Monthly Archives: June 2015

Amazing drone-captured surfing footage

You can try, as I did, reading a longish essay from John Lasseter on “Technology and The Evolution of Storytelling,” or you can just spend about 10 seconds watching this footage and go, “Bam, I get it.”

In this film, Steven worked with Team O’Neill surfer and professional athlete Malia Manuel to capture a unique perspective on a single day’s surf session in Western Australia. Utilising drones for the majority of the videography, Steven plays with perspective, taking the viewer into, above, and beyond the waves.

[Vimeo] [Via]

The brilliantly weird Float Table

“Hey, my kids don’t manage to knock enough stuff on the floor. Wait—let’s get this thing!”

The Float table is a matrix of “magnetized” wooden cubes that levitate with respect to one another. The repelling cubes are held in equilibrium by a system of tensile steel cables. It’s classical physics applied to modern design. Each handcrafted table is precisely tuned to seem rigid and stable, yet a touch reveals the secret to Float’s dynamic character.

[Vimeo] [Via]

Drawing app Mischief adds pins for navigation

I’ve long admired the fast, highly zoomable drawing app Mischief, and their latest addition seems like a smart way to wrangle one of its best features (namely the nearly infinite canvas):

The addition of ‘Pins’ allows easy navigation of the infinite canvas, with the ability to drop pinpoints of interest, creating an index of sketches and visualizations. Managed by a Pins panel, creatives can journey sequentially, jump around between pins, or zoom out at any time to see the full picture, transforming the canvas into an ideas map. Mischief provides a fluid, compelling and creative way to look at art, concepts or stories.


Recent illustrations I’m digging

  • I love Ollie Cortum’s polygon portraits. I sometimes wish for an app that could generate equally nice results, though then I remember how drop shadows were cool before Photoshop made them mass-accessible. (Humans find scarcity special. No one’s bragging about breathing right now, mind-blowing as that process is.)
  • Van Orton Design’s terrific stained-glass style portraits cover everything from Robocop to the new Mad Max.


Is Photoshop’s “Save for Web” going away?

And will designers therefore finally stop making The Claw?

Not at the moment, according to Photoshop PM Stephen Nielson, but it’s quite old and is being superseded. Stephen writes,

The new Export As workflows are a complete redesign of how you export assets out of Photoshop. Export As has new capabilities like adding padding to an image and exporting shapes and paths to SVG. We also introduced the Quick Export option, which allows you to export an entire document or selected layers very quickly with no dialog.

Check out the post for a full (but brief) FAQ.

Semi-related: Developer Marc Edwards has for years been providing terrifically detailed Photoshop tips & tricks for screen/UI designers, and now he’s covered Photoshop CC 2015 improvements in concise detail.

Of Photography & Bad Wine

I’ve grudgingly come to accept that most people regard photography much like I regard wine: there’s bad wine, and then there’s wine. I know there’s crap (crummy liturgical stuff, etc.), and I know that all the rest tastes pretty good. Sure, I might notice & like something outstanding, but generally good enough is good enough.

That’s how it is with most people’s photos: “Is it way too dark or blurry? Is my head cut off? No? Fine, then.”

No matter how well or poorly I do my job, most people simply won’t edit photos—at all, ever. They just don’t care. And if they do edit photos, it’ll overwhelmingly be to crop & rotate them, and maybe to brighten things up & add a filter. None of this is unique to Google: we saw exactly the same thing with Adobe Revel (built on the world-class—and for its audience, irrelevant—Lightroom engine).

So, on a per-user basis, editing hardly matters, and yet the scale at which Google operates is enormous, so the editor gets used millions of times. “A small number times a big number is still a big number.”

I’m reminded of an observation from Adam Carolla. Paraphrasing my recollection:

Let’s say you loved watermelon. If someone gave you a watermelon the size of a minivan, you’d probably say, “Wow, that’s a ton of watermelon!!” But then if you realized they carved it out of a watermelon the size of the Hindenburg, you’d probably say, “Come on, that’s all I get?!”

I’m proud of the new Google Photos editor—of the way we were able to radically streamline the UI while retaining tons of smarts under the hood (e.g. centering vignettes on faces, treating faces specially when applying midtone contrast, etc.). And I’m proud of the new Snapseed, which puts big power one tap away for nerds like us. I just have to be happy driving my fruity little minivan next to a Zeppelin—or metaphors to that effect.

Linus Torvalds: “The Real Star Is Google Photos”

The father of Linux commenting on one of my product areas:

So Google Photos seems to want to make odd videos of the random movie clips I uploaded from last week.

And apparently, with dramatic music, some color tinting, and by making the cuts be frequent enough, you can make even my blurry fish butt videos entertaining.

There is a shark in there. And Daniela, who got certified last year and did very well as a dive buddy. But the real star is definitely Google Photos.

Dramatic fish butt FTW!

[Via Steven Johnson]

What if Photoshop’s UI were written in HTML?

And what if they open-sourced the whole thing? And hey, what if it were already sitting on your hard drive right now?

It’s all kind of bananas, but it’s real, and it’s here (albeit in an unfinished form that I find kinda baffling) inside the new Photoshop CC update. Having pushed hard for years to make PS extensible (via Flash/HTML panels, Configurator) so that the UI could be smashed into a million pieces & then reassembled according to individuals’ tasks & needs, I’m really intrigued & eager to see where things go.

Here’s a demo of the current iteration:


Photography: An amazing time-lapse volcanic eruption

Calbuco, as seen by Jonas Dengler and Martin Heck:

They write,

Volcano Calbuco erupted on April 22, 2015, for the first time in four decades. Located close to the cities of Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt in southern Chile. We (Jonas Dengler and Martin Heck) spend the prior couple of days on the neighboring volcano Osorno (~20km linear distance) shooting timelapses. After an amazing night under the night sky we took the cable car downwards after a delay caused by repairs. Already late we headed south to catch the ferry on Routa 7 down to Patagonia. After 10min on the ferry we noticed a massive, almost nuclear looking cloud boiling upwards just were we left a few hours ago. Frenetically looking for a good outlook we then rushed to the only non-forested place to get a decent view of the show. We quickly put every bit of camera-equipment we could find on the constantly growing mushroom-cloud. We shot timelapses in 8K and 4K with a Pentax 645Z and Canon 6D. On the A7s we shot 4K video to the Shogun. We filled almost all of our memory cards in the prior night so I had to do backups while shooting all this stuff.


Photography: DxO’s 20MPx raw-shooting iPhone add-on cam

Now this thing ($599) looks seriously interesting. PetaPixel writes

Inside the camera is a 1-inch CMOS BSI sensor — the same size used by Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras — and on the front of the camera is a 32mm-equivalent f/1.8 lens with a 6-blade iris. Those specs are crammed into a 2.65-inch (6.9cm) tall camera that weighs just 3.8oz (108g) and fits comfortably in your palm and pocket.

What do you think?



[Via Torsten Beckmann]

“Ricky & Doris”: Utterly charming

And with puppets! Give yourself a treat and spend the next six minutes watching David Friedman’s short film.

Ricky Syers is an off-beat 50 year old street performer who found his calling as a puppeteer after a lifetime of manual labor. While performing in New York City’s Washington Square Park, he met Doris Diether, an 86 year old community activist. They became friends and he made a marionette that looks just like her. Now she’s joined his act and the two of them can often be seen performing together.


Ricky Syers is an offbeat 50-year-old street performer who found his calling as a puppeteer after a lifetime of manual labor. While performing in New York City’s Washington Square Park, he met Doris Diether, an 86-year-old community activist. They became friends and he made a marionette that looks just like her. Now she’s joined his act and the two of them can often be seen performing together.

“World’s first Tank Quadcopter Drone”

Simply because this would have been the 11-year-old me’s Favorite Thing Ever, I’ll point out the B-Unstoppable flying tank thingamabob. PetaPixel notes,

According to B, a hybrid model can be very useful in certain situations. For example, driving saves up to 60% of energy when compared to flying. In addition, the tank mode is much quieter than flying and can enable pilots to reach previously difficult areas. We also can’t forget that driving a tank-drone hybrid sounds like a ton of fun.


Quick tip: Share your Google Photos videos on YouTube

Forget re-uploading what you’ve already backed up. That’s a sucker’s bet. 🙂

Instead visit, then click “Import your videos from Google Photos.” You’ll see a browser like this that lets you pick one or more videos, then click “Select” to add titles, etc. & publish them.

Bonus tip: To see all the videos in your Photos account, click the search field, then click the “Video” tile (or just bookmark

YT Upload


Demo: “What’s New in Photoshop for Print and Graphic Design”

More neat stuff (some overlap from yesterday’s demo, yet worth a look on its own):

New features include Artboards that allow you to create multiple layouts in one Photoshop document, Device Preview which enables you to preview your Photoshop design in real time on an iOS device, new export options, the ability to add multiple instances of layer styles, and so much more. Don’t miss the new Linked Assets in Creative Cloud Libraries where when a change is made to an asset, you and your team members have the option of updating it across any Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign projects where it’s used.


Drop: A clever drop-in pool bot

My friend Emmanuel designed Drop, a little pool-monitoring device:

This solar-powered device will be your perfect pool assistant – simply throw it into your pool and drop will take care of the rest. The drop app will provide you with a custom maintenance plan specific to your pool size, type and needs. You will know if your pool water is safe for swimming and you will never have to guess how much treatment your pool needs.

Quick tips: Integrating Google Photos + Drive

  • To make images & videos in your Drive show up in Photos, go to Photos settings, then enable “Google Drive: Show Google Drive photos & videos in your Photos library.”
  • To sync images & videos from Drive to your computer, go to My Drive, click the little gear icon, then choose Settings & enable “Create a Google Photos folder.” 

One small note of caution: If you enable auto-upload of images & video from your computer (via the desktop app) and enable auto download of Photos content to your computer, you’ll likely end up with two copies of many photos/videos (as they’ll get uploaded from their original locations, then downloaded into your Drive folder). In the cloud you’ll have just one copy of each item, but you’ll obviously use up more space on your local hard drive.

Google Street View heads underwater

No need to hold your breath:

Google is committed to exploring and preserving the ocean. Today, in time for World Oceans Day on June 8, and in partnership with XL Catlin Seaview Survey, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Chagos Conservation Trust, you can explore brand new Street View imagery of more than 40 locations around the world, including the American Samoa and Chagos Islands and underwater dives in Bali, the Bahamas and the Great Barrier Reef. We hope the release of this imagery inspires people to learn more about this precious natural resource.

Giant illustration: “Lighting the Sails of the Sydney Opera House”

Gorgeous work from Matt Pyke & team:

At this year’s Vivid LIVE, design collective Universal Everything illuminates the sails of the Sydney Opera House using a mix of projection mapping, hand drawings and CGI illustrations. Founder/director Matt Pyke pulled together a global team of 22 animators and studios to re-imagine the iconic building as a living mural. In our exclusive video, Pyke explains how the vibrant hand drawn sequences are the perfect complement to the Opera House’s bold architectural forms.


Adobe to adopt Apple Metal for faster graphics

A neat tidbit from today’s WWDC:

On the graphics side, Apple is bringing its Metal framework to OS X, making graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient. For games, drawing performance can be ten times faster. Game developer Epic showed a Metal-based game it built, called Fortnite, and said its developers saw a 70-percent reduction in CPU use compared to OpenGL.

On the professional production side, Federighi said that Adobe was able to pull an eightfold improvement in After Effects rendering. Adobe is committed to adopting Metal across its OS X apps, he said.

Feedback, please: Snapseed-Photos integration

As Lightroom is to Photoshop, Google Photos is to Snapseed:

  • The former manages thousands of photos & offers a comparatively lightweight editor, while the latter provides maximum power.
  • Edits in the former are written in place* non-destructively, while images handed off to the latter result in newly generated copies.

On iOS & Android you can use Snapseed to edit any image in Photos by simply opening the image in Photos, tapping the overflow menu (upper right corner), and choosing “Edit in Snapseed.” This means that applying deep editing functionality requires just one additional tap relative to using the lightweight (but deceptively powerful) editor in Photos.

We think this integration works well, but of course there are always ideas on how it could be improved. Now that Photos & Snapseed have been available for a bit, how are you finding the integration? Any particular likes/dislikes/requests?


*This currently works on iOS & Web; Photos on Android writes edited pixels as new files.

Remembering Hermann Zapf

My calligrapher friend Maria Brenny once told me of the delight she felt poking around the archives of Hallmark, where she discovered the archives of Mr. Hermann Zapf, designer of everything from Optima to Zapf Dingbats to Zapfino (used in our wedding invitations).

Zapf passed away last Thursday, and remembrances of his life call out the debt we all owe him:

Zapf was among the pioneers of computerized typography, experimenting with computer-aided typesetting from the 1960s. He led a seminal design program at the Rochester Institute of Technology where collaborated with computer scientists and became acquainted with IBM and Xerox. Zapf invented a typesetting program called Hz-program, which later informed the design of the desktop publishing software Adobe InDesign.

By coincidence the Kelly-Winterton Press is kickstarting The Hermann Zapf Sketchbook Project:

In 1939, just as he was beginning his career as a graphic artist, Hermann Zapf was conscripted into the German army. He started working on a series of sketchbooks, small enough to keep in his uniform pocket at all times, and continued them throughout the war years. Although a handful of the pages have been reproduced previously, only a very few people have ever seen the contents of these three clothbound volumes in their entirety. Now, with the cooperation of the artist himself, the Hermann Zapf Sketchbook Facsimile Project will make the complete work available for the first time.

Bonus: My friends Matthew & Lori are big type nerds, and at age 3 their son Cooper was a big Zapfino fan. 🙂

Lastly, Hallmark produced this work with Zapf in the 1960s:


“Google Photos: Sharper focus on making picture libraries fun”

Nice words from the Financial Times:

Only Google could think the world needs another photo app. Only Google could bring its unique combination of intelligence and arrogance to such a crowded market. And only Google could come along and actually beat Facebook, Apple, Dropbox, Flickr, Microsoft, Amazon and countless others at their own game.

The verdict: Not only has Google proven there is more innovation left in photo apps, it seems it is also way ahead of its peers.

[Via Thomas Greany]

Come make a movie in Google Photos

One of my areas of responsibility has been movie creation. Every day Google Photos analyzes millions of photos & videos, looking for the most interesting parts & combining them into bite-sized visual summaries. These then show up in your Assistant view, from where you can view & save them. You can also apply a different theme, change the soundtrack, or remove/reorder clips.

To make your own movie, select a number of items using your iOS or Android device, then tap “+” and then Movie. Here’s the one I made after the Micronaxx visited our Toontastic friends during Google’s Take Your Kids To Work Day:

I was pleased to hear The Verge’s Thomas Ricker reporting surprise & delight with movie creation:

I’ve been testing Google Photos with a few thousand pics from recent holidays and family events. The behind-the-scenes Assistant feature is downright magical (to borrow another Apple buzzword). It combined five separate videos I shot of my daughter’s gymnastics competition into an almost perfect one-minute highlight reel set to music. Amazingly, it identified her amongst all the other children of the same age and wearing the same uniform, culminating with a still photo of her on the trophy stand.

Give it a whirl and please let us know what you think!


Quick tips for using

  • To upload quickly, drag and drop images & videos into the browser window. It’s additive, so you can keep dragging in multiple batches & the dialog will respond.
  • To select a range of photos quickly, select one, then hold Shift while clicking another.
  • To zoom into an image, click it to open it in the 1up view, then use trackpad scrolling.
  • To navigate quickly, hold down the right (or left) arrow key in 1up; it flies!
  • To exit 1up view (returning to the grid), press Esc.
  • To scroll fast through your whole library, grab/drag the date tooltip (next to the scrollbar).
  • To jump to the top quickly after scrolling far down the photos grid, click any white space in the app bar (the top area that holds the search bar, etc.).
  • To find recently uploaded files, go to the search page, then click the “Recently added” tile.
  • To filter the Collections view, click the “Collections” title, then show just Albums, Movies, or Stories.

Please go, kick the tires, and let us know what other refinements you’d like. (More good stuff is on the way!)

Walt Mossberg calls Google Photos “best of breed”

A few great quotes from the piece on Re/code:

I consider it the best photo backup-and-sync cloud service I’ve tested — better than the leading competitors from Apple, Amazon, Dropbox and Microsoft.

The coolest aspect of the new Google Photos is that once you click the search button — before you even type anything — the app presents you with groups of pictures organized by three categories: People, Places and Things.

The new Google Photos brings the company’s expertise in artificial intelligence, data mining and machine learning to bear on the task of storing, organizing and finding your photos. And that, combined with its cross-platform approach, makes it the best of breed.

[Via Jignashu Parikh]

“What is it like to work on the team that built Google Photos?”

My teammate Vincent Mo has penned a really thoughtful peek inside team culture.

I’m one of the three engineering leads on Google Photos and handle a lot of the recruiting, so I’m biased and have a vested interest in making you think well of our team. 🙂 That said, I’ve worked on Photos for 5 years (and Google for a total of 8 years), so I know the team well and can explain why I’ve stuck around and why we’ve been successful in recruiting a great team.

I think you might enjoy reading it.

Quick tip: Making & sharing GIFs with Google Photos

Shoot five or more frames in quick succession, and Photos will analyze their content & try to make a stabilized, looping animation. You can also select any range of frames in the Android or iOS app, then tap the “+” icon and choose “Animation.”

To share it on Facebook, right-click the image itself, copy the URL, and paste it into Facebook. (I’ll keep pestering my friend there to make things a bit simpler still. :-))

Oh, and if you want to see all your animations & other creations (collages, etc.), visit the search page and tap “Creations” down at the bottom.