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Fordos Moon

Star Tools Image Processing Software

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Interested to know thoughts of those who have used it?

I use Deep Sky Stacker and photoshop at the mo - what do you guys think about Star Tools, worth investing in?

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I bought it and can't get a decent image out of it. Wish I hadn't bothered. The main idea is that it tracks every adjustment you make and automatically avoids clipping the image. To be honest I find it harder to use and less effective than Maxim DL/Photoshop.

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Hi,

As stipulated on the 'Buy' page, the best thing you can do is try the freely downloadable demo, see how it runs on your machine and if you like it. I also offer personalised tutorials for anyone willing to share a typical night's worth of data, as I find it is the best way to get up to speed with ST and get the most out of the software, specific to your situation and gear.

Mallorcasaint, the same offer is still open to you, but you never replied! I would love to have the chance to change your mind about ST if you would let me.

ST is a not-for-profit endeavor and as such, I have no trouble recommending you try other software as well - whatever enthuses you the most for our wonderful hobby! For example, if you decide that ST is not your cup of tea, do have a look at PixInsight (they have a free demo as well & be sure to view Harry's videos to get the most out of the trial period).

I will say however that Photoshop is simply *not* the way to go for astrophotography any longer (and hasn't been for a number of years now). Out-of-the box, it is ill-equipped to handle even the most basic things that most astrophotographers take for granted these days (ex. deconvolution, light pollution and gradient modelling, wavelet sharpening, local dynamic range optimisation, color calibration with background neutralization etc.).

Hope this helps!

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Jager945 Sorry I haven't yet replied but I have been very busy. I will send you some subs when I have time but I have to say that the lack of any meaningful tutorial for Star Tools makes it very difficult for the new user. I totally disagree with your comments about Photoshop as there are many tools available as actions to deal with the processing you mention. It may only be my opinion, but PS allows me to make fine adjustments where I find ST to be a bit "heavy handed". I might have missed something so if there is a step by step tutorial available please let me know where I can find it.

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As a frequent user of ST I find it excellent. Like any software it takes a bit of time getting used to it, but the suggestion in one of the posts above about trying the demo version to see if you like it is the correct one. You can also write directly to Ivo at the ST website and he'll reply very quickly with concrete suggestions for your particular data. If you go to astrobin and seach under startools it will give tons of images processed with it so you can have an idea of what is achievable. Keep in the mind that "the best software for you" is the one you feel happier with and more comfortable using and fortunately these days there are many options around (like the also excellent PI) with different price tags,

cheers

E.

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Thanks E I am certainly going to give it a go and Ivo has been more than helpful already ;-)

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Well it's good to know thatI haven't wasted my money. I would still like some sort of tutorial or workflow which is a bit more in depth.

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There are a number of annotated YouTube videos available that include the data that is being processed (see comments accompanying the videos for links to the data), in addition there is a dedicated tutorial section on the forums.

Furthemore, StarTools conatins in-application help that describes what each module and each parameter does. Finally, StarTools is (uniquely) is non-linear in its processing, meaning that sequence of the operations performed matter less and that nothing is set in stone until Tracking is switched off, this promotes experimentation and avoids overcooking, letting you tweak and fine-tune your image to your heart's content. The 1.3.5 alpha version (seems to be stable on Windows and Linux so far, but may create artifacts on MacOSX), adds to that by allowing for quick restore points so that it is even easier to create multiple interpretations of the same data until you've found the ultimate one.

Everyone's data is different (especially so for beginners), the rule of thumb being that the better your data, the more 'standard' and 'replicable' your workflow will be. StarTools has many modules and ways to fix problems that were introduced during acquisition. The thing is though that such problems typically stem from having a sparse or budget setup - these problems and their workarounds will be different for everyone.

However if your data is of high quality, things become a lot easier.

You'll notice that they will all roughly go like this; load an image, indicate it is still linear (start Tracking), DEVELOP or AUTO DEVELOP for first inspection, fix gradients or light pollution in WIPE, redo DEVELOP or AUTO DEVELOP for final global stretch (specifying a region of interest if using AutoDev will help), fix local shadows and highlights using HDR module and/or CONTRAST module, wavelet sharpen using SHARP module (for example to bring out larger scale structures such as dust clouds or spiral arms), apply deconvolution using DECON, do COLOR correction, switch off Tracking (perform noise reduction).

Mallorcasaint, I'm looking forward to your data when you get the time! I'm sure there is lots ST can do to help you improve your images in a manner that suits your personal taste.

With regards to my comment about Photoshop not being out-of-the-box a credible platform for astrophotography in comparison to dedicated AP software, I believe this still stands - only after an additional outlay of a couple of hundred dollars in action sets and plug-ins (Noel Carboni's actions, Annie's actions, GradientXterminator, Astra Image, Topaz Adjust or similar, a decent noise reduction plug-in and some sort of Wavelet Sharpener), does Photoshop gain a feature set that begins to approximate what can be had for much less and can be done much more efficient. Even then, basic functions such as FITS import requires a standalone programs like FITS Liberator, while other functions are cumbersome (ex. keeping data in a linear state), completely irrelevant to astrophotography or even downright destructive (ex. the brightness/contrast tool - beginners sin #1).

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I want to provide my opinion... Startools has worked perfectly with my images. I have used PS before, but is not as easy to use. Though it would be nice to have an updated version of the manual, I find it very intuitive and it even provides pop-up hints on how to use it. The denoise tool is simply awesome.

Regarding the "heavy handed" way, that's what the sliders are for... To lessen the effect. Toggle the before/after button, tweak the effect to your taste, and when you feel satisfied, click on "Keep". Second thoughts? Undo!

It's very simple actually ;)

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Interested to know thoughts of those who have used it?

I use Deep Sky Stacker and photoshop at the mo - what do you guys think about Star Tools, worth investing in?

Hi,

I am a new user of StarTools and although I am new to astroimaging, I find it easy to use. It is by no means perfect or a complete package but for the little money it cost me it is a very powerful package. As for my opinion I wish that it had better control over masking or gradient removal but as a whole it is a very good piece of software and the better the subs, the aligment and stacking the better the end result. Hope this helps. I attach a small capture, my first of M27 taken from my back garden during a hot and humid evening, the stacking was in DSS and the processing in StarTools and a little tweak in CS2 to lighten the nebula and convert to jpeg. Please allow for the horrible jpeg conversion

Regards,

A.G

post-28808-0-60681500-1374702143_thumb.j

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Great to hear of your experience. I must publicly thank Ivo for being fantastically helpful regarding Star Tools he has responded quickly and in detail to my questions when I have tried the demo and I shall definitely be buying the complete software once I get paid.

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I wish that it had better control over masking or gradient removal

Hi A.G.,

Anything in particular you wish you had better control over in these two areas? I thought the tools for creating and touching up masks in ST were pretty extensive, but I'm always open to suggestions! :smiley:

For example, if you combine a mask with the Wipe module, you can very precisely control which parts of the image should be sampled for gradients and which should be left alone, much like PixInsight's DBE or GradientXTerminator. This is quite handy if you have data with dark anomalies that don't represent the background, such as dust bunnies, or you don't wish for Wipe to touch a DSO.

Thanks!

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Hi A.G.,

Anything in particular you wish you had better control over in these two areas? I thought the tools for creating and touching up masks in ST were pretty extensive, but I'm always open to suggestions! :smiley:

For example, if you combine a mask with the Wipe module, you can very precisely control which parts of the image should be sampled for gradients and which should be left alone, much like PixInsight's DBE or GradientXTerminator. This is quite handy if you have data with dark anomalies that don't represent the background, such as dust bunnies, or you don't wish for Wipe to touch a DSO.

Thanks!

Hi Ivo,

Many thanks for your reply, I am starting to get the hang of the StarTools but long way to go yet. Being a Typical man I am not one for reading manuals, I just experiment and learn.

Unfortunately for me most of my captures, there are not a lot of them as I have just started really, are quite noisy with strange gradients and LP artifacts and in particular due to the rushed nature of my capture , my main job is mostly during the evenings, they suffer from low S/N ratio too. So I do have to work hard at getting anything acceptable out of the data. I have found StarTools quite a powerful piece of software. I guess it if works for me it works for anyone. My main weakness actually is with the wipe module and I am working it.

Many thanks and regards,

A.G

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Being a Typical man I am not one for reading manuals, I just experiment and learn.

Yep, I'm the same. To my partner's dismay, I never ask for directions either... :grin:

Unfortunately for me most of my captures, there are not a lot of them as I have just started really, are quite noisy with strange gradients and LP artifacts and in particular due to the rushed nature of my capture , my main job is mostly during the evenings, they suffer from low S/N ratio too. So I do have to work hard at getting anything acceptable out of the data. I have found StarTools quite a powerful piece of software. I guess it if works for me it works for anyone. My main weakness actually is with the wipe module and I am working it.

Judging by the image you posted you're getting some pretty decent data regardless!

You know, while the time spent on acquisition is important, it's also important to recognize that some of us (myself included!) only have limited time and/or resources to spend on the hobby. Yes, more data and better equipment will yield better images in the long run, but much fun can be had with just getting the most out of basic equipment and basic data and learning about your gear and circumstances' strong and weak points.

I wrote ST also with that in mind - not all of us have the time (or means) to drive to a dark sky site, set up for the night, spend hours acquiring data and drive back again. Some of us have day jobs and live in the suburbs with lots of light pollution. Some of us can't actually pick and choose what time we want to acquire our data (and avoid the moon) and are stuck with acquiring during the weekend when the moon's up. Contrary to what some people and/or software authors say, I'm of the opinion that that's totally cool and you can still enjoy the hobby regardless - I'm hoping for ST to make a difference here and popularize AP a bit more. And everyone can see across the various AP forums; the stuff that people can shoot these days with just an entry-level DSLR from their suburban backyards is nothing short of amazing, especially when compared to what was possible 20, 15 or even 10 years ago!

Back on topic, if you need any help with the Wipe module, or would like a personalised tutorial for your data - let me know! :smiley:

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