Monthly Archives: July 2020

Amazing editing in Nike’s new ad

Masterful match-cuts; moving message.

Muse writes,

The W+K team—working with Pulse Films director Oscar Hudson, Joint editors Peter Wiedensmith and Jessica Baclesse, and the visual effects team at A52—researched 4,000 sports action sequences and chose 72 of them to combine into 36 split-screen moments, where the action on both sides appears to meld into one.

Nike’s not alone in leaning into juxtaposition in a time of ‘rona: check out this fun, cheeky campaign for German rail travel, built in part using an algorithm that searches for visual similarities:

[Via Peyman Milanfar & Mogan Shieh]

Google AR search gets super buggy!

…In the best possible way, of course.

My mom loves to remind me about how she sweltered, hugely pregnant with me, through a muggy Illinois summer while listening to cicadas drone on & on. Now I want to bring a taste of the 70’s back to her via Google’s latest AR content.

You can now search for all these little (and not-so-little) guys via your Android or iPhone and see them in your room:

Here’s a list of new models:

  • Rhinoceros beetle
  • Hercules beetle
  • Atlas beetle
  • Stag beetle
  • Giant stag
  • Miyama stag beetle
  • Shining ball scarab beetle
  • Jewel beetle
  • Ladybug
  • Firefly
  • Rosalia batesi
  • Swallowtail butterfly
  • Morpho butterfly
  • Atlas moth
  • Mantis
  • Grasshopper
  • Dragonfly
  • Hornet
  • Robust cicada
  • Brown cicada
  • Periodical cicada
  • Walker’s cicada
  • Evening cicada.

Cinematography: “Predator” scene breakdown

I really enjoy being taken inside the craft of visual storytelling, so I dug this step-by-step narrative of the techniques used in & around Carl Weathers’ character’s death in Predator.

It’s especially interesting to contrast the sophistication on display with the cornball simplicity of Commando, a prototypical Ahnuld joint made just two years earlier. Now that my boys are getting just old enough to watch these flicks, we’re going back through the canon, making the quality uptick here all the more striking.

Now, lemme know if someone has documented the inside story of Bill Duke’s inspired “I’m gonna have me some fun” freak-out. Meanwhile, here he is representin’ on our fam’s last Yosemite trip.

Disney unveils high-res face-swapping tech

“Your scientists were so preoccupied…” that, well, you know.

PetaPixel writes,

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first method capable of rendering photo-realistic and temporally coherent results at megapixel resolution,” the team of researchers at Disney Research Studios and ETH Zurich write in their new paper, titled “High-Resolution Neural Face Swapping for Visual Effects.”

The new method developed aims to “disentangle” the “static identity information” of a person’s face from the “dynamic behavioral information,” allowing any performance to be transferable between any two people.

Fun with Natzke’s virtual Legos

Artist/technologist Erik Natzke has kept me inspired for the better part of 20 years. His work played a key role in sending me down a multi-year rabbit hole trying to get Flash (and later HTML) to be a live layer type within Photoshop and other Adobe apps. The creative possibilities were tremendous, and though I’ll always be sad we couldn’t make it happen, I’m glad we tried & grateful for the inspiration.

Anyway, since going independent following a multi-year stint at Adobe, Erik has been sharing delightful AR explorations—recently featuring virtual Legos interacting with realtime depth maps of a scene. He’s been sharing so much so quickly lately that I can’t keep up and would encourage you to follow his Twitter & Instagram feeds, but meanwhile here are some fun tastes:

Now, how soon until we can create the Fell In Love With A Girl video in realtime? 😌🤘

Virtual backgrounds & blurs are coming to Google Meet

It may seem like a small thing, but I’m happy to say that my previous team’s work on realtime human segmentation + realtime browser-based machine learning will be coming to Google Meet soon, powering virtual backgrounds:

Since making Google Meet premium video meetings free and available to everyone, we’ve continued to accelerate the development of new features… In the coming months, we’ll make it easy to blur out your background, or replace it with an image of your choosing so you can keep your team’s focus solely on you. 

Replace your background.jpg

Google Maps improves “blue dot” accuracy via AR Live View

My team has been collaborating with Maps folks for the last year+ to power great AR experiences, and while the feature below isn’t AR per se, it leverages the same tech stack to address a longstanding problem with GPS. Per 9to5 Google,

Google is now letting you “Calibrate with Live View” to improve the accuracy of the blue dot in Maps. Most are familiar with the dot that marks current location having a beam to signify what direction you’re pointed in. […]

Tapping the blue circle will open a full-screen menu with the new option at the bottom under “Save your parking.” This will launch the same camera UI used by Live View and should only take a few seconds of panning.

Afterwards, your location should be highly accurate and not jump around. Meanwhile, the beam is replaced by a solid arrow.

Google makes 3D ads available to all customers

Now, as throughout my career, I’m trying to remove barriers to creative people making the world more fun & beautiful. Along those lines, I’m pleased that one of the teams with whom I’ve been collaborating has now made Swirl (3D display ads) available to all Display & Video 360 customers globally.

Here’s an example of how they look (apologies for the visual degradation from the GIFfing; I’ll see whether I can embed the interactive original):

People seem to dig ’em:

Nissan saw an engagement rate that was 8X higher than rich media benchmarks for the automotive vertical.

For Adidas, Swirl ads drove a 4x higher engagement rate than rich media benchmarks and had an average viewable time of 11 seconds,The 3D creatives also drove a return on ad spend (ROAS) of ~2.8 for the Colombia market.

For Belvedere The Swirl ads drove 6.5x higher brand favorability and 4.9x higher purchase intent vs. category norms.

To get started creating a Swirl ad, you can upload 3D assets to Google Web Designer and use the new Swirl templates. Brands and agencies can also edit, configure, and publish models using Google’s 3D platform, Poly.

“mmhmm” offers a virtual production studio for video calls

Years ago Adobe bought a company (Serious Magic) that streamlined creation of professional-looking videos that featured over-the-shoulder graphics and virtual backgrounds. One product even shipped a swath of green fabric to use in keying out one’s background.

Now Phil Libin (formerly CEO of Evernote) and co. have created mmhmm, a tool that works with Google Meet, Zoom, and other products to enable the same kinds of newscaster-style presentations. I can’t wait to distract from (er, clarify!) my charts & graphs by becoming a flying Jedi Force ghost!

Spinning back up

The fam & have safely returned to scintillating (🙄😌) San Jose, tired & happy from our two-week sojourn around the American Southwest. I hope to get back to sharing interesting bits here soon. Meanwhile, here’s a fun little bullet time vid I made in Arches National Park using my indispensible Insta360 One X:


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Chillin’ like an arch villain

A post shared by John Nack (@jnack) on

A one-man aerial Street View

I’m wildly impressed & inspired by what a single (albeit highly dedicated) person and his flying camera can do. PetaPixel writes,

Reuben Pillay is a drone enthusiast living on Mauritius, the island nation 1,200 miles southeast off the African continent. He has spent over a year and a half working single-handedly on a project called ReubsVision — it’s essentially like an aerial Google Street View of the island’s entire coastline (and more).

So, Pillay spent 18 months traveling all over the 790-square-mile island with his DJI Phantom 4 Pro camera drone… Pillay has since created over 220 ultra-high-resolution 360° photos that cover the entire Mauritius coastline.

Road tripping with Night Sight

When Google debuted Night Sight mode on the Pixel 3, I was blown away at how well it worked compared to my iPhone X & even my DSLR. In the time since then, Apple has greatly stepped up its game, but I still find Night Sight (now on Pixel 4) to be unmatched for low-light imaging.

Having test-driven Pixel 3 at light artist Bruce Munro’s installation in Saratoga (gallery), I was excited to visit his new work, Sensorio, in Paso Robles. Happily both the installation and the Pixel 4 dazzled. You can check out some results here:

AR dinosaurs stomp into Google search

Check out some fun new work from my team, available now on both Android & iOS:

Google started adding augmented reality animals to searches last year at Google I/O and has since introduced a veritable menagerie, covering cats, scorpions, bears, tigers, and many more. Now, a herd of dinosaurs has also been added to this list, each of which uses graphics developed for the Jurassic World Alive augmented reality mobile game.

The full list of available dinosaurs includes the Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Spinosaurus, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Pteranodon, and Parasaurolophus.