Well, by way of roundabout means (all perfectly legal of course!) I managed to get hold of a program called BlueSky. This is the software that government agencies (such as police and international intelligence organizations) use to do those nifty ultra-zoom-ins on images.

The general public has the most experience with this software on t.v. shows suchs as CSI where they have a grainy security footage photo and they zoom in on the small car in the background, enhance and then can see the bad guys sitting in the car perfectly clearly and read the license plate.

Since I managed to get hold of it, I decided to have a go with this program and see just how far in I could zoom. First, I needed a suitable image, so I took a photo of a $20 note. I figured that this would be the easiest thing I had on hand that I could take a photo of.

Photo of a twenty dollar note.

This is the image that I chose to feed into the program. I chose the $20 note because it is something that many people are familiar with and can have one on hand to compare with. Also, I knew that there would be small details that I'd be able to zoom in on, assuming the software worked.

Close up of a $20 note.

On the first pass, it did a fairly basic zoom. I could probably do better in photoshop. I don't have a copy of the manual for the program but it seems to be iterative - on each pass it zooms in further and pulls detail from the surrounding data. This seems to be a fairly straightforward way of doing things. If it tried to do a monster zoom all the way in on the first pass, there would be too little detail to use.

Zooming into money.

By the third pass it was zooming in nicely and bringing out some of the smaller details. Still not overly impressive though. A good photoshopper can probably get further in with better detail. But doing more passes seems to be the way to get the best results. Can anyone say "turtle and the hare"?

Micro printing on Australian Currency.

I tweaked the settings a bit (don't really know what I'm doing) and did another two passes. Now it's starting to get interesting. The micro printing is starting to come out as well as some of the smaller details. It's amazing how such small details can be printed en masse at the place that they make the money.

Tiny detail on the face of the note.

Oh wow! By the tenth pass it has really zoomed in. The letters all look nice and crisp, there is zero blurring and you can even see small bits of damage where tiny bits of the ink have fallen off during the note's life. Amazing the amount of detail pulled from the original data.

Individual letters on the face.

Holy snot! Now we're cooking. This is the result of fifteen passes. You can really tell that if this was a grainy security camera photo you'd certainly be able to read the license plate on a car or see the criminals face with enough detail to identify them! This is really impressive.

Maximum magnification

Each pass was taking about an hour to process (my computer isn't that powerful). This is about the 19th pass and it was really late and I was tired.

But look at the result! Compare this photo with the first one I started with and the program fully pulled all the tiny little details out of the image! If you kept doing passes on different spots you could probably print the note again! I am truly impressed with this software!

I'm now tempted to download a grainy security photo from the 'net and let the program do it's thing on that to see just how much detail can be obtained from a standard image. I'll leave that as a project for another day. I had fun with it, but I need to get back to my other current projects.

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