Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    FAQs from the booth at CES

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    We've been working the booth at CES for two days now. Over those last two days, we've talked to A LOT of customers, and answered A LOT of questions. Naturally, some of the same questions come up over and over again. So we figured that this would be a good forum to share some of the questions that we have been hearing often, since a lot of people who couldn't make it to the show probably have the same questions.

    What's new in Windows Vista?
    This is the easiest question that we get. At our stations in the booth, we're all showing the Windows Photo Gallery, which is pretty much all new functionality for Windows. Even for those features that had equivalents in XP (e.g. Movie Maker, Printing), most of the users that I've talked to either weren't aware that they existed on XP, or had never used them because they were hard to find or too poorly integrated. The Photo Gallery goes a long way towards correcting these problems by bringing all of your photo and video tasks together into one place. So far, the reaction from everyone I've talked to on the show floor has been very favorable.

    Is the Photo Gallery included with Vista, or do I have to buy something extra to get it?
    The Photo Gallery is included as part of Vista. You don't have to buy, download, or install anything extra, it comes installed as part of Windows Vista. The only caveat to this is that the DVD burning features are only available in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.

    What are the different editions of Windows Vista?
    The Microsoft web site has a page that describes the differences better than I can (including pricing information). I expect that most people will get Home Premium for their personal use, and will use one of the business editions at work. For the person who has everything - there's the Ultimate edition that combines all of the features from all of the editions.

    Is my machine ready for Windows Vista?
    Download the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to find out:

    When will Windows Vista be available?
    January 30th, 2007

    How do I get into the Windows Vista party at CES?
    Sorry, you're on your own for that one...

    If your question isn't answered above, ask away - we're here to help!

    - Scott Dart (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Welcome to CES!

    Happy New Year! With all of the holidays, vacations, etc., it’s been awhile since we’ve blogged at you, but it’s time to get back to...Las Vegas?

    That’s right, we’re here in Las Vegas for CES! Tonight is Bill’s Keynote address, and tomorrow the show opens. To stay on top of what Microsoft is up to at the show, you can go to http://microsoftatces.com/

    If you’re at the show, please stop by the booth and check out the Digital Memories demo station. Chances are, someone from our team will be in the area, but either way you’ll be able to get a closer look at the Windows Photo Gallery, and other Vista features. There are a ton of people from Microsoft here, including a bunch of people from the Digital Memories area. Some of us are CES veterans, while others (myself included) are here for the first time. We’ll be checking in throughout the week to share more of our thoughts and experiences from the show.

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photo Metadata APIs

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    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

    Photosynth Tech Preview Released

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    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

    Windows Vista Ships!

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    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

    Importing Photos with Windows Vista

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    We all know that no one really wants to import.  We want to look at our pictures, enjoy them, share them, maybe even edit and organize them -- but not import them.  Importing is just a means to an end, and in Vista we focused on getting you to that end as quickly and painlessly as possible.  You’ll see a lot of changes from XP but don’t let that scare you off.  The first change you’ll notice is there is no longer a step to select your photos.  Before you decide that’s a bad thing read on about how duplicate detection prevents importing multiple times, how waiting to delete your photos until you are in the Gallery might save you from deleting a salvageable photo, and more.

    Wireless support and more
    One of the biggest changes to import is one you’ll never see.  We now use Windows Portable Devices to communicate with cameras and other device types.  Windows Portable Devices allows you to acquire more photos at one time, support more device types, and it also provides support for wireless.  A solution is on the way for those of you tired of dealing with all those cables every time you want to import.   Look for cameras that support wireless using Windows Portable Devices.

    Duplicate Detection
    Did you forget to erase your card after your last import and don’t want to re-import the same images again?  No problem, Vista has duplicate detection.  The Import Pictures and Videos experience recognizes files it has already imported and doesn’t try to import them again.  No need to make you go in and select the new pictures by hand anymore.

    Recently Imported
    In the Windows Photos Gallery you will see a node in the navigation tree labeled ‘Recently Imported’.  This scope allows you to quickly find all the photos you’ve imported in the last 30 days.  It’s always where you will find yourself immediately after import completes.  The Import Pictures and Videos experience ends in the Recently Imported view where you can quickly view, delete, organize, edit, and share you photos with just a few clicks of the mouse.  You might be used to deleting the duds in import but we think it’s worth the wait to acquire them and take a second look in the Gallery.  It’s hard to tell if a photo is really salvageable from a thumbnail.  In the Gallery you can look at your photo full screen and try our quick fix tools to see if the photo is really hopeless or no - it might just be worth saving.

    Tagging
    The Import Pictures and Videos experience offers the ability to quickly add a relevant tag during the import process as a quick shortcut to get you started with your organization.  This may not be ideal if you are importing pictures from multiple events but not to worry, import will leave you in the Windows Photo Gallery which is the best place to do rich tagging and metadata based organization.  If you usually have more than one event on your camera when you import, you may want to suppress this option altogether.  To do so,  click on the Options link on the tagging screen of the import experience or open the Windows Photo Gallery, click on the File menu, click Option, and click the Import tab.  In Options you can uncheck ‘Prompt for tag on import’.  You might also want to change the file naming default to ‘Original File Name’.

    Rotate on import
    Ever wonder why we can’t just automatically correct rotation?  We wondered the same thing.  In Vista we look at the EXIF data in the file at import time to see if the camera has indicated that rotation is required.  If it is, we’ll go ahead and do that for you.  Don’t want the helping hand?  No problem, you can turn off the rotate feature in Options.  

    File and Folder naming
    Windows Photo Gallery makes it simple to find your pictures by searching and organizing based on tags you’ve entered.  However, there will be times when you need to browse by file and folder name to find what you are looking for.  By default we will use the date imported plus the tag (if provided) to create the folder name and the tag for the file name.  Not to your liking, not a problem.  You can customize the file and folder naming in the import Options.  Note that there is no way to import to multiple folders based on event at this time but we are looking into this.

    Extensibility
    If the above still isn’t enough, we’ve added plug-in support to import.  This allows 3rd parties, Microsoft, or even you to write custom plug-ins to extend import.  A plug in could be anything from a backup option, applying filters, or specialized file and folder naming templates.  Currently no plug-ins are available but we will keep you posted as that changes.  If you are interested in writing your own details will be available on MSDN soon, stay tuned and we’ll post a link when the SDK goes live.

    - Ashley Averett, Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Video in Windows Vista

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Michael Patten

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Movie Maker and Speech Recognition in Windows Vista

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

     
    Video: Movie Maker

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

     - PIXBlog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Slam Video

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

    Speilberg, eat your heart out.

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Scoble / Hawk on Photography

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

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

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

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

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

    Fascinating video, worth the watch.

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Introducing Slam

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    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

    Microsoft at Photokina

    We’re at Photokina this week meeting with Microsoft’s partners in the imaging community and checking out all of the new equipment that has been announced over the past few weeks.  Photokina is the largest imaging trade show in the world and happens every two years in Cologne, Germany. The show layout is immense, covering 230,000 square meters (nearly 2,500,000 square feet) of exhibition space, with 1600 suppliers. It’s expected that 160,000 people will visit the show during the week.   The layout of the show is very well organized keeping companies, with similar products in close proximity to each other, so if you want to find out more about memory cards, Lexar, SanDisk, Kingston and the like are only a few feet away from each other.  Similarly, all of the camera manufacturers are in adjacent halls (though some of their booths are so large, they take up most of the space in their respective halls).  

    Canon Booth Nikon Booth Nikon D80
    Kodak Booth FujiFilm Booth Sony Booth

    Microsoft’s iView Multimedia has a booth here showing off some of the new features in iView Media Pro 3.1.1.  We’re nestled right between Apple and Adobe, who are demoing their latest high end photo workflow offerings.   Tim Grey has been there each day giving demos of the new imaging features in Windows Vista including the Windows Photo Gallery and we’ve been getting some great feedback from the attendees (though sometimes the language barriers make that process a little tricky).

    The question we keep getting from people back in the office is “What is the coolest thing you’ve seen at the show?”  That’s a really tough question to answer because there are so many great things here ranging from the new Hasselblad H3D medium format camera that costs about as much as a nice new car (~$30,000, but it’s 39 megapixels!) to the new cameras from Kodak, Canon and Nikon.  Sigma has a new camera  sporting a new Foveon X3 sensor and Epson, HP and Canon all have new printers to show off in all shapes, sizes and profiles.  You probably want us to focus on just a couple of things so here goes…

    Chris’ Picks of the Show
    LensBaby 3G – The LensBaby is a ‘selective focus’ lens which creates some cool depth of field effects as you bend the lens to accentuate certain parts of the image.  The new third generation of this lens (dubbed Lensbaby 3G) adds lens locks that hold the lens in place once you get it just the way you want and then lets you fine tune the focus before taking the shot. Josh thinks it makes your camera look like something from Hellraiser but I think we agree that it is very cool and worth checking out. 

    Canon Media Storage – Canon released a portable media storage device that lets you copy images off of the Canon cameras, freeing up your memory cards for more shooting and making it easy to transfer up to 80 GB of images back to the PC.  It’s 3.7” TFT LCD display makes it easy to review your pictures in JPEG, TIFF or Canon RAW formats and the device is laid out just like the back of a Canon DSLR so it should be very intuitive to any Canon shooter.

    Josh’s Picks of the Show
    I would have to agree with Chris that the LensBaby3G is the ‘coolest’ new item at the show and one that’s sure to make my wallet lighter. The ability to lock the lens, and then fine tune the adjustment using the control knobs is reminiscent of the kind of control you get with a 4 x 5 view camera. My other picks include:

    Hasselblad H3D – This is essentially a full frame DSLR on steroids. Boasting a 48 x 36mm sensor—twice the size of a full frame 35mm sensor—available in 22 and 39 megapixels, this camera packs enough resolution for the most demanding applications. Despite its size, it was remarkably well balanced and comfortable. As Chris mentions, it’s not cheap. Plus you’re going to need to invest heavily in storage—a 16-bit image off the 39 megapixel H3D is going to be about 200MB!

    Epson Photo Stylus 3800 – This is an amazing printer before you realize that it’s $1,295. Capable of printing up to 17 inches wide with the latest Epson K3 inks, automatic switching between photo and matte black modes, new screening technology that makes it nearly impossible to see the actual dots, and dramatically smaller than its predecessor, this is perfect for making beautiful, long lasting prints.

    Adobe Lightroom – This is a new class of digital imaging application intended to make the digital workflow faster, easier, and more productive. While it’s still in beta, I really like the approach of using one piece of software to organize & manage, process, print, and publish my photos. One the unique new features is non-destructive editing. This essentially means that any changes you make in Lightroom don’t affect your original image. Lightroom keeps track of these changes and applies them to copies of the image when you save, print, or publish the image. It’s going to be very exciting to watch this application evolve.

    It was really cool of the Photokina folks to provide some great photo opportunities at the show. Aside from the Kölner Dom Cathedral and numerous bridges, there was a stage outdoors with several beautiful eagles and a couple of times per day, the eagles fly back and forth between trainers across the courtyard.  Great photo opportunities!

    If you want to see lots of great pictures from each of the major players at the show, stop by DPReview’s live Photokina coverage which includes a brief review of each booth and lots of pictures of the cool new devices at each one.

    - Chris Evans and Josh Weisberg

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Call-out for Photo Fun

    • 2 Comments

    When I think “photographer”, I picture some guy with a khaki, pocket-riddled vest, two or three camera bags slung around shoulders and back and a camera with a lens like an elephant trunk.  It’s funny, because I’m a photographer and that certainly doesn’t describe me. I shoot with a Canon SD700, a simple but powerful point and shoot.  I like it because its image stabilization technology lets me take pictures without a flash (so I get nice, warm colors) in low-light conditions (e.g., late-night events), but, more importantly, because it’s small enough to drop it in my pocket and forget about it.  Anything bulkier would be too awkward to carry around and I’d use it less.

    Another common image of the “photographer” is of a darkroom purist, carefully editing each picture to maximize its artistic and aesthetic qualities, the end result destined for black and white matting or a personally-hosted web album.  Obvously, there are a lot of people like that (and, honestly, I share a hallway with many of them here on the PIX team), but again, that ain’t me.

    I like to have FUN with photos.  Sure, I crop them, remove the red-eye and tweak the colors, but I also muck with them.  Sometimes I’ll throw a cartoon or neon filter over them to add a bit of drama or scrawl a word balloon or a mustache. When I share my photos, sure I put them on-line, but as often as not, when my friends actually see them, I’m sitting at the computer, narrating the stories, jumping around between pictures and providing color commentary (if you’ll excuse the pun).

    ZingFuThat’s why I love services and apps like fd’s flickr toys. It lets you do fun things like make it look like your photo is a roadside billboard, add comic book style caption and put your face on the cover of a magazine. Zingfu is another one for making “your photoz dumber”. Here’s me on the side of a milk carton, courtesy of Zingfu.

    So here’s my question to you all: what are other fun sites like these that I’d enjoy?  Not just sites that let me add a template to my photo, but sites that let me play and build things with photos?  Send in your suggestions through this blog's comment feature, and I’ll post a follow-up with a round-up of the best (IMHO).

    - Jordan Schwartz, Senior Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    PIX on10!

    • 1 Comments

    Awhile ago, Jordan and I met with Duncan from http://on10.net to give him a look at the Windows Photo Gallery in Vista.

    Duncan has posted the video of our encounter, check it out!

    http://on10.net/Blogs/TheShow/5789/

    - Scott Dart (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Media Center Edition and Photos

    • 1 Comments

    Although we talk a a lot about the Windows Photo Gallery, the photo experience in Vista also includes the Windows Explorer (“the shell”), Media Center, Windows Media Player, and Movie Maker, to name a few. Separate teams work on these different components.   However, we spend quite a bit of time with each other coordinating the work that we do, so that the user has a good experience when they’re working with their photos. 

    But each team also make sure that the user experience is also optimized based on how you’re interacting with it.  Media Center pulls together the media experiences across Windows—photos, videos, music, TV—into great remote-controlled UI.  Media Center folks call this the 10-foot experience instead of the keyboard-and-mouse-based 2-foot experience.  So the photo experience in Media Center is optimized for that 10’ experience

    (By the way – 10 and 2 feet are the distances between your nose and the monitor when you’re using each of those interfaces.  As a matter of full disclosure, I worked on the Media Center team for several years before I joined the PIX team. :-) )

    For example, metadata and photo organization are a big investment for Vista, enabling users to easily browse, find, and share your photos that you’ve taken. Since the Media Center experience is all about easy browsing and consuming of your content, too, it’s a no-brainer for us to make sure that the tagging concept we added as a core part of the photo experience in the 2’ photo gallery was also available at 10’ media center. 

    A place where we made some compromises is in how we handle acquisition of photos.  The Media Center team wasn’t able to take advantage of the new photo acquisition platform that we added to vista, but we still worked together to make sure that the overall experience works – regardless of the underlying technology. We made sure that our photos are still viewable in both media center and the gallery.   Yeah, it means that the Media Center implementation misses features like auto-rotate during import or plug-in support, but based on the costs and resources, we think this was a reasonable tradeoff.

    Then there are some things that we don’t even try to keep parity with. A feature that may inherently require a lot of keyboard and mouse work – like composing an email – just isn’t as compelling to add to the remote-control-driven Media Center.

    That’s all well and good, but how do I use it?

    I love using Media Center to immediately review photos that I’ve just taken – like from a party that’s still underway, or straight back from vacation.

    I’ve got a Living Room PC form-factor Media Center in my living room.  I just pop my memory card into the PC and immediately begin reviewing my photos full-screen with the remote.   I use Media Center’s immediate editing features to correct rotation or to zoom on in pictures. 

    I then save the detailed editing and tagging for when I go upstairs to get to my home office with my “regular” PC with keyboard and mouse handy.  On the flip-side, I’ve got my photo collection on my home office PC shared out on my home network, so I can browse my full collection from my media center PC.

    That just happens to be *my* workflow.  I could also have used Media Center to import them to a network location, and then reviewed the photos from another PC.   (I’ve just got some habit that I’ve built up around doing some lightweight processing around photos when they come in, and I like being reminded of it by the physical action of plugging my card in my main PC) 

    - Rodger Benson, Group Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Vista Photo Gallery Scoping

    • 1 Comments

    The Windows Vista Photo Gallery is built on top of a database that allows you to perform powerful queries against your collection of photos and video. Although a file will live in one only folder, you’ll be able to find it in new ways, like by the date it was taken, the date it was imported, the tags you have applied to it, the rating you have given it, or by searching for text in the file name, path, or caption.

    Indexing every file on your PC would be very time consuming and resource intensive, and is not usually required since most people keep their photos in one or two specific places on their PC. The most common locations are added to ‘scope’ by default (and therefore get indexed automatically).

    • \Users\<user>\Pictures
    • \Users\<user>\Videos
    • \Users\Public\Public Pictures\
    • \Users\Public\Public Videos\

    The public folders are great for families that share a PC and have a shared set of photos that they want everyone to see. Any photos stored in the Public folders will be able to be seen by all of the other users on the PC. Any tags that get added to these photos will show up in the Gallery for the other users of the PC automatically.

    If you keep your photos in a different location (like an external hard drive), it’s easy to add your photos to the Gallery. Select ‘Add Folder to Gallery…’ from the ‘File’ menu. This will let you browse for the folder on your PC (maybe it’s on an external hard drive, or even a network location).

    Once you have added the folder, the Gallery will start indexing this new location for you. The Photo Gallery will automatically stay in sync with any changes that are made in any of the folders that are in scope.

    - Scott Dart (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Metadata Questions and Answers

    • 6 Comments

    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

    Metadata and the Windows Vista Photo Gallery

    • 23 Comments

    If you have ever applied a tag to a photo, given it a star rating, or changed the date or time it was taken, you’ve edited the metadata on the photo. The term metadata literally means “data about data”. Your photos are considered “data”, so metadata about your photos is simply information that further describes your photos.

    The Windows operating system has always had mechanisms for storing and displaying metadata. For example, here is some of the information available for photos in Windows XP:

    • File Name
    • File Size
    • File type
    • Date last modified
    • Etc.

    Windows Vista makes some improvements to the metadata system for photos. For example, here is some of the new information available in Windows Vista:

    • Tags
    • Date Taken
    • Rating
    • Caption
    • Image Resolution
    • Camera make/model
    • Shutter speed
    • Etc.

    Some of this information is written to the photo by your camera (e.g. shutter speed, date taken, camera make/model). Some of it is added by you in an application like the Windows Vista Photo Gallery (e.g. tags, captions, and ratings).

    In the past, you may have used third-party image management applications that allowed you to add tags (or other metadata) to your photos, only to find out later that those tags were locked in a private database that only that application could read. This makes it inconvenient to share your photos (or back them up), since the metadata didn’t travel with the file. In Windows Vista, our goal is “the truth is in the file”. That means that metadata you apply to your photos is part of the photo, and available to any application that knows how to read it. But how do we accomplish that?

    EXIF, IPTC, and XMP – oh my!
    There are a number of competing standards for imaging metadata. That is, different ways of reading and writing metadata for photos. One of the biggest standards, EXIF, is commonly written to photos by most cameras, but has many limitations. It’s somewhat antiquated, fragile, not very flexible, and doesn’t support international languages like Japanese very well. IPTC is a standard that is used pretty widely in journalism applications, but is undergoing a transformation towards an XMP-based system.

    XMP is an extensible framework for embedding metadata in files that was developed by Adobe, and is the foundation for our “truth is in the file” goal. All metadata written to photos by Windows Vista will be written to XMP (always directly to the file itself, never to a ‘sidecar’ file). When reading metadata from photos on Windows Vista, we will first look for XMP metadata, but if we don’t find any, we’ll also look for legacy EXIF and IPTC metadata as well. If we find legacy metadata, we’ll write future changes back to both XMP and the legacy metadata blocks (to improve compatibility with legacy applications).

    Hurry up and wait
    It can be time consuming and resource intensive to read and write large image files. Because of this, The Windows Photo Gallery does all of its file activity in the background. When you query or tag photos in the Gallery, the instantaneous performance you’re seeing is the result of a database that caches metadata to provide a fast user experience.

    Although you’re able to tag thousands of photos and move on immediately, the reality is that those files will slowly be updated in the background. If you have tagged a bunch of files, those tags will not be visible to other applications until the Gallery has finished writing to those files. There is a small indicator in the bottom left hand corner of the application to let you know what the Gallery's metadata read/write status is.

    Hover your mouse over the small blue icon below the tree when it appears to see a tooltip with the following information:

    • Number of tag updates remaining (how many files the Gallery needs to read tags/metadata from)
    • Number of file updates remaining (how many files the Gallery needs to write tags/metadata to)
    • Number of thumbnail updates remaining (how many thumbnails the Gallery needs to generate from files)

    When the little blue icon disappears, it means the Gallery’s database and the file system are in sync. If you still run into files that are out of sync…

    Your mileage may vary
    Although our goal is for “truth in the file”, we know that we won’t be able to achieve it 100% of the time for all files. There are some cases where metadata writeback is impossible, so we do the best that we can. Some of the cases where we can’t write back metadata include:

    • Insufficient permissions to write to the file
    • File type (or codec) doesn’t support metadata writeback (e.g. BMP, PNG, GIF, MPEG, etc.)
    • Corruption in the file (badly formed metadata, etc.)
    • File is locked for writing by another application

    In these cases, the Photo Gallery will write the tags (or other metadata) to its own database, but since it is not in the file, other applications (and other parts of Windows) will not have access to the metadata. Other parts of Windows (e.g. Explorer, the Photo Viewer) may not allow you to write back metadata at all if it cannot be written to the file immediately.

    The Gallery does retry writeback operations several times before giving up. Every time the Gallery starts up, it will retry files that it couldn’t write in previous sessions. So if you discovered that your tags weren’t getting written back to your files because they were marked read-only, simply clear the read-only flag, and restart the Gallery. This should cause all of your tags to get written to your files.

    We will be posting more extensive documentation on MSDN in the coming weeks. Watch this space for an update!

    - Scott Dart (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Vista Slideshow

    • 18 Comments

    Ever wonder what hides behind the candy-like blue button? My name is Karen Wong, and I'm a Program Manager on the Windows Vista Photo Gallery. My team created the experience behind this blue button - the Windows Vista Slide Show. This is the place to enjoy your photos and videos in their full-screen glory; or to set them against a background that suits the occasion.

    So what are some of the big changes from the XP Slide Show?  First off, the Vista slideshow can play photos AND videos.  Previously in XP, it was not possible to combine photos and videos in a single Slide Show. If you’re like me, you’ll take a couple of short clips in addition to your larger set of photos at any given event. Now there’s a one-stop shop to viewing everything you uploaded.

    Next, we’ve created a set of ‘themes’ that provide different ways for you to enjoy your photos.  The themes are designed to vary in the number of photos/videos you see on screen, the look-and-feel of the background; as well, we’ve spiced some themes up to include some new animation effects.

    We expect our users to have a wide variety of photos from a diverse range of events, activities, and special occasions. Our themes try to address this broad range of subject matter, as we know that different photos can be complimented with the right ‘mood’ in a theme. 

    Themes are organized in the slideshow menu in groups: the top 3 groups display photos/videos at full-screen. The bottom group displays photos/videos in a single or multi-layout format, with themed backgrounds. Some of the themes in the last group also include the new animated effects. 

    But not too fast. Although we’re jazzed about these new themes, we still love the simplicity of the XP slideshow.  So guess what?  We kept it in. You’ll find the XP slideshow under the ‘Classic’ theme - it plays photos only, with no fancy backgrounds or effects.

    One caveat: cool Slide Shows need the right hardware.  You’ll need a minimum level of graphics support (i.e. video card) to get the new and improved Slide Show experience. The quickest way to find out whether you’re ‘Slide Show Ready’ is to check your Windows Experience Index (Start Menu | Computer | System Properties). On par with the requirements to run Aero Glass, you’ll need a ‘Graphics’ score of at least 3.0. 

    Power User
    If your graphics score isn’t at least 3.0, you can still get the full set of themes (with the Premium or Ultimate SKU) by setting a regkey. Keep in mind that there are no guarantees that they will run well!

    Here is the info you need to set the regkey:
    Key path is HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows Photo Gallery\SlideShow.
    Type = DWORD Value
    Name = WinSATScore
    Value = 300

    - Karen Wong, Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Photosynth Technology Preview

    • 6 Comments

    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

    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

    More Photo Scavenger Hunting

    There was quite a bit of interest some time back when I posted about Pixie Hunt, our cameraphone-based photo scavenger hunt. As hoped, we ran it at the Where 2.0 conference, and by reports, a good time was had by all.

    Since then, I’ve heard about a few other cameraphone-based scavenger hunts that I thought people might be interested in.  None of them have the real-time communication feature of Pixie Hunt (i.e., I can see what pictures other people are taking as they take them), but they each have some unique appeal:

    • MSN and Sprint teamed up to offer Obey.  Each week, they send out an SMS with the week’s objective.  When you find an object that meets the description, you take a picture and e-mail it from your cameraphone.  Points are awarded based on task difficulty.
    • Starbucks Summer Pursuit is similar to Obey, except the tasks are presented as clues and they use “intelligent image recognition” to judge your responses. Please leave a comment if you’ve tried it and have info on how good the image recognition is. [via Mopocket]
    • Mobile Assassins offers a fun twist on the Assassins game I used to play in high school.  Your assignment is sent via MMS, then you reply via MMS with a picture of the person’s face to “take them down”.  All in good fun.
    • The Go Game offers a “corporate team building” version of the mobile photo scavenger hunt.  They plant clues, assign missions, and even conspire with ice cream vendors.  Your job is to take the pictures and send them back to HQ.

    There are lots more out there, but of the ones I found, these did the best job of taking advantage of the phone part of the cameraphone.  If you know of others, please post them to the comments section. 

    - Jordan Schwartz

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Media Photo Blog

    • 2 Comments

    We’ve added a link in our sidebar to Bill Crow’s Windows Media Photo blog. In his own words:

    The purpose of this blog is to provide information and updates on Windows Media Photo, answer questions, provide technical assistance and stimulate open conversation.  I expect there will be a wide range of topics ranging from technical details for developers to far more general discussions about photos, color, workflows and best practices for photographers and photo enthusiasts.

     

    Windows Media Photo is a new still image file format, introduced with Windows Vista and available for cross-platform adoption.  Windows Media Photo supports a wide range of pixel formats, including high dynamic range, wide gamut formats in fixed or floating point, up to 32 bits per pixel.  It provides native support for RGB, grey, CMYK and n-Channel, including planar or interleaved alpha channels.  The advanced compression technology offers the option for either lossless or very high quality lossy compression.  Windows Media Photo supports all current metadata standards and formats, and provides excellent performance, enabling efficient use in embedded applications. 

     We encourage you to check it out for more information on this new imaging file format.

    - 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

    Known Windows Photo Gallery Issues in Beta 2

    • 1 Comments

    Thank you all for using the Windows Photo Gallery and for helping us make it better!  I’d like to list some of the known issues in the Photo Gallery in this post, so if you happen to see any of them, rest assured that we’re still working on getting them resolved for the final product.

     

    Some Adobe RGB images may have unusual colors – there are some cameras that tag images as Adobe RGB without actually embedding an Adobe RGB profile.  When we encounter such a file, since we can’t get the color profile from the file itself, we’ll check the system’s color profile directory.  If the correct profile is not installed, the colors may appear incorrect.  To fix this issue, you can download and install the Adobe RGB profile for free from Adobe’s website (http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/adobergb.html).

     

    Certain types of metadata in JPEG images may be lost – The JPEG specification calls for metadata to be stored in 64KB blocks known as APPn blocks.  For metadata elements greater than 64KB multiple 64KB APPn blocks of the same type are used to store the entire metadata element.  Windows Vista does not support processing multiple APPn blocks of the same type at this time, so single metadata elements in JPEG images that are greater than 64KB may be lost when a file is updated or re-written.  The most common case of this occurs when large color profiles are embedded in an image file.  There is no workaround for this issue at this time.  Note that any metadata element less than 64KB in size is not affected by this issue.  While this issue is fairly uncommon, we recommend that you keep a backup of your photos.

     

    Makernote metadata field is offsetCamera manufacturers embed device-specific, proprietary information in a metadata field known as the Makernote field.  Some manufacturers' Makernote information is dependent on the location of the Makernote field within the file.  When the user acquires or tags images using Windows Vista the Makernote field can be moved within the file.  This is allowed by the EXIF specification.  For some manufacturers' Makernotes, this change in location of the Makernote field invalidates the offsets that are location dependent.  When Windows Vista moves the Makernote field, it will also write out (in the file) the offset by which the data was moved so that new and updated applications will be able to access all of the information in the Makernote field.  This offset is not written out in Beta 2.  Makernotes will continue to be moved in the shipping version of Vista.

     

    Visual artifacts in the Viewer when using S3 Deltachrome graphics card – you may see visual artifacts when panning your photos in the Viewer if you’re using an S3 Deltachrome graphics card.  Your photo is not corrupted; this is a known issue with the graphics card driver and we are working with S3 on a fix.

     

    The ‘Burn’ button does nothing – clicking the burn button either on the Taskbar or from the Gallery does nothing when there is no disc inserted in the drive.  We are working on a fix for this issue.

     

    Burned disc takes a while to eject after pressing the eject button – when writing to a disc using the UDF format, the session closes automatically on eject.  The delay you may experience between pressing eject and actually have the disc eject is because the session is being closed.  We have recently added messaging notifying users that the session is being closed to help clarify the delay.

     

    Images may appear distorted while running the Slideshow on widescreen monitors – some images will appear “stretched out” when viewing a slideshow on a widescreen monitor.  This is an issue that we’ve fixed in recent builds.

     

    Slideshow alters screen resolution – some of the rich Slideshow themes in Windows Vista require more resources from your graphics card.  In order to enable a good viewing experience across a wide set of hardware, we scale down the resolution based on graphics processor resources.  This change in resolution lasts for the duration of the Slideshow and returns to your original settings once you have exited the Slideshow.

     

    RAW files don’t show up – currently, there aren’t any RAW codecs available for Windows Vista.  We are actively working with camera manufacturers to get these codecs developed and released.  Codecs will be available for download from camera manufacturer websites when released.

     

    Online Print Wizard doesn’t have any service providers – we are continuing to work with multiple service providers so that there will be many options available when the final product ships.  Some beta providers should be listed before August.  Watch this blog for announcements when they launch.

     

    Thanks again for using the Windows Photo Gallery and submitting such great feedback!  As we become aware of issues we’ll be sure to post them here, so keep checking back for updates.

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