Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories
We've received reports from several users that the Nikon NEF codec has stopped working for them in the past few days. Microsoft is investigating this issue with Nikon, and we'll perovide an update when we have more information
The issues with the Nikon RAW codec that we reported last week were due to an expired certificate. The issue has been addressed, and the updated codec can be downloaded from the Nikon Website.
(This is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for Waggleverse, another blog to which I contribute)
Generally, when people think about the game changers in the digital photography world, they think about improvements in sensors (more megapixels!) or lens quality improvements. If you go to the trade shows, you’ll also see a lot of activity around moving smarts and processing onto the camera (e.g., using face detection before the snap to decide where to autofocus the lens).
There are definitely advances going on all the time in those areas, but I’m going to take the slightly contrarian position that, at least in the consumer space, we’re close to maxing out the innovation in those domains. Honestly, the pictures my camera take today look pretty good. We’ll see some advances in how they handle low-light conditions and some other weak areas, but overall, we’re getting close to good enough.
Instead, here are three technologies that I believe may lead to a sea change in the way that people think about and use photos in their daily lives:
At January 2007’s CES, Microvision announced an ultra-miniature full-color digital projection display about the size of a Thin Mint (and yes, that’s an actual Thin Mint in the picture if you don’t believe me).
Who wants to watch a tiny projection of a photo? Well, you do!
How often have you huddled around the digital screen on a camera back for a quick post-picture re-enjoyment session? Or passed a camera or cellphone around a table to show off pictures of your vacation?
Face-to-face photo sharing is an emotionally appealing, satisfying experience that lets you tell an interactive story and see the reactions on the listeners faces. Unfortunately, print-less photography and web-based photo sharing has largely wiped this phenomenon out. With the advent of the ability to carry a projector built into your cell-phone, the dynamic changes and the types of photos that people take, as well as how they share them, will change, too.
via Uber Review
Cameraphones promised to change the way people thought about picture taking by making camera carrying ubiquitous. But let’s face it, the pictures your cameraphone take are very often very poor quality. They look grainy and out of focus and all your 2x digital zoom is doing is cropping an already low resolution photo down smaller, then stretching it.
There are a host of reasons that the photos taken by cameraphones lag in quality: sensor quality and lack of a flash are two big ones, but lack of a meaningful optical zoom is more important than you think. If what you’re trying to take a picture of is far away (as it often is) and you can’t zoom, you end up spending much of your valuable photo on the thing around the thing you want to take a picture of. Unfortunately, due to the size constraints of a cameraphone and the traditional structure of a zoom lens (two lens set apart, with the distance between them being a factor in the magnifying power of the pair), we have seen very few cameraphones with much optical zoom capability.
Along come liquid lenses. As reported by Nature Photonics, using electrical impulses to control the curvature of the meniscus on a drop of liquid, it’s possible to create a variable focal length lens much in the way the human eye works. This will eventually allow cameraphone manufacturers to create reliable, responsive zoom lenses at sizes that make sense for a cameraphone, vastly widening the situations in which the cameraphone can be an effective replacement for a standard point and shoot.
These lenses haven’t made it into production yet, but several companies are in a race to productize their prototypes.
No, this isn’t just for geocachers looking to document their success. Imagine you’ve got a GPS built into your camera such that every photo is stamped with the exact location it was taken. I’m not even going to mention the most obvious use (viewing your photos laid out on a map) (oops, I mentioned it). Instead, let’s focus on what new scenarios it opens up:
Sure, all that could have happened if people applied tags manually to their photos, but for many, many people, they don’t and they won’t because it’s just plain tiresome. Automating this process adds a critical piece of metadata to every photo, making it relevant to day-to-day lives.
- Jordan Schwartz, Program Manager
A few weeks ago, we released an update to Spaces that included what we thought were some improvements to the photos experience within Spaces (described here). Some of the changes we made were a hit, like opening up comments by default so you easily see what people had to say about the photos you posted.
Some of those changes, though, were not so much of a hit. For example, in an attempt to make the photos “pop” visually, we added a border around the photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t take into consideration the diverse themes that Spaces users have adopted. In many themes, the thick white border looks bulky and distracting.
Second, in an attempt to ensure that the photos appeared on your screen without forcing you to scroll around, we shrunk the size of the photos a bit. However, the way we did it ended up resizing the pictures poorly and made some people’s photos appear choppy.
Well, we’re listening. As of today, we’re introducing a couple of fixes to these problems that we hope will restore the beauty of your photo viewing experience. We’ve reduced the border to a tasteful couple of pixels and tied it into your theme, so it should blend nicely. As they well know in art galleries, a tasteful frame can enhance the quality of a photo, but it should never distract from it.
We also increased the size of the display area for photos and made it more closely match the proportions taken by typical cameras, significantly reducing the amount of distortion. Internet Explorer 7 users will see an even greater increase in quality, as we took advantage of the more advanced “bicubic” interpolation it offers (an innovation that we hope all browsers will follow).
In the meantime, we’ve been working hard on a host of additional improvements to the photos experience, but those aren’t quite ready to show off yet. Thanks for staying with us and stay tuned!
- Jordan Schwartz
Last night, Art Wolfe (one of Microsoft’s Icons of Imaging) was on the Microsoft campus to share some of his work with us, and talk about his new television series on PBS: Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. Art Spent about an hour walking us through a slideshow of some of his amazing photos. The thing that immediately struck me was that Art is not only an accomplished photographer, but he is also a very knowledgeable naturalist and educator as well. He uses his photography as a tool to educate and inspire people about issues impacting the environment, society, and cultures around the world. What better way to educate viewers about the political battles surrounding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge than to share spectacular photos of the wildlife and landscapes found there?
Art doesn’t merely document the locations he visits, he creates works of art from them, finding interesting patterns and colors that many of us would either take for granted or miss entirely. We saw more examples of this as Art talked about his show ‘Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe’. In the show, a film crew follows Art to the ends of the Earth as he goes about his work. Art shares his thought process and describes the techniques he employs as he creates images from all over the world. We were fortunate enough last night to have Art screen a future episode of the show for us about his visit to native tribes in Ethiopia who display amazing and unique adornments.
I went to the lecture expecting to learn more about photography (and I did), but it wasn’t what I expected to learn. I didn’t learn about what f-stop to use or which lens is best in a given situation. Instead, I learned about the impact that photography can have on individual people, and the world. Photographers on Art’s level don’t just take spectacular images, they tell a story with them. It's not just about technical skill, but also about knowing your subject.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, Art will be giving the same presentation on Friday 5/25. More information can be found on Art’s website.
- Scott Dart (Program Manager)
If you like using Movie Maker, and want to learn how to get more out of it, check out some of these tutorials that the user community has posted up on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Movie+Maker+tutorial
None of these were created by Microsoft, so we can’t vouch for the content in any of them (in other words – view at your own risk!), but there are a lot of interesting tips and tricks to be found.
Here are some of our favorites:
The user ayumilove has a series of high quality Movie Maker tutorials. Here are a few, check out her profile for more (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
Trim/Split tutorial (AcronymSkateshop)
Getting and installing add-ons (soupdragon1971)
Beat matching video (dragonball000)
Chromakey without the screen (soupdragon1971)
Olympus has posted an updated version of their RAW codec for Windows Vista, including support for both 32-bit and 64-bit:
If you're interested in keeping up with what Microsoft is doing in the home for consumers, check out the Microsoft at Home site.
Today they have an article on the Windows Vista Photo Gallery: Create the perfect picture, but they also have a bunch of other great articles on a variety of subjects related to digital memories
Make memories come alive
Erase objects from photos
4 fast fixes for your digital photos
Top 3 digital shooting mistakes
Take better pictures of the great outdoors: 6 tips
A couple of weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to have Bambi Cantrell, another of Microsoft’s Icons of Imaging on the Microsoft campus for a workshop. Several hundred Microsoft employees were there with their cameras in hand to learn from Bambi’s extensive experience as a wedding and portrait photographer. The audience members ranged in expertise from beginner to advanced, and I think that everyone was able to walk away with some new tools to take advantage of, whether they were part-time photographers shooting weddings on the weekend, or just someone who wanted to learn how to take better family portraits.
The workshop was broken up into three parts. The first part involved Bambi walking through a series of photos that she has taken. For each photo, she would talk about how the photo was created, what the light source was, how she set up the shot, etc. Bambi is an excellent teacher. There was something new and interesting to learn about each image. After a few images she was quizzing the crowd to ask them what the light source was and where it was coming from.
This part of the workshop gave us a great insight into Bambi’s philosophy and background, and was full of practical advice about lighting, posing, composition, and technique. Bambi made the session very ‘hands-on’, and brought up several audience members to demonstrate how she communicates with people when trying to pose inexperienced models (i.e. regular people). Instead of asking the model to move to the left, she would simply stand where she wanted the model to face and ask them to turn towards her. This is the kind of practical advice that is better to observe first hand than it is read in a book.
For the second part of the workshop, Bambi brought in a professional model and lighting rig to demonstrate her studio technique. This gave us the opportunity to see Bambi in action as she posed an experienced model. She also pulled in our own Mike Tedesco (who organized the event) and his daughter to demonstrate techniques for working with young children. Bambi adapts her style and demeanor to the situation and has a great rapport with her subjects that really shows in the final product.
For the final part of the workshop, we left the conference room, and followed Bambi around the building. She took her model and set up shots throughout the building, showing us how to take advantage of existing surroundings and lighting conditions to make the most of them. Who knew that the interior of a Microsoft office building could be full of so many rich photographic opportunities?
I’m sure many in the audience were expecting a scripted, rehearsed presentation at the beginning of the evening, but by the end of the night, those expectations had been thoroughly shattered. It’s really exciting to see someone at the top of their game thinking on their feet and doing what they do best. Everyone I spoke with after the event was truly inspired to take better photos afterwards.