SlabberJockey slabbing (sub-stacking) utility

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Chris S.
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SlabberJockey slabbing (sub-stacking) utility

Post by Chris S. »

SlabberJockey has been mentioned before, but now that there are a handful of users, and so far no reported problems, I'll give it a thread of its own to make it easier to find. SlabberJockey is a utility I use to generate scripts for slabbing (aka "sub-stacking" or "substacking") in Zerene Stacker. It isn't fancy--just a script generator I made for my own use. In case others might find it useful, SlabberJockey can be downloaded here.

Edit: The above link provides a setup file that contains everything you need to run SlabberJockey. For individual portions of the SlabberJockey package, such as the how-to pdf--or for those who prefer not to run an automated install, the SlabberJockey utility itself (requires Microsoft Access 2010 runtime (free) or perhaps paid-for Access versions)--look below for another edit, also in blue type.

SlabberJockey has a graphical interface and is very simple to use--see the screen shot below: You fill in the five yellow fields, then click the blue buttons. All the gobbledygook below the line is generated for you and copied into the clipboard; you paste it into a text file, and that is your batch script.

Image

There are a few steps before and after this, but they are also pretty easy; the whole slabbing recipe (the one I use, anyway) is detailed in a “How-to” pdf packaged with SlabberJockey.

You will be downloading a zip file, which when unpacked contains a setup file. When you run the setup file, it will check your system to see if Microsoft Access 2010 Runtime is installed. If not, it will prompt you to download it (free) from the Microsoft Website. Then it will place SlabberJockey (a runtime Access database), the “How-to” pdf, and example script file in a folder on your desktop. Do have a look at the how-to before running SlabberJockey, as it will show you a couple of warnings you will get from Microsoft the first time you run it, and what to do about them.

Edit: Individual portions of the SlabberJockey package are available at these links (all of which are included if you run the setup file downloadable above):

SlabberJockey: SlabberJockey--V1.0.accdb
How-to document: How-to do slabs in Zerene Stacker using SlabberJockey--V1.0.pdf
Sample batch file: Sample batch file--stinkbug.txt


SlabberJockey is not the only freely-available script-generator for Zerene Stacker; there is also Elf’s ZereneVS. SlabberJockey is much less powerful than ZereneVS, but has a graphical user interface and is very simple to use.

If you do deep stacks and haven’t tried slabbing, I urge you to try it--you may find slabbing to be a game-changer. Feedback is useful, so if you try SlabberJockey, I’d welcome a short note on how it works—or doesn’t work—for you.

By the way, I'm not too familiar with MacIntosh computers--if SlabberJockey will run on them, I don't know how to make it happen. SlabberJockey requires Microsoft Access 2010 runtime, and I only have experience using this on Windows systems.

--Chris
Last edited by Chris S. on Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:24 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Craig Gerard
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Location: Australia

Post by Craig Gerard »

Chris,

Thanks for making this application available.


Craig
To use a classic quote from 'Antz' - "I almost know exactly what I'm doing!"

seta666
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Location: Castellon, Spain

Post by seta666 »

Thank you for this applet, something which I find is needed in Zerene.
I work all the time with partial stacks, this will make my life easy with deep stacks

regards
Javier

ckatosmith
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Contact:

Thank you!

Post by ckatosmith »

Hello Chris, I decided the ball and chain of hand slabbing a deeper stack to me was worse than my intimidation of trying out your generous batch file.

The main initial draw was your mention and screen shot of a GUI, a godsend for me. The only issue I had (as a non techie) was I saved my file the first time using Word 2010 (.xml) and it didn't work. Then I tried it using Windows NOTEPAD, and that one worked.

It was exciting to see it work, and I am grateful that I can walk away from my computer while it slabs away. Thank you again for this big help.

Chris S.
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Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:55 pm
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Re: Thank you!

Post by Chris S. »

It makes me happy to hear that some folks are finding this useful! And I appreciate hearing whatever difficulties arise, to help prevent others from having the same issues in the future.

Ckatosmith, since I also use Notepad for making these files, I checked to see what you encountered when saving a Word 2010 version as xml. Yikes! Word adds a bunch of additional junk to the file when this format is chosen, and it’s no wonder that it doesn't work. I also tried saving the Word document as a txt file, which worked fine. I’ll update the how-to document to reflect this.

By the way, I’ve recently realized that Zerene Stacker will accept batch scripts with “.txt” extensions, as well as “.xml” extensions—something I didn’t know before. So if saving the file as a txt file, it’s not actually necessary to change the extension from ".txt" to ".xml".

Also, another forum member received a “runtime error” in SlabberJockey, upon hitting the “generate xml” button. I don’t know why this happened (have not been able to recreate the problem on my computers), but he found that he could avoid the problem by deleting my example data before entering his own.
ckatosmith wrote:It was exciting to see it work, and I am grateful that I can walk away from my computer while it slabs away. Thank you again for this big help.
Yay! Hearing this makes my day. :D

Thanks, gents, for the feedback.

Cheers,

--Chris

ckatosmith
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Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:59 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest
Contact:

Post by ckatosmith »

my bad, ckatosmith = Carolina, heh heh...[/quote]

Chris S.
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Post by Chris S. »

Carolina, it always seems much nicer to have a real name to write to. I did go to your Web site after I answered, and realized that I'd visited before, and that your name was there. But too late for my post.

Cheers,

--Chris

crayfish74
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Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:11 pm

Post by crayfish74 »

What number of:

Slab Size
Overlap

You will set if i will have:

140 images
100 images
60 images
40 images

Best,

Chris S.
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Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:55 pm
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Post by Chris S. »

Hi, Chris Crayfish74,

Sorry for my slow response--I was traveling.
crayfish74 wrote:What number of:

Slab Size
Overlap

You will set if i will have:

140 images
100 images
60 images
40 images
There is no single answer to this question--suitable numbers for slab size and overlap depend on what you're trying to accomplish by slabbing, and will vary widely according to your subject, depth of field, and other variables. That said, I can see why you might find starting values helpful. Just bear in mind that these are little more than wild guesses, and you will want to experiment around them.

For 140 images, try a slab size of 12, with an overlap of 2. With 40 images, perhaps a slab size of 5, with an overlap of 1. In between, try intermediate numbers.

It's more important to keep in mind the general ideas behind slabbing, and tailor your numbers accordingly. One reason to create slabs and then stack the slabs is to make retouching easier. If you have overlapping details, for example, it's convenient if a front detail can be fully rendered in one slab, and a back detail fully rendered in a different slab. It takes a bit of trial and error to achieve this. And of course, a given slab size might do this for some details but not others. In that case, you can assemble more than one group of slabs, with different "thicknesses," and retouch from one or the other.

Another reason to slab is to get the number of input images for the final stack down to something that your computer can quickly assemble, which frees you to more easily try various DMap parameters. This number depends on the capabilities of your computer. As a general rule, I'm often happy if I have 1/10 or 1/20 as many slabs as original input images.

Another (more subtle) reason to slab is to use PMax and DMap together in a way that maximizes the strengths and minimizes the weakness of each method. PMax is very good at preserving detail, but can also accumulate noise. If there is digital noise in the input images, that noise will be accumulated along with detail. If I'm dealing with a stack that has a wide dynamic range, including substantial areas recorded in the noise-prone region toward the left side of the histogram, I may limit the thickness of the slabs to avoid accumulating too much noise. In this case, the desired thickness of the slab is gated by acceptable noise accumulation.

There is yet another case that I've been working with from time to time, lately. With some difficult images, I prefer to both create the slabs, and perform final stacking of them, in DMap (SlabberJockey doesn't yet support this without editing the batch script, but this is not difficult). In some cases, I've found it useful to create slabs, use these to create thicker slabs, and then stack those slabs. I think of what I'm doing as giving DMap a bit of a guiding hand. I haven't gone far enough with this approach to give much guidance on how to do it, other than to observe that it has seemed to help with some very difficult stacks. Obviously, in this case, it is necessary to experiment with various slab sizes.

Sorry for the long answer!

Cheers,

--Chris

Bill Eldridge
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Location: Richmond, Virginia, USA

Post by Bill Eldridge »

One detail to add to Chris S.'s fine answer:

To specify Dmap as the stacking method for the slabs, open SlabberJockey's batch script XML file with any plain-text editor and search-and-replace:

Pmax:

<TaskIndicatorCode value="4" />

Dmap:

<TaskIndicatorCode value="5" />

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