Monthly Archives: February 2014

Concept: A multitouch car UI

Hmm—I’m not sold (at all) on the discoverability of this thing, but I remain deeply eager to see someone break open the staid, hoary world of in-car electronics. (The hyped Sync system in our new Fusion is capable but byzantine & laggy. What’s waiting a second+ after button pushes between friends—besides roughly 100 feet traveled at speed?) What do you think?

[YouTube] [Via Christian Cantrell]

Google brings non-destructive editing to Android

I’ve been a diehard Snapseed user since the app’s debut, but I’ve always wished it were more flexible, letting me go back & change my mind about edits. Thus I’m delighted that my new teammates have just released a powerful, Snapseed-inspired mobile editor. Todd Kennedy lists the key enhancements:

Non-destructive photo editing across devices
Starting today you can start your edits on one device, and continue (or start over) on another. This means you can backup full-resolution photos from your desktop, edit them in seconds on your phone, then add some finishing touches from your tablet. (And you can revert to your originals at any time!) The technical term for this experience is non-destructive editing in the cloud, and we think you’ll really enjoy it.

Brand new filters and creative tools
Now when you edit your photos, you’ll have a powerful set of tools (like crop and rotate), 1-touch filters, and Snapseed-inspired enhancements (like Drama, Retrolux, and HDR Scape). Mix and match to make your photos look their absolute best.

A single view of all your photos
The new ‘All’ view displays your entire photo library — whether it’s on your current device, or backed up in the cloud. If your library is really large (> 10s of thousands of photos), the app won’t show all your photos initially. But stay tuned, because we’re supporting larger and larger libraries over the next few weeks.

An easy way to browse your photos by date
In addition to search, there’s now another way to find your photos fast. Just swipe through your photos in the ‘All’ view, and look for the scroll bar on the right. Dragging the scroll bar up or down will quickly move you forwards or backwards in time.

As Bill & Ted might say, “Great things are afoot at the Big G…”

GooglePhotos sm

From Chaplin to the Dude: Illustrated homages to film

Cinemagraphics is Pier Paolo’s charming little love letter to the history of film:


Motionographer writes,

Pay close attention to the music, as it pays homage to the soundtracks of each film by subtly weaving their overtures into the electronic tapestry of the short’s audio.

Along similar lines, here’s a rather brilliant set of 8-bit movie GIFs


I love the Total Recall & Pulp Fiction ones especially!

[Vimeo] [Via Christian Cantrell]

The (Tourist) Lady Vanishes

A few years back photographer Martin Evening took a series of photos…

6up sm
…then used them to create an interesting tutorial on how to make the moving tourists disappear via Photoshop Extended. I wanted to see how Google Photos would handle the same set of images.
I dragged the folder of photos into Google Drive (think Dropbox, in case you haven’t used it), which I’d linked to my Google Plus account. A little while later I got a message on my phone to check out the Auto Awesome photos that had been created. In the first example Google removed the moving objects, then enhanced the color and tone of the resulting image:
Fountain Eraser
This was entirely automatic: I did nothing more than back up my photos to the system. It also built an animation from the frames:

Pretty slick, eh?

I find this all deeply exciting. How can we bring imaging magic to everyone—to people who don’t know it’s possible, much less how to do it themselves?

Tesseract: Refocusing for the rest of us?

Tesseract promises “a new camera technology that allows you to perform SLR-like depth of field effects, digital refocusing, 3D color filters and much more on your mobile phone.” Noting its ability to generate separate layers, TechCrunch says, “It’s part RAW, part PSD but straight from your mobile device’s camera.”

Post-capture refocusing still strikes me as a parlor trick, but image segmentation to enable better extraction, compositing, and depth of field effects seems highly useful. You can get a bit more info from founder Kshitij Marwah’s recent talk.

Meanwhile, the company has released FOCII, a printable transparency mask that lets you “take any existing DSLR and convert into a light field camera for post capture refocusing with a simple $1 filter!”

[Vimeo 1 & 2]

From Alice To Ocean, to now

“After seeing the Macintosh and then reading this issue of Macworld,” writes John Siracusa, “I had an important realization in my young life: people made this.”

That’s how I felt upon popping my first CD-ROM into the first Mac I actually owned, at the start of freshman year in 1993. It was From Alice To Ocean, and it blew my mind. It wove Rick Smolan’s gorgeous photography together with Robyn Davidson‘s story of trekking thousands of miles across the Outback with camels:


The work established Rick as my interactive storytelling hero, and his later works (Passage to Vietnam & many others) have kept him there. Now the Alice story is coming to the big screen via the producers of The King’s Speech:

I can’t wait to see it.


Tour Indian cultural treasures with Google

Using photography + technology to bring people together with cultural richness; man, I love stuff like this. Gautam Gandhi writes,

Starting today, anyone with an Internet connection can explore the Taj Mahal and 29 of India’s most iconic national monuments through Street View on Google Maps and the Google Cultural Institute

Using the Street View Trekker, we’ve brought you images that let you virtually stroll through the vast grounds of Humayun’s Tomb, admire the red sandstone walls of Red Fort, and explore the ancient temples at Muvar Koil


Help shape the future of Google products

I continue to drink from the proverbial firehose, learning users’ likes, dislikes, and desires around photo backup, editing, and sharing. I’m looking forward to working with Google Usability, and they’d like to meet you:

During a study we may present you with and gather your feedback on an existing product, a new feature, or even prototypes. We may also interview you about particular daily habits or ask you to keep a log of certain activity types over a given period of time. Study sessions can happen at a Google office, in your home or business, or online through your computer or mobile device. Afterwards, you’ll receive a token of our appreciation for your cooperation.

If that sounds interesting, please sign up via their site.

This GoPro footage cannot be real… can it?

You tell me. DesignTaxi writes,

In this video, a group of skydivers’ GoPro camera accidentally slips out of a member of the group’s hand. It drops from the plane, spinning tremendously and eventually lands in a pig pen.

All this while, the GoPro camera continues to record footage. It lands with the camera facing upwards, it quickly gets discovered by a pig, who is curious about the gadget’s existence in its pen.

Be advised: The ending did induce Margot to coin the phrase, “Operation Pig Tonsils.”

Photoshop vets doing interesting work

It’s nice to see my former teammates continuing to rock out: 

  • Storehouse was built by UI designer Mark Kawano. It’s a photo-centric iPad app billed as “the easiest way to create, share, and discover beautiful stories.”
  • Pictual comes to us from engineer Chintan Intwala, who engineered work like Puppet Warp & various GPU-enabled features. It’s “a beautiful, intelligent and simple picture-messaging app that uses design-magic to transform your words into pictures that encapsulate your mood, personality and emotion.”

OT: The plug-in car we picked

A surprising number of people expressed interest in our research into plug-in cars that qualify for HOV-lane access in California, so I thought I’d post a quick follow-up in case it’s useful to others.


I really hemmed & hawed about buying a Tesla Model S, but my frugal Midwestern self came out and we opted to lease a plug-in Ford Fusion. The sticker price was a full $40,000 cheaper than the Tesla, and while it won’t be blowing anyone off the line, I’ve found it smooth & polished—plenty of comfort & tech (voice-driven Bluetooth, nav, etc.) for a commuter car. It felt like a lot more car than a plug-in Prius (same price) and a lot more value than a plug-in Accord ($45k!). And you know what’s faster than a now-traded 350hp Audi? Anything in the carpool lane.

Thanks to our home solar panels (and Google’s), I should be able to make it to work (16 miles away in Mountain View) and back all on electric power, and in theory without burning fossil fuels. If you’re now asking, “Why not ride the Google bus and take a car entirely off the road?,” you’re right, and I plan to do so as much as possible. For the days when that’s not an option, saving 10+ minutes each way will be a godsend.

As for downsides, I’d list only the Ford’s small trunk space, but that’s not a big deal in what’s intended to be a pure commuter car. (We have the 44-mpg Jetta TDI wagon for hauling bikes, etc.) For the pure commuting case we could also have considered the Nissan Leaf*, but the 80-mile range couldn’t get me to SF and back without planning my trip around finding a socket & having enough time to charge up.

Lastly, this is the first time we’ve leased a car, and we figured it made sense given the (hoped for) rate of innovation in electric vehicles. Who knows, in three years Tesla may have delivered a non-eye-wateringly priced car (maybe we should get in line now), and if California has stopped issuing HOV lane stickers by then, we can buy out the lease and keep the car & sticker through 2019.

* One sees many of these at Google, and when I visited Facebook a few weeks ago, a guy told me, “Oh yeah, you can totally tell when people started [pre- or post-IPO]—all the Teslas up front & all the Leafs in the back.”

An Interactive Rolling Stone

Speaking of great reinterpretations of classic songs, have you seen the interactive video for Like A Rolling Stone? Hit Play below, then use your arrow keys to flip among channels while it plays. I find it disconcerting & brilliant.

One channel features old footage of Dylan performing. More channels will eventually be added to the video, Interlude CEO Yoni Bloch said, adding that “you’ll always miss something because you can’t watch everything at the same time.”

“I’m using the medium of television to look back right at us — you’re flipping yourself to death with switching channels [in real life],” director Vania Heymann told Mashable.

An amazing model railway, explored through Sony’s new cam

I’ve been intrigued by Sony’s new QX10 & QX100 cameras, which use your smartphone as a viewfinder. It’s the perfect tool for photographer Matthew Albanese to tell the big-little story of Steve Buscemi soundalike Bruce Zaccagnino & his labor of love.

FastCo writes,

Northlandz in Flemington, New Jersey, is a 52,000-square-foot world unto itself. Mountains, canyons, villages, cities, and, of course, trains. Lots of trains. It’s the world’s largest model railroad, made with enough lumber and drywall to build 40 houses, 200,000 pounds of plaster, and eight miles of train track.[…]

The companion site allows you to explore Northlandz yourself. There are three panoramas made from hundreds of photographs taken with the QX100 that you can rotate to change the view, zoom in to catch the tiny details and take pictures to share online.

[Via Chris Davis]

Google {hearts} you

Heh—check out Google’s latest Auto Awesome feature, introduced for Valentine’s Day. Team member Vincent Mo writes,

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we launched Auto Awesome Hearts! Just upload a photo of kissing or hugging, and Google Photos will add hearts automatically.

It even works on bear hugs. 😉

The fascinating thing for me isn’t so much this fun if slightly silly example, but rather the idea of using computer vision to understand the contents of photography, then do interesting things as a result. I might have an idea or two in that regard—and I’d like to hear yours.


Animation: Nest Rush Hour Rewards

The Nest team has been visiting Google HQ this week, and I found this quick video interesting both for the animation/visual storytelling and for the tech it covers. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to become some kind of corporate shill/spokesweasel. I would’ve blogged this at Adobe, too.)

We couldn’t be happier with our Nest thermostat & smoke detectors. Now if I ever get some time, the Micronaxx & I are going to reenact the Office Space printer scene, this time staring our bag of heinous & deposed former smoke detectors. Stay tuned.

Learn to tell stories through photography

Kickass pro photographer Mike Hill is one of the funniest, nicest guys you’ll meet, and he’s now released a promising online course, Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo Essays (click through for video):

Go behind the scenes on two Las Vegas photo shoots with professional photographer Mike Hill, and learn how to create captivating photo essays from start to finish. Navigate on-location demands, and collaborate with subjects for candid, authentic photos. Effectively frame compelling shots using compositional principles, and learn when and how to adjust available light with on and off-camera flash and affordable modifiers. Then, enjoy step-by-step guidance through Adobe Lightroom to quickly narrow down hundreds of photos to a small collection of shots that reveal your subject’s story.

Mike Hill shoots commercial, editorial and fine art photography. He has produced award-winning photo essays, and has a background as a Photo Editor and Art Director. His photographs have been honored by Paris Prix de la Photographie, PDN, National Geographic and American Photo. Mike teaches workshops on Adobe Lightroom, and is now bringing his expertise to Craftsy!



[Via Bryan O’Neil Hughes]

Sprucing up the joint

Many thanks to Dave Werner for helping me evolve & migrate my old blog’s visual identity (it’s an ocelot, not that you ever wondered), replacing the bone-stock WordPress header. Little did I know when I blogged the portfolio of terrific young designer in 2006 that he’d pop out of the woodwork six and a half years later, taking a job on my team at Adobe. (That’s not unlike how we met Camera Raw brainiac Eric Chan.) Every so often this whole time-to-make-the-donuts thing pays off just a bit. 🙂

35 years of Best Visual Effects Oscar winners

I love this little compilation from Nelson Carvajal:

Slate writes,

What’s most striking to me is how often these movies have actually stood the test of time better than the winners of Best Picture. Though some grumps may dismiss spectacles like these as “just effects,” how many people today would take Kramer vs. Kramer over Alien, Ordinary People over The Empire Strikes Back, Chariots of Fire over Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Gandhi over E.T., as the Academy did? If American Hustle wins over Gravity, I can’t help but think that the Academy will be making that mistake once again.


Zoom Zoom: Google+ editor adds HDR, zooming

Snapseed has been a critical part of my mobile imaging workflow since its release, and after joining Google, the Nik team brought it to the Web. (Yes, you can use Snapseed-style editing right in your browser.) Just this weekend the team rolled out new features. André Meyer writes,

1. HDR Scape

With HDR Scape you can apply high dynamic range (HDR) effects to a single image, with a single click. HDR Scape is currently available in the Snapseed apps for Android and iOS, and today’s update brings the filter to Google+ on the web. You can see some examples here.

2. Zoom

Seeing your images up close is an important part of the editing process — from checking the focus point, to seeing how the “Drama” filter has changed your pixels. With today’s update, you can now use the magnifying glass to zoom in or out.

To give either feature a try, just open one of your photos on Google+ (using the Chrome browser), and click “Edit.” And if you say, “I don’t have images on Google+,” I’ll point out that Google will automatically back up all your images from iOS or Android. You can enjoy the free backup (and automatic enhancements, etc.) without needing to share those images publicly.

Photography: Gregory Heisler shares his craft

A few years back I had the pleasure of dropping in on renowned photographer Gregory Heisler at his New York studio, and I found myself captivated by the stories behind his portraits of Rudolph Giuliani, Muhammad Ali, George Bush, and many others. Here he whiteboards the tricky lighting for the Giuliani shoot:


If you dig that, here’s a 2-hour talk where he goes into more depth:

Join Gregory Heisler as he lovingly details the lore behind selected images from his professional career and the newly-published book, “Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer.

[YouTube 1 & 2] [Via]

It’s a *really* small valley…

People talk about Silicon Valley being small, but sometimes it really hits you. Adobe had moved to San Jose before I started, but I now realize that I’ll be working less than half a mile from its longtime headquarters in Mountain View (see below; click for larger), for the company that now occupies that old HQ. Even crazier, I’m due to report for Google orientation directly across the sidewalk from the former HQ. Funny ol’ world. [Via Andrew Keith Strauss]


I got (2)99 shortcuts but just Shift ain’t one…

Transylvanian non(?)-vampire Sorin Neica has created the “Keyboard-S,” an enormous (yet thin) keyboard designed to drive Photoshop & potentially other apps. It’s sort of a Configurator panel that’s sprung right off your screen:

I have a hard time imagining it taking off, and funding on Kickstarter is pretty anemic to date, but I found the idea interesting enough to share. [Via Gary Greenwald]

Keeping my head on straight

It’s really been an extraordinary week, with such a crazy-generous outpouring of support from friends, colleagues, and readers. A guy could get pretty high on his own supply. That’s why I like remembering bits like this (quoted once previously):

In 1983, advertising pioneer David Ogilvy summarized his mission as follows: “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip’.”

Note to self: People say you’re great; now let’s show, not tell.