Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

October, 2006

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Introducing Slam

    • 4 Comments

    Just between you and me, cameraphones are a pain to use. 

    How often have you wanted to send a quick snapshot to a group of your friends, but decided not to because of the hassle?  For example, rather than trying to explain that the party is filling up, you just want to send a photo of it to everyone who’s not there. So what do you do? You start the camera app, take the picture, choose to send via MMS, hunt through your address book for the first person you want to send to, hunt through your address book for the next person, hope the recipient can receive MMS and that it doesn't just come through as a link, and so on.  All the while, you’re staring at your phone instead of enjoying the party.
     
    Slam Home ScreenThat’s part of the reason that a few us here at Microsoft have been incubating a project called Slam.  It’s a group-centric communication, coordination and photo sharing application developed collaboratively by Microsoft Research’s Community Technologies’s Group and the PIX team (whose blog your reading). 

    Here’s how it works: using your mobile phone, you create a group, maybe your close set of friends, your urban tribe, your family or some people from work.  Whenever you want to send a message to everyone in the group, just compose it in Slam as you would an SMS and hit send.  Everyone in the group gets the message instantly.  Sending a photo is just as easy: simply snap and send, and it is automatically delivered to everyone in the group.  If someone in the group wants to respond, they simply respond to the message and, again, the message or photo is automatically delivered to everyone in the group. This works for group members with smartphones or via SMS for everybody else.

    Sounds a lot like a e-mail mailing list, doesn’t it?  The magic happens when it all happens on your mobile phone.  You carry your phone around with you everywhere you go and it’s always on.  That means that the kinds of conversations you can have and the expectation of response are very different.  I’ve been using Slam with a few of my groups of friends for over a year now and it’s changed my social life: I rarely make plans in advance anymore.  Instead, when I’m ready to go out, I just send a message to my friends asking what people are doing; I’ll get a few responses and a bunch of us will meet up.  Oftentimes, this results in serendipitous interactions: someone who hadn’t been planning on going out will see us chatting and decide to haul over and meet up.  We even use it for scouting: if there are a few different events going on at the same time, a couple of us go to each and then slam back the report.

    Some of the key scenarios for Slam include:

    • Real-time Coordination: Out on a Friday night? At a trade conference? No need to decide on a place and time to meet in advance, just send a message to your friends when you’re ready to go and see where everybody is. Some people may be at a restaurant, others on the move, but everybody can send messages and coordinate immediately. Imagine coordinating a ski trip this way, too.
    • Instant Group Photo Sharing: You are always seeing beautiful and interesting things, but it’s too hard to send pictures to people with your cameraphone.  Use Slam to take a picture and send it to a group of friends with only a few clicks. Try forming a “celebrity sightings” cameraphone group or share pictures with your family throughout your day.
    • Broadcast communication: Need a babysitter? Send a message to your “babysitters” group saying “Can someone come over for a few hours right now?” All your potential sitters get the message right when you send it, wherever they are.

    Slam Location ScreenNow, some of you may notice some similarities between Slam and services like Dodgeball and UPOC.  They are all mobile-phone based social communication applications, but we think Slam has some interesting and important advantages. Dodgeball is great for finding out where people you know are, but not so good at having back and forth conversations with a fixed group.  If I see a check in from a friend and send out a response, my friends see the response, not necessarily the people who saw the message I’m responding to.  We also think the smart client and easy photo support is a big boon to ease of use. As a bonus to Seattle-area users with the right kind of phone, Slam uses something like cell-tower triangulation and Virtual Earth integration to show you where people in your group are in real-time (with their permission, of course). No need to wait for your friends to check in, just look them up on a map.

    But, rather than believe my prattling, you should try it yourself.  Slam is available for download to your Windows Mobile smartphone. You can download the cab or get a link sent to your phone.  You can also read more about it, first.

    You do need a Windows Mobile phone to install the smart client and to create a group, but all your standard-phone friends can participate as long as they can send and receive text messages.  We’ll send messages as SMS to anyone in your group that doesn’t have the client installed and assign each group a phone number so they can send messages back.  There’s even a web front-end so they can see the photos you’re sharing.  If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact Scott Counts, me and the rest of the Slam virtual team at slamcore (at) microsoft.com.

    One final caveat: the smartphone client uses your phone’s web connection to send and receive text and photos, so be sure you have an unlimited data plan before installing or you could end up with some surprisingly large bills.

    - Jordan Schwartz, Senior Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Video in Windows Vista

    • 3 Comments

    Windows Vista introduces a wealth of new and improved media experiences for users.  The following highlights some key new video features you will find that make sharing your digital memories easier than ever before.   

    Windows Photo Gallery
    When making a home movie, I like to only include the best photos and videos.  The gallery makes this easy because I can now find and locate memories by using Photo Gallery’s rich sorting and filtering features.  For example, if I am making a video of my daughter’s birthday I can filter by my daughter’s birthday or filter by keywords like my daughters name and the category birthday. 

    After filtering my photos and videos, I can preview them to ensure they are what I want to include in my movie and make fixes to photos by correcting red eye or improving the contrast.  After I have located my photos and videos I can choose to Make Movie or burn directly to DVD.  The Windows Photo Gallery saves me a lot of time by simplifying the workflow to create a movie.   

    DVD Maker
    Back in 1999 I purchased my first DVD burner for $500 and blank discs cost about $10 a piece.  The software back then was very difficult to use and creating a professional looking DVD was nearly impossible.  The tool I was using required a good understanding of the DVD specification and graphic tools like Adobes Photoshop.  I spent hours and hours trying to create great looking DVDs.  The entire process was very time consuming and the results were average. 

    In Windows Vista, our goal was to allow users create professional looking DVDs that highlighted their content while requiring minimal effort.  I believe the DVD videos you can create with DVD Maker look outstanding.  It’s easy to create a great looking DVD which you will be proud to share with friends and family.
      
    DVD Maker includes over 20 different DVD styles that allow you to create a professional looking DVD that matches the theme of your home movie.  You can choose to customize the DVD further by adding a disc title, a notes page and editing the menu text.  I love the ability to add a notes page to my DVD.  For example, I like to add the names of all the people in the video and time of year.  In the past, linking pages and laying out the disc has been very tedious.  Rarely would I add a notes page because the process was just too difficult.  When you add a notes page, DVD Maker automatically updates the menus, buttons and transitions. 

    DVD Maker allows you to preview your DVD before you burn to disc.  The preview option quickly renders your video and includes full motion video.  This allows you to see exactly what your final disc will look like. 

    Direct to video DVD
    One of my favorite features is the ability to automatically create a professional looking DVD from my DV tapes.  While I enjoy creating home movies, I don’t always have the time.  With Vista, I can now capture and record directly to DVD with just a few clicks.  The Video Import wizard captures the entire tapes and the burns a DVD.  This saves a lot of time and allows me to easily archive my tapes to DVD. 

    Movie Maker
    Windows Movie Maker has some great new features too.  The two main features to highlight is the new rendering engine and HDV camcorder support.

    Movie Maker has an entire new video rendering engine that takes full advantage of GPU.  This allows you to preview standard definition and high definition content with transitions and effects in real-time.   

    Last year I purchased a new Sony HDR-HC1 HDV camcorder.  Up till now, capturing and editing content from the device has been difficult and cumbersome.  I am pleased to say that with Movie Maker we now support editing high definition content.  High definition content can be published to Windows Media HD for playback on PCs and the Xbox 360.  Windows Media HD allows you to preserve the high definition quality while reducing the storage space required on the hard drive.  I save all of my home movies on my Windows Media Center PC and then use my Xbox 360 to playback the movies in my living room.  It’s great.

    - Michael Patten

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Slam Video

    • 1 Comments

    And here's a little Friday treat.  When we originally developed Slam (see last week's blog post), we made a goofy little video to show people internally how it is used.  Here, for the first time, we make it available to the public. 

    Speilberg, eat your heart out.

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Movie Maker and Speech Recognition in Windows Vista

    • 1 Comments

    Michael Patten put together a great video that demos the use of speech recognition in Windows Vista to drive Movie Maker.

     
    Video: Movie Maker

    I'm also adding a link to Michael's blog, with more information on Movie Maker on the right

     - PIXBlog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Scoble / Hawk on Photography

    This week we came across a great set of videos of (ex-Microsoftie superblogger) Robert Scoble interviewing the photographer Thomas Hawk. Scoble says: 

    Thomas Hawk shows up at many Silicon Valley geek events and he makes some of the best images I’ve ever seen.

    This video came about because I wanted to learn more about how he does it.

    It’s remarkable video where you’ll learn a lot about the creative process, not to mention the latest equipment, see some good techniques to find unique images, and more. One of the images made on the evening we walked around is already the #2 most interesting photo on Flickr of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    This series is long. We filmed for more than an hour and we’ll run it in four segments over the next week.

    Fascinating video, worth the watch.

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