Wednesday, August 20, 2014


In selecting the logo for our company we went with a blue-green that we like and because I have often read it is a popular color among all cultures and genders, and it struck me that blue-greens are not something people have very widely-known names for.

On the blue side, artists have long used "cerulean blue" for their skies.  This has more green in it than I once thought, as "blue" skies do in general.    For example the RGB of the sky is the triple shown where the color leans much more toward green than red.

The color cerulean according to wikipedia is ((0, 123, 167) in sRGB.  The name was given more exposure in The Devil Wears Prada.

If we move more toward green the English words that come to my mind are "turquoise", "teal" and "cyan".   I have usually used these terms interchangeably, but if we are to believe wikipedia they are quite different.   Teal and cyan are perfect blue-green combos (half and half) but teal is darker.  Turquoise leans toward green.  These are:

Note the cyan starts to take on the look the sky often has near the horizon, showing just how much the sky sometimes leans more green than purple.

I checked the great xkcd color survey and I missed the color "aqua" which really doesn't mean much to me (wikipedia says it is a synonym for cyan) but does to the females in his survey:
 For Westerners, I believe a variety of surveys have shown blue and green are very popular colors, with this being a recent one, and here is a summary of their results:
So for Westerners, teal is probably an appealing color, especially given how green many blues lean.
Some companies say blue is the safest color globally and I'm looking for more data there.  Pointers appreciated!   For car color choices blue is popular everywhere, but achromatic is king everywhere.  Partially Apple's influence?

In the end, my impression is everybody likes blue, but especially when it leans green.  Let's close with this picture from fairphotos at flickr where the water is almost as green as it is blue:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The "Zorn palette"

Anders Zorn was a great Swedish painter that is well known among artists for his aggressively limited palette.  I learned of Zorn and his palette from Juan Ramirez, a fine young painter who often uses limited palettes (I have two of his paintings on my wall!), and it has certainly influenced my software.  He didn't always do this, but he often used just white, black, red, and yellow (or sienna).  If you look at the paintings in the web page above you will note a distinct lack of blue and green.  In my last blog post that is essentially what I use.  While this can be distracting for things like skies, it isn't always; note the blue jeans become grey jeans.  It preserves skin tones, which is why it is so common for portraitists.  You can see some secondary evidence Zorn often used just those colors in this self-portrait from wikipedia:

Friday, August 15, 2014

My favorite filter in Pic!

Here is the filter that kills greens and blues but leaves flesh tones alone.
On the left is the original and right is Pic! output.   It's obvious the sky goes from blue to grey but less obvious is the trees on the right are brown (in RGB G is never greater than R).    The trees may still look green but I think that is due to context and contrast.  However it may just be that green is a powerful color: my read of the xkcd data (read that if you haven't it's fantastic!) is that it would be "olive" for most people.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our new app Pic! is live on iOS app store

We have a new photo editing app on the app store.  You can get it for 99 cents here.   Since mostly graphics nerds read this blog, I will buy you a beer next time I see you if you buy it and try it.  That is a 2X-10X return on investment (depending on where you live and the beer you like)!  Please like the Pic! page on facebook as well, and post your photos there.

The basic idea of the app is that you choose between four images you can see all at once.
This is the first screen and you are essentially choosing a category (normal, bi-color, posterized, or technicolor).  The next two screens are fine scale adjustments.  My favorite filter is one I don't think you can get elsewhere where there is no blue or green (just browns, yellows, reds, and greys) but it still (for most input) looks like a color image rather than a sepia-tone.  I leave finding it in the app as an exercise for you.

This is somewhat of a beta app.  Come iOS8 we have a Swift implementation of an app extension (a new plugin-like feature of iOS) that will come out next month.   I think this app is a poster child (pun intended) for app extensions: it does one simple thing well.

Obligatory graphics nerd content: to get these filters to work I needed to use a boutique color space that as far as I know has not been used, or is even known, in graphics.  It is not new to humanity and I will write it up when it is no longer secret sauce for us: it's will be my go-to color space for lots of things in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A simple Swift program

Here is my first Swift program:

import Foundation
println ("256 256");
println ("255");

for i in 0...255 {
    for j in 0...255 {
        println("\(rand()%256) 255 \(j)");

It does an ASCII ppm file that is random in red, on in green, and ascending in blue.  It produces this image:

A few notes.  I had to add the import for it knew what rand() was.  The curly braces are required, which I like because it ends all those pointless arguments with yourself or others about whether to brace one line interiors of loops and the like.   I like that there is a "println" as I am tired of typing "\n".   This program took a while to write because xcode had a major silent hiccup complete with a misleading error message.   Stackoverflow to the rescue: when in doubt clean the code (menu option) and fully restart xcode.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Swift had me at "hello world"

I'm trying Apple's new programming language Swift.  Here is the minimal hello world:

println("Hello, World!")

Done.  No mandatory cruft.

The languages from my childhood were simple.  FORTRAN 77 would have and extra two or three lines (program, stop, end if I recall).  Cish languages would have an #include and some braces.  Yeah a few lines is not a big deal (especially compared to an OpenGL program to display one triangle), but the aesthetic apparent in the Swift one has me very hopeful.

Next I will try a simple ray tracer and see if this is just an infatuation...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I'll be at NAB (the big TV conference) next week to help goHDR with their booth: I put a little money into this company years ago when I was looking for where I could bet on HDR, and I still like the odds.  It's got me thinking about trends in TVs and whether HDR is finally going to "arrive".  At NAB two years ago there were two big things TV manufacturers were pushing: 4K and dark blacks.  In my opinion the dark blacks had gone past their useful sweet spot; one manufacturer had to close off a room with black curtains so you could see how black their blacks were.  While impressive, it was a very unnatural display condition.  But 4K was the word most often being pushed, and the common demo was a huge 4K display with 4K content.  And huge it is totally worth it.  But do I really want a 4K TV in my house?   I don't think so or I would watch more on my TV and less on my laptop.   However, 4K is exactly what I want on my computer so I see a market there.  Maybe we'll finally see the convergence of TVs and computers but this has been predicted for a long time so I won't hold my breath.

My impression of the history of TV is that manufacturers keep pushing whatever dimension they can and the public does or doesn't bite.  There is an overlapping parallel in the movies.  This has been in roughly this order:
  • Pictures at all (clearly needed!)
  • Color
  • Spatial resolution
  • 3D
  • Temporal resolution (frame rate)
  • Dark blacks
  • Bright whites (the key part of HDR in my opinion)
The industry will push each of these until people stop buying.  I think 4K is past where they stop buying.  And same for 3D and dark blacks.    And temporal resolution (24fps is surprisingly good).  I don't see any technological reason not to have bright brights (back lit LEDs) as has been demonstrated by various manufacturers (old graphics nerds may remember the awesome Brightside demos), so I expect the industry to be pushing these hard next.  And I think I will buy one when it is cheap.   I think the industry will try it because it is the only "big thing" left to try!   We'll see if this is the year "HDR" is a touted word at NAB.  I think it will be, but it could be that 4K still has some legs.