Aperture - The Seven Deadly Sins

GLMedia_217.jpgWell, not really seven, it's just a title that I like to use pertaining to a couple of things that you can do that really bog down Aperture's performance. After some encouragement from a new found iFriend Michael I have decided to wade into the murky and treacherous waters of managing performance in Aperture. To kick things off I thought that I would highlight the obvious (or not). Just one little "your mileage may vary" type of disclaimer first - remember that this kind of stuff is highly variable depending on the actual RAW files that you shoot, your system configuration, memory, VRAM, graphics processor (esp with Aperture), etc. What works great for one person with one set of RAW files will not work well for another.

Okay, here is the most basic of basics. We Aperture users have become amazingly spoiled when it comes to asking our computers and software to do copious amounts of work and expect real-time WYSISYG results instantaneously. I remember just a few years ago even looking at a RAW file was slow let alone doing anything to it. Most of the time this works and is just fine but there are the "seven deadly sins" or more appropriately the set of adjustments that when applied to the same image will cause even the most stout of systems to crumble under the strain. I'll cut to the chase and just list those that can cause performance issues and then offer a couple of additional thoughts.

The biggies are:

  • Straiten
  • Highlights and Shadows
  • Sharpen (regular or edge)
  • Noise Reduction

To a lesser degree or more when combined with the above:

  • Retouch
  • Spot and Patch
  • Red Eye

Hey it is seven! Actually I added the bottom three to make it seven on purpose, they generally do not cause any tremendous pain unless you have 4000 retouch spots but if you are having an issue look to those last three as well. Each of these by themselves are usually nothing bothersome on most modern systems with a reasonably healthy graphics subsystem, RAM, processer, etc. Where they become an issue for almost any system is when you combine them or heaven forbid - use all of them and expect aperture to be capable of showing you real time WSYWIG as you wildly yank the slider on one of them back and forth. It's not going to happen - well maybe it will, just not with the current crop of systems and just when it does the number of pixels and bit depth of your RAW files will probably increase by a square to leave you right back where you started.

So what to do about it? Simple do some of these things last. If you want to tweak one of these turn the others off while you are doing it. For instance if you want to tweak noise reduction there is no reason to have edge sharpen turned on while you are playing around with noise. I picked those two because some of you may instantly react that there is a reason - of course there is a reason to look at the over all effect when everything is added together - What I am getting at is that it may be more productive to get the optimal settings for these processing intensive heavyweights individually while getting real-time feedback rather than having Aperture reprocess all the pixels through all of them while driving you insane that there is a 5 second delay between you moving the slider and anything happening.

A couple of other things to think about regarding the seven deadly adjustments are the way that they affect preview generation and what happens if you don't have previews generated by Aperture. First off, if you remember way back last week in a post that I put up on managing previews I hinted that part of my work-flow is to turn preview generation on when I am done with my major adjustments. You may want to think about this if you use a couple of the seven deadly adjustments regularly. If Aperture is set to manage previews for the project that you are working on and you have say H&S plus Edge Sharpening on most of the images in the project that you are going through and tweaking contrast etc on it will almost guarantee  that Aperture will be constantly generating previews for images in the project - I do mean constantly. For some systems and some work-flows this will be a non-issue, for others it may be a substantial holdup. The other thing to consider regarding previews is how they help you browse through your library at lightning speed. Thousands of images with a bunch of adjustments rendered real-time, amazing. Well if you don't have previews generated for them you may notice that your scrolling, arrowing, and other viewing gymnastics could be slowed down considerably. This doesn't mean you need previews for everything if you don't want to eat up the space, especially on a laptop. The cure if you need to scroll around real fast and you don't happen to have previews built for everything - the quick preview button. The results can be quite ugly but it will get you to where you are going fast. I use it mostly on my really slow MacBook Air.

If this helps anybody out let me know - If you think "no kidding" let me know - If you want some other thoughts on managing Aperture performance, what helps, what hurts, and what doesn't matter based on my experiences let me know.


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