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Android 12 Will Support AVIF Photos

The first preview of Android 12 has landed, and it brings news that the mobile operating system will have platform support for the AV1 Image File Format (AVIF), which has dramatically better image quality for the same file size when compared with image formats such as JPEG.

AVIF is an image file format that uses AV1 compression (the open, royalty-free video coding format designed for video transmissions on the Web) stored in HEIF containers.

“AVIF is a container format for images and sequences of images encoded using AV1,” Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke writes. “Like other modern image formats, AVIF takes advantage of the intra-frame encoded content from video compression.”

The quality and storage benefits of AVIF over JPEG are easy to see. Take this photo of Russian F1 driver Daniil Kvyat, for example:

Photo by Jake Archibald and licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Here’s what the photo looks like at a resolution of 1920×1080 and with image quality adjusted to bring the file size down to 20.7kB:

JPEG (20.7 kB)

“I couldn’t even get the JPEG […] down to 18 kB, even at lowest settings, so this isn’t a totally fair test,” Chrome developer advocate Jake Archibald writes. “The JPEG suffers from awful banding, which started to appear as soon as I went below 74 kB.’

The 1920×1080 version of this photo as a AVIF file can be shrunk down to 18.2kB with clearly better image quality:

AVIF (18.2 kB)

Other features supported by AVIF include high dynamic range (HDR), 8/10/12-bit color depth, lossless/lossy compression, monochrome (alpha/depth) or multi-components, the use of any color space, 4:2:0/4:2:2/4:4:4 chroma subsampling, and film grain.

“AVIF is a path to HDR image support for the web,” Google writes. “JPEG is limited in practice to 8-bit color depth. With displays increasingly capable of higher brightness, color bit depth, and color gamuts, web stakeholders are increasingly interested in preserving image data that is lost with JPEG.”

Version 1.0.0 of the AVIF specification was finalized in February 2019, and the format is slowly seeing more widespread adoption. Support has previously been announced by Microsoft (in Windows 10), Darktable, GIMP, Cloudflare, and Google (in Chrome).

Although AVIF will be supported in Android 12, Google isn’t planning to make it the default image format like Apple did with HEIF and iOS 11.

While an exact release date hasn’t been announced, Android 12 may land later this year after this developer preview and an upcoming public beta phase.

Ken Rockwell Patents ‘Smart Cropping’ Camera Software for Zooms

Ken Rockwell has announced that he has patented a software addition that would leverage the ability for full-frame cameras to shoot in crop modes and automatically apply that feature when a lens is zoomed for extra optical throw in situations like bird photography.

Rockwell says that he along with optical patent attorney and co-inventor Ben Langlotz have been granted a ptatent that he claims will be a “huge benefit” for bird shooters and “just about anyone who uses zooms.”

The patent covers the concept of a firmware update that would allow the camera to live smart crop as a photographer zooms a lens to its long end.

“It shoots full-frame at wider settings, and intelligently starts cropping-in as you zoom to the longest settings,” Rockwell explains. “Instead of shooting in APS-C all the time for birds, but not being able to get full-frame as you zoom out, with a firmware update your camera can be smart enough to shoot full-frame at most zoom settings, and only start cropping-in as you zoom your existing lenses to their very longest settings.”

Rockwell says in other words, a photographer’s camera can be set to add an increasing amount of crop (digital zoom) at only the longest end of each of a photographer’s zoom lenses.

“It allows a broader zoom range, and especially for birders or others who often crop,” Rockwell says. “Now cameras will be smart enough only to crop as you get to the longest zoom settings. You won’t have to stop and select image areas or crops; your camera will be able to read the zoom setting and automatically start cropping at the longest end of your zoom range.”

Illustration of a graph with focal length functions in a lens setting.

Rockwell explains using a 100-400mm lens as an example. He says that in this particular example, a camera would shoot normally (full-frame) from the 100-300mm range of that lens but as the photographer approaches the 400mm end, the camera would intelligently apply an APS-C crop until the full zoom length is reached, effectively turning the final zoom into 800mm.

“It works just as well with other zooms; your 16-35mm could shoot full-frame from 16-30mm, and from 30-35mm gradually start cropping-in to a 70mm equivalent! This works just as well with APS-C and other cameras,” Rockwell says.

The actual patent language specifies a camera and zoom lens with an electronic connection that would work with a controller to apply software where “the digital zoom function includes a transition from no digital zoom at an initial selected focal length to the maximum at the greatest focal length.” You can read the full details of the patent here.

The feature would of course be able to be toggled on and off, and the only hurdle that needs to be overcome to see this implemented would be simply for camera manufacturers to start adding it to their devices.

That is of course after it has been licensed from Rockwell and Langlotz. Rockwell is encouraging those interested in the feature to contact Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fujifilm directly and ask for this feature, and has provided Langlotz’s contact information that can be sent to these companies as part of that request.


Image credits: Header image by Atharva Tulsi.

Samsung is Bringing Some Galaxy S21 Features to Older Devices

Samsung is bringing several of the new capabilities that came with the Galaxy S21 Ultra and its One UI OS to its older phones, including the Galaxy S20, Note 20, Z Fold 2, and Z Flip devices. While not all the features in its latest One UI Android skin are coming, many camera features are.

As part of the One UI 3.1 update, several new features are soon going to be available on legacy Samsung devices.

The ability to capture both stills and video simultaneously with the phone’s cameras, which Samsung calls Enhanced Single Take, is one such feature coming to older devices along with Multi Mic Recording, which lets you capture audio both from your phone and from a connected Bluetooth device. These features are aimed more towards creators using their Samsung devices to make more complicated photo and video projects, and while that audience is small at the mid to high-end consumer level, having these capabilities in a smartphone makes it easier and more accessible for new or burgeoning artists to try their hands at more complicated setups.

In the Samsung Gallery app, the Object Eraser tool that can remove visual elements from photos with the help of AI is also coming to older devices. This feature was touted as working similarly to Adobe’s Content-Aware Fill tool, and Samsung boasted in its Galaxy S21 Ultra reveal that it was capable of removing people from backgrounds with a single tap. In practice, it is reported that actual results may vary depending on how prominent the object you are trying to remove is, which is honestly expected; there are limitations to what this kind of thing can do.

AI removes those elements and intelligently fills them.

Finally, Eye Comfort Shield which limits the amount of blue light that your phone outputs, and Private share, which allows you to add an expiration date to files you send to others, are both also coming to legacy devices as part of this update. Both of these features fall into the “nice to have” category, and the file-sharing feature, in particular, should make using Samsung phones for business activities more secure and easier to monitor.

Samsung will start rolling out the One UI 3.1 update starting today in “select markets.”

(via Engadget)

Software Can Turn Lightroom or Aperture Catalogs into Luminar Catalogs

Avalanche is a photo migration software by developer Cyme that can be used to convert one photo catalog into another without losing any data. Today it announced compatibility with Skylum Luminar 4 and AI, allowing Lightroom, Aperture, and soon Capture One catalogs to be turned into Luminar catalogs.

Avalanche says that its software will analyze existing catalogs and safely migrate the images, including metadata, annotations, custom organization hierarchies (like albums, stacks, keywords, etc) into a new catalog for supported software.

“Avalanche uses Machine Learning to automatically adjust the edits you made on a photo to ensure that it looks exactly the same after migration,” the company writes. “Not all adjustments made to your photos require AI. Some, like geometrical adjustments (e.g. straighten, crop) are carried across very precisely. Avalanche uses AI for white balance, exposure and light, color and tint, and highlights and shadows.”

Avalance for Luminar, announced today, can transform existing Aperture, Lightroom, and soon CaptureOne photo catalogs into Luminar catalogs which are then ready to be opened and edited. This solution is designed for photographers who have adopted Luminar 4 or Luminar AI as their photo cataloging and editing solution but are struggling with the task of consolidating past work with new work.

If you want to transfer Luminar 4 catalogs into Luminar AI, Avalanche can do that, too. Avalanche claims it will migrate all the complex effects applied in Luminar 4 to reproduce exactly the same results in Luminar AI.

Avalanche is available for Lightroom (to convert any Aperture or Luminar Catalog into Lightroom), Luminar (to convert Aperture, Lightroom, and Luminar 4 catalog to Luminar 4/AI), and as Avalanche Unlimited, which is an all-inclusive edition that transfers catalogs between all formats currently supported. Avalanche for Capture one (which will convert any Aperture, Lightroom, or Luminar Catalog to Capture One) will be coming soon.

Avalanche for Luminar and Avalanche Unlimited require MacOS 10.14 or higher and are fully compatible with MacOS Big Sur and also run natively on the new Mac M1. Avalanche is compatible with Aperture catalogs starting with version 3.6, Lightroom catalogs starting with version 5, and Luminar catalogs starting with version 4.2. Approximately 145 MB of free space is required, 4 GB of memory (8 GB recommended), and enough space to accommodate converted libraries. A working version of Apple Aperture or Lightroom is not required to migrate the libraries, because Avalanche opens these libraries in native mode.

The Luminar upgrade is available for free for existing customers. For everyone else, it can be bought as a standalone for $59 or as part of Unlimited for $119 and can be purchased here.

(via Photo Rumors)

AI Can Now Turn You Into a Fully Digital, Realistic Talking Clone

Hour One describes itself as a “video transformation company” that wants to replace cameras with code, and its latest creation is the ability for anyone to create a fully digital clone of themselves that can appear to speak “on camera” without a camera or audio inputs at all.

The company has debuted its digital clone technology in partnership with YouTuber Taryn Southern. In the video above, Southern is a fully digital creation that was created as a collaborative experiment between Southern and Hour One. The company uses a proprietary AI-driven process to provide automation to video creation, which enables presenter-led videos at scale without needing to put a person in front of a camera.

Hour One says that experts (which are not cited) predict that in the next five to seven years, 90% of content will be synthetic, or generated using computers instead of cameras. The company believes that issues arising from the Coronavirus Pandemic have exacerbated the need for this technology and fast-tracked it.

“When the pandemic hit, production all over the world shut down. People were looking for alternate ways to make content and I was curious about what could be produced with AI-generated video,” says Southern. “Experimenting with AI video production has been similar to working with AI music. It provokes important conversations around the future of identity and trust, and will undoubtedly change the future of production.”

In order to create the “AI Clone,” Southern had to go into a studio and stand in front of a green screen so she could be captured from multiple angles. She also had to say several sets of words so that the program would be able to replicate her voice. In the video below, she describes the process as just reading a couple of scripts and singing a song. The entire process in front of the camera took just seven minutes.

From there, hundreds of videos can be generated in a matter of minutes just by submitting text to the platform. A creator would not need to record any audio at all.

On the plus side, it doesn’t look like it would be possible to create an AI person without this studio time, but it also means that it would theoretically be possible to obtain the AI version of Southern and input any texts into the program which the AI would read as though it were her. The ramifications of that are daunting.

Still, Hour One argues that the benefits of its technologies outweigh the possible downsides. The company claims that with this technology, content creators will see a drastic reduction in the time and cost of video production to a matter of minutes. Additionally, a video can be created without a time-intensive routine to look presentable for the camera (AI Taryn jokes that she can now create new YouTube videos “without the real Taryn having to shower or leave her bed.”).

Additionally, any AI clone can speak multiple languages which allow for greater distribution of content to more people around the world.

It is important to distinguish this technology from a “deepfake.” Deepfakes take a target face and overlay it on top of existing or newly-recorded footage. What Hour One is doing here is allowing for completely original content to be created as though it were being spoken by the real person. Hour One is calling the result a “photoreal digital human.”

While this process may not lend itself to all types of content (like comedy, for instance, which relies heavily on performance and timing), Hour One argues it could be highly effective for news formats, for which the focus is on timeliness and quality of writing and reporting, and other kinds of presenter-led content.

“In our increasingly virtual work environment, Hour One’s technology is also being applied to e-learning, e-commerce, and digital health – places where a human presenter is highly valuable,” the company says.

Hour One’s photoreal digital human technology is rolling out now, with multiple examples available on its website. While the early iteration of the technology may look slightly short of truly real, it is quite close. Hour One will likely iterate and improve on this design in the months and years ahead.

Hour One is accepting applications for anyone to become an “Hour One character” on its website as well, for those who want to submit for consideration.

Clubhouse for Photographers: Social Media as We Know It is About to Change

Many photographers have had the same reaction that I did upon hearing about yet another new social media app hitting the radar: a yawn and a roll of the eyes. We have seen countless apps and image-sharing sites emerge with fanfare and then fail to gain traction in the crowded sphere of social media, and we feel pressed to carve out time for the platforms that we already use.

So why should any photographer devote more precious time to an app that doesn’t even include any images? The short answer is because Clubhouse is poised to be a true disrupter, an app that could usher in a whole new era of social media. If that answer is provocative enough to make you want to try it, then stop reading this article right now and waste no time in finding a friend who can give you an invite. Otherwise, read on to find out why Clubhouse is turning the social media world on its ear—quite literally.

What is Clubhouse?

You know an app is breaking new ground when it can make one of the oldest forms of communication seem new again. Talking to people seems almost archaic these days, as we have transitioned from in-person conversations to phone conversations to Zoom conversations, and yet now there is an app that makes talking suddenly seem revolutionary.

Despite its apparent simplicity, Clubhouse is difficult to describe because it overlaps with so many other audio experiences without specifically imitating any of them. At its most intimate, it can be like sitting around a campfire with a group of friends when a few people you really admire and have never met just happen to walk by and ask to join in the conversation.

It can be like a podcast where a couple of people do all of the talking while thousands listen. It can be like a panel discussion where audience members can volunteer to come up on stage and become panel members too. It can be like the office break room where colleagues randomly gather around the water cooler as they overhear something interesting. It can be like placing an ear to the wall while a group of top pros has a spontaneous brainstorming session. It can be all of that and more.

Just as interesting is a summary of what Clubhouse is not. It is not a place to “post and run”. It is not a place where copying others will gain “likes”. There are no “likes”, no keyboard warriors, and no ads (which the founders do not favor in their plans to monetize the app in the future).

The app does not have images anywhere at all, nor the ability to link to them. Instead, it defers to Instagram and Twitter as routes to visual content by connecting user profiles to those other platforms. Ditto for direct messaging via text; it is not a feature of the app, so most photographers use Instagram for follow-up texts. Even more unusual, nothing on Clubhouse is recorded, so all conversations are ephemeral: either you tune in, or you miss out.

Possible Photographer Incentives

The uses of drop-in audio for photographers are unlimited, but here are some possible scenarios to give you a sense of the potential that the app has to offer.

1) Listening to Pros Share Insights

The number of knowledgeable and helpful photographers on Clubhouse is truly impressive. From business to creativity to gear to travel concerns, the topics that I’ve heard covered so far run the gamut of what most photographers care about.

2) Random Opportunities

What continues to astonish me is not so much the depth of talent and knowledge to be found on Clubhouse (which is substantial, but not surprising), but the wonderful randomness of the interactions. Conversations spontaneously evolve and bring together people who normally would never have opportunities to connect.

For example, I recently dropped into a room with a topic regarding the Canon EOS R5, which turned out to be a lively discussion between numerous professional photographers, some of them very well known. Other pros and enthusiasts asked questions, and about fifty people in the audience listened passively. At one point the conversation evolved into wishes for features on future cameras before returning to questions and more advice.

What most people in the room almost certainly did not know is that two Canon executives were among the silent audience members. Those feature requests went right to people who have direct input at Canon, and some of those pros speaking in the room may now be on Canon’s radar for future projects.

3) Quick Advice

Imagine that you’re in a hurry to make a travel decision and would really appreciate some knowledgeable advice about your particular dilemma. So you jump on Clubhouse and start a chat room with a topic asking for input. A few people come in and offer up some ideas, but one of them has a friend who lives in the area that you intend to visit. The friend happens to be online, so he pings her (a feature of the app), and she pops in to talk for a bit. Within a short amount of time, you are able to make an especially informed decision through easy conversation.

4) Unpredictable Connections

Photographers sometimes cross paths “in real life”, but most of us are aware of each other only through published/posted work, reputation, interviews, and impersonal text interactions. In less than a week on Clubhouse, I have had friendly voice conversations with at least a dozen notable photographers who I knew previously only as names with profile photos.

Just as interesting, I have connected with several people outside the photography industry who any professional would love to have in their Rolodex. Within my first half-hour on Clubhouse, I came into one of these connections quite serendipitously and immediately appreciated the potential of this new paradigm for creating and strengthening professional relationships. Moreover, it all happened in the course of having fun, through encounters that felt far more relaxed and casual than most other social situations ever do.

5) Reaching New Audiences

Clubhouse combines a broad range of interest groups with a high level of serendipity for discovery. Every day that I have been on the app, I’ve heard numerous photographers with relatively small followings get shout-outs from people they have never met. Typically it’s because a photographer raised their hand in a room to ask a question and the speakers checked out that person’s Instagram link (a habit that seems to be almost a part of the app’s culture). The pattern is similar each time: the speakers are impressed with the photographer’s Instagram feed and exhort the audience to go have a look.

Through the Looking Glass

Clearly, Clubhouse in its current form is not poised to supplant image-sharing platforms such as Facebook or Instagram in any absolute sense. Nonetheless, if the app’s creators manage to defend its lead, Clubhouse is likely to reconfigure how we use image sharing platforms and how they function, rather than replacing any of them. If the app loses its lead to copycats, then the same result seems inevitable: one way or another, social media is about to turn a corner where interactive audio is integral to the social media experience.

Whether you decide to join Clubhouse or not, the drop-in audio chat model inevitably will become part of how you consume and share visual media in the future.


About the author: Erin Babnik is a full-time landscape photographer, photography educator, writer, and speaker. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Babnik divides her time between Cascadia’s Californian southern boundary and Europe, teaching workshops and giving talks on both continents. You can learn more about Babnik and her ideas about photography through a variety of interviews with her. You can find more of Babnik’s work on her website. This article was also published at Photo Cascadia, where she’s a team member.

Frame.io C2C – Camera to Cloud

Frame.io has announced C2C, which stands for Camera to Cloud. Essentially camera-to-cloud takes video village off-set for a completely safe way to produce films. According to Frame.io, C2C is a breakthrough technology that brings IoT to Hollywood (or any) film sets, catalyzing major changes in the way movies are created. While Frame.io C2C was not … Continued

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