Adam Block's PI tutorials

Stuart Forman

Hello all,

I have Adam Block's PixInsight Fundamentals series, and I was going to wait to write a review until I was well on my way through the video series, but I have enough now to give some initial thoughts.  This review will be a bit of my own history in learning astrophotography which will help color my review.  

I'll start with the tl;dr version:  It's great.  Get it.

The long version:
I got started in astrophography about 7 years ago now, give or take.  I cut my teeth on Deep Sky Stacker and Photoshop and learned some basic techniques (stretching, noise reduction, gradient reduction, saturation, etc).  I bought Neil Carboni's tools and didn't really know how to use them, and Deep Sky Stacker was a bit of a black box to me.

Then I was introduced to CCD Stack, which for me was a way better solution than DSS as it was less "black box" and you had more control.  But to learn CCD Stack, I needed tutorials so I first borrowed, then later bought Adam Block's CCD Stack tutorials. A word about Adam.  If you don't know him, you're not paying attention, as he is widely considered one of the top 5 amateur astronomers (if not the TOP) in the world.  He regularly has APODs, and he has made a career in astronomy and astrophotography education.  

So when I started his CCD Stack tutorials, I grew comfortable with his patient teaching style, and it was as if he were in the room with me.  He doesn't rush--a video on just one section may be 20-30 minutes long--but when he's done it's like he had disassembled a car engine, laid it out neatly, and placed labels on everything with instructions on how to put it back together.  After going through his videos, I KNEW how to use it through and through.

So my workflow at the time was CCDStack to Photoshop and that worked for me for awhile.  Adam also has a Photoshop series that I bought and started, but never completed because about that time I finally downloaded PixInsight, and I realized that PI was much more suited to my brain than Photoshop (I never could get the hang of the "layers" concept).  

This is about 3 years ago.  I ran into Adam at AIC and I asked him if he was planning on a PI tutorial series, as Warren Keller had already been well on his way in his ip4ap series.  Adam didn't want to repeat what Warren did and wanted to find his own way.  He said that the plan was ultimately do do a PI tutorial series, but he wasn't ready.

Okay, a digression:

It's impossible to talk about Adam's series without mentioning Warren Keller's ip4ap series and some of the other free tutorials that are available, and I'm going to make an argument why both are good.  

First, the free tutorials.  The only ones frankly I would look at are Harry Page's Harry's Astro Shed and Kayron Mercieca Light Vortex Astronomy.  Harry's videos are okay for what they are--but they're a bit sparse and they are not updated.  Kayron does keep things updated and I like it how he screen shots examples.  I have not found ANY other video tutorials that are any good except those on the Astroimaging Channel on youtube, and those are topic related and not a "course" per se.  

The nice thing about Warren's videos is that they are short and they dive directly to a topic and tell you exactly what you need to know to get started.  Warren was the key to unlocking PI and getting me over that hump that all of us know so well.  Although I've gone through them all I still refer back to specific videos when I want to re-learn something (what were his settings on Masked Stretch again?  Did he do HT first then MT or was it the other way around?--stuff like that)

Adam's teaching style is completely different.  While Warren tells you what you need to know concisely he necessarily has to skip details.  Adam, on the other hand, gives you a deep dive.  I consider myself a reasonably proficient user of PixInsight.  I've given lectures and demos to my astronomy club and I am a local resource for several.  When I received the tutorials, I was going to skip the basic stuff and go to the meat (Deconvolution, for instance--an opaque process in the best of times).  Adam encouraged me to start at the beginning.  Okay...(mental eye roll).   

And, well, wow.  The thing is Adam is so damn brilliant and clever that he will take the explanation of a process you THINK you know well (previews for instance) and you will go, "Holy crap, I didn't know it could do THAT!"  

I still haven't quite decided yet if this tutorial series is good for rank beginners, as I've only just started on it.  In the preview section, for instance, he mentions STF, HT, HDRMT, Decon and masks in the context of applying processes to preview.  I know all that stuff and he says in the tutorial basically, "Don't worry about this for now--I'll get to it" but I could see how a beginner not knowing anything, furiously taking notes, might be a bit overwhelmed.  The series very well might be good for beginners--I just haven't gotten into it far enough yet.  I can say with my experience with his CCD Stack and Photoshop videos that the answer will be Yes.  For me, and anybody on this list who has a working knowledge of PI, this teaching series is awesome.  However, they're long, and you need to devote the time to them.  

This is why I think ip4ap and Adam's tutorials are compatable.  You want to get started quickly and learn PI--subscribe to ip4ap.  It's inexpensive and you will learn PI quickly.  Warren gives you that push over "The Hump" and I found it invaluable.    Adam complements this by taking apart the program and laying it bare for you for you to easily understand, and I like how Warren jumps on a new PI process or function and puts out a short explainer video soon after.  However although Warren shows you how to drive, Adam shows you how the car works.  As I mentioned above, I've always liked his teaching style, and he takes that nice calm competent style and has put it in well organized tutorials.  He also even shows you his mistakes, which you can learn from.  

Is it worth the money?  I think so.  We all spend a ton of money on this hobby and why not spend a bit more to make the best pictures you can?  So far, I give it my highest recommendation.  Anything by Adam is great.  


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