Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Photo Gallery Introduction

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    My name is Scott Dart, and I'm a Program Manager on the PIX Team. By now, some of you may have heard bits and pieces about the new Windows Photo Gallery in Vista, but that has probably been pretty light on details. Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be posting a number of articles to fill that in.

    Let’s start with the name – Windows Photo Gallery. That’s actually not entirely accurate. The Gallery is not just for your photos, but also for your personal videos. We like to think about the Gallery as a place for your digital memories. Not your clip art, not some movie trailer you downloaded somewhere, but content that was authored by you (or someone you know). You’ll hear us talk mostly about photos (just for convenience), but pretty much anything that you can do with a photo can also be done with a video. We'll try to point out the differences as they come up.

    Before we start talking about the Windows Photo Gallery in too much detail, I thought that it would be helpful to give you a visual overview of the various parts of the Gallery, so you can see how they all come together.

    You can think of the Gallery as having two modes: a Gallery mode where you can browse through all of your digital memories, and a Viewer mode, where you can get a closer look at individual photos and videos.  Roll over the picture below to see what's what.

    • The Navigation Tree is what you browse your digital memories with. Clicking anywhere in the tree shows you all the items under that branch.
    • The List View is where you see the actual thumbnails of your photos.
    • You can type in the Quick Search box to find items that have a particular word or phrase.
    • The Toolbar is where the most important tasks are exposed. Some act as menus, as well.  
    • The Info Pane shows additional information about the item or items selected.
    • The Navigation Bar is used to move through your photo collection, zoom in and out, rotate your photos, or delete them.

    When you open a photo, the gallery enters Viewer mode, showing you your picture as large as will fit. The Viewer can either show the Info Pane or the Fix Pane (illustrated below), which allows you to make simple fixes to your photos.

    That’s it for the visual roadmap. We'll be going into more detail on each of these areas shortly.

    Scott Dart - Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Photo Gallery: Navigation Tree

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    Before you can do anything in the Gallery, you have to be able to find the photos (or videos) that you’re looking for, and that’s where the Navigation Tree (or Nav Tree for short) comes in.

    The Nav Tree in the Windows Photo Gallery allows you to find your photos in a number of different ways, by clicking on the part of the tree that makes the most sense for how you want to search: ‘All Pictures and Videos’, ‘Recently Imported’, ‘Date Taken’, ‘Folders’, etc. Click on a ‘Date Taken’ node to find all of the photos taken on a specific date (your camera typically supplies this information automatically), or click on a ‘Folder’ node to see all of the photos in that folder - pretty straight forward and familiar.

    Tags
    Tags may require some explanation. They can be any word or phrase that you use to describe the picture that you might later use to find that picture. For example, if I took a picture of my mom by the Space Needle, I might add the tags "Mom", "Space Needle", and "Seattle". Then, if someday I go looking for a picture of my mom, or of Seattle, I can just click the "Mom" tag or the "Seattle" tag in the Nav Tree and the picture will be there.

    Obviously, this has a big advantage over just folders. If I had created folders for Mom, the Space Needle, and Seattle, I would have to either choose which folder to put the photo in or make three copies of the same picture. With tags, I can organize the same picture in as many different categories as I need to.

    Of course, one of the huge advantages of tagging is that you can search based on your tag, which makes it even faster and easier to find that photo of my mom at the Space Needle without having to browse through multiple folders or tags in the Nav Tree.

    Ratings
    The Gallery uses a 5-star rating system to help you find your best photos. You can add a rating to any photo while you’re viewing it by clicking on the rating control in the info pane (look for more on that in future posts). Then, when you want to find your best photos, just click on a star in the Nav Tree, and we’ll show you all of the photos with that rating (and above to show your ‘best’ photos). If you only want to see photos with a specific rating (maybe you want to delete your 1-star photos), you can use the control key to de-select the stars you don’t want to see.

    Selection in the Nav Tree
    One thing that may not be immediately obvious is how selection works in the Nav Tree. Let’s say that you have a tag "Family" and you’ve create sub-tags under it like "Mom" and "Dad". When you click on "Family" in the tree, we’ll automatically also select "Mom" and "Dad" for you, so that all photos tagged with either "Mom" or "Dad" will show up, even though you never explicitly added the "Family" tag to any of those photos.

    If this isn’t what you want, you can right-click a parent node to select it by itself and not its children.

    That’s all for now, in the next article we’ll dive into some techniques for advanced searching using the Nav Tree.

    Scott Dart - Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Pixie Hunt: Cameraphone Scavenger Hunt

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    A couple of years ago, some friends of mine invited me along on their scavenger hunt.  We buzzed around town in teams collecting photos of ourselves performing various fun and bizarre acts (e.g., "take a photo of your team making a human pyramid with a stranger", "take a photo of your team with the Fremont Troll") and generally making a ruckus.  We had a ball and occasionally crossed paths with the other teams, but I kept thinking that it would be fun to be able to see what pictures the other teams were taking and banter back and forth during the game.

    And so Pixie Hunt was born. Pixie Hunt is a mash up prototype a few of us here at Microsoft put together that creates a mobile, connected scavenger hunt game.  Here's how it works:

    You load the application on your Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone or PocketPC cameraphone, sign up for an account on Flickr and a group text messaging service, then wait for instructions.  Your phone will download a set of tasks like the examples above and you're off.  Each time you take a photo against a task, it's automatically uploaded to Flickr and tagged. Then all the other team’s phones download it and show it in the game. 

    The effect is, you get to see all the photos the other teams are taking as they take them, plus you can "smack talk" with the other teams with the integrated group SMS service.  The application takes care of basic housekeeping, like keeping score for you and organizing the pictures based on which task they were taken against.

    Because this is a mobile application, we realized we could also integrate location awareness into the game: all photos are geotagged with the latitude and longitude of where they were taken. That enabled us to add the ability to see the other teams on a Virtual Earth map and to support "location riddle" tasks (i.e., you won't get points for certain tasks unless you figure out the right place to take the photo).

    We tried the game out on ourselves (I won't embarrass anyone on my team by telling you the Flickr group we used), and it was a kick.  Now, I'm tickled to report that Cingular Wireless has agreed to co-sponsor an evening of play with us at O'Reilly's upcoming Where 2.0 conference

    Now, before you go blogging that Microsoft or Cingular are getting into the mobile game business or something, let me remind you this is just a prototype.  If all goes well, I'm hoping to make the game available as a free download from this or a related web site (we built it as a mash up of existing services so it would be easy for other people to use). And if a few folks download it and have themselves a good time, then Marcus, Raj and I will consider it a job well done.

    - Jordan Schwartz

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Metadata Questions and Answers

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    We’ve received a number of great questions and feedback from the metadata blog post last week. Since the answers to those questions are likely of interest to many people, we decided to simply post a follow-up with answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

    Is Windows XP metadata compatible with Windows Vista metadata?
    Look for more information on XP/Vista interop in the coming weeks and months. In the interim, a beta version of Windows Desktop Search 3.0 has been released which includes some of the APIs required for metadata support.

    What other applications support XMP?
    People want to know what other applications support XMP metadata. Here is a short list (all of these are available on XP today):

    Why don’t my tags get written back to my photos?
    If you missed it from the previous post, scroll down to the ‘your mileage may vary’ section, where we cover this topic. The most common causes are read-only files, or other permissions issues. The bottom line is – if you can’t write to the file, neither can the Photo Gallery.

    - Scott Dart (program manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Microsoft Photo Info tool released

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    One of our sister teams at Microsoft that focuses on the needs of professional photographers has just released a new tool called Microsoft Photo Info.

    It runs on both XP and Vista, and is designed to enable quick and easy viewing and editing of photo metadata in explorer.

     

    I installed it on my Vista machine, and it works as advertised. Right-clicking on a photo in explorer shows a new context-menu item 'Photo Info' that launches the above dialog. This works on both single and multiple selections, allowing you to view and edit important metadata values. What I like even more is how the tooltips in explorer are enhanced to show more relevant metadata as well.

     

    The Windows Vista Photo Gallery does not have the same extensibility model as the Windows Shell, so it was impossible to integrate this tool into the Photo Gallery in this release. I'm sure we'll be looking at enabling these types of scenarios in the future though.

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photosynth Technology Preview

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    I’m Bryan Ressler, a Software Engineer on the PIX Team. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that the PIX team is responsible for the photo and imaging user experiences in Windows Vista, as well as Microsoft’s Digital Image Suite product line. PIX also maintains a small incubation team, called PIX Labs, whose charter is to investigate photo-related technologies, create prototype software, and learn from those prototypes to help shape the roadmap for consumer photo experiences. I’m on the PIX Labs team, and I’d like to share some details about one of our exciting projects.

    Photosynth – What is it?
    Photosynth is based on research carried out by University of Washington's Noah Snavely and Steve Seitz with MSR Principal Researcher Rick Szeliski. They envisioned and prototyped a system by which a collection of photos could be processed into an immersive, three-dimensional viewing environment. The team's primary research is being presented this week at the international SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference.

    PIX Labs saw Photo Tourism, since renamed Photosynth, as a powerful new way for everyday photographers to enjoy their photos, and saw lots of potential beyond that. So PIX Labs joined into a collaboration with Live Labs’ recently-acquired Seadragon team to create a compelling technology preview based on the original Photo Tourism idea.

    The resulting application provides a “point cloud” 3D model of the scene along with the 3D locations of all the cameras (the small orange pyramids in the picture). The photos in the collection can be “projected” onto the 3D model (like a slide projector). Because so much is known about the relationships between the photographs, easy navigation mechanisms are provided, such as “show me an image to the left of this one” (the arrows around the outside of the window), and “show me the images that are similar to this one,” as shown in the “splatter” view here.

    Additionally, because Photosynth was built atop Live Labs’ Seadragon technology, with Photosynth you can zoom in to arbitrarily high resolutions. Even if every photo in the collection is 12 megapixels or more, all that information is preserved.

    How It Works
    Photosynth collections start with a set of photographs of roughly the same subject, such as a place, object, or monument. The photographs might have been taken all at once by the same photographer, or they might be a disparate set of pictures collected from different photographers at different times. The images are then processed by a preprocessor program that identifies “features” in the photographs – identifiable points in each image. (This picture shows a photo with some of its feature points superimposed.)

    Once features have been identified for all the photos, the preprocessor finds the feature point correspondences between all the images in the set. In the process, the software uses a computer vision technique called “structure from motion” to determine the three-dimensional position of each feature point. This also allows the program to determine the relative position in 3D from which each photograph was taken.

    The point cloud you saw in the first picture is simply the complete set of 3D feature points of all the photos in the collection. It helps provide context for the individual photos in the collection. (This image below shows part of a point cloud, some of the camera locations, and the “projection” of one of the cameras that indicates what part of the model was photographed.)

    It turns out that by using this technique quite a bit of information can be gleaned from the photo set, all automatically. And because the software knows how the photographs fit together, unique navigational aids are built into Photosynth to allow the user to navigate left, right, up, down, in, and out from the currently viewed photograph. As a result it is very easy to take “virtual tour” of a place, letting you see a view not too different from what you’d experience strolling around the location in person. Thus we see Rick’s original “photo tourism” dream realized.

    What’s Next
    What you see here is a technology preview. In the short term, we’re working hard to get a public release ready. But what’s really exciting is to think where a technology like this could take us.

    What if all the world’s billions of images were woven into a single gigantic Photosynth collection? What if you could visit any place, anywhere, through the eyes of the countless people who have photographed that place in the past? What if you could take a trip through time, seeing how a place changed as time went by?

    Those are a few of the big-picture projections of where we’re going with Photosynth. But in the shorter term, here are a couple practical examples of benefits we could see from this technology. Someone takes a picture of Nelson’s Column in the middle of Trafalgar Square in London, tags that photo “Nelson’s Column,” and adds it to the web Trafalgar Square Photosynth collection. Later, when you visit London, you upload your photos of Trafalgar Square to the same web collection. Since the software can “see” that some of your pictures contain Nelson’s Column, those pictures can be automatically tagged with the proper metadata -- along with your other sights in London. This makes your photos immediately more searchable and thereby more valuable.

    Another example: You walk up to the Trevi Fountain in Rome and wonder the name of the big guy in the middle of the fountain. You point your camera phone at it, snap a picture, and send it to a web service that uses the photo, perhaps your GPS or cell-triangulated location, and a Photosynth collection of the Trevi Fountain to determine the content of your photo. A moment later you receive an SMS message: “Neptune, god of the sea” along with a set of reference links.

    I hope you share my enthusiasm for this technology. Photosynth is just one example of Microsoft innovation aimed at creating richer, more fulfilling experiences for real-world computer users like you and me. Keep an eye on the PIX Blog for more information on Photosynth and its upcoming public Tech Preview release. In the mean time, check out Live Labs’ Photosynth site and be sure to watch the videos of Photosynth in action.

    - Bryan Ressler (Software Engineer)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Nikon RAW Codec Update

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    Nikon has posted an updated version of its RAW codec for Windows Vista. Nikon and Microsoft had received reports of compatibility issues that we initially addressed in a previous blog post.

    The Fix
    The updated codec corrects the incompatibility issues that were previously reported. NEF files that are tagged in Windows Vista using the new codec should be readable by third-party applications, such as Adobe® Photoshop® software. Files that had previously been tagged in the initial version of the codec should also now be readable by third-party applications once they have been tagged on a system with the updated codec installed.

    Other Changes
    In addition to the fix described above, there are a few other minor changes:

    • The download package is now correctly signed.
    • A memory leak has been fixed.
    • The installer checks OS version before installing, and does not install on the 64-bit version of Windows Vista.

    Background
    The .NEF file format is a proprietary file format defined by Nikon, and incompatibilities can occur when third-parties attempt to reverse-engineer this format. The Nikon codec wrote metadata to the file in a manner which, while technically correct, was unexpected by many third parties. So there was no loss or corruption of data in these files, they simply became unreadable because these applications did not know how to interpret the changes. Applications that relied on the Nikon codec, or otherwise understood how to interpret the contents of the NEF files were not affected. The updated codec writes the metadata to the files in a way which is less prone to confuse other applications.

    Get the Fix
    The updated codec can be downloaded here. The Photo Gallery update mechanism will also take you to the updated codec. 

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Nikon Codec Issues

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    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

    Thanks

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Announcing the Windows Live Photo Gallery, Beta 1

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    On 6/27, we launched the first (limited*) beta release of the Windows Live Photo Gallery! Windows Live what??
     
    The Windows Live Photo Gallery is a new application that will be a free download as part of the Windows Live suite of applications. If you’ve used the Photo Gallery in Windows Vista, this application will be very familiar to you (only better). We’ve been working hard in the months since Vista shipped (has it only been a few months??) to add in some key new features based on your feedback:

    • Windows XP SP2 support: Did I mention that the Live Photo Gallery runs on Windows XP SP2? That was actually a fair amount of work in itself, but we think it was worth it to make these experiences available to a broader set of users than just those who have Windows Vista. Due to differences between the platforms, not all features will work 100% the same on XP SP2 as they do on Vista. For example, slideshow will be better on Vista (if your hardware supports it).
    • Publish to Spaces: We’ve heard from a lot of people that they want to publish their photos online to share with their friends and family members. Windows Live Spaces is a great tool for doing this, and the Windows Live Photo Gallery will make it easy to select a bunch of photos, and publish them directly to your Windows Live Space.
    • Import: We heard loud and clear that people want more control over how they import their photos - which photos get imported, what folders they go in, etc. You asked, we listened.
    • Panoramic Stitching: One of my favorite features from Digital Image Suite was the ability to take a set of overlapping photos and stitch them into one panoramic photo. We’ve brought this feature into the Windows Live Gallery.
    • More Fixes: More granular control over exposure.
    • Simplified Navigation: We’ve removed some of the lesser-used options from the navigation tree, and added some new controls to let you quickly pivot the way you view your photos. 

    That’s a high level view of the changes you’ll see introduced in this beta. We’ll dig into each of these areas over the coming weeks to provide more detail, we just wanted to give you a little taste of what’s coming up. You can read the official announcement here.
     
    Of course the Photo Gallery isn’t the only feature in the suite (it’s just our favorite – what can I say, we’re biased). When the suite is launched, it will include all sort of things, like Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Toolbar, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety…the list goes on. It’s going to be a lot of fun in Windows Live land over the coming months – stay tuned!

    * The audience for this beta is by invitation-only. If you didn’t get an invite, just remember – patience is a virtue. It will be worth the wait! 

    - Scott Dart (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photo Gallery is now on Microsoft Update

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    This is a special shout-out to our BETA program participants!

    At our last estimate, the Windows Live Photo Gallery BETA was installed by nearly 3 million users worldwide. Our BETA testers give us feedback, report bugs, and even yell at us when we make stupid design decisions – all of which helps us delivery high-quality products. Thank you to you all -- our BETA testers rock!

    We recently deployed Windows Live Photo Gallery 2008 via Microsoft Update – If you have Microsoft Update enabled on your PC and had the BETA installed, then your BETA build should have been upgraded to the final release build (version 1308.1023).  Go check it out! If it wasn’t auto-upgraded, you can either launch Microsoft Update and do a scan for new updates, or go back to photogallery.live.com  and manually upgrade to the final release build.

    - Kristen Miller (Program Manager) 

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Geotagging Photos with Windows Live (without using a GPS device)

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    I love travel – seeing new landscapes, new cities, and expanding the list of places I’ve been. Of course,I don’t have the opportunity to go everywhere all the time, but I still want to see what different places around the world are like. I also want to send pictures to family and friends after a trip to show them where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. As a result, I’m a bit of a geotagging junky. I love recording and organizing where I’ve taken my photos, as well as knowing where – exactly where – others have taken their photos.

    Geotagging, for many people, implies going on trips with a camera and a GPS receiver, and then using some custom software to tag all the photos with the GPS data after the trip. Being one who loves geotagging, I have a confession, though: I have never owned a GPS device.

    So, how can I geotag photos and share them with family and friends? I can explore the world virtually through many different mapping applications that combine both maps and photos. Some of these allow geotagging (a la Flickr, et al), but that records only individual photo’s locations, not a full tour. What I’ve found out is a way to play around with the Live Maps Collections feature to create a photo tour. So, for those who want to create simple photo tours to share with friends and the world (and don’t want to deal with GPS), here’s how.

    This week I’ll show a straightforward, 2D method of creating geotagged collections of photos. This article is only the first of two parts. The second part will show how to take advantage of the 3D features of Virtual Earth to make a fuller video-like geotagged photo tour so you'll want to look out for that post!

    Building a Geotagged Set of Photos

    There are three parts to building a geotagged set of photos. The first is to upload the photos that I want to tag. The second is creating the geotags, which is done using the Virtual Earth collections. The last is to attach the photos to items in the collection. As a note, you will need a Windows LiveID to be able to create and save collections as well as upload photos.

    Step 1

    We do this step for you. Simply upload the pictures you want to tag to Windows Live Spaces using the Windows Live Photo Gallery. The first step is covered in a previous article so I won’t repeat it here. Once you’ve uploaded the album you want to tag, view the album.

    Step 2

    Creating a Collection

    Now open another browser window and go to http://maps.live.com. Once you arrive there, sign in (in the upper right-hand corner). You can now create a new collection and save it with your Live ID. Click the “Collections” link in the upper right-hand area of the page and click “Open your collections”. It’s OK that if you don’t have any yet. You can make them after you follow the link.

    OpenCollections-(2)

    When you’ve clicked the link, you should get something like this where you can add your new collection:

    NewCollection-(2)

    I’ve already got my collection sitting here (“Moving to Washington”) so I’ll show you how to create an additional collection. Simply click “New Collection” and fill in the blanks. It should look as follows:

    NewCollectionBox-(2)

    NewCollection2-(2)

    NewCollectionDone-(2)

    Make sure to turn on sharing if you want your friends to be able to see it. And if you don’t mind the general public seeing it, let the “Make this collection searchable” box stay selected.

    Adding Geotags/Pushpins

    Arriving at this stage, you can now add items by clicking the pushpin button at the bottom. Don’t be confused by the text in the box talking about “Add to collection” like I was – that’s just for adding items found using searches. We’re not doing that here.

    So next, I’ll show how to add geotags. Live Maps uses pushpins to mark places on a map – just like how people put pins in wall maps to show where they’ve been. We add pins to a collection and then add photos to those pins.

    Adding pins is simple, just open you’re collection and click the “Add a pushpin” button at the bottom of the “Collections editor” window. In 2D with the “Hybrid” map view, it looks like this:

    2dCreatePin-(2)

    After clicking to add a pushpin, click on the map to place the pin. Here’s what shows up:

    PinAdded-(2)

    This is the same location as the 2D, but I’ve rotated the view (I’ll show why next week). Now we can add a couple of details about the point, which is our geotag for a photo. Next, we tie a photo to the pushpin, which we have two ways of doing. The first is using the album that I created by uploading from the Live Photo Gallery. The second is to use Live Maps’ upload tool, which I won’t show here since it’s pretty easy.

    Tagging Photos

    To add a photo to the pushpin I created, I go to the window I left open from Step 1 that’s viewing the album I just uploaded to Live Spaces. I select the photo from the album I want and view it.

    EmbedStartFull-(2)

    On the right, there are a bunch of options to play around with. Here, we’ll hack the “Embed” feature to get what we want. Click the “Embed” link (underlined in the picture below). When you do, some options will show up down below the album area. Here we’ll use the “Copy” feature of the “Emed this photo” box.

    EmbedStart-(2)

    When you do, some options will show up down below the album area. Here we’ll use the “Copy” feature of the “Embed this photo” box. (Make sure to click allow on the dialog that comes up if you’re using Vista).

    EmbedCopy-(2)

    Now, we paste this link into the geotag pin we created in the collection and clean it up by removing the HTML. The pasting and cleanup looks like this:

    PinAddedDelHeadIMG-(2)  PinAddedDelTailIMG-(2)

    TagDone

    Delete the highlighted text shown in the images above. Now just click “Save”, and you’ve geotagged your photo! If you notice, there’s a 3D tour option when you’re using the 3D mode. I’ll show how to use that next week.

    Do these steps for as many photos as you want. When you’re done, simply click the “Actions” link next to the “My Collections ” link and choose “Send in e-mail” to send a link for your friends and family to view your tour.

    Actions

    Of course, one of the cool things about collections is that the more people use it, the more photos that can be explored. Speaking of exploring, here’s the link (http://maps.live.com/?v=2&cid=AF105ADE514CC699!103&encType=1) to the collection I created that’s a tour of the places I went through when moving from New Jersey out to Redmond to work for Microsoft.

    Let us know what you think! What works and what doesn’t with geotagging? What do you like about geotagging and what are cool ways you think to geotag photos? What are cool ways to explore other’s geotagged photos?

    - Tim O'Connor (Software Development Engineer)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Changes to Photo/Video Import in the Live Photo Gallery Beta

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    For most users, the first step to enjoying their photos and videos is to get their files onto their computer.  In Vista, we focused on streamlining this process, by minimizing the steps during import.  After doing so, we heard feedback from some users that they wanted more control over their import experience.  We’ve listened to this feedback, and we’ve incorporated it into new import features for the Windows Live Photo Gallery: users can now view and select photos and/or videos to import, and they also have the option of organizing photos into folders before importing.  We automatically help you create an event group, based on the timestamps of your photos.  And for those users that loved the simplicity of the Vista import experience, we will continue to provide that streamlined option in the Windows Live.  To get to this experience, simply choose the ‘Import all new items now’ option.

    View,  Selecting, and Grouping Photos and Videos to Import
    If you’d like to select the photos and videos you want to import, choose ‘Review, organize, and group items to import’.  On first use, you’ll see that we’ve automatically grouped your photos/videos into event groups, based on the timestamps of your photos and videos.  The two thumbnails you see represent the first and last item in the event group.  By default, a new event group is created if there are 4 hours or more since the time the previous photo or video was taken.  If you want to adjust this time gap, you can move the ‘Adjust groups’ slider on the bottom right corner of the dialog.  Moving it left will decrease the time in between groups, resulting in more groups.  Moving it to the right will do the reverse, therefore creating less groups.  By moving the slider to the right-most point, you can put all items into a single group.

    To view the items in a group, simply click on the link that lists the number of items in the group (ex. View 10 items), or on the group thumbnails.  Clicking on the thumbnails again will collapse the group.

    Once expanded, you can select the items in the group to be imported.  Simply use the checkboxes select individual items within a group, or select the checkbox in the header of the group to select all items within a group.
    Only checked items will be imported.

    Each group created will be saved to a different folder that you’ll see in the gallery after import. We recommend that users enter a name for each folder, so you can easily find the group of photos/videos later.  You can also assign one or more tags (separated by semi-colons) to the group of items.  Doing so will also help make it easier to find the photos and videos.

    Note: To get the most out of our automatic event group feature, you must set the date and time on your camera.

    Previously Imported Items
    We know that a lot of users don’t delete their photos/videos on their camera after importing.  In the Vista photo gallery, we automatically detected items that were already imported into the gallery, and did not import them again to eliminate duplicates.  In Live, we will show these items in the ‘Review, organize, and group items to import’ option, but by default they will be unchecked.  You can go ahead and check these items if you’d like to re-import them into your gallery.

    - Karen Wong (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Beta FAQs

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    We've already gotten a ton of great feedback from people using the beta. We've also gotten a bunch of great questions. Here are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions.  

    Q: Will Windows Live Photo Gallery add support for x64 before RTM?

    (from the release notes) 

    64-bit is not supported for Beta 2
    Beta 2 does not support a 64-bit installation; however the final version of Windows Live will support 64-bit (with the exception of Family Safety). You have the choice of either continuing to run the Beta 1 versions of Windows Live or you can uninstall all Windows Live applications and reinstall the released versions. For more information see KB Article 938275.

    Q: Are there localized version planned in the near future? If yes, what languages and is there a schedule?

    Windows Live Photo Gallery is localized to the same set of languages as Windows Vista.

    Q: Can you help me fix this? Every time I pull a photo up in windows photo gallery, the whites show as yellows and the colors are all yellow.

    (from the release notes) 

    Images may not display correctly
    Images may display incorrectly when a defective color profile is installed as a Display Profile. The Windows Live Photo Gallery Viewer respects color profiles—defective profiles will cause the system to display images incorrectly. The solution is to remove the association of the display with defective display profile and return to the default display profile of sRGB.

    In Microsoft Windows Vista:
    1. Click Start and then Control Panel.
    2. In the Control Panel click Hardware and Sound and then click Color Management.
    3. In the Color Management settings dialog click the Devices tab:
    4. Select your display in the Device list. If your system has multiple video cards and/or multiple displays, be sure to select the display which is exhibiting the issue.
    5. Ensure “Use my settings for this device” is selected.
    6. Under Profiles Associated with this Device, remove the profile (or profiles) listed in this box by selecting a profile and click Remove.
    Once complete, the box will be empty, ensuring any and all defective profiles have been removed.
    7. Click Close.

    In Microsoft Windows XP:
    1. Click Start and then Control Panel
    2. Click Appearance and Themes and then click Display.
    3. In the Display dialog, click the Settings Tab and then click the Advanced button.
    4. Click the Color Management tab.
    5. Under Color profiles currently associated with this device, remove the profile (or profiles) listed in the box by selecting a profile and clicking Remove. Once complete, the box will be empty, ensuring any and all defective profiles have been removed.
    6. Click OK.
    7. Click OK. 

    Q: I live in France and when I want to get prints of my pictures, your only available stores are in the US. In France, you could contact fnac.com or Photoways, great photo prints providers.

    Live Photo Gallery has several options for printing your photos not only in your own country but in countries around the world.  For you, because you live in France and want to print your photos in France, you first need to ensure that your location settings are set to your local country.  To do this open your control panel, click on regional and language options, and in the location tab, select your country.   Once you have set your country to France, then you can choose from the 3 partners who show up:  Photo Station, Schlecker, and Extrafilm.  

    Another interesting way you can use this capability is to print photos in other countries.  If you are, say, from Japan, however live in the US, you can set your location to Japan and print directly to any 7-11 store in Japan.  Then you send your parents an email and tell them to go pick up their prints.  It’s a snap!

    Q: I want to use the new Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta, but I'm concerned about compatibility of tags down the road with Vista -- I'm glad Vista doesn't use sidecar files.  Is Windows Live the same in that regard?

    Both the Windows Vista Photo Gallery and the Windows Live Photo Gallery use the same underlying technology to read and write photo metadata (WIC). Files should be 100% compatible between the two applications (and any other application that uses WIC to read or write metadata).

    Keep the questions and comments coming! If you run into an issue with the beta, let us know at http://feedback.live.com

     - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Changing the way you share your photos

    • 6 Comments

    You've imported your photos into Windows Live Photo Gallery and worked to make them perfect by:

    · Straightening them.

    · Identifying the people in them.

    · Applying black and white treatments.

    · Fixing things like lighting and red eye.

    · Adding some captions, tags, and ratings.

    Leaving you with a great collection where you can easily find your favorite shots. Now what? How about sharing your photos!

    You can use Photo Gallery to send photos by e-mail, burn them to a CD, print them, or even order prints. Did you know there is a cooler way to share photos? By publishing them online, your family or friends on the other side of the world can enjoy them in a really easy way. It's faster than waiting for a CD or prints, and you don't have to worry about huge attachments filling up anyone's inbox.

    Publishing photos online was possible in the previous version of Photo Gallery, but we've been busy making it even better – so let's review the steps so you can see the improvements. 

    First, select the information you want to share with the photos. If you don't want to publish captions and tags, don't worry—we have a new option to control this. Remember that although the information may not be visible through a website, it will still be in the photos if someone downloads them, so make sure you remove it before you publish the photos. The information will only be removed from the photos you publish (the files on your computer won't be affected.)

    By default, all the information in your photos is shared. If you want to change this setting, just click the File menu, click Options, and then click the Tags tab. You'll see six different check boxes to control the information that will be shared. You can choose to share all information except a certain category (location information, for example) by clearing just that option. You can share just one type of information by clearing the all the options except the one you want to share. You can even clear the Include file details check box to remove all the information shown in the window and any other information in your photos (author, copyright, and rating for example).

    clip_image002

    Now you're ready to publish!

    Select the photos you want to publish, and then click Publish. You may notice the options have changed here; you can now share albums on Windows Live Groups and Windows Live Events! But let's start with the basics and select Online album. This will allow you to publish on the new Windows Live Photos. If you're not already signed in, you'll be asked to do so.

    clip_image004

    Next, select the album to which you want to add the photos, you now have the option to create a new album or select one of your existing ones in the same window so you don’t have to go back and forth between them if you change your mind.

    · For a new album: Just type a title and select a permission level. You can share with everyone on the Internet (public), with just the people in your Windows Live network, or keep it just for you. Later on, you can edit the permissions on the web if you want to share the album with only specific people or if you want to let others contribute to the album.

    · For an existing album: If you already created albums before (maybe in Windows Live Spaces some months ago), you'll see those listed, with the most recently updated at the top. Just select the album you want.

    clip_image006

    We also have a new option to let you select the size in which your photos will be uploaded. Large is selected by default because it's a good balance between photo size (1600 px) and file size. With this setting, your photos shouldn't take too much time to upload. But if you want to upload photos in their original size, you can. Or, if you want to publish the photos quickly and don't care too much about the photo size, you also have the Medium option. Photo Gallery will remember your choice so you don't have to change it every time.

    clip_image008

    When you're ready to publish, just click Publish, and you're done. Tip: In our new version you can double-click an album to publish into it instead of selecting it and clicking the Publish button.

    A window will appear to tell you how the upload is going. You can minimize the window and continue working. You could even start another upload and queue as many publish jobs as you want!

    clip_image010

    When the upload is complete, you'll get a confirmation that includes a View album button. Click this button to not only see the album online, but also view the slide show as visitors will see it, send a link to your friends and family, and more.

    clip_image012

    Voila! Your pictures are available for viewing online and all your captions and people tags will be there.

    If you want to publish your photos on Windows Live Events or Windows Live Groups instead of on your own personal photos.live.com page, all you have to do is select the corresponding option from the menu. You'll get a list with all the events or groups you're part of so you can select the appropriate one. Your events are listed chronologically and your groups are listed alphabetically. Tip: You can double-click an item in the list to select it instead of clicking Next.

    clip_image014

    After you choose an event or group, you get the list of albums for that event or group so you can select one or create a new one. Then just follow the steps earlier in this post for publishing an online album. Notice that the permissions options will only be available for owners or organizers and that some options (like publishing into certain albums or creating new ones) may not be available depending on the settings of the event or group.

    Lastly, the new version of Photo Gallery includes an option that lets you publish photos easier into the albums you use the most. As you start publishing, you may notice that the latest Windows Live albums you published into appear on the Publish menu. If the album is for an event or group, you'll see the group or event name in parentheses.

    clip_image016

    If you select some photos and click an album on this menu, the photos will start uploading right away.

    So go ahead and try it out if you haven't already. Enjoy sharing your photos and albums with the world or with the people you choose and let us know what you think.

    - Ana Lilia Otero, Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Check out AutoCollage

    • 5 Comments

    Hi, I’m JP Wollersheim. I’ve posted here before. My family takes tons of photos. One challenge we have is how to display multiple photos on one “canvas” to tell a story.  There are great products in the market that tell a linear story like Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Photo Gallery screensaver, Windows Media Center, or Windows Live FrameIt.  These products allow you to put together a set of photos and view separately in a linear fashion – one at a time.

    There are times when you would like to see all your photos on the same screen or canvas as a collage. There are products to do that, however, typically they require a ton of work to look good.  The example below took me about 25 minutes to create and it’s still not exactly what I was looking for.  The square edges are a bit jarring, and it’s super difficult to get all of the photos in the template that I was given. 

    acb

    Microsoft Research solves problems like these so your photos really come to life.  Our Cambridge Innovation Development team in Microsoft Research built AutoCollage (30-day free trial and If you like it, it’s only $14.95) which enables users to build a beautiful collage on seconds. Check out the difference using the exact same 12 photos:

    Here’s how I did it:

    1. Download AutoCollage

    2. Start Windows Live Photo Gallery and find your photos you want to use.  From Date taken (a) I selected July 2008, and (b) searched for “Lucy.”  I then (c) organized by rating, and used all my 4 start photos. Here’s a trick:  (d) Click on 4 star, it will select all of those photos – so you don’t have to select them one at a time.

    3. Next, I launched AutoCollage by selecting Add to AutoCollage... from the Extras menu.

    4. Photo Gallery launched the AutoCollage application with the photos I selected and had it do its magic. From the Options menu in AutoCollage I chose to make the finished composition the same size as my screen resolution so the correct aspect ratio and dimensions would be chosen and the finished photo would look good on my computer.

    I used the slider to tell AutoCollage I wanted to use all 12 of the photos. 

    ss3

    5. The final output looked like this. 

    ss5

    6. Next I selected Desktop from the menu on the right and saved it as my desktop background.  It was that easy!

    ss6

    - JP Wollersheim, Product Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    New publish plug-ins available for Photo Gallery and Movie Maker!

    • 5 Comments

    Do you share photos on Facebook? What about sharing sharing videos on YouTube? Well thanks to Will Duff, one of our developer interns this past summer, there are now a couple of brand new publish plug-ins for Facebook and YouTube available for download.  Both plug-ins enable you to easily share your photos or videos with just a few clicks!

    LiveUpload to Facebook is a plug-in for Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta that makes it easy for anyone to upload their photos to Facebook. The plug-in takes advantage of the new people tagging in Photo Gallery, too!  This means that when you tag your friends in Photo Gallery, if you’re also Facebook friends with those people, those tags will automatically appear on the published photos on Facebook. Pretty cool, huh? 

    Some of the LiveUpload to Facebook plug-in features:

    • Add multiple Facebook accounts.
    • Quickly and easily upload your photos to Facebook, including any people tags added in Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta.
    • Upload your pictures to an existing album or create a new one.

    LiveUploadtoFB

    LiveUpload to YouTube is a plug-in for Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta and Windows Live Movie Maker Beta that makes it easy for anyone to upload their videos straight to YouTube.  For example, once you’ve quickly created that exciting new video using Movie Maker, simply click the Publish button and choose LiveUpload to YouTube to share it!

    LiveUploadtoYT

    (Note for developers out there… The people tags, along with other metadata, are exposed as part of the new Publish API. Please see the SDK for more information. Plus, Will was also super kind enough to share his approach with the community by posting the source to both of these plug-ins on CodePlex.)

    Finally, don’t forget to let us know if you’ve built your own Photo Gallery or Movie Maker plug-in that you want to share. We’re keeping a list of plug-ins that we know about on our plug-ins download page.

    Michael Palermiti, Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    RAW Codecs from Sony and Olympus are available

    • 5 Comments

    In the past week, we've seen Vista RAW codecs introduced from both Sony (SRF and SR2 files) and Olympus (ORF files).

    The Photo Gallery 'check for updates' feature will take you to a page with links to the downloads, or use the above links.

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photo Metadata APIs

    • 5 Comments

    Photo Metadata APIs

    A few months ago, we blogged about how metadata was handled by the Windows Vista Photo Gallery. Since then, a number of technical articles have been posted on MSDN that are related to the concepts we discussed in that blog post. We thought that it would be helpful to add links to those articles here:

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Editing Photos in Vista

    • 5 Comments

    Ever take a photo that was too dark? Are those cute photos of your niece ruined by a nasty case of red-eye? Do you believe like I do that Paint is a cumbersome tool to crop in? Then you are going to love the Photo Gallery in Windows Vista.

    Vista has incorporated a bunch of easy to use, high quality, and extremely fast photo correction tools into the Photo Gallery. I’m going to walk you through what each of them does so that you can make your photos pop.

    All of the editing tools in Vista are located in the Gallery Viewer. You can get to this by double clicking on a photo in either the Vista Photo Gallery or from any folder. The various fix tools are all located on a pane which you can open up by clicking the “Fix” button in the command bar.

    The Vista Photo Gallery has controls to adjust exposure, color, crop region and red-eye.  Each of the individual controls are accessed by clicking on the corresponding button in the fix pane. The Photo Gallery also has an “Auto Adjust” feature, which as the name implies, automatically find the best exposure and color settings for the photo.

    Auto Adjust
    Auto Adjust crunches a bunch of numbers to figure out the best positions for the exposure and color sliders. Then, it moves the sliders to those positions. One of goals in designing it this way was to create a “teaching moment”.  Rather than just make the changes and ask “OK?”, we decided to show you what the changes were on the other sliders, so you could learn how to edit your pictures better on your own.

    I find that Auto Adjust is the most useful when a photo has an off color cast such as that from an incandescent bulb. I also think it works great on outdoor photos. Try it on photos from the beach or photos in the snow.

    Exposure
    Clicking Adjust Exposure brings up two sliders to adjust brightness and contrast. These sliders function like those knobs that TV’s used to have. Brightness adjusts all of the pixels evenly, making them brighter or darker, while the contrast slider adjusts pixels relative to each other. Moving the contrast slider all the way down will result in a very gray, low contrast image. Moving it all the way up will make things rather vivid. Generally, only small adjustments in contrast are needed to make your photos look great.

    Adjust Color
    The Color Temperature and Color Tint sliders work together to get the overall color of the image correct. The Color Temperature slider can be used to make a photo with warm tones (reddish) appear cooler (bluish) and vice versa. Often a photo shot with incandescent lighting may appear to be too warm or yellowish. Backing the color temperature down a couple notches will reduce the warmth in the photo. Likewise, a photo shot in the snow might appear too blue, or cool. In that case, simply warm the image up by moving the Color Temperature slider up. The Tint slider can be used to adjust green and red casts in images.

    The last slider is the Saturation slider, which adjusts the intensity of the colors. On most snapshot-type pictures, you can just leave this one alone. Feel free to play around with it though, as it can be used to create some interesting effects.  For example, move the slider all the way down and you’ve got yourself a black and white photo.

    Crop Picture
    This is the tool to use if you want to adjust the composition of your photo. The crop tool has several built in aspect ratios for cropping. This can be handy when you go to print, as most photo printing services, including Windows’ own Photo Printing Wizard, will “crop to fit”, meaning if the photo has the wrong width to length ratio, they will chop off a piece of the photo to make it fill the whole print.  If you want to control how this happens, crop the picture yourself to the appropriate aspect ratio for a 4” x 3” print, an 8” x 10” print or whatever you’re printing to. It’s also useful for cropping images that you want to use as desktop backgrounds in Vista. The 4x3 (800 x 600, 1024x768) and 16x9 (1600x900) crop ratios are typical ratios of today’s monitors.

    Unlike the other tasks, crop requires you to press the “Apply” button when you are all done selecting what you want to be cropped.

    Red-Eye
    Red-eye occurs in pictures when the flash bounces off the retina in the eye.  Red-eye reduction on a camera will flash a light briefly before the “real” flash to get the iris to close, but even that doesn’t always work.  That’s why we have red-eye removal in the Gallery.

    To use this tool, simply drag a box around the red-eye and let go. If you are zoomed in, panning is enabled by pressing the “alt” key and dragging the mouse. It’s helpful to zoom and pan when fixing red-eyes to make accurate selections.

    Everything you do in the Vista Photo Gallery is undoable, so feel free to experiment. If you click the little arrow next to the “Undo” button you will see your 10 most recent actions. If you want to undo several things at once you can just click on the action you want to undo to. You can also undo everything by clicking the “Undo All” option.

    The Vista Photo Gallery saves changes when you navigate to the next photo or close the Vista Photo Gallery.  But don’t fear that your photos are being overwritten.  Vista keeps a backup of the original so you can always go back to the beginning. That is what the “Revert” button on the undo menu is all about. But we’ll save that for another blog entry.

    John Thornton – Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Managing Edits in the Windows Vista Photo Gallery

    • 4 Comments

    Windows Vista includes a number of new editing features that were not in previous versions of Windows.  You can read about them in this previous post.

     

    One of the problems we saw with Windows XP is that users often create multiple copies of their photos when they edit.  Often this is done to preserve the original copy, much like the way a negative works in film photography.  As a result, multiple copies of the same photo end up all over the hard drive.  Many users combat this with complex naming strategies or folder hierarchies.  Other users don’t keep backups and just save over the originals, losing pieces of the image they may someday want.

     

    In the Windows Vista Photo Gallery we solve these issues by creating a copy of the image the first time you edit it in the Photo Gallery.  We do this automatically so you don’t have to worry about saving an original copy yourself.  If you have been playing with Windows Vista you probably have noticed the Revert button becomes enabled after edits are saved from the Photo Gallery.

     

    Anytime in the future you can get back to the original photo by “reverting” the file.  To do this:

    • Open the file in the Gallery Viewer
    • Click the “Fix” button on the command menu
    • Click the “Revert” button, which is located at the bottom of the fix pane.  It’s part of the Undo menu.
    • The revert button prompts you to confirm you want to do this.  Reverting is one action the Windows Vista Photo Gallery can’t undo.

    If you do want to keep 2 copies of image you can use the “Make a Copy...” task under the file menu to create a copy of an image.  You can edit and revert those files separately.  This is useful for certain edits like cropping and de-saturating which may result in images that you want multiple copies of.

     

    A nice aspect of this feature is that it freed us up to auto-save your changes without explicitly asking you whether you want to over-write the previous version.  If you change your mind, you can always get back to the original. This makes the workflow for fixing photos much quicker.

     

    You do have some control over how Windows Vista manages the original images which are created.  Click File->Options to get to the options dialog.  One the first tab there is a section entitled “Original Images”.  Here you can tell Windows Vista how long it should keep your originals around.  You might decide for disk space reasons that you really don’t want to keep originals older than 6 months.

     

    If you are using the Windows Vista Backup utility it will automatically backup your originals if you select the option to backup photographs and images.  If you are using a 3rd party backup program you should make sure that the original images directory is included in the list of items to back up.  By default the originals are stored in the AppData folder under each user folder.  The path on my Beta 2 machine is: c:\Users\john\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Original Images. It is possible to open that directory and view your images.  Keep in mind though you shouldn’t alter these files as they are the originals.

     

    - John Thornton (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Quick Search in the Windows Photo Gallery

    • 4 Comments

    In addition to using the Navigation Tree for finding your photos and videos in the Photo Gallery, you can also use the Quick Search feature. Quick Search allows you to filter down the items in view to only those that match the text that you type.

    Example: If I’m looking at all of my photos, and I want to see only photos of flowers, I can start typing ‘flowers’ in the Quick Search box, and any photo that doesn’t match ‘flowers’ in some way will fall away from view as I type. In fact, I don’t even need to type the full name. After only a few keystrokes, I have the results I’m looking for.

    That’s because I have tagged those photos with the ‘Flowers’ Tag. But even if I hadn’t tagged those photos, I could still use Quick Search. Quick Search will attempt to match any words that it finds in any of the following places:

    • Tags
    • File Names
    • File Paths
    • Captions

    The word that you type in the Quick Search box doesn’t have to be the first word in the string you’re trying to match, but it does have to be at the beginning of the string in order for it to match (if I type ‘wers’, it won’t match photos tagged with ‘flowers’, because we don’t look for matches in the middle of words).

    Power user tip: It’s not necessary to use ‘wildcards’ (like * or %) in your searches. We treat every string like there’s a wildcard at the end of it. Any characters you type are matched literally.

    If you search for multiple words, Quick Search will only return photos that match all of the words you type. Example: If I wanted to see only pictures of flowers and butterflies together, I could type ‘flowers butterflies’ in the Quick Search box.

    Power user tip: You rarely have to type the full word to match. Typing ‘fl bu’ was all that I had to type on my machine to match all of the photos that contained both flowers and butterflies.

    Quick Search is so effective that I can often leave my Gallery on the ‘All Pictures’ node in the Nav Tree, and just use Quick Search to find the photos I’m looking for. It can also be used to further filter down the results from any selection in the Nav Tree.

    Some Beta 2 users have noticed that the Quick Search feature in other parts of Windows Vista (like Explorer, or Windows Media Player for example), allow you to perform more advanced searches than in the Photo Gallery (for example, being able to search for files that don’t include a certain tag). Due to differences in our architecture, we were unable to get these advanced search capabilities into this release of the Photo Gallery, but we’d be interested in hearing how you might use some of these features if we included them in a future release.

    Happy Searching!

    Scott Dart – Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Vista Ships!

    • 4 Comments

    You may have heard that Windows Vista officially shipped last week! Last week’s event was what we call ‘release to manufacturing’ (RTM). That means that our work is done, and the code is in the hands of the computer OEMs, who are now working hard to get new Vista systems on the shelves by January 30th, 2007.

    What better way to mark this occasion than to throw a party? A LOT of people worked on Windows Vista, so finding a venue to host the party must have been a challenge. The November weather in Redmond certainly didn’t make things any easier. So last Friday, we all made the trek over to one of the parking garages on the Microsoft main campus that had been commandeered by the ship party planners.

    In addition to the usual food, drink, and music, there were some surprises, like running into Jeannine Johnson and her drag racer, as well as speeches from some of our executives, like Jim Allchin, Kevin Johnson, and Bill Gates!

    Now that the party’s over, it’s time to get back to work. We’re not at liberty to tell you what we’re working on next, but rest assured, we won’t run out of interesting work in the digital memories space any time soon.

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photosynth Tech Preview Released

    • 4 Comments

    I’m Bryan Ressler, a Software Engineer on the PIX Team. Back in August, I wrote about my work on the Photosynth Tech Preview. We’ve been working hard testing and incorporating feedback from an internal Microsoft deployment. On Thursday, November 9, Live Labs’ head Gary Flake demonstrated Photosynth at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Simultaneously, we released Photosynth on Live Labs website.

    If you’re ready to try Photosynth for yourself, head to the Photosynth launch page and click the orange “Try the Tech Preview” button there. You’ll soon be at the Installing page (shown at right). Since Photosynth is an ActiveX control, don’t forget to approve its installation. Once the Photosynth code is installed on your computer, you’ll be greeted with your first glorious taste of Photosynth the Piazza San Marco collection. This collection was built from a set of photographs taken by Live Labs’ own Jonathan Dughi, a Program Manager on the Photosynth project.
     
    Collect Yourself
    Don’t forget that the San Marco collection is only one of the collections that we’ve provided in this initial Tech Preview release. Be sure to click the “More Collections” link on the left side of the browser window to see a list of the currently available collections.

    The collections featured in our initial release are designed to demonstrate how Photosynth can be used with different types of photographic content. Piazza San Marco and Piazza St. Pietro are large outdoor architectural environments – the type of settings that were originally envisioned when Photosynth was still a research project. The Grassi Lakes collection shows how the technology handles more organic settings. The Gary Faigin Studio collection portrays an indoor environment, with super-high-resolution detail images of some parts of the room. We’ll be bringing more collections online soon, so be sure to check back periodically. (My favorite of the current collections is Piazza St. Pietro. See how many keys you can find in that collection by zooming into the statues.)

    Getting Around
    Photosynth provides an immersive environment for viewing a collection of photos, and the 3D model that is gleaned from the collection helps provide context for the individual photos.

    If you move your mouse over the 3D “point cloud,” you’ll see the white outlines of other available photos. If you click, you’ll move to the location where that photograph was taken, and you’ll see the photograph appear as though “projected” onto the point cloud. Every transition from one image to another adds a thumbnail to the left side of the history bar at the bottom of the window. (The right side of that bar shows photos that share features in common with the currently selected photo.)

    Another simple way to explore the photo collection is to use the six “navigation arrow” buttons situated around the sides of the window. They navigate to an adjacent, overlapping image in the direction of they arrow. The two buttons at the bottom of the window that point “in” and “out” do just that – they move push in or pull back from the current location.

    If you click and drag the mouse over the model, you rotate the view. Should you get lost, you can press Enter on your keyboard to re-center the current image. To return to the start image for the collection, press 0 (zero) or click the Home on-screen button in the upper right of the window.

    For the adventurous, there’s also game-style keyboard navigation:

  •  A, D: slide left or right
  •  W, S: move forward or backward
  •  E, C: move up or down
  •  L, ‘ (single quote): rotate camera left or right
  •  P, ; (semicolon): rotate camera up or down
  • Also, after you’ve got a collection open, don’t forget to visit locations linked in the Highlights section of the left side of the browser window.

    Zoom Zoom!
    Don’t forget that Photosynth is built atop Live Labs’ amazing Seadragon multiresolution technology. That means the full original image resolution is available for viewing. For instance, the photos in the San Marco collection are 8.2 megapixel. Place the mouse pointer over a particular feature in the photograph you’re viewing and roll your mouse wheel forward to zoom in, or backward to zoom out. You’ll see the image clarify as the additional photographic information is brought into view. (If you don’t have a mouse wheel, you can use the Zoom + and – keys in the upper right of the window.

    To really get a feel for the power of the Seadragon technology, try the Gary Faigin Studio collection, which contains detail images of some of the works in his studio of over 80 megapixels. That’s enough resolution to see the artist’s individual strokes on the medium.

    More Like This
    The right side of the history bar at the bottom of the window shows images that share visual information with the currently selected image. But another way to see “similar” images, or just get an idea of the contents of a collection, is to switch in to 2D by clicking the 2D button in the upper write of the window (or by pressing the ~ key). This view shows all the images in a grid, with the currently selected image in the middle. The images that are most similar to the selected image are closest to the middle and larger. Images that have less in common with the selected image are outside, and smaller. To select a different image, click on it and the view will reshuffle to place the newly selected image in the middle. To switch back to 3D mode, click the middle image or the on-screen 2D/3D button you clicked before. (Don’t’ forget, you can still zoom with the mouse wheel and pan around by clicking and dragging the mouse when you are in 2D view.)

    Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know
    There are a few obscure keys that most people don’t know about (hey, I only know about them because I worked on the code!) They aren’t central to Photosynth’s basic functionality, but they’re fun anyway.

  • F: turn on/off camera pyramids
  • R: go to a random image
  • U, J: navigate to “up” or  “down” image (same as up on-screen up and down buttons)
  • T: do a 3D overview “tour” over the point cloud
  • +, -: zoom in and out
  • , (comma), . (period): navigate forward or backward through history
  • ~: switch between 2D and 3D mode
  • 1: autoplay (simple slideshow)
  • The “camera pyramids” mentioned above aren’t much of a secret, you can turn them on and off with the on-screen button shown here. (Technically, these pyramids are called “frusta,” which is why the keyboard equivalent is “F”). The point of each pyramid is the point at which the photograph was taken. The distance that the pyramid extends out from that point gives you an idea of the focal length of the camera that took the picture, relative to the other photographs in the collection. This picture shows a wide angle (stubby pyramid) and a telephoto (long pyramid) camera frusta. If you place the mouse cursor over a camera pyramid it will “project” out onto the point cloud, showing you the section of the model that the photograph depicts. Clicking on the pyramid will navigate to that photo. 

    Innovation in Action
    I hope you enjoy using Photosynth as much as we enjoyed creating the technology. Further collaborations between university academic researchers, Microsoft Research, and Microsoft product groups will bring forth more innovative photo-related experiences. So keep your eye on the Microsoft Photography Blog for the latest news.

    - Bryan Ressler (Software Engineer)

    Photosynth System Requirements

  • Operating System: Only Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista RC1 or later are supported at this time.
  • Web Browser: IE6 or IE7; we hope to support other browsers in the future.
  • Memory: 256 MB of memory is a bare minimum; 1GB recommended.
  • Disk: This technology preview uses almost no disk space. The ActiveX control is less than 5MB in size, and no local disk storage is used when the code is running.
  • Graphics: We have tested Photosynth on graphics cards that are "Vista Aero Ready". This includes: support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), and 32 bits per pixel. If you want to find out whether your card is suitable, the Vista Upgrade Advisor tool will tell you. Photosynth may run on cards that do not meet this requirement, but performance may be poor and functionality may be impaired.
  • 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

    Canon 1D & 1Ds RAW File Issues

    • 4 Comments

    Important note to users of Canon 1D & 1Ds RAW files on Windows Vista

    There is an issue with Canon RAW files that end in .TIF (which are limited to 1D & 1Ds cameras) on Windows Vista systems that do not have the Canon RAW codec. If a user adds metadata to one of these files, using the Windows Photo Gallery or the Windows Explorer, the file will be corrupted. This is because the Canon RAW files from these particular camera models appear to be standard TIFF files, and the Windows Imaging Component invokes the standard TIFF codec to handle them. The RAW files, while appearing to conform to the TIFF spec, are interpreted differently by the Canon Raw codec, and so the TIFF codec cannot handle them properly. The Photo Info tool is not impacted.

    Microsoft and Canon have identified the issue and are testing a patch to address the problem. We will provide download information once the patch is released. In the meantime, it is recommended that users not import or add metadata to their 1D or 1Ds RAW files ending in .TIF using the Windows Photo Gallery or the Windows Explorer. Canon will be releasing their RAW codec for Windows Vista soon. When you install the Canon RAW codec, the Windows Imaging Component will invoke the Canon codec to handle these files correctly.

    - pixblog

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