Monthly Archives: August 2015

A nice little tweak to Google Photos web search

Now when you go to and find some results, you can expand the results cluster to show more images from that day—just as you can on iOS. (Hang tight, Android.) Just click the little downward-facing carat.

I found this really helpful the other day when I wanted to find some ancient (2002-era) images taken when my brother & I road-tripped past the Great Salt Lake. They were captured long before we had access to GPS, yet Photos recognized the landscape in a number of them & showed them when I searched for “salt lake.” I could then click the carat to see other images from that day.


SearchCarat sm

Motion graphics: “Narcos” titles

Gritty work from Digital Kitchen:


Digital Kitchen’s goal in developing a title sequence for Narcos was to focus on capturing a moment in time in the efforts to apprehend one of the most infamous drug lords in history, Pablo Escobar. Extensively researched and developed, the main title incorporates live-action footage shot on location in Colombia and Los Angeles with extensive archival imagery, including photography and video from the vaults of Escobar’s personal photographer “El Chino.”

The vibrancy of the colors used were reflective of the lavish excesses of the time and the natural beauty of Colombia.


Demo: Tips for using Adobe Character Animator

It’s so cool to see my kickass illustrator friend Dave helping to extend & exercise this new component for After Effects.

Here’s a tutorial video I made for the newly-released (and awesome) Adobe Character Animator, letting you bring Photoshop and Illustrator creations to life through webcam performance capture. I also put together a free Puppet Pack with some characters you can use to get started.


Now streaming: My course on Google Photos

I’m delighted to say that has just published my half-hour tour of Google Photos. It’s split into really small, focused chapters (e.g. explaining storage & backup options), so you can jump right to what matters most. Even if you’re not yet a member, you can see one chapter for free, and you can start a free trial to see the whole thing.


The creation process gave me a new appreciation for just how good the Lynda staff is. Scott Erickson, Susan Varnum, and Zach Bobbit were enormously patient in the studio and did heroic editing to keep me from sounding like a tongue-tied doofus. Scott in particular offered great on-the-fly direction, channeling a new user’s perspective & challenging me to rethink, streamline, & clarify. Thanks, guys; you’re a real credit to the whole organization!

Google Photos is of course rapidly developing, adding a bunch of new features in just the last few days, so it would be great to work more with the Lynda team as the product evolves. Feedback, questions, and requests are of course most welcome.

New research improves CGI skin rendering

Exciting work from USC & the Imperial College London. As Gizmodo writes,

The team of researcher has come up with a new way to capture the tiny details on the surface of various skin patches on an actor’s face at a resolution of 10 microns as they’re being stretched and deformed by a specially-designed rig. At that resolution the exact deformations of even individual skin pores is captured, and using custom software, the captured data can be mapped to the artificial skin of a CG character, making the emotions of the face so realistic you can’t tell human from computer human.

Check it out:

[YouTube] [Via Bruce Bullis]

New features arrive in Google Photos

iOS, Android, and Web have received some nice tweaks. All platforms now show “Rediscover this day cards.” In addition:

On Android:

  • Reorder your photos in an album: Tap the pencil icon within the album, then drag photos to reorder them.
  • Adjust the length of clips within movies: Open a movie (which lives under Collections), tap the timeline icon, and tap the clip you want to adjust.

On iOS:

  • Change the cover photo of your albums: Go into an album, tap one of the photos, and then tap the overflow menu (three dots in the upper right) and choose “Use as album cover.” (This also works on Android & Web.)
  • Share animations directly to Facebook: Photos will insert a link so that your photos can animate inline on Facebook.
  • Save animations as videos to share to Instagram, Whatsapp, and more: Open a GIF, tap the share button, and tap “Save as Video.” Frames are replicated several times to preserve the looping effect as much as possible, and the resulting video appears alongside the original GIF.

On Web:

  • Reorder your photos in an album: Click the pencil icon within the album, then drag photos to reorder them.
  • Edit the time/date stamp of a photo by opening an image: Click the little “i” icon to show the sidebar, rolling over the date, and clicking the pencil icon (here’s a screenshot).

My favorite new Google Photos feature is here!


Every day now—literally every day—I look forward to my Assistant showing me memories from this date in the past. I find myself sharing these with lots of friends & family with whom I otherwise wouldn’t connect. Here’s how it works:

Google Photos will now ask whether you’d like to see memories past days. If you say yes, you’ll start receiving Assistant cards containing collages like this one, and tapping them will take you to galleries (example) that you can share with just a tap or two.


TechCrunch writes,

It’s kind of like Timehop and Facebook’s memories — but not really. It won’t bother you daily unless you had a worthwhile group of photos to show you. […]

[PM Chris Perry says] “Visual quality of photos is taken into account. No screenshots. We’ll look at photos taken over a longer timespan, something that was more of an ‘event.’ Something that’s going to emotionally resonate. We look at the presence of landmarks. Those get promoted to collages. People are a strong signal that we’ll use to help remind you.”

I can’t tell you just how much I’ve been enjoying this feature as we’ve been testing it, and I hope you enjoy it, too. As always, feedback is most welcome.

Social commentary: A 3D mountain range made from Kim Kardashian’s face

“Hmm, what would French intellectuals devise to comment on ‘self-design and the production of sincerity?’” you might just have been asking yourself (or, let’s hope, not). If so, rejoice in knowing that Gregory Chatonsky is on the case:

[He’s] developed a program that pulls tagged Instagram photos of Kim K in real time, and filters them through a software program he made using Unity3d.

The software automatically navigates a generative 3D skin model, created from more than 51,000 pictures of the star. The project looks at the same subject, Kim Kardashian, but is constantly using a different image, creating what the artist describes as a “fascinating difference in the repetition.” […]

 “It is simply an extended skin, everything is on the surface. There is nothing to look behind.”



Monday inspiration: Pursuing things that actually matter

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been seeking ways to live a more meaningful, impactful life. This doesn’t mean I have to run away to the desert to wear sackcloth & ashes—at least my family hopes not!—but it does mean pushing myself harder, and with more discipline, to ask good questions & to act on the answers.

Before I took my sabbatical to Guatemala, I reached out to Jeffrey Veen, who had just sold Typekit to Adobe. Over lunch he explained that after he’d left his previous gig, he undertook what he called “100 lunches,” meeting up with as many smart, interesting, creative people as he could. In the process he gradually formed the idea & knowledge needed to launch Typekit. In a similar vein, I’ve been talking to many of the bright, thoughtful people I’ve been blessed with meeting over the years, learning more about their journeys & perspectives.

My friend Deepa spent 10 years in product management at Macromedia/Adobe in SF, then totally reworked her life: she joined Charity Water, moved to NYC, learned a ton, and recently joined the Clinton presidential campaign. She advised me to think in lean-startup terms, prototyping changes to my life, seeing what holds promise, and iterating to learn more.

Deepa also mentioned The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. I don’t yet know much about the book, but I did enjoy the TED talk below from Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, in which he talks about giving up what you’re supposed to value to pursue what brings you real satisfaction. A few key points:

  • Find believers. They’ll help hold you accountable.
  • Stop comparing. It’s the thief of joy. (Okay, he didn’t use those words, but Teddy Roosevelt did, so that’s something.)
  • Make the ask.

Remembering that “The journey is the reward,”


USC demos immersive, glasses-free 3D playback

Another day, another amazing demo from SIGGRAPH. Gizmodo reports,

A team from USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies has built an automultiscopic 3D display which essentially makes a 3D model of the person with video. After capturing video of a person using 30 cameras in intensely bright light, the images are divided among the 216 projectors. The projectors are arranged in a semicircle around a large screen, so as viewers walk around the screen their eyes smoothly transition from one projection to the next. The result is feeling as if you can see crystal-clear depth and detail.

Check it out:


Josh Haftel joins Adobe

“Actually just boarding a flight to Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi is on my flight!”

So wrote Josh (then PM for editing in Google+ Photos) back in November 2013, when I’d just started thinking about possible adventures outside of Adobe & proposed that we grab a beer. I’d known Josh for many years in his capacity as the PM for the highly regarded Nik Collection of Photoshop plug-ins (Silver Efex Pro, etc.) prior to their acquisition by Google. When I reached out he was just starting a year+ of travel, photography, and epic beard growth (note to self: sell company to Google!). Once he returned, I encouraged him & my Lightroom friends to chat about ways they could make the world more interesting for visual artists.

Well, now they’re doing just that, with Josh joining the Adobe Digital Imaging PM team. I’m really excited to see what they can do together. Have fun, guys!


Amazing new video segmentation research from Disney

What if you could isolate & extract moving objects from video in nearly real time?

My Google colleague Yael Pritch worked with the Disney Research team that has now demoed how to remove noise & blur, increase resolution, make things disappear, and even clone moving objects. Check it out (and stick with it):

Fast Company provides an overview of the project, and you can read the paper here.


Google & MIT algorithm can remove photo obstructions

Want to remove annoying reflections & other impediments? Check out this demo. As PetaPixel summarizes, “Basically, instead of shooting a single static photo, the photographer captures a short sequence of images while slightly moving the camera around between frames.”

Per the team’s description:

The video accompanying our SIGGRAPH 2015 paper “A Computational Approach for Obstruction-Free Photography”. We present a unified computational approach for taking photos through reflecting or occluding elements such as windows and fences. Rather than capturing a single image, we instruct the user to take a short image sequence while slightly moving the camera. Differences that often exist in the relative position of the background and the obstructing elements from the camera allow us to separate them based on their motions, and to recover the desired background scene as if the visual obstructions were not there. We show results on controlled experiments and many real and practical scenarios, including shooting through reflections, fences, and raindrop-covered windows.


Burst mode + Google Photos = Happy kids

American Ninja Warrior, you’ve got some big fans in our 6- and 7-year-old sons. Inspired by the competitors on that show, the boys put their skills to the test in Lake Tahoe by scrambling up a pier, then leaping off into the sand. It was particularly fun to set my DSLR to burst mode, then capture Finn’s jumps from all angles. After I inserted my memory card & let auto backup run, Google Photos presented me with a bunch of GIF animations. In a few cases there wasn’t enough visual similarity to trigger animation creation, so I simply drag-selected the photos on my iPhone, tapped the “+” button, and chose Animation. Here are a few results if you’re interested.

Twilight Leap

Explore your Google Photos by location

If you go to and have Location History turned on, you (and only you) can click on specific places you’ve visited, and/or specify particular dates, then see the photos associated with those places/dates. Here’s a screenshot from my travels last month (click for full res):


You can edit or remove any location, or give places personalized, private names like Mom’s House or Sketchy Café. When you’re logged in you’ll see those names right in Google Maps.