Monthly Archives: June 2016

Google Maps & Earth upgraded with beautiful high-res imagery

Lovely. PetaPixel writes,

Google Maps and Google Earth just got a whole lot sharper thanks to NASA and its Landsat 8 satellite. Using beautiful high-res imagery captured by the new satellite, Google has built a better high-res cloud-free mosaic of the world based on some 700 trillion pixels of data.

Check out the difference below:


See the team blog post for examples & interesting details:

Like our previous mosaic, we mined data from nearly a petabyte of Landsat imagery—that’s more than 700 trillion individual pixels—to choose the best cloud-free pixels. To put that in perspective, 700 trillion pixels is 7,000 times more pixels than the estimated number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, or 70 times more pixels than the estimated number of galaxies in the Universe.

3D: The Mill’s amazing “Blackbird” rig

This thing is beyond bananas:

The Mill has created The Mill BLACKBIRD, the first fully adjustable car rig that creates photoreal CG cars – it’s a car rig that can be shot at any time, in any location, without the need to rely on a physical car. Created in collaboration with JemFX, Performance Filmworks and Keslow, Mill Blackbird inspires and expands creative opportunities, offering a truly flexible production tool without sacrificing any quality or direction.


[YouTube] [Via Scott Valentine]

Adobe powers Cartoon Trump, enhances Character Animator

I awoke from a Bailey’s-tinged snooze a few months ago to behold Stephen Colbert interacting in realtime with a lurid, loudmouthed cartoon Donald Trump. Quickly I shot a note to my friends working on Adobe Character Animator: “Hey, have you guys seen this thing? I wonder what app they’re using.” “Uhh… {something something, we can neither confirm nor deny…}” they wrote back.

I’m delighted that the team can now take credit for powering this silliness—along with the recent live-animated Simpsons episode. Check out the Trump puppet in action:

They’ve also recently announced lots of improvements to the app. Here’s a taste:


[YouTube 1 & 2]

Flying over Christo’s Floating Piers

“Visiting The Gates was one of the highlights of my life,” says Margot wistfully, wishing we could make it to Italy to walk on the Floating Piers. At least this short film gets us closer:

Visitors can experience this work of art by walking on it from Sulzano to Monte Isola and to the island of San Paolo, which is framed by The Floating Piers. The mountains surrounding the lake offer a bird’s-eye view of The Floating Piers, exposing unnoticed angles and altering perspectives. Lake Iseo is located 100 kilometers east of Milan and 200 kilometers west of Venice.

“Like all of our projects, The Floating Piers is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting,” said Christo. “There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”


[YouTube] [Via]

Quick demo: Star Wars augmented reality from ILM & Magic Leap

You can start to see why Google has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into these guys:

Per TechCrunch,

ILM & Magic Leap “are building a joint research lab, the “Collab Lab,” at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus…

“[B]efore magical realism becomes a seamless part of everyday life, it needs some advanced prototyping. Our ‘Collab Lab’ is a focal point of practical problem solving, concrete groundwork, sweat and hyper innovation.”



Snapseed 2.6 enhances B&W, WB

Rolling out today on iOS & Android, the release delivers some bigger stuff…

  • A Blue filter in Black and white – this creates a high contrast black and white image by pushing blue tones white and yellow tones black (check out the image for a comparison of all color filters)
  • White Balance in the RAW editor on Android – use the color picker to select a neutral color in the photo for automatic corrections, or choose from 8 different presets like Tungsten, Daylight and Sunny
…plus some smaller tweaks:
  • Added Talkback capability for Healing tool on Android – with Talkback enabled, the Healing tool will announce where the patch is being applied
  • Fixed a crash on iOS when flipping images under specific conditions
  • Minor bug fixes


Meet the new Google Fonts

It’s “a design geek’s paradise,” the Verge writes. Check it out:

The new Google Fonts is now in line with the company’s Material Design guidelines. It has both a new logo and a far easier way to test out new fonts, compare them with others, and change preferences on the fly while viewing sample text in a four-font grid. You can filter by categories like Serif and Handwriting, sort through trending and popular fonts, filter by language, and toggle between different degrees of thickness and slant. Each of the more than 800 open source fonts available now also contains bio information on its designer, as well as statistics on its usage and a list of popular fonts to pair it with. Google Fonts will let you either download the font or give you the code to directly embed it into your site.

The view counter to date might make even McDonald’s insecure:



Animation: Gorgeously bizarre motion capture

If I someday fulfill my dream of becoming a T1000, I promise I’ll dance for you, baby—oh, I’ll dance my head literally off. 

About the project:

The AICP awards celebrate global creativity within commercial production. Method Design wanted to create an entertaining piece of design that encapsulates the innovative and prolific nature of this industry. Our aim was to showcase the AICP sponsors as various dancing avatars, which playfully reference the visual effects used throughout production. Motion capture, procedural animation and dynamic simulations combine to create a milieu of iconic pop dance moves that become an explosion of colorful fur, feathers, particles and more.

Side bonus of my liquid-metalification: I’ll also turn my head into animated art.

[YouTube] [Via]

Google Photos adds slideshows for albums

Head to, click an image within an album, and choose “Slideshow” from the overflow menu (upper right corner). The team writes,

You like crowding friends and family around your computer or TV to show them photos of last weekend’s adventure. You don’t like clicking 132 times to show them each photo.

Luckily for you, it’s now possible to play a slideshow from any album. Just open the album, click on a photo, and select Slideshow from the dropdown menu.

For the ultimate viewing experience, cast the Chrome tab to your TV while you sit back, relax, and make everyone jealous with your amazing photos.

Slideshows are supported in Photos on Android as well.


New YouTube Director app helps businesses make video ads

I admired the app Directr (especially as was PM’ing the similarly template-centric Adobe Premiere Clip), and now it’s reborn as YouTube Director (download). TechCrunch writes,

YouTube is launching a new suite of products for advertisers under the umbrella name of YouTube Director. Collectively, these products are supposed to make it easier for businesses (particularly the smaller ones that don’t have their own production capabilities and aren’t going to hire an ad agency) to shoot and edit video ads that can run on YouTube.

Check it out:

You don’t even have to use the app yourself:

If businesses don’t want to make the ads themselves, YouTube has created a program where it sends professionals to do the shooting and editing, at no extra cost to the business.

And lastly, and most simply,

If they’re trying to promote an app, businesses can just provide the logo, screenshots and other assets, and YouTube will automatically use them to create a video ad.


[YouTube] [Via]

Raw processing, DNG support coming to iOS 10

Yay! CNET reports,

As Google did with Android, Apple will package the raw data in Adobe’s Digital Negative (DNG) format, a move that makes it easier for software such as Photoshop to view the files.

Third-party camera apps will also be able to take Live Photos — Apple’s technology for taking a short video clip, currently available only in Apple’s camera app. And on supported hardware, cameras will be able to record a wider range of colors, too, for more vivid photos.

I was happy to see that iOS will evidently auto-stabilize Live Photos. If you want that capability today, grab Google Motion Stills, and if you want to do raw editing on mobile, grab Snapseed for Android.


[Via Bryan O’Neil Hughes, who came up with the term “DN(e)G” as we were BS’ing on a road trip to San Luis Obispo long ago]

Demo: Efficient 3D capture & streaming

Imagine watching a live ballgame while being able to fly around the field or court in VR, viewing the action from any angle.

That’s the sort of future that could be enabled by new research from Microsoft. A team there has devised a way to capture live performances, generate 3D models, and stream the results. Check it out:



The team writes,

We present the first fully automated end-to-end solution to create high-quality free-viewpoint video encoded as a compact data stream. Our system records performances using a dense set of RGB and IR video cameras, generates dynamic textured surfaces, and compresses these to a streamable 3D video format. Four technical advances contribute to high fidelity and robustness: multimodal multi-view stereo fusing RGB, IR, and silhouette information; adaptive meshing guided by automatic detection of perceptually salient areas; mesh tracking to create temporally coherent subsequences; and encoding of tracked textured meshes as an MPEG video stream. Quantitative experiments demonstrate geometric accuracy, texture fidelity, and encoding efficiency. We release several datasets with calibrated inputs and processed results to foster future research.

[YouTube] [Via Ben Grossman]

Cool new “Guided Upright” arrives in Lightroom, Camera Raw

Check out a great demo from my pal Julieanne:

Now you can quickly correct perspective in a photograph with precision and control using the new Transform Panel, Guided Upright tool, and Offset sliders. Watch as Julieanne demonstrates how to manually position guides to automatically correct converging vertical and horizontal lines in images, which can then be repositioned within the canvas area.

The features are available now, and you can find a bit more info via the Lightroom Journal [YouTube]

Got an iPhone 6s? You’re going to love Motion Stills.

Get much more useful Live Photos (those 3-second clips that the iPhone 6s shoots alongside still images) thanks to Motion Stills, a new app from Google Research. The team writes:

We use our video stabilization technology to freeze the background into a still photo or create sweeping cinematic pans. The resulting looping GIFs and movies come alive, and can easily be shared via messaging or on social media.

I’ve been using the app for months & find it absolutely indispensable, both for making multi-shot compositions like this…


Pinewood Dervishes

A video posted by John Nack (@jnack) onJan 17, 2016 at 6:57pm PST

…and for making stills where only the subject is moving:


The ol’ disappearing lion trick

A video posted by John Nack (@jnack) onMay 29, 2016 at 2:57pm PDT

 I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!


Crazy(eyebrow)train <<:-)

A video posted by John Nack (@jnack) onJan 10, 2016 at 11:08pm PST

A new Google Photos feature to take for a spin: Fast rotation

You spin me right ‘round baby, right ‘round
When you press Shift-R, baby…

Check this out: Go to, click one of your images, and press Shift-R. Boom, super slick, hardware-accelerated 90º rotation—no need to click the pencil icon, go into crop/rotate mode, click a button, and save changes.

Each time you press Shift-R, the image will rotate another 90º. This is a godsend especially if you’re dealing with a bunch of old, mis-rotated images: Just click, Shift-R, right arrow, Shift-R, etc.; rinse, repeat, rock out.


Film: An entertaining short look at quantum computing

There’s “working at Google” and then there’s (cue booming, serious voice) “working at Google.” I’m certainly doing the former, dramatically less impressive sort; these brainiacs are evidently next door at Moffett Field doing the latter*. Maybe after a few (dozen) more watchings I’ll start to grok more about Google and NASA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab—but in the meantime, it remains an interesting bit of storytelling:

*This morning I heard James Corden describe sitting next to Chris Hemsworth and thinking, “Okay, technically we’re from the same species, but come on…” :-p


Google open-sources tech for making giant interactive displays

Check out AnyPixel.js:

AnyPixel.js is an open source software and hardware library created here at Google, making it possible to use the web to create big, unusual, interactive displays out of all kinds of things. Anyone can take the code and the schematics to create their own display at any scale or level of expertise.

The first display using this platform is in the 8th Avenue lobby at the Google NYC office. To create this installation, the team used 5880 off-the-shelf arcade buttons as the pixels.


[YouTube] [Via]

Get ready for 3D selfies (and talking Legos?) in Snapchat

Remember Seene, the app that generated a sort of 3D Instagram feed? Probably not: it always struck me as one of those really cool technologies that’s a feature, not a product unto itself. Now it’s been snapped up by Snapchat. Check out this brief demo of their augmented reality tech (which gets interesting around the 25-second mark) & tell me you don’t see the future of advertising.



3D, VR, and the future of broadcast sports

Intel has acquired some very impressive 3D technology tailored to sports broadcasting:

Replay’s freeD technology created a 3D video rendering of the entire court using 28 ultra-HD cameras placed around the area. Those cameras were connected to Intel servers, which then allowed broadcasters to transmit the contest from various angles and give fans a 360-degree view of the dunks.

I wonder to what extent this’ll take off. A lot of sports fans I know are lazy bastards who won’t want this sort of active involvement in the content. I always think of the Onion’s goof on Doritos—”‘cuz you’re too biz-zay for chewin’!”

Now, I can imagine a couple of very compelling sports-related experiences:

  • You don goggles & see a huge phalanx of big screens, each presenting a different game (think: a shitty efficiency apartment suddenly puts Dave & Buster’s to shame*), and you’re able to flit among them while getting a steady stream of news, hot chicks (because why not?), and all the ads.
  • One or more of these broadcasts augments its regular, curated 2D presentation with a bunch of 360º feeds shot from the sidelines, overhead, etc.
  • Your coked-up magpie brain now flits among these at warp speed, perceiving only degrees of boredom.

So, good times, then. 🙂


*Note: Dave & Buster’s, like Donald Trump, exists on a plane beyond shame, but that’s another matter.