Static on Static


Twitpic from Jon Williams aka Wizardishungry.

As if mind-reading Williams posted the above while a previous post here about jpeg noise and Sigmar Polke enlarging newsprint grain was being written. The assessment of whether a particular kind of compression noise could be interesting had to be changed from "never" to "rarely."

The image above seduces by melding two types of noise: a moire pattern reminiscent of the analog static of a TV transmission and the artifacts of saving and resizing digital video. The patterning is happening on two levels and to the extent it's possible for quantization noise to swirl that is happening here.

So, swirls within swirls in an intricate dance--antiform becomes content. The swimming pool algae color enhances the strangeness.

Just so it's clear, bad jpegs can be sublime--we were talking about a particular type of resizing noise that mars areas of solid color, usually looks bad, and is generally too omnipresent to be interesting.

Update: Am reminded that the precise term is quantization noise--originally had it as bicubic mush.

Update 2: Williams informs me that there is no analog in this--the moire pattern is also digitally made but reminded me of TV static. Corrections were made to the post.

de-enhanced sigmar polke re-enhanced


Everyone loves that scene in Blade Runner where Harrison Ford scans in on the polaroid image while drinking scotch, even though the segment's rife with continuity errors and anyone who's used Photoshop knows enlarging mush just gives you bigger mush. Above is a Sigmar Polke grid from google images that has been enlarged, brightened, sharpened and de-yellowed. Some new content is revealed but no snake-woman in the mirror. (Maybe if we keep zooming...)

Polke made a career of enlarging newspaper photo grain but it remains to be seen if that can be done with bicubic quantization noise from a distressed jpeg (some of which can be seen in the upper left panel). Only rarely does it look good. According to the filename the title of this grid is "history ii." No history is complete without spanking (barely visible in the pre-Harrisonized version). Even at these dubious resolutions Polke has an exquisite eye (but not too exquisite).