Aperture Library Size Considerations

I’ve been toying around with Trial Version of Apple’s Aperture for some time now, but still am not convinced that it is worth upgrading from my iView MediaPro/iPhoto workflow. Prior to Aperture 2.0, speed was my main concern with Aperture 1.5 running painstakingly slow on my iMac G5 (iSight). After version 2.0 came out I gave it another try and I find the speed improvements quite remarkable, however, my 12″ G4 PowerBook does not meet the minimum specs and Aperture won’t install on it. Even if I could bypass the hardware check, I am not sure that it would be a very satisfying experience.

The size of the Aperture Library is another issue altogether. I have a project with ~6500 pictures in it. The original pictures, all jpegs of various size and quality, total ~18.2 GB. The Aperture Library is 3.8 GB. I managed to reduce the Library down to this size by deleting all previews. Before that I had a preview quality of 10 and a size of 1/2, and a Library size of 5.4 GB. By comparison, my iViewMedia Pro Library at 640×640 preview size is only 750 MB.

A Google search led me to this discussion which accurately describes the problem when using Aperture for JPEGs. Basically, by default Aperture stores not only previews of images but also thumbnails. The previews can be turned off, the thumbnails cannot. As mentioned in this Article from Apple (which has a lot of useful information regarding Previews), thumbnails are 1024×768 in size. Considering that most of my own pictures are only 1600×1200 (from a rather old 2 megapixel camera) this explains why even elimination of Preview images results in a large Aperture Library.

As mentioned in the above referenced discussion, there appears to be separate issue with Aperture not properly cleaning up its database when images are removed. This post discusses a method that reduces the size of a Project’s thumbnail file. In short, you open the Project package located inside the Library package, and delete the AP.Thumbnails, AP.Minis, and AP.Tinies files, and then restart Aperture and wait until it regenerates all the thumbnails (which can take several hours depending on the size of your project).

As described here, the AP.Minis file stores 256 pixel thumbnails at 96.2 kB per image. The thumbnails are 1024 pixels in their largest dimension and take up ~495.2 kB per image. For my library of 6487 referenced pictures, the project should then have a size of approximately 6487 * (96.2 + 495.2)/1024^2 = 3.66 GB. In fact, the project package is 3.77 GB in size, fairly close to the approximation. Note that while I took the same approach as in the referenced article, i get different sizes for each image. The referenced article uses 500 kB for each each image, while I find that ~590 kB is more accurate. Since this still underestimates the project size, a value of 600 kB for each image seems appropriate. That would lead to a project size estimate of 3.71 GB.

In conclusion, Aperture does not really pay off for a JPEG-based photograper with a small megapixel camera. Having older hardware is another problem to be dealt with. On my G5 Aperture 2.0 works quite well, but I won’t be able to use it on my PowerBook. While I do not plan to upgrade my computers within the next year or two I do plan to upgrade to a digital SLR in the near future and therefore might find it useful to switch to Aperture.

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