Advanced Stacker (OLD)

The Advanced Stacker is no longer sold.  You can purchase the Advanced Stacker PLUS in the Store

This page contains instructions and videos for the older versions of the stacker.

In February, 2011 we released the wildly popular StarCircleAcademy Stacking action. That action has seen at least 9 revisions and expansions in function and is still available for your stacking pleasure. All of the functions of the original stacking action have been included in the Advanced Stacker and much more!

Red Rock Cometary [C_009865-76+79brC] With the advent of Advanced Star Trail Techniques and the application of hundreds of hours of writing, testing, and improving we now have an Advanced Stacker that is able to do much more than run of the mill star trails.  Advanced techniques include stacking methods: lighten, darken, additive, comet, streaker, midget, tiny comet, long streaks. The Advanced Action has an “all in one” way to do multiple steps all at once. The result is a set of layers that you can then further tweak – if you like – to produce the result you want. But wait, there’s more!  There are also stacking operations that create files from each cumulative change. The cumulative changes are suitable for animation or simply for selecting your favorite among a variety of possible results.

For installation and operation instructions, please watch these videos and/or read the text below.

As with the original Stacking Action, the new action works with TIFFs, JPGs, PNGs and even RAW files – any files you can load into Photoshop.  And this new action works very similarly to the older one.  It requires two steps:

  1. Load the first image with the “First Step”
  2. Stack the remaining images with one of the functions.
  3. (optional) Combine, mix and match or otherwise play with the resulting layer(s) as described in the Advanced Star Trails article.

Begin by loading the action set into Photoshop.  How do you get the action?  You purchase it here.

Then follow the link in your email. You only need to load the Advanced StarCircleAcademy Stacker Action once unless you grab a new version. If you have more than one copy listed in your Actions window, just delete the oldest one(s).

When we combined the actions together, we added some new features including the really cool “Comets with Intermediates” and its friends: Long Streaks, Short Comets, Tiny Comets, Midgets and more. All of these modes are great for creating timelapse animation.

After loading the action into Photoshop, you will find the following as of version 11 by looking at the Actions Window Alt-F7 on PC (Option-F7 on Mac) or under Window ->Action


The operations are grouped into two sets, each having a FIRST step marked with arrows above. The actions should not be intermixed, however!

Before you begin we strongly suggest you close all open documents in Photoshop. Then decide which action set you want to use.

The “FIRST” step as noted earlier will load the first file and use it to set the size, layer names and starting document that will be used for all stacking operations that will happen later.  There are several ways to start the action – either through Adobe Bridge or directly using File -> Automate -> Batch and selecting “StarCircleAcademy Stacker Advanced” and the “First” option of your choice. See “Specifying Input and Output Locations Below”. You will presented with a “Stop” dialog.  And after the stop, you’ll have to stop again.



Next you run the action of your choice.  If you start with the FIRST in Set Two, your only options is the “SECOND” choice.  If you ran the Do This First step in Set One, you can pick any of the options.  Note that all of the stacking is done using 16 bit RGB and the ProPhoto color space.

  • Lighten – this is the normal “stacking” procedure and creates a single image from all of the input files.  All input images are represented in the output.
  • Long Streaks – produces a result similar to Lighten except that the first images are reduced in intensity producing a slight comet effect. It takes about 40 images before the effect of the first image is lost. In other words, stacking 300 images will result in only the last 40 or so contributing to the result.
  • Streaks – the same as Long Streaks, except that the effect lasts for about 30 images.
  • Comets – More quickly fades out the earlier images. After about 16 images, the effect of the first image is “lost”.  That is, if you stacked 40 files, only the last 16 or so will contribute to the result.
  • Short Comets – like comets except the effect fades after about 12 images.
  • Tiny Comets – like comets except the effect lasts 7 images.
  • Midgets – the stacking effect fades after 4 images.
Comets and Their Cousins Illustrated

Comets and Their Cousins Illustrated

After the “single result” operations, there are also options to save intermediate files.  When intermediates are saved, they are saved in 16 bit RGB but in the sRGB color space.

  • Long Streaks with Intermediates – The same operation as Long Streaks except that after every operation the result file is saved. The default document name is lStreaks_
  • Lighten with Intermediates – Just like lighten, except that after each file is operated upon, an output file is created. Suitable for animation/timelapse where the trail seems to be growing.  Document name is Lighten_
  • Comets with Intermediates – creates stars that seem to be streaking like comets through the sky. Default Intermediate document name is Comet_
  • Short Comets (SComets_)
  • Tiny Comets (tComets_)
  • Midgets (Midgets_)

Specifying the Input and Output File Locations

There are two ways to specify the input files. One is to use a directory with all the images to be operated upon. The downside, of course, is that only files of interest should be in that directory.


The second method is to use Adobe Bridge. Using Bridge has some great advantages including the ability to pre-apply settings to raw files, and to select only a subset of files in the directory.

As noted earlier when using the Intermediate options, you should specify an output location.  If you are happy with the default document names described earlier, then the settings in the illustration above will work just fine.  If you wish, you can change “Document Name” to anything you like: “SuperTrippyThing_” if that floats your boat or to nothing at all and just use a sequential number.

Remember that the output of any Intermediate action will be JPGs of highest quality.

After everything completes, you can save the result however you wish.

If you’re not quite ready to invest in the Advanced Stacker, you can first try the Original Action (now called Test Stacker). And if you’re not convinced yet, you can get our notes on creating star trails. The notes appear on the on THIS PAGE as a no obligation download.


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