Grand Finale of True Vision HDR Contest

It's time for you to decide who will find a brand new MacBook Pro under the Christmas tree.
Head over to Unified Color's HDR Contest page and to put your vote in! And drool over the amazing visuals of the finalists:

Promote Firmware 2.0

Finally, a Mac updater for the Promote Control! HDR Timelapse, bracketing sequence preview and much more in Firmware v2.0! Get the news straight from the horses mouth, in the developer's post in our forum.

Monthly site update:

December's sIBL-of-the-month reflects the fact that I'm sitting here in sunny LA, yearning for some moody winter atmosphere. Like that one eve in a Czech forest. Ahhh...

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Pre-Announcement: HDRI Handbook 2.0

Amazon doesn't tell you the truth when you try to order the HDRI Handbook now. It's not likely to ship in 2 to 6 weeks, because there simply are none left anymore. We're all sold out.

But fear not, the Second Edition is coming up.

I have actually taken an extended hiatus from my day job, working feverishly for the last couple of months on The HDRI Handbook 2.0. What started out as a little update turned into a major overhaul. Pretty much everything had to be revised, extended, rewritten and reconsidered. The puzzle pieces are starting to fall into place now, but I must admit it's far from finished.

You can already pre-order v2.0 if you want my publisher to send me encouraging and slightly anxious emails. My best guess is it will be available in March 2011, but don't be a hater if that turns into April. I'd rather do it right and polished than rush it out the door.

Soon I will disclose some details, but for now I would like to thank all my readers for the overwhelming support of the first edition. It sold an estimated 40,000 copies in English and German alone, not even counting the Korean, Polish, Czech, and Chinese translations. Considering the fact that at the initial release 2007 it was the first HDR book for the mainstream, this response exceeds everything I could have ever hoped for.

Thank you so much, and stay tuned for v2.0.

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GigaPan Timelapse Video Sneak Preview

As if GigaPan images weren't engaging enough, soon there will be Gigapixel Video (from stills in this example). Check out the Timelapse GigaPan Sneak Preview Video. I'd link the videos here, but they are full HD clips embedded on that landing page over at
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November headlines: DxO and more dutch sIBL sets

Oh, it keeps on getting better and better.

DxO announces an HDR plugin for their upcoming DxO Optics Pro 6.5.

It will be interesting to see how that fits into current HDR workflows. DxO has a track record in first-class RAW development, which makes me confident they will be able to merge really great HDR files. What concerns me is the recent trend of a short-circuit pipeline, skipping immediately to tonemapping. But if DxO does it right, and allows saving and managing EXR files, we could fit that in perfectly with the slew of tonemapping options we already have.

For example, Nik HDR Efex turned out to be a great option for artistic tonemapping, with Control Points providing an enormous potential to noodle the hell out of your image. I still owe you a full review, in the meantime you may want to check out Michael James' review. Nik's HDR merging, however, is pretty weak. That's where DxO might be the ideal workflow companion - if they play well with others. Well, we will have to wait and see...

New free sIBL sets

Our dutch friend Bob Groothuis is unstoppable. The second month in a row he provides the sIBL-of-the-month, this time even a full tour a wonderfully antique distillery. Looks great as panorama tour as well, all tonemapped in HDR Expose.

How that fits in with a 3d object demonstrates Lee Perry-Smith. Here is his CG head, rendered in each environment with Softimage and Arnold.

As special bonus Lee released his head model, courtesy of How cool is that? Grab it here.

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Unified Color announces HDR-Express

And you thought we already have enough HDR tools. Think again.

HDR is increasingly expanding into the consumer field. While there are several options out for pros, the new trend is to make things easy and accessible. Unified Color has already proven with HDR Expose and 32 Float that they're on the frontier of quality HDR editing. But for a quickie edit that's often overkill and takes too much time. Instead of scaling back the pro features, Unified Color rather diversifies their product palette.

HDR Express reduces the complexity to only few sliders. I was skeptical, of course, but after a hands-on session it turns out this is actually great.
  • it's lightning fast
  • very intuitive
  • has visual presets
  • slider names and their effects feel familiar right away
  • always-on halo reduction
  • really really really fast. really.
  • full size processing all the time, WYSIWYG with no surprises afterwards

Highslide JS

The controls behave like common Lightroom adjustments, except with much more room to play.
  • Brightness = LR Exposure
  • Highlight = LR Recovery
  • Shadows = LR Fill Light
  • Contrast = LR Clarity mixed with a Local Contrast boost (this is my favorite slider, actually)
  • Black Point, Saturation and White Balance are exactly what you expect.

HDR Express is a great addition to the arsenal when Fast&Easy is your thing. Do I miss all the advanced stuff like targeted color tweaks, sharpening and veiling glare removal? Sure, for my hero shots I do. But when I have 30 HDR images on my plate to be delivered tomorrow, HDR Express will get the job done with minimum compromises on quality.

Did I mention that it's fast? Part of the new speedy processing core will eventually make it into HDR Expose, which would be highly appreciated.

It will be available in December for $85, or for current customers $50. If you're in New York you can get a demo at PhotoPlus Expo Booth #673. The rest of us can read the Press Release and the new product page.

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Dolby launches Professional Reference Monitor

Yesterday I had a chance to witness the launch event of Dolby's new Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 at the W Hotel Hollywood. That's right, Dolby makes monitors now. It's 100% manufactured by Dolby themselves, and they take pride in that.

This monitor is the first product they made out of the tech acquired with BrightSide Technologies and their famous HDR display. In fact, Dolby has advanced it like crazy, now there are just as many people working in Dolby's Imaging division as in the traditional sound department.

They use RGB LED backlights now to make sure it shows the widest possible color gamut with a straight linear response. But more importantly, they figured out how to integrate it into a real-world production pipeline. You can put the monitor in different modes to emulate every sort of display from consumer TV to theatrical digital projection. It supports 3D LUTs directly, in the industry-standard cineSpace format. You'd simply put it on a Flash drive and stick that in the break-out box.

But what am I talking, just watch my witness cam:

Dolby Reference Monitor in the HDRLabs Channel on Vimeo.

It's just the nature of the beast that a video from my puny D300s on your pitiful computer screen is no comparison to seeing this monitor in real life. The awesome demo machine Susumu Asano is showing us is a professional 2k-4k color grading suite from Digital Vision, the Nucoda Filmmaster. I was told that's the system Pixar finished Toy Story 3 on, ILM has one as well, and I bet I know what these guys will be shopping for next. Another demo booth had live footage running from the new ARRI Alexa camera, which is incredible on its own and probably subject of future post.

Considering Dolby traditionally licenses technology out, you can probably connect the dots where this leaves the consumer market. Keeping control of the ultimate reference design and getting it first into the hands of movie industry professionals is a smart thing to do. Over time this might solve the chicken-and-egg problem: Real HDR media is useless without a true HDR display, and a true HDR display cannot be fully appreciated with LDR content only. Now we can at least master content with wide-gamut and high dynamic range, so it will look great on every screen to come.

More info on (yes, front page!)
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