Wow! Frequency Equalizer 2 | Tutorials

Including Wow! 2 and Wow! Pro 2

2.1 | Multi-Band Separation. The idea behind Wow!

2.2 Wow! 2 | Five Bands Frequency Equalizer

2.3 Wow! 2 | Edge & Tone Preserving and the new tools

1.4 Pro Edition and Five Bands Decomposing

Text transcript

Hello and welcome to this tutorial on Wow! Frequency Equalizer PRO, that is the extended version of Wow! Frequency Equalizer, a plug-in whose operation is based on frequency separation. We’ve discussed the principle of frequency separation and the basic operations of the original plug-in in different tutorials, so we won’t get into those details again.

We’ve paired the two editions side by side, so you may see the differences. Both can be launched, of course, from the usual Window menu under the voice Extensions. On the left, you see the classic version of Wow! Frequency Equalizer, on the right, the Pro version. You may notice that the only difference in the interface is represented by an additional row of controls, namely a checkbox called Luma, a couple of buttons named Classic and Social, and a button called Decompose. I will now close the classic version of Wow!, because everything we need to access is available also in the PRO version, as we just showed.

I would like to start from the center, to show the difference between the Classic and Social modes.

In one of the previous tutorials, we’ve shown that the behavior of Wow! is quite different depending on the size in pixel of the image we are working on. This can actually become a problem when the images are very small: you may object that usually you don’t deal with files whose linear size is just a few hundred pixels, but sometimes you might – and I am referring of course to the images headed  to social networks, like Facebook or other well-known platforms.

If you try to apply a Wow! preset to an image whose main scope is to become an avatar on Facebook, you may encounter problems. Let’s see why. The two images you’re seeing look identical, but they’re not. The one on the left is a lot larger, with a height of 3000 px. The one on the right was scaled down by 25%, yielding a height of 750 px. The reason why they look the same size is that the zoom factor in Photoshop is different for each of them.

Yet Wow! doesn’t know about zoom factors: it only can work on real pixels. Let’s see what happens when we apply a certain preset, like Wow!, to the large image… and the same preset to the small image. You can certainly notice how different the two results are. The large image shows what we expect from this preset, whereas the small one looks like it’s been badly sharpened: there’s no added smoothness, and I would have a hard time defending that this is a Wow effect.

That’s why the Social alternative has been added. If you enable this button, a different algorithm is used in the computation. The algorithm is optimized for small images, and in turn, it won’t usually work on larger ones. It would be unrealistic to expect that an equally-named preset yields the same results, because these still depend heavily on the size of the image. But, as you may see, the resulting image is a lot more acceptable, as a starting point, than we would obtain with the Classic setup.

So, the recommendation is that you enable Social rather than Classic when you’re going to work on a set of images already resized for the Web.

At this point, we can close the smaller image because the new features we’re going to discuss are not size-related, so we’d better work on a regular image. Let me reset everything: trash the newly created layer, duplicate the background, and here we go.

A close inspection of this photograph shows that the skin needs some retouching. There are dozens of techniques, more or less sophisticated, to do that, and one of these relies on a decomposition of the image in two frequency layers. As we know, Wow! works on five different frequencies, which are controlled by the sliders. We go back to Classic mode, of course, and we apply a preset. It could be Skin… or Wow… I think Wow is a better starting point, in this case, if we’re going to retouch the final result.

Let me draw your attention on the Luma checkbox, first. If you make it active, there’s a difference in how the color of the image is treated. Wow! can sometime cause small color shifts, especially in saturation, which may be visible, or not. If they are, they may be pleasant, or not. If they aren’t, you can click on this button and instruct the plug-in not to re-compute color: in practice, when Luma is active, the original color remains untouched. As I said, this may be an issue or not, but it’s worth having the chance to change the default behavior of the plug-in.

Finally, the Decompose button: a really unique feature. Wow works on five different frequency layers, but where are they? Well, they’re hidden: you actually manipulate them with the sliders, but there’s nothing else you can do. Unless you use the Decompose button: let’s see what happens. This operation may take a while, especially on a slow machine, but in practice you get a decomposition in six different layers: what scientists call a “pyramid” of layers. Each one of these addresses a different frequency. Bottom to top: a base layer image, extremely blurred, followed by decreasing frequency layers. The smaller the frequency, the finer the detail.

These are real layers, that you can manipulate at will. The layer named Scale 2 seems to be responsible for most of the skin blemishes, so using the Clone Stamp tool on it sounds like a brilliant idea. This doesn’t change the remaining frequencies, I remind you, so that every layer addresses a single and peculiar characteristic of the image. I’ll show you very quickly what you can do, making sure that the Clone Stamp tool is set to sample the current layer only, Normal mode, 100% opacity.

One interesting technique is that you can obtain exceptionally smooth results even on large areas, by blurring the right frequency layer. If you look, there’s a darker area here which we may want to make smoother. By inspecting the layers, we realize it’s very visible on the one called Scale 4, less on Scale 5, not at all in the others. So, we decide to blur Scale 4 locally. With the Lasso tool, with a generous amount of feathering applied, you can select the area you need to blur, then make sure the correct layer is active, and blur with a filter like Gaussian Blur, or any other blurring algorithm you may want to try. The radius is usually quite a few pixels… something around 40 will do, in this case. See? This is before, this is after.

This may be repeated on other areas if needed.