Chart of Electromagnetic Radiations – vectorized (#P5)

Hey – I never met you and this is crazy…but here’s my first piece, so help me maybe? (umm, I had to look this up, for sure)

When watching good ol’ Dave’s mailbags, number 940 to be precise (starting at the 9 minute mark), I was instantly hooked when he showed the gorgeous physics poster. Being a qualified physics nerd myself and obviously having too much free time, I had the idea of…vectorizing it. For the greater good, in that case, nerdgasms in posters beyond A0 size. (is there a format beyond ANSI F for you weird yankee letter format guys?)

First things first: The poster was originally made by the W.M. Welch Scientific Company in 1944 and was posted to flickr by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under CC license (Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike). I don’t see the point in uploading it to my own webspace – just go to flickr and grab the full 100 MB thingy in 70 MP resolution. That’s the one that Dave got printed.

On second thought: Don’t. A guy called Adam Jon Richardson did some post processing and re-uploaded it onto his personal blog. Same resolution, sharper looks. If you want a print, get this one.

Now here’s the thing: Although general resolution is plenty to get A0 prints out of it (say 100 dpi for such a format), it’s not that great when you go nose-on to see individual captions of the hundreds of graphs. It’s not a photo where loss of detail is acceptable once you zoom in more than enough – there’s detailed graphs with descriptions onto it, and they drown in pixel noise.

What can we do about it? Yep, remove any pixellation of the general content by converting to vector graphics and also replace any vectorized text with proper captions that scale to arbitrary dpi settings in print.

Why has nobody done that before? Just have a look at the original size poster and take an educated guess.

So, as I am probably crazy (my mother never had me tested): Here’s the first snippet in zipped SVG format and also PNG for ease of viewing…the guys over at WordPress currently fucked up SVG upload for whatever reason. It’s the ray of EM radiation from, well, DC to daylight, as Dave often says.

Interestingly, the “final” (no, it’s not) SVG is just 1/4 smaller than the PNG produced in original width. There’s a lot to be optimized, but there’s also more important work to do in the other 90% of the image that haven’t been vectorized yet.

I’m using Adobe Illustrator for now, but I’m not sure if I’m going to pay for it after the trial ends. Inkscape was extremely helpful in converting it in the first place, but for editing the HUGE mess (50 MB SVG from the 20k x 2k processed template!) it’s a pain in the rear. It’s working well again when the file is small, but there’s no way to break apart some elements of the poster into smaller pieces. Illustrator also slows down massively and both editors have a huge bottleneck in just using one core for displaying, while only effects are multithreaded. If you know a better tool for the job, please let me know!

Fonts used so far:
Bower Shadow for the text in the center ray
OPTIGoudy BoldAgency for basically everything else, in several (but not too many) different font sizes
Police Cruiser Expanded for some more headlines in other parts of the poster (not in the one displayed here)

These fonts are free or free for personal use, so there’s no conflict in using them in a CC noncommercial image. If you happen to know free fonts that resemble the original ones even closer, please let me know asap!

As for colors, the original poster had a limited set of 8 (I think?) colors, and I haven’t processed image parts with actual drawings in it yet. So I’m not sure if few colors do the poster justice. For sketches, a limited set of <10 colors will do just fine. I did work out some colors that I will use in the next parts, but they may change or merge for the full image. After all, changing shades of paths is such a miniscule job compared to vectorizing the entire thing…

There will be edits and replacements to the original image – for example, I don’t see the point in the 6/10 mile marker at the 1 km line. Yeah, say hooray to mile, foot, inch and your 60 Hz marker, but the 6/10 mi is gone unless someone edits it in to a separate image. I will not have this weird yankee shit on my wall. Also, the bottom of the poster has a section dedicated to the cgs unit system. That’ll have to go in favour of the SI system obviously. Not sure if I will replace the spectroscopic Angström units right beside that with nanometers – Angströms are still common (and I appreciate not having the cgs centimeter wavenumbers there in the first place). So that’s work in progress. Ultimately, as SVG is so nice to edit, everybody can roll their own poster with additions, edits and removals as they please.

If you are crazy enough to help by vectorizing another part of the poster or polishing the already existing ones – please do so!

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