Stellar Science presents NITF Escalator, an Adobe Photoshop File Format Plug-in that allows you to read NITF 2.0, NITF 2.1 and NSIF 1.0 imagery files directly into Photoshop and other host image processing applications.

Does NITF Escalator work with REALLY big NITF images?

Yes, but not all host applications do. Photoshop CS2, for example, has a very sophisticated scheme for caching very large images, and performs very well with the large NITF images we have tested it with. The largest image the NITF Escalator team tested with contained over 2.5 billion pixels (which were 16 bits each). NITF Escalator read the imagery one block at a time and passed the information to Photoshop. It took quite some time before the file was fully read in -- this was partly because of the volume of pixels that had to be passed and partly because the image was highly compressed with JPEG 2000 compression (the image file was compressed to less than 500 Megabytes) -- but once it was read in, Photoshop had no trouble providing rapid zooming and panning.

Photoshop Elements 5.0 does not perform quite as admirably. It can handle fairly large files, but we found that it started to have trouble when the images got to be around 30000x16000 pixels. Please feel free to download the free trial version of NITF Escalator to see how well your host application works with the NITF files that you care about.

The NITF specification has support for a large number of compression schemes. Does NITF Escalator support them all?

No, but we feel that it supports all the formats that most modern NITF users care about. NITF Escalator supports all four formats of uncompressed NITF imagery (IMODE = S, B, P or R) and also JPEG 2000 compression, which is the most modern and preferred compression scheme used today. In fact, the NITF Escalator team has never met anyone who who frequently processes NITF imagery using any of the other supported compression schemes. If you are such a person and have interest in NITF Escalator, please let us know.

The NITF specification has support for a large number of bit depths and pixel formats. Does NITF Escalator support them all?

NITF Escalator supports most of them including all common types:

  • 1 Bit Boolean
  • 8 Bit Unsigned Integer
  • 8 Bit Signed Integer
  • 16 Bit Unsigned Integer
  • 16 Bit Signed Integer
  • 32 Bit Unsigned Integer
  • 32 Bit Signed Integer
  • Single Precision Real Number
  • Double Precision Real Number

Since most host applications do not natively support such a wide variety of pixel types, NITF Escalator offers to perform an intensity transformation while it reads images in. This allows users to work with some of the more non-standard image types even though their host application does not offer that support natively. See the documentation for more details on these intensity transforms.

Unsupported types are:

  • 64 Bit Unsigned Integer
  • 64 Bit Signed Integer
  • Complex Number

Can NITF Escalator handle NITF files that contain more than one image?

Yes, if a NITF file contains more than one image, then NITF Escalator will ask you which one you'd like to open.

Can NITF Escalator handle NITF images that use Lookup Tables (LUTs)?

Yes, because the NITF specification allows LUTs that are significantly more complex than those supported by the Photoshop file format plug-in API, LUTs are ignored by NITF Escalator. Images that use LUTs will still be read in, but only LUT indexes will be shown (i.e., the LUT won't be expanded).

What versions of Photoshop has NITF Escalator been tested on most?

NITF Escalator supports most of them including all common types:

  • Photoshop CS2
  • Photoshop CS3
  • Photoshop CS4 (32 bit version)
  • Photoshop Elements 5.0
  • Photoshop Elements 6.0
  • Photoshop Elements 7.0

The 64 bit version of Photoshop CS4 is not currently supported. Please contact us if you have interest in 64 bit support.