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AI

AI might help edit the next generation of blockbusters

The next few Tuesdays, The Verge’s flagship podcast The Vergecast is showcasing a miniseries dedicated to the use of artificial intelligence in industries that are often overlooked, hosted by Verge senior reporter Ashley Carman. This week, the series focuses on AI for the video world.

More specifically, we’re looking at how AI is being used as a tool to help people streamline the process of creating video content. Yes, this might mean software taking on a bigger role in the very human act of creativity, but what if instead of replacing us, machine learning tools could be used to assist our work?

That’s what Scott Prevost, VP of Adobe Sensei — Adobe’s machine learning platform — envisions for Adobe’s AI products. “Sensei was founded on this firm belief that we have that AI is going to democratize and amplify human creativity, but not replace it,” Prevost says. “Ultimately, enabling the creator to do things that maybe they couldn’t do before. But also to automate and speed up some of the mundane and repetitive tasks that are parts of creativity.”

Adobe has already built Sensei’s initiatives into its current products. Last fall, the company released a feature called Neural Filters for Photoshop, which can be used to remove artifacts from compressed images, change the lighting in a photo, or even alter a subject’s face, giving them a smile instead of a frown, for example, or adjusting their “facial age.” From the user’s perspective, all this is done by just moving a few sliders.

Adobe’s Neural Filter
Image: Adobe

Adobe also has features like Content Aware Fill, which is built into its video editing software After Effects and can seamlessly remove objects from videos — a task that would take hours or even days to do manually. Prevost shared a story about a small team of documentary filmmakers who ran into trouble with their footage when they realized there were unwanted specks on their visual caused by a dirty camera lens. With Content Aware Fill, the team was able to remove the unwanted blemishes from the video after identifying the object in only a single frame. Without software like Adobe’s, the team would have had to edit thousands of frames individually or reshoot the footage entirely.

Adobe’s content-aware fill for video
GIF: Adobe

Another feature from Adobe called Auto Reframe uses AI to reformat and reframe video for different aspect ratios, keeping the important objects in frame that may have been cut out using a regular static crop.

Adobe’s Auto Reframe feature
GIF: Adobe

Technology in this field is clearly advancing for consumers, but also for the big-budget professionals, too. While AI video editing techniques like deepfakes have not really made it onto the big screen just yet — most studios still rely on traditional CGI — the place where directors and Hollywood studios are on the way to using AI is for dubbing.

A company called Flawless, which specializes in AI-driven VFX and film-making tools, is currently working on something they call TrueSync, which uses machine learning to create realistic, lip-synced visualizations on actors for multiple languages. Co-CEO and co-founder of Flawless Scott Mann told The Verge that this technique works significantly better than traditional CGI to reconstruct an actor’s mouth movements.

“You’re training a network to understand how one person speaks, so the mouth movements of an ooh and aah, different visemes and phonemes that make up our language are very person specific,” says Mann. “And that’s why it requires such detail in the process to really get something authentic that speaks like that person spoke like.”

An example Flawless shared that really stood out was a scene from the movie Forrest Gump, with a dub of Tom Hanks’ character speaking Japanese. The emotion of the character is still present and the end results are definitely more believable than a traditional overdub because the movement of the mouth is synchronized to the new dialogue. There are points where you almost forget that it’s another voice actor behind the scenes.

But as with any AI changing any industry, we also have to think about job replacement.

If someone is creating, editing, and publishing projects by themselves, then Adobe’s AI tools should save them a lot of time. But in larger production houses where each role is delegated to a specific specialist — retouchers, colorists, editors, social media managers — those teams may end up downsizing.

Adobe’s Prevost believes the technology will more likely shift jobs than completely destroy them. “We think some of the work that creatives used to do in production, they’re not going to do as much of that anymore,” he says. “They may become more like art directors. We think it actually allows the humans to focus more on the creative aspects of their work and to explore this broader creative space, where Sensei does some of the more mundane work.”

Scott Mann at Flawless has a similar sentiment. Though the company’s technology may result in less of a need for script rewriters for translated movies, it may open up doors for new job opportunities, he argues. “I would say, truthfully, that role is kind of a director. What you’re doing is you’re trying to convey that performance. But I think with tech and really with this process, it’s going to be a case of taking that side of the industry and growing that side of the industry.”

Will script supervisors end up becoming directors? Or photo retouchers end up becoming art directors? Maybe. But what we are seeing for certain today is that a lot of these tools are already combining workflows from various points of the creative process. Audio mixing, coloring, and graphics are all becoming one part of multipurpose software. So, if you’re working in the visual media space, instead of specializing in specific creative talents, your creative job may instead require you to be more of a generalist in the future.

“I think the boundaries between images, and videos, and audio, and 3D, and augmented reality are going to start to blur,” says Prevost. “It used to be that there are people who specialized in images, and people who specialized in video, and now you see people working across all of these mediums. And so we think that Sensei will have a big role in basically helping to connect these things together in meaningful ways.”

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Categories
Computing

How to Edit a PDF on Mac

PDFs are an essential tool for businesses, schools, or anyone who wants a digital copy of any document. With a plethora of PDF programs out there now, it’s also incredibly easy to make changes to those files. However, the quickest and easiest way to edit a PDF on a Mac is with Preview.

Here are some tips on how to edit a PDF on your Mac, and some of the most common things you will want to change.

Add or remove pages”>Add or remove pages

Adding or removing pages is pretty simple in Preview. To add a page, just follow these instructions:

Step 1: Open the PDF you want to edit, then hit Edit in the menu bar.

Step 2: Scroll down to Insert, and then select either Blank Page or Page from File.

Step 3: Selecting Blank Page will do exactly what it says. It inserts a blank page after the current page you are on, so make sure you place it correctly. If you select Page from File, the Finder window will pop up. Then, just select the file you want to add, and it will insert it as the page after the one you are currently on.

Removing pages is a bit more complicated but still relatively simple. To remove a page, simply:

Step 1: Open the PDF you want to edit, and click View in the menu bar (right next to the Edit button).

Step 2: Go to View > Thumbnails or View > Contact Sheet, and click.

A screenshot of the view menu showing the contact sheet option.

Step 3: View > Thumbnails will pull up a thumbnail view of every page on the right of the preview. View > Contact Sheet will hide the preview to show a thumbnail of all the pages. Either way, select the page you want to remove, and press Delete on your keyboard. You can also click Edit > Delete in the menu bar.

You can also use these views to rearrange PDF pages. Just click and hold over a page in the thumbnail view and drag it to the location you want it to be.

Add your own writing”>Add your own writing

Adding your own writing is crucial for signing documents and making quick notes within a PDF. Luckily, this is pretty simple to do in Preview. To add your own writing:

Step 1: Click Tools in the menu bar, and scroll down to Annotate.

Step 2: A submenu will appear. Head down to the very bottom, and select Signature.

The Signature menu to edit a PDF on Mac and insert annotations.

Step 3: If you have a signature saved already, it will appear here. If not, click Manage Signatures to create a new one. You can create a signature by scrawling one on your trackpad, taking a picture of your signature on a white piece of paper with your webcam, or writing the signature on your iPhone.

The create a signature option using your trackpad.

Step 4: Once you select or create the signature, it should appear on the PDF, and you can drag and drop it wherever it needs to go.

Annotate”>Annotate

You can also make annotations directly on the PDF. You can do that by following the steps above and choosing the specific actions you want to take. For instance, instead of clicking Signature, you can choose Highlight Text at the top of the submenu.

A more straightforward way is right on the Preview window itself.

Step 1: Look in the top-right corner of the Preview window, and find the Pencil icon (with a line beneath it).

Step 2: Click on the Pencil to activate annotations. Click on the Down Arrow to the right to select highlight colors as well as whether or not you want strikethrough or underlined text.

A screenshot of the Annotate quick menu, showing options for highlighting,underlining, and strike-through.

Step 3: Hover your mouse over the text you want to annotate, then click and drag. Preview will apply the changes instantly.

Step 4: To turn off Annotations, just click the Pencil icon again.

If you are looking for more on how to edit a PDF in Windows or another program, we have an article on that. For more advice on the Mac, check out the best MacOS apps you can get right now.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Instagram will soon let you save Stories as drafts to edit later

Instagram Stories are a great way to share candid moments. I often use that format to show off what songs I’m listening to, or share a picture that might not be “feed worthy”.

Currently, if you use Instagram’s Story camera tool, you have to take a photo, apply effects, and post it immediately. The app will soon get a ‘drafts’ feature that’ll let you save your Stories within Instagram, so as you can edit them later. The social network’s head, Adam Mosseri, tweeted yesterday that Story drafts are coming soon.

That’ll certainly come in handy for elaborate Stories. Right now, if you try to save a Story photo with effects, Instagram will store it in your library as a video, or strip off stickers, background music, and animations (depending on what filter you’re using). That means currently there is no way to preserve these effects.

Hours later, mobile developer Alessandro Paluzzi tweeted a screenshot of how that feature might look on the Instagram interface.

The UI looks simple to use: when you’re doing forming your story, hit the exit button, and the app will ask you to save it as a draft. When you’re posting a new story, you will see a “Drafts” button on the bottom-left corner from where you can access your previously saved stories.

I’ve not used Instagram’s in-built camera much to date as I usually take photos from a different app and upload them on Stories or on the feed. However, this new draft feature might entice me to use it occasionally when I want to upload Stories with certain effects.

Last year, Snap Inc. revealed its ambition to put the Snap camera on as many apps and devices as possible. Rather than tying users down to an app, the company wants them to try its product in different ways — even if you’re not an active Snapchat user.

Instagram could take some inspiration from that — like it’s done many times before — and start building a camera product people would like to use outside the app. What say, Zuck?

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In –
and you can subscribe to it right here.

Published March 25, 2021 — 06:43 UTC



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Categories
Computing

How to Edit Multiple Photos at Once

If you work with multiple images, cropping them all individually to the exact same size can be a real pain. Perhaps you have a batch of 30 images and they all need the same watermark. In either case, editing them all simultaneously can save you loads of time.

In this guide, we show you how to edit multiple photos at once in Windows, MacOS, and Chrome OS. All three platforms have native tools to make simple edits, but there’s no native way to manipulate more than one image at a time. That means we must turn to third-party solutions.

While there are plenty of paid applications that will gladly take your money in exchange for batch edits, we focus on capable free software.

Batch edit in Windows and MacOS

For Windows and MacOS, we use an open-source Photoshop replacement and a plug-in:

GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) The biggest threat to Adobe Photoshop is this free, open-source desktop program. It has mostly everything you need to manipulate images, like cropping, color adjustment, adding effects, layers, and more. We highly recommend this software if you want to avoid Photoshop’s monthly subscription.

Batch Image Manipulation Program (BIMP) This is a free plug-in for GIMP that adds batch editing. You need to install GIMP first, followed by this tool.

Once you install both tools, you can use them to edit multiple images simultaneously. The following instructions are based on Windows, but they apply to MacOS as well.

Step 1: Open GIMP and click File on the main menu.

Step 2: Select Batch Image Manipulation from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: A pop-up window appears. Under Manipulation Set, click the Add button.

Step 4: Select a manipulation on the resulting pop-up menu.

GIMP add batch modifiers

The next window you see depends on the manipulation you choose. Here they are at a glance:

  • Resize – Alter the height and width in percent or pixels. You can also use a Stretch, Preserve, or Padded aspect ratio, and change the interpolation. It also lets you change the image’s X and Y DPI settings.
  • Crop – You can use a standard aspect ratio, a manually set aspect ratio in pixels, and designate a starting point: Center, top-left, top-right, bottom-left, or bottom-right.
  • Flip or Rotate – Flip your images horizontally or vertically, or rotate them 90, 180, or 270 degrees.
  • Color Correction – Adjust the brightness and/or contrast, convert to grayscale, or use automatic color level correction. You can also change the color curve using a settings file stored on your PC.
  • Sharp or Blur – Move a slider left (add sharpness) or right (more blurred).
  • Add a Watermark – You can apply a text-based watermark you type into the window, or select an image stored on your PC. You can also set the watermark’s opacity level and location.
  • Change Format and Compression – Convert your image to one of 10 formats, including JPEG, GIF, and TGA. There’s also a quality slider ranging from 0 to 100.
  • Rename with a Pattern – Enter characters to keep the original filename without an extension, use incremental numbers, or use the captured date and time.
  • Other GIMP Procedure – Select from a list provided by GIMP, like Posterize, Bump Map, Blur, and loads more.

For each manipulation window, be sure to click the OK button so it’s saved in the current manipulation set.

Step 5: Click the Add button again if you want to add another manipulation to the set, as shown above.

GIMP Output Batch Image Edits

Step 6: Click the Add Images button located under Input Files and Options and select the images you want to edit in bulk.

Step 7: Select an output folder.

Step 8: Click Apply to begin the batch edit process.

Batch edit in MacOS

PhotoScape X for MacOS

You can now install both GIMP and the BIMP plug-in on MacOS. However, for this section, we chose an app-based alternative: PhotoScape X on the Mac App Store. There are two batch edit features locked behind a “pro” paywall; however, the basic necessities like cropping and resizing remain free. Trouble is, the overall interface is a bit clunky, especially if you heavily rely on GIMP.

Step 1: With PhotoScape X open, click Batch located on the menu.

Step 2: Click the blue “plus” icon next to Add Folder on the left to load the folder containing your images.

Step 3: Your image gallery loads in the bottom left window. Drag the images you want to edit up into the top center window.

Step 4: On the right, select the manipulator you want to apply to the images. Like the GIMP plug-in, you can apply multiple image manipulators before exporting the altered images.

Here are the available manipulators at a glance:

  • Crop – Click the up and down arrows to widen or expand each side based on the center of your images.
  • Resize – Change the width and/or height in pixels, change the aspect ratio, widen or shorten the edges, or enter a custom size.
  • Color – You have lots of options here, like applying automatic levels, contrast, or colors; brightening or darkening; adding HDR; adjusting the clarity; changing the overall temperature, and more.
  • Filter – You can play with filters to add effects like grain, vignette, sharpen, or bloom. You can use filters to adjust color and luminance noise.
  • Film – Add up to six effects pulled from the app’s huge library spanning Film, Duotone, Overlays, Old Photos, Dirt & Scratches, and Textures. Some of these are locked behind the “pro” paywall, however.
  • Light – Like Film, you can add up to six effects pulled from the app’s huge library spanning Light Leaks and Lens Flares.
  • Insert – Add up to six inserts: Stickers, Images, Figures, Filters, and Text.

Step 5: To export your modified images, click the Save button.

Batch edit in Chrome OS

Like Windows and MacOS, there is no native batch editing capability in Chrome OS. Instead, you’ll need to turn to the Linux-based version of GIMP and the BIMP plug-in.

In Ubuntu, the snap version should be available in the Software Center — other distributions should also have it listed in their software markets. Otherwise, users can download the flatpack build directly from Gimp.org. For the BIMP plug-in, meanwhile, you’ll need Gimptool to compile the plug-in before installing it.

If you’re already familiar with Linux, this might not seem too challenging. If you don’t have the tech know-how, this solution will be more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, there a variety of web-based or Android apps that can batch-edit photos, but this is usually a paid feature. Ideal apps include Polarr Photo Editor, Lightroom, Photoshop Express, and Pixlr.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Valve boss says brain-computer interfaces will let you ‘edit’ your feelings

The head of video games giant Valve says future brain-computer interfaces could change how players feel.

Gabe Newell believes BCIs will soon create superior experiences to what we can perceive through our eyes and ears alone.

“But that’s not where it gets weird,” he told New Zealand’s 1 News. “Where it gets weird is when who you are becomes editable through a BCI.”

Newell envisions the devices detecting a gamer’s emotions and then adjusting the settings to modify their mood — like ramping up the difficulty when they’re getting bored.

But they could also be applied to everyday aspects of our lives, from turning up our focus to altering our sleep patterns through an app.

[Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix of Finland]

Valve is currently developing its own BCIs. The company behind Half-Life and Counter-Strike is working on “modified VR head straps” that developers can use to experiment with signals from the brain.

“If you’re a software developer in 2022 who doesn’t have one of these in your test lab, you’re making a silly mistake,” said Newell.

He nonetheless acknowledges that BCIs are fraught with risks:

Nobody wants to say, remember Bob? Remember when Bob got hacked by the Russian malware? Yeah that sucked. Is he still running naked through the forests.

I don’t wanna end up like Bob, but the focus enhancer sounds particularly appealing during the inspiration vacuum of pandemic life.

Published January 26, 2021 — 17:40 UTC



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