Siggraph Part 1: Superimposing DR and Mayan Temples

Well, I'm still stuck in the office for the day, but that gives me a chance to write up some of my early discoveries.

Superimposing Dynamic Range

It was the first page of the first chapter of the Handbook, where I mentioned you could expand the dynamic range of a book when you could somehow print a patch that is brighter than the paper it's printed on. Well, smart students Bimber and Iwai from the Bauhaus-University Weimar & the Osaka University did just that.

So, what is it that we're looking at?

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Daisuke Iwai showing off the superimposed dynamic range.

They snap a picture and project it back onto the image. May sound pointless, but it is a real eyecandy and could potentially have a huge impact on digital photolabs and in medical imaging. And it's also a little more sophisticated than I make it sound - there is realtime calibration going on (because camera and projector have different angles) and instead of a book they have an ePaper display hooked up as projection canvas.

Read their paper, or watch this movie (50 MB DivX).
Better even, visit them in their corner in Hall H.

HDR timelapse panoramas with hotspots

Right around the corner are INSIGHT, a non-profit organization for heritage archival. They made some amazing interactive tours of Mayan and Egyptian temple ruins. It's really fascinating to see these bright people use the newest high-tech to research the oldest structures man ever made.

Two things are specifically impressive about this. They have a novel Mac-based viewer application, that links panos with hotspots and a map, it can leech content from online sources, and even display panoramic timelapse videos. And you can pan in these videos. Totally awesome. The title is a bit misleading, because they do in fact show pre-tonemapped imagery. Not truly HDRI, but still awesome.

Just as awesome is their capturing device: They custom-built a robotic panohead with automatic exposure bracketing. Neato.
Check out the pano page from the Mayan Skies project, or the INSIGHT gallery.

Even better, go visit their booth and say hello! Both projects are in the back of the New Tech Showcase. Here's a map.

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Siggraph Course Notes

Thank you all for coming, it was a tremendous experience.

Don't forget to pick up your course notes and virtual goodie bags!

Today it's back to business as usual for me. Our client is approaching any minute and he will certainly not extend the deadline for this pilot. Which is tomorrow. Oh well, that's the price to pay for street creds: having real world visual effect shots to do. Hope to get back to Siggraph on Thursday to catch some of the newest papers at least. Computational photography looks like a really cool topic, and I've also discovered some awesome project in the back corner of the New Tech section.

I'll follow up with some reports from Siggraph in the next couple of days.
Stay tuned.

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Smart IBL on Modo / Last call for SIGGRAPH

Cheer it up for Gwynne Reddick, the code warrior who wrote the latest and greatest sIBL-Loader for modo. Hurray for Gwynne!

Now modo users can enjoy the convenience of automatic HDRI-lighting setups, just by picking a preset from the familiar preset browser. At least on Windows, modo on the Mac threw up some unforeseeable problems that will still need to be resolved.

Why don't you give it a test run with the new sIBL of the month? This time it's one of my favorites, the theatre room of the one and only Man's Chinese Theatre. And if you're still craving for more sIBL-sets, I do have a special surprise announcement at SIGGRAPH up my sleeves...

Speaking of which - don't forget to sign up for the HDRI for Artists class my friend Kirt Witte has organized. Master Zap from mental images will tell you everything about HDRI in mental ray, Gary M. Davis will demo the advantages of floating-point compositing in Toxik, and Hilmar Koch will show whatever crazy cool stuff ILM has done with HDRI for Transformers. Big names, yeah. And I will speak there, too.

So mark this date: Monday, 11 August / 8.30 - 12.15 / Room 502A !

You can't miss it - it's the very first class on opening day. Essentially, we'll proudly open the Conference. See you at Siggraph.

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HDView Beta 3 with HDR support

One year after the initial beta release (talked about it here), Microsoft Labs have turbocharged their new online panorama viewer. HDView can now show HDR images of massive size, re-exposed and tonemapped in realtime while you pan around with unsurpassed smoothness. The viewer is based on Microsoft's HDPhoto image format and comes with a Photoshop Export plugin that even generates the website for you.
Couldn't be more convenient.

Of course I had to test it right away. Let me present you the first

100 Megapixel HDRI on the Internet

Oh yeah, baby! Check it out!
In the upper right corner of the screen you will find a button to change the tonemapping style:
no adjustment, straight middle exposure, as if it would be 8 bit.
linear tone adjustment, equals auto-exposure in a digital camera.
non-linear tonemapping (I strongly suspect a logarithmic TMO like Photoshop's Highlight Compression).

More goodness in this new version:

  • fisheye mode (some like it bendy)
  • fully color managed (respects profiles of images and monitor)
  • supports placement of KML-overlays (identical to the way photos are put on Google Earth like sticky notes)
  • XBox and 3DConnexion controllers
See, the color management alone is a giant leap in digital imaging. You can actually pipe a photo with Adobe ProPhoto profile through HDView, and it will look right on every monitor that has a known profile. And I love the fact that the developers specifically mention support for new generations of wide-gamut, high-dynamic-range displays. When it has a profile, HDView will tonemap accordingly. Never thought I'd ever say this, but: Bravo, Microsoft! You Rock!


Read more about it on the HDView Blog. Also check out the brand new HDView HDR Gallery of my friend, co-author, and personal panorama coach Bernhard Vogl.

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Essential HDR 1.0 released

The program formerly known as "Project Wukong" has been released today as Essential HDR.

I've no idea why they would drop a kick-ass code name like Wukong, maybe the guys from Imaging Luminary aren't real Ninjas after all... But they are certainly nice people: You can download the demo version for free (called community version), which is essentially a demo with a bottom frame watermark and 1 megapixel size restriction. Even better, the first 1000 copies are on sale for 30% off ($48.99 instead of $69.99). Usually, it's not my style to hush-hush news out here, but I figured you might want to take advantage of this launch deal...

Quick 5-minute-review

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The side-by-side comparison is a neat way to play with different tonemapping settings.

Essential HDR is an HDR generator and tonemapper. It has a global and a local tonemapping operator. The local TMO (Detail Revealer) is the big selling point. According to the developers it is a new algorithm that produces less artifacts (halos, over-saturation) and runs at a decent speed (multicore support). I can wholeheartedly agree: this is indeed a very powerful tonemapper. Without much fuzz I got a very natural images, the preview is pretty accurate, and it is super-easy to use. For control freaks there might be too few sliders, but I find it very intuitive.
The overall interface is kept simple and it blends right in with other Windows Vista applications. There is no Mac version, but it runs fine on Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion (which is what I made this screenshot on).
One thing that bugs me, is that it cannot save OpenEXR images. You're stuck with Radiance for saving your HDR image, which has less color precision. Not so cool.

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Erik Reinhard comments on "Flickr HDR"

Erik Reinhard can truly be called the Godfather of tonemapping. Not only did he develop some of the most successful tonemapping algorithms, he also inspired numerous software makers by writing the book that is considered the HDRI-bible: "High Dynamic Range Imaging: Acquisition, Display and Image-Based Lighting". This technically detailed book laid the groundwork for almost every HDRI software we have today. For example, Photomatix's Tone Compressor as well as Picturenaut's Photoreceptor are based on his code, Artizen and QTpfsGUI have some tonemappers named after him.

In other words, Erik Reinhard knows a great deal about tonemapping. It's his baby.

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My own take on tonemapping Reinhard's example HDRI. Done by blending Photoreceptor (Picturenaut) with Details Enhancer (Photomatix) and some post adjustments in Photoshop.

And it bothers him that the three letters HDR are often associated with a certain look. There is no such thing as an "HDR look", and if you read my Handbook you should be well aware of this fact. HDRI is a tool, not a particular look (page 168 to 170). Nevertheless, surreal and impressionist images, that happen to be made from HDR images via excessive tonemapping, are calling lots of attention on flickr. I wouldn't go as far as naming these images "wrong" (although it is definitely wrong to still call them HDR). It's a matter of taste, and people without taste make tasteless images. That simple. It's always been like that, way before the advent of HDR imaging. The dangerous part comes in, when a particular tasteless use of a tool is getting so much spotlight, that it starts to become synonymous of what you can do with this tool. Dangerous, because it makes HDR look like a toy, whereas it really is a seriously powerful tool for making better quality images.

So that was my comment on Reinhard's comment on Flickr. Feel free to comment in this.

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