Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Microsoft HD Photo, A New Image Format

Microsoft have announced a new image file format called HD Photo (also known as Windows Media Photo), that promises higher image quality with greater preservation of data and advanced features. Microsoft intends to try and standardize the technology and will be submitting HD Photo to an appropriate standards organization shortly. Here's what they're saying…
HD Photo offers compression with up to twice the efficiency of JPEG, with fewer damaging artifacts, resulting in higher-quality images that are one-half the file size. In addition, HD Photo offers increased image fidelity, preserving the entire original image content and enabling higher-quality exposure and color adjustments in the image. This new format offers the ability to decode only the information needed for any resolution or region, or the option to manipulate the image as compressed data.

HD Photo fully preserves the original image fidelity with high dynamic range while still allowing for significant improvement in compression size. In addition, HD Photo offers both lossless and lossy image compression, and can retain the full dynamic range and color gamut data from a camera’s sensor. Also, because making adjustments to common color balance and exposure settings won’t discard or truncate data as other common bitmap formats typically do, it’s easier to “undo” those changes at a later time. As a result, significantly smaller files can be created while still retaining optimum picture quality.

Microsoft also announced a set of free HD Photo plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop (CS2 and CS3), which will be available for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X, sometime in May. Support for HD Photo will be built into Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003 via a Windows Imaging Component or via .NET Framework 3.0.

More information is available on Bill Crow's HD Photo Blog and the HD Photo Feature Specification page.

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