Sony XEL-1: First consumer-grade HDR Display?

Sony launches the first OLED Screen on December 1st in Japan. These are the main specs:
  • Contrast Ratio 1,000,000:1
  • 3 mm thin
  • 11" screen size
  • 960 by 540 pixels resolution
  • HDMI input, USB, Ethernet connection
  • price tag: $1,700
The first number is what makes this screen so special. Million-to-One contrast ratio equals a dynamic range of about 20 EVs! If Sony can hold this promise, that would even outnumber the infamous BrightSide Display which holds the record with 300,000:1 (or 18 EVs). But Dolby owns Brightside now, and thus Dolby also owns several patents on HDR display driver technology and HDR-capable video codecs. It wouldn't even surprise me if Sony's software is the missing link that prohibits showing HDR content (still or moving) in its full glory, crippling this screen to a "boosted LDR" television set. We will see...

However, the hardware is sound and affordable. Here is some more insight on the technology:

More elaborate info on the official Sony press release,
some more images and tech specs on the japanese press release (google translated),
and for a closer look at the device check out Sony's slick flash presentation.


As with all the cool japanese toys, US customers can order them directly from Dynamism.

PS: Site Updates

There is a new Monthly sIBL Set, and of course the Hot On Flickr gallery was rebooted for photos taken in October. And in case you missed the big countdown clock, there about two weeks left before my book hits the shelves. I have honestly no idea if Amazon will pull the plug on the pre-order special or not, but I assume the discount will at least stay valid as long as the release countdown is running...

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Exposure Bracketing via Aperture

The current standard is to vary shutter speed for shooting exposure bracketing sequences. If you'd vary aperture instead, you would also vary the depth-of-field, which is a bad thing because then you get fringing artifacts when you generate the HDRI.

But not anymore. Some crazy folks from the University of Toronto figured it all out, turning this obvious weakness into an advantage! Their new algorithm can not only avoid registration artifacts, they can even use the slight variances in the depth-of-field to create some kind of Über-HDRI where you can set the focus anywhere you want.
Projects website

Their method reads like inverse ray-tracing to me. Apparently, they analyze the tiny variances caused by aperture changes to split the image into several layers. These layers are then treated like cutout-cards in a 3D space: You can set them all in focus, or specify a tight focus range that is on one specific layer, or even somewhere between these layers. Good stuff!
Check out the movies on their project's website, and even if you're not a math fanatic you can safely read the first and the last page of their paper.

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The HDRI Handbook goes to print

Yes! Finally!

Since last week the book is officially out of my hands. Highly skilled print professionals will take it from here, mass-producing big stacks of colored paper that will soon ship to your door. They also make totally legal copies of the Companion DVD, which by the way is going to be filled up with 4.37 Gigs of goodies for you!

Here are some assorted numbers from the final book:

  • 344 full-color pages
  • roughly 100.000 carefully chosen words
  • about 500 photos, renderings, screenshots
  • 5 super-slick comparison tables
  • put in 1400 work hours in 10 months
  • 4 years of preceeding research
  • grew 17 grey hairs, my first ones

From what I was told, the book will be ready to ship around October 25. Yes, I know - another month of waiting. But this time it's for real! The HDRI Handbook is definitely on its way, and everybody involved was working very hard to make it a flawless initial release.
So, if you already ordered - please hang in there. If you were holding off on it, now is the time!

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Smart IBL loves the Mac

For 3D artists this could be a big deal:
The Maya loader for Smart IBL presets is now safe to use on a Mac. It can also hook into mental ray's IBL node, sets the key light accurately, and has lots of stability improvements. It even comes with a shelf icon. In other words: sIBL on Maya is ready for prime time!
sIBL on Lightwave has finally matured to version 1.0 as well. Mac support, 64bit-safe, support for LW9.3's fancy new cameras, and stable like a rock. Now, that's something!

sIBL of the month!

Why don't you just grab the latest sIBL set of the month, and give these new versions a shot! Yes, I'm keeping up the promise - this set has been there since september 1st.

Actually, there is even more than I promised, because in August I've upped a mid-month sIBL. Just because I was so happy to get a full HDR panorama stitched from fully handheld exposure brackets! And it works just fine:

This entire site is in permanent flux right now, even if there isn't always a blog entry on it. Here is a roundup of last week's updates:
  • Added QTpfsGUI and HDRView to the Software Links page.
  • Got great reviews for the book from Kirt Witte and Jack Howard.
  • Beefed up the zeitgeist-style "Hot on Flickr" gallery with that fancy Highslide image viewer.
  • Rewired the comments on the bottom of each blog post to a different service. Leaving a comment doesn't require registration anymore, so there is no reason for you to be quiet!

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My good friend Bernhard Vogl - Panographer par excellence - keeps pushing the envelope.
Anything below Gigapixel resolution he finds just boring these days. Check out his (and his friends) new pieces on, an entire gallery dedicated to Microsoft's latest Super-Resolution-Panoviewer. HDView is currently in beta stage, but it sure is one of the smoothest viewers out there.

On his Panorama Blog Bernhard talks about the latest HDView feature: Auto Tone Adjustment.
Clearly, this is the foundation for on-the-fly tonemapping as it should be, especially since Microsoft's .wdp format is technically a stream-able HDR format. It's just the current implementation that is restricted to LDR images... but it's getting there, eventually.

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New Utility: Dynamic Photo HDR

Dynamic Photo HDR is the new kid on the block, joining the ranks of HDR utilities. It comes in a sexy outfit, that offers just the right blend of usability and eye-candy interface. And it's prized very competitive at $39 bucks.

Feature-wise I dig:
  • semi-manual ghostbusting with a masking brush (finally!!)
  • alignment via control points, that even warps the images to fit
  • good selection of 6 tonemapping operators: 2 Local + 3 Global TMOs + 1 Hybrid
  • post-adjustments (curves, colors) right in the tonemapping dialog.
What bothers me (at first glance):
  • doesn't run multithreaded, so I have 7 cores just lurking around...
  • tonemapping preview can't be seen at actual pixel size (even though the "Full Preview" button leads to the assumption).
  • no panoramic continuity option for Local TMOs.
If you want to know the full story, read Jack Howard's Review on PopPhoto (don't miss out on the tutorial slideshow), or take this baby on a test drive yourself.

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