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Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE)

Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE)

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Hello, I’m Matt Uyttendaele. I normally post over on the HD View blog, but today the Digital Memories Team is giving me this space to talk about Microsoft ICE.  In my blog post announcing the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE), I mentioned the tight integration with the next version of Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG).  That next version has been available for a while now, so I wanted to give WLPG users a quick intro to ICE.  Most of you are probably familiar with the “create panoramic image” capabilities in WLPG.  My team in Microsoft Research developed the technology behind this.  ICE is another tool that you can use to create panoramic images.  It uses the same technology as WLPG under the hood and adds a few features. 

Orientation Tool

Probably the most important feature is the orientation tool.  When creating a panoramic photo there are many different ways that you may want to show the result.  In the pictures below are examples of this.  In the first case, the user has modified the orientation to give the impression that a tilt/shift lens was used.  In the second case, the user decided to use a perspective projection instead of a cylindrical one.  In the final example, the user had a 360-degree panorama and wanted to set the midpoint of the panorama slightly differently. 

Choose the panorama orientation in ICE:

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default result

tilt-shift effect created by ICE

Choose a custom projection in ICE:

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cylinder – notice curved roof lines

perspective – roof lines now straight but left-right edges are more stretched

Choose a 360 mid-point in ICE:

initial result

image

subject in the middle

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These edits were all achieved using the ICE orientation tool.  This tool gives you interactive feedback of your adjustments, so it is easy to experiment and get exactly what you want out of it.  The pictures above give an idea of what you can do with the orientation tool, but the best way to get a feel for the tool is to try it out on your own panoramas. 

Export Options

The second major feature is the wide variety of export options. The most interesting of these are Deep Zoom and HD View.  When you create a panorama with WLPG or ICE, the result can be a very large image.  Posting this mega-image to the web results in a less-than-ideal experience for people who want to look at it.  It takes a long time to download, and viewing in a browser isn’t a great way to experience it.  Deep Zoom and HD View are a great way to solve this problem.   If you select one of these export options, then ICE will generate a web page that handles viewing these images in a much more efficient manner.  In either case, the web page uses a special browser plug-in.  For Deep Zoom this plug-in is Silverlight – which will let people interact with your panorama using any browser on PC or Mac.  You can view some examples of Deep Zoom pages created by ICE on the Microsoft Research web site

HD View is an interesting option for those of you who want to check out Microsoft Research prototype technology.  Just like Deep Zoom, HD View allows users to interact efficiently with very large images over the web.  It has some cool additional capabilities like being able to rewarp the panorama on the fly using a fish-eye lens, auto-exposure adjust for looking into those deep shadows of the panorama, and support for wide-color-gamut monitors.  The HD View web page has some great examples to look at.

WLPG Integration

For most of your panorama creation projects WLPG probably does everything that you need it to do.  However, at times you may need to do some of the more advanced things mentioned here.  So, I encourage you to download ICE and give it a try.  Oh yeah, just like WLPG, ICE is free.  Finally, I need to mention the integration with WLPG.  Once you’ve installed ICE, you’ll see a new menu item in the WLPG “Extras” menu, as shown below.  You simply select a group of images and launch ICE using this menu item.

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-- Matt Uyttendaele, Microsoft Research