The A.I. Evolution behind Topaz A.I. Clear
After a lot of effort from our team, I am excited to share the latest version of A.I. Clear with you. Topaz A.I. Clear is a software to remove photo noise and enhance sharpness. The update of A.I. Clear in Topaz Studio v1.12.5 is a completely new development. Not only does the new A.I. Clear do a better job of suppressing the noise, but further utilizes A.I. technology to transform noisy and blurry images into crisp and detailed images.
As a researcher in image processing for over 30 years, I cannot help but feel a little giddy about what our team has done. Just take a look at the image above. Look at the clean removal of the noise. More importantly, look at the details in the output image!
It was a long journey to get here. Topaz Labs has always been at the forefront of image noise reduction. In 2010, Topaz Denoise had been already considered the best high-iso noise removal software in the market, a position it has maintained to this day. The reason is that Topaz Denoise employed an algorithm that approached a theoretical upper-bound in terms of SNR (signal to noise ratio) increase. Therefore there were no much room for us, or anyone else for this matter, to improve it substantially. That is, until deep-learning in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) emerged.
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Topaz Studio Ai Clear comes with three distinct neural networks, each trained specifically on a set of images with specific noise and detail requirements.
With one click, AI Clear automatically sets the noise reduction level using artificial intelligence to determine what setting is best for your image.
The Fastest of the three models, the Low setting is best for images with a range of subjects and a low to moderate amount of color noise. Cityscapes, landscapes, and architecture are great use cases for this model.
With Double the complexity of the Low model, the Medium setting is best for images with a defined subject and a moderate amount of noise and artifacts. This setting is particularly good on portraits and skin.
With double the complexity of the Low model, the High setting is best for images with a high amount of noise and artifacts. Evening shots, Long Exposures and Mid to High ISO images are cleaned and sharpened with this setting.
The new Enhance Sharpness feature allows you to manipulate the detail in your image to bring dull features back to life.
The Low setting is best for images with a smaller group of subjects. Works well on portraits, telephoto images, and astrophotography.
The High setting is best with a lot of small detail. This model works especially well with landscape photography.
If you find AI Clear to be removing a bit too much detail, increasing the value of this slider will bring back details that are removed by the adjustment.
Use this slider to increase or decrease the exposure of your result, higher values increase exposure, lower values decrease exposure.
Use this slider to increase or decrease the edge contrast of your image. Higher values increase edge visibility, lower values blend edges into surrounding detail .
A few years ago, the deep-learning based photo noise reduction in research started to produce a more promising result. A.I. Clear is the first commercial software that took advantage of this development. It uses a “feedforward” neural network trained to suppress input image noise as much as possible. This type of method had proven itself to beat all known traditional methods in a research environment. Since Topaz Studio is an interactive app, the challenge was to discover a neural network architecture that could produce a good result at an interactive speed. Through some pretty hardcore development work, we managed to deliver the first version of A.I. Clear, which produced better noise suppression than traditional methods without the need to manually fine tune every parameter. The reception from our customers was exceptional.
Then we began working on A.I. Gigapixel, the first deep learning desktop tool to enlarge photos. This long and detailed process vastly increased our understanding of A.I. based image enhancement. A.I. Gigapixel is based on a revolutionary concept in deep-learning called GAN (Generative Adversarial Network). It uses a “generative” neural network to synthesize plausible details that are non-existent in the input images. This process produces an unprecedented image enlargement result. The feedback for A.I. Gigapixel was so beyond our expectations and we knew we needed to use this technology for other purposes.
After the A.I. Gigapixel release, it was natural for us to try the same “generative” neural network idea on noise reduction and detail enhancement. So we did. As expected, the “generative network” did not disappoint us.
But there was a catch. To produce the best result, this “generative” neural network needed a few orders of magnitude more “neurons and synapses” than the original one. This much more complex network led to a very slow processing speed – an obvious no-go in an interactive app like A.I. Clear.
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Check out the AI Clear product page to learn more about AI Clear including pricing and to see more examples.
Eventually, our research scientist Dr. Acharjee found a pretty good compromise. Through the work of our incredible development team, we managed to create a process that uses one-tenth the number of “neurons” than what we had started with. Not only did we match our previous speed – we exceeded it. Now, the speed is 2 to 3 times faster than the previous version of A.I. Clear, and we’ve improved image quality in most of our tests. Still, for high noisy or blurry images it tends to synthesize unnatural-looking patterns (see image below) due to lack of enough “neurons” to remember the proper patterns.
While it was a pity that we could not put our best but admittedly slow neural network into A.I. Clear, we’re working on using this neural network in other ways. We’ve got a batch process image enhancer in the works that will use the no-compromise large neural network for those who want the very best possible result that A.I. technology can offer – regardless of how long it takes. A.I. Clear is impressive in what it can do, and even more capable technology is coming.
For now, I am excited to share the new A.I Clear with you. What do you think?
About the Author
About Albert Yang
Albert Yang founded Topaz Labs over 10 years ago, to form a company that adopts and implements the latest technology to introduce cutting-edge tools to the Photo market. With over 30 years of programming experience, he’s proud to offer his technical expertise to our users as the primary developer of our latest tools.