Monthly Archives: March 2020

Quick tip: Conserve your bandwidth by scheduling Nest cam downtime

Like a lot of folks I’m now constantly streaming video down & up while working from home, alongside a wife who’s doing the same plus a couple of kids using online learning (and, let’s be honest, a lot of YouTube & Xbox). Freeing up bandwidth to improve these experiences would be great, so I was delighted to learn that our Nest cameras can be scheduled to stop/start streaming video up to the cloud. From the Google help center:

  • Lower the setting so that your camera isn’t using as much data to stream video to the cloud.
  • Schedule your camera to turn off at certain times, particularly if you have a Nest Aware subscription, so your camera isn’t constantly uploading video to the Nest service. You can also try this if you’re sharing your camera publicly.

Thanks for thinking ahead, Nest team!


Free Lightroom online seminar, Friday at noon Pacific

Join my old friends & colleagues Phil Clevenger & Rick Miller tomorrow for what promises to be an informative online class/discussion. Topics include:

  • Quick history of the Lightroom UI and its influence on modern software design
  • The importance of choosing the right color space when editing your photos.
  • Creating custom camera profiles for your DSLR, cellphone, and drone cameras to achieve the best color fidelity.
  • The RAW advantage: recovering data from overexposed/underexposed images.
  • Using the Map module and GPS coordinates for location scouting.
  • Soft Proofing your photos to determine the most appropriate print color settings
  • Questions & Answers


About your hosts:
Phil Clevenger:
Senior Director, Experience Design, Adobe Experience Cloud. Original UI designer for Adobe Lightroom and author on two patents for UI innovations in the Lightroom 1.0 interface.

Rick Miller:
Former Sr. Solutions Engineer/color management expert at Adobe Systems (Rick’s name appeared on the credit screens for Photoshop and Premiere Pro), Professional photographer, and currently a professor at USC. Rick previously taught at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Cal Poly Pomona University, and assisted the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division in the forensic application of Photoshop.

Oil paintings come alive in AR

A couple of years ago, Adobe unveiled some really promising style-transfer tech that could apply the look of oil paintings to animated characters:

I have no idea whether it uses any of the same tech, but now 8th Wall is bringing a similar-looking experience to augmented reality via an entirely browser-based stack—very cool:


Hilariously overwrought sports commentary on banal scenes

Here’s a much-needed mental palate cleanser:

Nick Heath narrates his videos of people doing mundane things, like crossing the street, with the verve and dramatic flair of competitive sports.

They’re grouped via the #LiveCommentary tag. Enjoy some of my faves:

Free streaming classes on photography, 3D

It’s really cool to see companies stepping up to help creative people make the most of our forced downtime. PetaPixel writes,

If you’re a photographer stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has got your back. The trade association has made all of its 1,100+ online photography classes free for the next two weeks. […]

You can spend some of your lockdown days learning everything from how to make money in wedding photography to developing a target audience to printing in house.


Meanwhile Unity is opening up their Learn Premium curricula:

During the COVID-19 crisis, we’re committed to supporting the community with complimentary access to Unity Learn Premium for three months (March 19 through June 20). Get exclusive access to Unity experts, live interactive sessions, on-demand learning resources, and more.


“NeRF” promises amazing 3D capture

“This is certainly the coolest thing I’ve ever worked on, and it might be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

My Google Research colleague Jon Barron routinely makes amazing stuff, so when he gets a little breathless about a project, you know it’s something special. I’ll pass the mic to him to explain their new work around capturing multiple photos, then synthesizing a 3D model:

I’ve been collaborating with Berkeley for the last few months and we seem to have cracked neural rendering. You just train a boring (non-convolutional) neural network with five inputs (xyz position and viewing angle) and four outputs (RGB+alpha), combine it with the fundamentals of volume rendering, and get an absurdly simple algorithm that beats the state of the art in neural rendering / view synthesis by *miles*.

You can change the camera angle, change the lighting, insert objects, extract depth maps — pretty much anything you would do with a CGI model, and the renderings are basically photorealistic. It’s so simple that you can implement the entire algorithm in a few dozen lines of TensorFlow.

Check it out in action:


Beautiful illustrations of crappy reviews

These loving treatments of 1-star reviews of natural treasures are pretty wonderful:

[D]esigner Amber Share decided to create a series of hilarious travel posters for all 61 parks, featuring the Internet’s funniest, snarky comments.

Share came up with the idea for her Subpar Parks series as a way to “put a positive, fun spin on such a negative mindset.” Each retro-style poster design features colorful graphic renditions of America’s mountains, lakes, and forests. However, each pretty scene is matched with hand lettering that spells out the bad reviews.


Adobe Offers Students Free At-Home Access to CC Apps

I’m grateful to my onetime-Klingon buddy RC & many friends at Adobe for pushing this through. Per PetaPixel:

In response to requests from educators, Adobe has announced that it will be providing free at-home access to Creative Cloud apps to those students who usually only have access on-campus. It’s one way the software maker is trying to empower students to keep learning amid campus closures caused by the novel coronavirus. […]

Higher education and K-12 institutions that pay for on-campus access for their students simply need to request “temporary ‘at-home’ access” through this link. Once verified, access will be granted, free of charge, through May 31st, 2020.

A YouTube Learning hub for kids stuck at home

Good God, something like 777 million kids who’d normally be in school are stuck at home right now. Our fam is among those affected, so my blogging will be hit-or-miss as we try to figure out what to do with the Micronaxx.

Fortunately lots of folks are stepping up with resources. YouTube Learning has posted a hub featuring tips for studying at home, plus topics like physics, algebra, robotics, and more. Elsewhere Khan Academy has suggested daily schedules for kids 4-18, and our school district has posted a crowdsourced list of educational resources.

HTH & good luck out there, gang. Please feel free to share via comments any useful resources you find.


“Virus” tintype animation

TBH the last thing I want is for coronavirus talk to infect (ahem) my escapist art-posting, but I’ve gotta give Markus Hofstätter props for the sheer effort he put into making this 7-frame animation with archaic tintype printing (or as my wife asked, lacking all context, “Why did that dude put a picture into a panini press?”). You can watch his process from the beginning (and check out PetaPixel for the full story), or just jump to the finished animation at the end:



Google AI helps upscale “Lunar Rover Grand Prix” to 4K and 60fps

So cool! I’d never actually watched these Apollo 16 clips on their own, unedited & with original dialog intact.

PetaPixel writes,

For this particular project, Shiryaev used the stabilized version of the footage that NASA itself released in July of 2019 as a baseline. He then fed it through the same AI software that he’s been using to upscale all of the videos he’s released: Google’s DAIN interpolate frames and achieve 60fps, and Topaz Labs’ Gigapixel AI to upscale each frame and achieve 4K resolution. 

More about the mission from NASA:

[YouTube 1 & 2]

Quick Comparison: Pixel 4 vs. iPhone 11 at Night

[Please note: I don’t work on the Pixel team, and these opinions are just those of a guy with a couple of phones in hand, literally shooting in the dark.]

In Yosemite Valley on Friday night, I did some quick & unscientific but illuminating (oh jeez) tests shooting with a Pixel 4 & iPhone 11 Pro Max. I’d had fleeting notions of trying some proper astrophotography (side note: see these great tips from Pixel engineer & ILM vet Florian Kainz), but between the moon & the clouds, I couldn’t see a ton of stars. Therefore I mostly held up both phones, pressed the shutter button, and held my breath.

Check out the results in this album. You can see which camera produced which images by tapping each image, then tapping the little comment icon. I haven’t applied any adjustments.

Overall I’m amazed at what both devices can produce, but overall I preferred the Pixel’s interpretations. They were darker, but truer to what my eyes perceived, and very unlike the otherworldly, day-for-night iPhone renderings (which persisted despite a few attempts I made to set focus, then drag down the exposure before shooting).

Check out the results, judge for yourself, and let me know what you think.


Oh, and for a much more eye-popping Pixel 4 result, check out this post from Adobe’s Russell Brown:

Google DeepMind helps briefly reanimate an extinct rhino in AR

Yeesh—talk about bittersweet at best:

He first appears as a crude collection of 3-D pixels—or voxels. Soon, he looks like a conglomeration of blocks morphing into the shape of an animal. Gradually, his image evolves until he becomes a sharp representation of a northern white rhino, grunting and squealing as he might in a grassy African or Asian field. There comes a moment—just a moment—when the viewer’s eyes meet his. Then, the 3-D creature vanishes, just like his sub-species, which due to human poaching is disappearing into extinction.

Smithsonian continues,

The Mill, which has studios in London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bangalore and Berlin, provided animation for this project, and Dr. Andrea Banino at DeepMind, an international company that develops useful forms of artificial intelligence, provided the experimental data to set the rhino’s paths. After each two-minute episode, the rhino reappears and follows another of the three programmed paths.

Exeunt. Sadness ensues. [Vimeo]


VFX: Titanic in reverse

What a fascinating 90-second peek into a clever trick that saved millions of dollars in production costs on Titanic. As a friend asks, “I wonder what became of all those reverse WHITE STAR LINE sweaters?”