How to Use Low Resolution Images to Create DVD Cases
The general rule of thumb when working with images intended for print, is they must be large resolution. This guide will help fix most images that are medium resolution (300×300 pixels or greater!) and would look bad with standard resizing methods.
You may want to also look over and refer to the guide on creating DVD cases in Photoshop. This has some tips and instructions on acquiring images and creating full DVD cases in Photoshop.
This guide uses Adobe Photoshop 7/8/CS/CS2, and the Genuine Fractals plug-in for Photoshop ($80 version) to resize, plus any VirtualDub with MPEG reading abilities to extract images. And optionally, TMPGEnc (freeware or Plus) for cleaning video/images.
How do you know if a image is low resolution or not? On the computer screen, in order to view an entire high resolution image, you’ll have to zoom out at least 15-50% or more. In other words, anything that fits on your screen at 100% is probably too small. The only exception would be if you have a mega-huge monitor, or have a resolution that makes everything on your screen extremely tiny.
Examples of low-res images: (1) Video clips, even the “high resolution” 720×480 DV source files, are way too small. They need to be at least 200-300% larger. (2) Most images found on web pages, again, way too small, even ones that fill your screen. (3) Even many computer desktop wallpapers are too small.
What is required for a high resolution image? This depends largely on the quality of your printer and source. There are really only two popular choices, 200dpi or 300dpi print sizes.
- 200dpi print size uses a 1030 pixels wide by 1450 pixels tall canvas, for the front and back of a standard DVD case.
- 300dpi print size uses a 1545 pixels wide by 2175 pixels tall canvas, for the front and back of a standard DVD case.
Why Not Just Use a Quick Resize?
Enlarging an image in software will increase the size of flaws. Digital compression schemes used for DVD-Video and JPEG/GIF online images are very lossy, and errors are usually not seen because they are small. When you increase the image size, you increase the noise size too.
An original video tape was purchased used, in poor condition, and without any case. The goal of this personal project was to not only convert and restore the video to DVD, but create a case too.
The following image is a medium-sized image. It comes from a web site, it was a preview image for the VHS tape. Notice how the errors can be seen in the solid color areas of the helmets, and around objects. Looks carefully, they exist.
The image was then cropped to a DVD case size, for the front of the case. This is how the image would look by simply resizing to 1030×1450 resolution in Photoshop (shown here at 50% size, to fit on screen):
Notice all the nasty color noise in the white parts of the uniform. It can be seen in the purple background too. The helmet is especially horrible.
Now compare it to the version that was created using all the steps you’ll find below. Notice how clean it is, with the noise gone, yet the detail left:
The only imperfection was the loss of the mostly-transparent numbers on the top right side of the box. These were not important anyway, so I will not fix them. Should somebody REALLY need to fix that error, it would be simple to correct in Photoshop (create a new layer, match the font, adjust the transparency level, followed by a rasterize and delete brush to erase excess, simple).
STEP ONE: Obtain the Image
For online images. As mentioned before, you may want to also look over and refer to the guide on creating DVD cases in Photoshop. This has some tips on acquiring images.
For video clips. The easiest way to extract images from a video clip is to use the free software VirtualDub. Open VirtualDub and goto FILE -> OPEN VIDEO FILE, and then open your video file.
NOTE! In order to use an MPEG file as source, you’ll need a version capable of reading MPEG/VOB files. In order to use an AVI using a compression codec, the codec needs to be installed on your system.
Use the slider bar at the bottom of the VirtualDub window and move it around until you see a video frame you like. If your video is interlaced, try to select a frame that does not show interlacing lines. While you could de-interlace later, it’s not going to give optimal result. It would also be wise to select an image that is low on noise. Maybe even go for an image that is a close-up of something, and not a busy image with tons of detail. You can both use the mouse and the left/right arrow keys on your keyboard.
Once you’ve found the frame you want, go to VIDEO -> COPY FRAME TO CLIPBOARD (pick either source or output, does not matter).
Now open Photoshop, go to FILE -> NEW – it should show the the resolution of the image in your clipboard – and press OK. Then go to EDIT -> PASTE. It should paste your image into the window.
If your source was a video file, something like a 720×480 DV file with a 4:3 aspect, then you may need to resize the video file back to a 4:3 aspect, either 640×480 or 720×540. This is a mild resize, you will not lose quality from it. Aspect ratio is explained elsewhere on this site, in the capture guides.
Now goto FILE -> SAVE AS as save the image as a TIFF file for a backup.
If you plan to use STEP TWO, then we need to make sure the image file has a resolution that is a multiple of 8 pixels. Pull out a calculator, or open the Calculator software in Windows. Go to EDIT -> IMAGE SIZE and see what the pixel size of you image is. If you used a video file, it is already very likely a multiple of 8. If not, change it.
The original image used in this guide was 288×475. The 288 was already a multiple of 8. The 475 was not. I entered 475 divided by 8 into the calculator, and got back 59.375. I rounded up to 60 x 8 and got 480. See? Easy math. I resized to 288×480, and was sure to disable the “constrain proportions” option.
Now go to FILE -> SAVE AS and save as a BMP file.
STEP TWO (optional): Clean the Image
If your image is from the internet, or from a captured VHS tape, or from an MPEG file, it could probably use some cleaning. All of those sources have a bit of noise, and even the minor problems, as was illustrated earlier, will become a nuisance.
While a number of still image softwares have noise reduction tools, for some reason the VIDEO NR filters in TMPGEnc can outperform them by leaps and bounds, removing more noise, and retaining more detail. The still image software tends to just blur badly.
Open TMPGEnc. In this guide, TMPGEnc Plus 2.5 was used. You can use either MPEG-1 or MPEG-2, should not matter. Click BROWSE on the VIDEO SOURCE line, and select your BMP image. If the BMP image is not listed as a file you can open, change the filetype option to ALL FILES, and then pick it.
Click the SETTINGS button. The file input and output settings must match, for interlace, aspect and resolution. Set the encode mode to either MPEG-1 or MPEG-2, does not matter, and then give it a CBR bitrate of 15,000k. If using MPEG-2, select non-interlace and DC of 9 (MPEG-1 does not use these options).
Double-click on the the NOISE REDUCTION filter name, and it will open the noise reduction options. Select the STILL PICTURE filter, and adjust it as needed. For this example, it looked best all the way to 100%. Adjust the pixel radius as needed, 4 looked best for this example. Since this is a single frame, the TIME AXIS filter does nothing, and is left set to 0.
OK everything, then START the encode. It will VERY QUICKLY create a new video file for you. To extract the still from the video file, simply repeat STEP 1, using VirtualDub to open the video and then copy/paste the image into Photoshop.
Advanced options! If your video file was pretty rough, and had a lot of noise, then restore a small section of video with heavy filter work in either TMPGEnc, VirtualDub or AVISynth prior to trying to extract images. Use whatever is needed to remove nasty noise, be it heavy temporal filters, chroma filters, or other special filters. Then start all this. See the video restoration section of the site.
STEP THREE: Using Genuine Fractals and Photoshop
Now that the image has been extracted (and optionally cleaned), it is in Photoshop and ready to use. At this time, you can crop or do some very minor resizing (just a few pixels), as needed. Then go to FILE -> AUTOMATE -> GENUINE FRACTALS (or similar name, depending on the version you have). If it requests you flatten the image, approve it.
The GENUINE FRACTALS plug-in will launch, and you can resize as needed. In this example, I resized to 200dpi and set the height to 1450. The width was only 1013, but that’s close enough for this job, it will be resized to 1030 using Photoshop resize.
There are some crop options too, but these were not needed for this project, as the image was cropped in advance. Personal choice on which crop filters are used, GF or PS ones.
Genuine Fractals claims it can do a decent upsize job up to 700% on images. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it does work quite well for the 400% range, as shown in this example.
While some could argue the image is not perfect, or the aspect has been changed by a few pixels one way or another, or even the fact that it’s been processed in so much software, remember the source. What was once an unworkable file is now a print-ready piece. While this would probably never suffice for a major production (they’d use high res custom art anyway!), it works quite well for personal projects, small business needs, or even small run productions.