This Tech Can Turn Portraits Into Photo-Realistic Videos of Facial Expressions
Researchers at Facebook and Tel Aviv University in Israel have teamed up to bring your selfies to “life.” Using a single still photo of a person’s face, their new technology is able to animate it and introduce different expressions.
The study has developed a technique that will “automatically animate” a still portrait, even a painting, creating various emotions that were not present in the original single frame.
Using a “driving video” (a video of someone performing different expressions), the technology replicates the expressions it observes onto the still image it is provided with.
It works by warping areas of the image in a 2-dimensional space, while also adding fine-scale “dynamic details” that make the animation much more realistic. Such details include creases in the skin and wrinkles.
It’s even capable of reproducing “hidden features” (such as teeth) that might be obscured from view in the original photo. These are “transferred” from the driving video.
What use is there for this technology, you may be asking? Well, with Facebook’s involvement, it is quite possible that users will be able to animate their profile picture and cause it to react to stimuli on the social network at some point in the future.
The team has released a 4.5-minute video that outlines the research and what their new technology can achieve:
Photographer Jeremy Cowart Shines a ‘Resilient Light’ for Hurricane Relief
When the devastating hurricanes started hitting the United States recently, celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart wanted to do something but had no idea what to do.
“Finally I started dreaming/wondering about this thought: is it possible to turn scenes of devastation into a vessel to help the devastated? That began the process of figuring this out…” explains Cowart.
“I kept wanting to play with the word light because that’s what these people are… they’re light in the darkness,” he continues. “And I planned on shooting everything at night too, so the word light worked both literally and figuratively. And then the word resilient just made sense because that describes the grit of the people.”
Devastation is depressing and doesn’t usually go together with bright, cheery colors. But that was the goal — to show some strange contrast and to photograph devastating scenes in a way that maybe hasn’t been done before. It’s a message of hope. The vibrancy, the saturation — it all represents the people and the ongoing hope they have.
Cowart had worked with words within his images before when in his Voices of Haiti photo essay, he let the survivors of the earthquake write their own message on found rubble. In Resilient Light, he decided to give the words more prominence than before.
“A few of them are quotes directly from the victims,” says Cowart. “But not everyone had messages to share, so I collaborated with a bunch of writer friends to pitch in thoughts and phrases that are inspired by the people.”
It ended up being a big creative collaboration between Cowart, the victims, and his creative writer friends. The goal of it all was to sell prints so that they can give 100% of the print sales back to the communities that were devastated.
“I guess it’s a form of storytelling, journalism, and art all mixed together,” says Cowart. “I want to literally help in times of need through photography and art. Yes, a photo ‘is worth a thousand words,’ but I’m not sure a photo without words can help as much as a photo with a story attached.”
The words could have been easily superimposed in Photoshop on returning home. However, Cowart decided to create them there and then at the scene and directly in the camera. He had worked with the pixelstick before and decided to go with the light-painting device to create the words.
“The pixelstick is tricky, and you have to really nail the timing or do it over and over again to get it right,” elaborates Cowart. “Handwriting works well though cause it’s meant to be imperfect and the pixel stick is always imperfect.”
There’s something powerful about getting it all in camera and about capturing the literal reflections of hope off of the water. Some of the victims actually wrote their quotes on the iPad Pro, in their own handwriting and then they were projected using the pixelstick.
Profoto B1 strobes with color gels attached provided the bright colors. Three to four assistants all standing around lit the scenes with strobes on 20-30 second exposures.
The project was underway from September 27 through October 2 with only five nights of shooting in Bonita Springs, Florida, below Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida. Each image took an hour to capture on average. The first night was testing and the 2nd night was mostly failed attempts, so on nights 3-5 the team of six had to hustle.
They worked from about 8 pm to 2 am each night. The crew had to move away from streetlights because they would flood the long 30-second exposures with too much light, so they were forced to work in the pitch-black night. Although the scenes in the photos look bright, the actual location was extremely dark when the images were made.
“Sometimes we feel like we can’t do anything to help but that can’t be further from the truth,” says Cowart. “There’s always something we can do to help.”
About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.
This Photo of a Bear in a Dump Brought the Photographer to Tears
Canadian photographer Troy Moth was on an assignment when a tip from a friend led him to a nearby landfill where bears had been spotted. After arriving and seeing about 7 bears there, Moth was stunned by the sight that he didn’t shoot any photos.
After thinking about the bears at the landfill all night, Moth returned the next day and found a bear sitting near the smoke coming from a flaming pit of garbage. This time, Moth was ready with his camera and he captured the photo above. He titled it: “Invisible Horseman, 2017.”
“When I finished making the photograph, the bear turned slowly and walked down into the smoking pit, disappearing from my sight,” Moth writes at DPReview. “He never came back up during the rest of my time there.”
“This is the most heartbreaking image I’ve ever made,” Moth writes in a viral Facebook post. “I teared up when shooting it, again when editing it, and on several occasions just thinking about it. I’ve waited nearly a month to post it as I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
“I do know I’ll never forget this moment, and what happened to that bear afterwards, which I was too stunned to photograph.”
Image credits: Photographs by Troy Moth and used with permission
TogTees: T-Shirts Designed by and for Photographers
Looking for something to wear that expresses your love of photography? TogTees is a young clothing company that’s dedicated to creating cool and comfortable casual clothing for photographers.
“A friend and I launched TogTees a little over a year ago and so far the response has been tremendous,” co-founder Pano Kalogeropoulos tells PetaPixel. The business has sold thousands of shirts since launch and just recently began having its wares listed through the photography superstore B&H.
TogTees is based in Philadelphia, “the birthplace of photography in America,” the company says. Philly is the birthplace of the oldest active camera club in the United States, The Photographic Society of Philadelphia, which was founded in 1860.
All TogTees products are designed, manufactured, packaged, and shipped from Philly. Here’s a look at some of the designs being offered at the moment:
These T-shirts cost $28 each for men and women, but many are discounted to $14 when they go on clearance. There are also photo-related accessories in the TogTees online store — things like pins, hats, magnets, and stickers.
This App Turns Your Smartphone Into a Lightroom Control Panel
Control Room is a new app that turns your smartphone or tablet into an external control panel for Lightroom photo editing. This means you can control adjustments through the screen on your phone while watching those adjustments affect the large photo open in Lightroom on your computer.
The app is the creation of photographer and software engineer Aaron Vizzini, who originally created it for his own needs before deciding to offer it to the general public.
The app comes with sliders and entry fields in a number of default panels, including Basic, Tones, Mixer, and Detail.
If you’d like to customize the app for your own workflow, you can also create your own development panels, selecting only the tools you need and excluding ones you never touch.
In addition to making edits to photos, you can also organize them by rating, flagging, grouping, and labeling in the app.
All edits and changes are reflected in real-time on your computer as you’re working hands-on with the screen on your phone or tablet.
Here’s a 1.5-minute demo video that shows the app in action:
Thank you for listening to the PetaPixel Photography Podcast! Connect with me, Sharky James on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (all @LensShark) as we build this community.
We’d love to answer your question on the show. Leave us an audio question through our voicemail widget, comment below or via social media. But audio questions are awesome!
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Nat wanted to investigate how exactly the smartphone’s camera is so good, considering you have “about the size of a blueberry” worth of space for the whole camera to fit into.
The Pixel 2’s camera is a stack of 6 lenses, each of which helps combat aberration and distortions. When it focuses, the lenses move in and out of the camera body to adjust the image accordingly.
Google has even introduced image stabilization, and this works by moving those lenses left, right, up, and down to counter any movements you may introduce.
Each pixel on the sensor has a “left and right split,” something that gives the sensor greater capabilities for depth of field and autofocus. This means that the camera’s sensor has two images, from slightly different perspectives, of the world in front of it. Consequently, the Pixel 2 can create a depth map and allow for shallow depth of field effects in its “Portrait Mode.”
Then there’s HDR+, which uses an algorithm that allows the tiny sensor to “act like a really big one,” introducing greater dynamic range. It combines several photos together with different exposures like a standard HDR image, but HDR+ also looks to realign each frame to avoid ghosting.
The Pixel 2 even tries to go one step further by deciding exactly how much of an “HDR look” each image should get. For example, when shot in a darker scene, HDR+ won’t just brighten the image so it looks like it was shot in daylight. This means you won’t get that horribly fake, overly-processed look that comes with some HDR shots.
Watch the full video above to learn more about how the Pixel 2’s camera works and how Google built it.
Woman Films Her Internet-Connected Camera Talking to Her
More and more cameras are getting Internet connectivity these days, opening the door to new security and privacy concerns. A Dutch woman learned a creepy lesson on this recently when her Internet-connected camera started tracking her and talking to her.
The Next Web reports that Rilana Hamer purchased the small Internet-connected camera a couple of months ago from a local discount store called Action. She wanted to keep an eye on her puppy while she was away from the house.
But then Hamer started seeing and hearing strange things while she was around the camera.
“I thought I was going crazy,” Hamer writes in a Facebook post. “I walked into the living room and I saw my camera move. The camera went back and forth. My phone was on the bed and I had no idea what the camera was doing. Was it updating?”
Hamer then started recording the camera with her phone, and that’s when it began looking for her and talking to her, first in French and then in Spanish.
“Bonjour madame,” the camera said. “Bonjour madame, tout bien avec vous.”
After disconnecting the camera for a while and then turning it back on, it seems someone else began peering and speaking through it.
“Hola señorita,” it said.
Here’s the full video she recorded (warning: there’s some pretty strong language from Hamer):
Hamer has since returned the camera to the store, which is now conducting an investigation. Action tells RTL News that the camera is a popular model that’s nearly sold out, and that this is the first time the store has received a report of this nature about it.
If you ever purchase an Internet-connected camera, here’s a huge tip for protecting yourself from this type of thing: change the default password on the camera immediately.
Image credits: Header illustration based on still frame by Rilana Hamer
The 20 Best Microscope Photos from the 2017 Nikon Small World Contest
The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition celebrates the beautiful, weird, wonderful, and microscopic things in our world through photos captured using a light microscope. Now in its 43rd year, the competition continues to impress.
The 2017 competition received over 2,000 entries from 88 different countries. Many of the images were taken during scientific research projects.
“This year’s winners not only reflect remarkable research and trends in science, but they also allow the public to get a glimpse of a hidden world,” says Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, “This year’s winning photo is an example of important work being done in the world of science, and that work can be shared thanks to rapidly advancing imaging technology.”
So, without further ado, here are the 20 amazing images that placed in the competition this year:
Band Uses the Lag in Facebook Live’s Camera Feed for Live Loops
When you go “live” on Facebook, there’s actually a delay of several seconds between when your camera records video and when it gets broadcast through Facebook. The band The Academic came up with the absolutely genius idea of using this delay to create a mesmerizing visual loop sampler for the live recording of the song “Bear Claws” in the 6-minute video above.
“We rearranged each instrument on ‘Bear Claws’ to fit Facebook Live’s delay, with each loop getting more complex, adding instruments, rhythms, and melodies,” The Academic writes. “Additionally, by projecting the video live from a soundstage we created an infinite tunnel consisting of all the previously recorded loops.”
The band changed the stage lighting with each loop, making it easy to track the loops as they fade into the “infinity tunnel” on the screen.