Hello, list!

 I was pleased to be able to attend this month's MerriLUG meeting,
held at Martha's Exchange in Nashua, NH.  Taking place on Thr 20 Nov
2008, about 20 people attended.  The speaker was Máirín Duffy, who
gave us all some tips and tricks for manipulating photographs and
other imagery in GIMP and InkScape.

== What I saw ==

  Unfortunately, it's very difficult to describe an inherently visual
process using only words.  Doubly-so for me, since I have little
talent for graphics.  I have no hope of describing how anything was
done, and even describing *what* will be difficult.  I will try,

  One thing was a feature of GIMP called "Liquid Rescale".  I take it
this is a relatively new feature.  If I understand it correctly, this
lets one mark arbitrary areas of an image with a mask, and then apply
a rescale.  The algorithm will attempt to preserve the masked area
unchanged, while stretching/distorting the rest.  This enables some
pretty neat tricks.  We saw how it could be used to remove objects
(like a statue) from an image, and then stretch the background to
"fill in the hole".  We also saw it used to stretch the background
bigger while preserved the person in the foreground without

  Another technique Máirín demonstrated was using layers and
transparency masks.  Layers let you overlay one image on top of
another.  You can then add a mask which controls
transparency/opaqueness between layers.  This was shown to be handy
when one is trying to erase parts of a picture.  Rather than trying to
carefully wield the limited "Erase" tool, paint a mask however you
like: Brushes, lines, selection fills.  If you make a mistake, simply
paint with a non-mask color to restore.

  Transparency masks went beyond erasing, though.  They can also be
used to overlay two or more base images together.  Inspired use of
this technique yielded some very artistic results.  Máirín started
with a picture of someone's face, and then added some pictures of ice
as "textures" in additional layers.  She used this to do "face
painting" on the person.  By playing around with the algorithms and
their settings, a variety of effects were achieved, some surreal, some

  Finally, the focus switched over to InkScape.  By using the "Trace
bitmap" feature, we saw how a photograph can be turned into source
material for vector-based graphics.  This included "screen printing"
in stylized color -- think Andy Warhol's prints of Marilyn Monroe.  By
turning up the detail of the trace, breaking it apart into components,
and selectively deleting, more abstract designs were possible.

== Video record ==

  By now, I'm sure anyone reading this is thinking the above is
useless without being able to *see* what I'm talking about.  It would
also be nice to know *how* to do all these tricks.  That's the biggest
reason why I wanted to attempt to make a video record of this meeting
-- and the one I forgot to mention in my list of reasons last week.  A
copy of the slides and a narrative description may be perfectly
appropriate for firewalls rules, MySQL commands, or HTTP protocols,
but a graphics art demonstration really demands motion video.

  A number of people answered my call for help, and volunteered their
time and equipment.  Bruce Dawson brought a very decent Hi-8
camcorder, and Kevin Clark brought a tripod to mount it on.  Alas, the
wireless mic I brought worked fine during setup but refused to yield
any actual audio once the room was full of people.  Fortunately, the
camera's built-in mic seemed able to pick-up Máirín's voice without
too much trouble.  It also picked up every bit of noise the camera
operator (me) made, and all the ambient sounds, but things were mostly
quiet.  My hope is that the noise will not overwhelm the signal.

  My next challenge is to figure out a way to get the recording off
this analog magnetic tape cassette and on to the web.  Anyone have a
Hi-8 deck and a video capture card?

== Next month ==

  On the regular schedule, next month's meeting will take place on
Thur 18 Dec -- precisely one week before Christmas.  The plan is to
have a social, informal meeting, with no defined topic or formal
presentation.  All involved agreed that it would not be fair to ask a
speaker to present on what is usually a low-turn-out night, and often
distrupted by the celebrations of others.

-- Ben

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