 294 uncooled camera like yours. I have noticed when using the camera it gets quite warm on the back. I also have a ZWO 224 colour camera and this does not heat up like this.

 

Does yours get warm to the touch.

 

Thanks Mark

I have a 294 uncooled and it does not get warm, and I should add it is the middle of summer here right mow (Australia) and night time temps can be 25C.



#10 Gamewarden

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 09:21 AM

Glend

 

I had the camera setup inside the house yesterday to test out. Winter here in Canada, 25 degrees here too at night but unfortunately it is minus The back of the camera got quite warm and I am a little concerned about the heat, electronics dont' like heat. 

Emailed Sam at ZWO to see what they say. Waited 3 months for this camera so I dont want to send it back.

Mark


Edited by Gamewarden, 26 January 2021 - 09:41 AM.


#11 SanjeevJoshi

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 11:33 AM

 Noah, fantastic.   Really good to see your steps and results.   Will help all of us.

 

Is yours on F6.3, and mostly un cropped?   Or F2 and cropped?

 

Did Sharpcap lead you to 8 seconds, how close was the range?   

 

I think 5 seconds works even better for Orion for F2, see the image I posted in the Jan observing list.    But maybe 8 is right for F6.3.    If there is a range based on smart histogram estimates, I will experiment to start at the lowest possible, only increasing it if the image duration starts to get excessive.



#12 Noah4x4

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 01:21 PM

Sanjeev, the image was not cropped (e.g no edges/borders cut off). However, I did reduce its dimensions keeping the same aspect ratio to help get it under Cloudy Nights limits and fit smaller screen dimensions. I use a large 4K UHD monitor at home, so <save as on screen> produces massive native images! Even then I had to massively drop resolution to get it under 100kb. My sole motive was to highlight the benefits of Smart Histogram in merely ten stacked frames. I would normally invest a bit more time etc.

This was at 105mm back focus behind a Celestron 6.3 reducer (no diagonal etc). The Orion Nebula almost fills my 4K UHD screen at f/6.3. As you know, at f/2 objects do appear much smaller. On a large object like this I would normally stick with f/2 on Hyperstar, but I had barely an hour of clear sky and only a narrow window to the south. My f/6.3 configuration was pre-assembled. From taking my scope outside to producing this was under ten minutes (on Evolution Alt-Az, no wedge).

The Smart Histogram curve/position suggested 8 seconds and I deliberately used that as I wanted to show how Smart Histogram could put you close without much user skill. I tend to agree, I might reduce Exposures a fraction and upped Gain, whilst allowing a longer integration time than the 88 seconds I embraced here. I had intended 10 frames x 8s but I mistimed <Pause Stacking> and used 11.  Had I been at f/2 I would probably have used 2 second exposures for this bright object as Hyperstar  is such a light bucket. I haven’t yet tried Smart Histogram at f/2. 

I have not noticed my ASI294mc getting hot. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t, simply that I have never noticed. However, I use such short exposures whether at f/2 or f/6.3 I don’t reckon I get much benefit from my Atik Horizon offering cooling. I regularly forget to turn on the cooler and never notice much difference. But then Colchester UK is neither Death Valley or Alaska.


Edited by Noah4x4, 26 January 2021 - 01:30 PM.


#13 roelb

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 07:46 PM

Last night I produced this image of the Orion Nebula inside about three minutes of opening Sharpcap (having prior aligned scope etc using Starsense). I first used Betelguese to find focus. Then did a GoTo in CPWI. Then followed the steps I described in post #1. This image is merely 11 exposures x 8 seconds. I know it is an easy target, but I wanted to demonstrate the power of the Smart Histogram.

 

SharpCap's Smart Histogram semi-automatically found a suitable exposure, gain and colour balance combination for me, hence removing all guesswork. I hit auto-colour balance and auto-stretch, I could potentially tweak it further, and add darks etc, but thought I would post this just as it arrived based on original Smart Histogram auto-calculated outputs. There is a bit of vignetting and clearly more work might be done on the fundamentals, but it is "just as it came out of the tin", suffice to satisfy those that want to pursue EAA to beat light pollution rather than win awards for photography. The only processing has been a reduction in resolution/image size to fit within Cloudy Nights image size limits. This looked awesome in its original full 4K UHD on my screen, but has lost a lot in getting it down to under 100 kbs. Smart Histogram makes EAA really easy.

 

attachicon.gif746bdd29-db3c-44c7-9934-373cfddf4230.JPG

What was the gain?



#14 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:43 AM

What was the gain?

368 Roel, but remember I didn't choose this and it will vary with sky conditions.

 

I simply adjusted Gain until the two parallel green bars of Smart Histogram were the same optimum length. My exposures were then still at 1 second after prior focussing. I then adjusted exposures until the steep left edge of the curve (in Logarithmic mode) was just inside the left edge of these parallel green bars. That gave me 8 seconds. Sky conditions were not great, I was shooting through misty conditions and a bright Moon. These settings in isolation didn't actually produce a great result (it was a bit green). The "magic" came when I pressed the auto-colour balance and auto-stretch buttons (the tiny buttons below the individual colour adjustment bars). During this process, I completely ignored what was on screen. I simply let Smart Histogram guide me.

 

For some weeks (unable to observe at night due to cloud) I have been playing with this tool in daylight using two targets of differing distances (a chimney at about 100M and more distant 1000+M tree). Albeit that Gain and Exposures were inevitably extremely low compared to night conditions, the dual green bars and Smart Histogram curve would consistently guide me to where I needed to be. You don't even need to look at the object on screen, instead  just confidently use the Smart Histogram tool. But in bright daylight, colour balance is largely irrelevant. Manually moving the coloured bars in daylight doesn't make a lot of difference. But it becomes highly material at night and I found the manual adjustment difficult to use. However, the auto-buttons for colour adjust are then as described...... "magic".  I suggest try Smart Histogram in daylight first to derive confidence how it works. It is remarkable and well worth the price of the upgrade to Sharpcap Pro.


Edited by Noah4x4, 27 January 2021 - 02:49 AM.


#15 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 07:13 AM

I mentioned trying the Smart Histogram tool in daylight.....

 

What can be seen below is how I have made the upper parallel green parallel bars the same optimum length and how the left hand edge of the curve starts just to the right of their left edge. You achieve this by first moving the Gain and then Exposure sliders in the Camera Capture Control Panel. Don't even look at your image - just try this. This works in daylight or at night and will get you really close to where you want to be. 

 

The Exposure setting that the tool will suggest is obviously a lot less in daylight than at night, but the Smart Histogram Tool's recommended Gain is still up in the mid 300's (which might surprise many).  If you strive to make your green bars and curve look like this, your images should look good at any time of day/night with an ASI294.  Interestingly (and I have only just spotted this), the colour adjustment bars (and auto-colour balance/stretch buttons) don't appear in daylight shots. I am not sure why, but pressing those were the final "magic" at night. Hope this is helpful to folk. 

 

BTW, if you click on the "?" to the right hand side of the Smart Histogram a pop out window will offer more guidance about it and the 'Brain' tool. 

 

 

SmartHistogram.jpg


Edited by Noah4x4, 27 January 2021 - 07:18 AM.


#16 EmeraldHills

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 12:46 PM

,....After completing an alignment....

 

1.  I start by using an extreme short exposure (1 second) and a bright star to set my focus. 

2.  I then use GoTo to slew to my intended DSO target.

3.  I open Smart Histogram in Logarithmic mode.

4.  I adjust Gain until the two upper green parallel bars are the same (maximum) length.

5.  I set Exposures so that the left edge of the histogram curve is just to the right of the left end of these bars. 

6.  Invariably, steps 4 & 5 put me very close to where I need to be, and is typically at higher gain and shorter exposures than if I apply these fundamentals using trial and error. .

7.  I press auto-stretch and auto colour balance in Smart Histogram. These features work like magic.

8.  I commence my stacking.

9.  The entire process is software aided. No more guesswork as regards Gain and Exposures.

10. I can later tweak stuff to taste, but the software auto-delivers you close to where you need to be. 

 

...

Boy, I have to say - learning to move those bars around has been and continues to be challenging for me. I've watched at least a dozen YouTube videos by astronomers trying to explain it, and I'm STILL not really getting it. For example, why is there a separate DISPLAY histogram PLUS a livestacking histogram? Please forgive my questions. I feel so dim-witted for having to ask. I've ready the Sharpcap manual ... but I'm still trying to track with it.



#17 SanjeevJoshi

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 01:15 PM

Smart histogram is with the Pro, you pay for it.   The other one is available to all.



#18 Gamewarden

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:05 PM

Noah

 

Are you confusing the livestack histogram which has the auto colour and stretch buttons.  The histogram button on the top of the tool bar does not have these.


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#19 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:09 PM

Boy, I have to say - learning to move those bars around has been and continues to be challenging for me. I've watched at least a dozen YouTube videos by astronomers trying to explain it, and I'm STILL not really getting it. For example, why is there a separate DISPLAY histogram PLUS a livestacking histogram? Please forgive my questions. I feel so dim-witted for having to ask. I've ready the Sharpcap manual ... but I'm still trying to track with it.

This baffled me for months having enjoyed the simplicity of Atik Infinity software. I suspect folk upgrading to Sharpcap from ZWOs ASIStudio suite face a similar learning curve. But neither offer features such as 'darks on the fly'.

 

Using regular Sharpcap with its manual sliders isn't easy.  I reckon the £10 (annual) I spend on an upgrade to Pro is the best value in Astrophotography. Compare that with the cost of Sequence Generator Pro or Maxim DL. But being brutally honest, if I had to depend solely on manual slider settings I would probably still be baffled. Smart Histogram is simply magic. 


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#20 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:22 PM

Noah

 

Are you confusing the livestack histogram which has the auto colour and stretch buttons.  The histogram button on the top of the tool bar does not have these.

Your post is highly important Gamewarden....all part of the learning curve....

 

I realise now that whilst I did use Smart Histogram to set Gain and Exposures as described, on pressing Live stack and selecting <histogram>, yes (on reflection) it does change from being the <Smart Histogram> to the <Live Stacking Histogram>,  albeit little different at first glance. This now explains why the colour bars and auto-colour and stretch buttons don't appear until stacking commences and were absent in my daytime example. The detail will fast emerge if Focus, Gain and Exposures are good (first using Smart Histogram) , but this particular image had a slight green tinge during stacking. One can fiddle with the colour sliders, but the auto-buttons work like magic. 

 

Yours is hence an excellent contribution to the knowledge imparted in this thread Gamewarden. But it had struck me that nobody ever seems to mention the wonders of Smart Histogram and/or Live Stacking Histogram. So I thought I would kick start a conversation, albeit it appears that I missed a Step in my original description. 


Edited by Noah4x4, 27 January 2021 - 02:31 PM.


#21 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:39 PM

I cannot edit post #1, so I correct the procedure below recognising the difference between Smart Histogram and Live Stacking Histogram...

 

1.  I start by using an extreme short exposure (1 second) and a bright star to set my focus. 

2.  I then use GoTo to slew to my intended DSO target.

3.  I open Smart Histogram in Logarithmic mode.

4.  I adjust Gain until the two upper green parallel bars are the same (maximum) length.

5.  I set Exposures so that the left edge of the histogram curve is just to the right of the left end of these bars. 

6.  Invariably, steps 4 & 5 put me very close to where I need to be, and is typically at higher gain and shorter exposures than if I apply these fundamentals using manual trial and error. 

7. I commence live stacking.

8. Ever more detail will emerge if Focus, Gain and Exposures are correct, but colour might need adjustment.

9. Now select the Live Stacking Histogram where colour balance can be changed using sliders.

10. I simply press auto-stretch and auto colour balance in this Histogram. These features work like magic.

11. The entire process is software aided. No more guesswork as regards Gain and Exposures.

12. I can later tweak stuff to taste, but the software auto-delivers you close to where you need to be. 

 

Hope this is clearer. Thanks Gamewarden. 



#22 Dynan

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 02:53 PM

Remember to take darks at that Gain, Exposure and Temp...if it's different than the dark library you have.



#23 Gamewarden

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 03:30 PM

Noah

 

Your posts are always very detailed and helpful which I appreciate. There is so much information to digest with SharpCap my head hurts sometimes. I have been told that the ZWO cameras in SharpCap have some preloaded info regarding the Smart histogram and I may tackle those points in the near future.

 

Another thing I have a ZWO 224 and just rec'd a ZWO 294 cannot wait to try out. When using the 224 I orient the camera in my diagonal so the USB cable comes straight back.

 

When using the 294 I try to adjust the vertical and horizontal Flip button to have my target in the proper orientation or right side up etc. None of these flips will get my target right side up etc and I have to turn the camera in the diagonal so that the cable is 90 degrees or to the right.

 

Or will this change the format of my Pics???

Is this because this is a 4/3 format  camera???  I believe you to have both of these cameras.

 

Thanks again Mark


Edited by Gamewarden, 27 January 2021 - 04:00 PM.


#24 Noah4x4

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 03:31 PM

Remember to take darks at that Gain, Exposure and Temp...if it's different than the dark library you have.

Absolutely Dynan.

 

However, Smart Histogram/Brain is highly sensitive to changing light and sky conditions (like moonlight) , so if you do want to make darks, you might wish to create these during every session dependent on what actual results the Tool throws up. I suppose it depends upon how manic obsessive one becomes and those pursuing an award winning photograph might seek precision to the absolute recommended ms or dB that the tool has suggested.

 

However, if you habitually use the same formulaic exposure and gain rates dependent on type of object etc (as many simply do) then you can create multiple sets of darks and apply those to said settings when appropriate. To me, Smart Histogram is more about first getting into you into the right ball park and then perhaps moving your Gain/Exposures from that to the closest match in your existing set of darks.  For example, I can't see that the difference between a 'Gain of 358/Exposure 8.2 seconds' and moving from that to a standard in your existing set of 350/8 will make much difference in the grand scheme of things, subject of course to temperature. But absolute best practice must be to make darks during every session if using exactly the settings recommended by Smart Histogram, which I think is incredibly clever. 


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#25 EmeraldHills

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 04:23 PM

I'm still trying to figure out what the "green parallel bars" are. This sounds like a gymnastics experiment. But seriously - what are those again please?




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