Adobe shows off new 'undo photo blur' feature

Oct 13, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Despite all the advances in digital photography, most people are still plagued by the problem of blurry photos, a problem compounded by the use of cameras embedded in cell phones due to their small size. Problems of blurring generally can be divided into two types. The first is problems with focusing, which can usually be avoided if the camera operator will simply wait for the automatic focusing feature of their camera to do its job. The second type is much more difficult to solve as it involves camera movement while the image is being shot. It’s this second problem that Adobe has been working on as part of its Photoshop imaging software package. And based on a video shot by someone identified only as peterelst who posted it on Youtube, a recent demo of a new feature, or "sneak" as Adobe calls it, seems to indicate that they have made significant progress.

The technology behind the new feature (that may or may not actually wind up in Photoshop according to company reps) involves an algorithm based on the idea of blind deconvolution, which is where an iterative process is used to facilitate a point spread function. The idea is to calculate the speed at which the camera was moving when the picture was snapped so as to undo its effects. Or in other words, it attempts to reconstruct what the camera lens would have seen but for the movement. This is in stark contrast to current de-blurring functions in Photoshop and other image editing software which analyze an image looking for lines that form edges and bolsters them to make them appear sharper. The results with the new technique, at least in the demo, appear to be quite dramatic.

With the new feature, the photo is first loaded onto the computer and into the Photoshop type app, then some predefined parameters are loaded that more clearly define what sort of image is to be looked at. The image is then analyzed and a grayscale thumbnail (blur kernel) is displayed which shows how the image was blurred. Next a restore feature is activated and the blurred image is replaced with the newly sharpened image.

Despite this bit of theatrics by Adobe and lots of gushing by mainstream media seemingly intent on describing the new technology as the end of blurry photos, things are not quite as rosy as all that. This is because if the new feature is indeed added to Photoshop, it will still be out of most people’s grasp due to the high price of the product. Very few are likely to shell out hundreds of dollars to just to clear up a few images taken haphazardly on their cell phones or even their cameras. What really needs to happen is for this technology to be implemented in cameras so operators will never know they blurred their image by jiggling their in the first place.

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User comments : 17

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dschlink
4.8 / 5 (9) Oct 13, 2011
It would be much more interesting if the photo example have anything to do with the article, as the blurring in the left picture is a focus problem, not the motion-related blurring that Adobe addresses.
bronzecheetah
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2011
If this tech were put into cameras, it could be easier to implement. Cameras could have digital accelerometers inside (many already do), and record a velocity vector in the EXIF file. Then, the algorithm would not even need to back out this velocity data, it would already have it. It could then easily "undo" the motion of the camera.
gopher65
3.8 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2011
bronzecheetah: That was my thought as well. Even if this couldn't be implemented in cameras immediately (due to processing speed and associated battery life and waste heat limitations) simply recording the camera movement while the shutter is open and attaching that to the image would make this process *much* easier.

This could be done with a relatively simple software update on (some) cameras.
jimbo92107
4 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2011
If this tech were put into cameras, it could be easier to implement. Cameras could have digital accelerometers inside (many already do), and record a velocity vector in the EXIF file. Then, the algorithm would not even need to back out this velocity data, it would already have it. It could then easily "undo" the motion of the camera.


Good point, but what's really impressive about this algorithm is that it can figure out the motion vector from an already blurred photo. There are countless such sitting around in paper albums and computers. This could rescue historically important photos from the Civil War. Photos from the JFK assassination. This could help solve crimes by sharpening photos of crooks taken by cheap security cameras.

If the camera is still, an object blurred by moving through the frame also would have a motion vector, which could be clarified. Even a shaky video from a running person might be rescued, with enough cpu. Probabalistic algorithm?
ECOnservative
3 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2011
Add this function to optical lens-distortion correction software such as that by DXO and you have the ability to make almost any shot near perfect. I also wonder about 2D to 2.5D transforms like Microsoft's Photosynth - what would it do with the corrected image? Is the motion vector lost in Adobe's process?
NameIsNotNick
3.3 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2011
It could then easily "undo" the motion of the camera.

Only if the movement was by the camera and not the subject.
SincerelyTwo
4 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2011
NamelsNotNick,

This algorithm could easily be given a highlighted section of an image and as far as it's concerned it was camera blur, doesn't matter, so long as the blur has a vector which can be determined and it can do it's sexy business it's all good.

For forensics this is sufficient, the point in a situation like that is extracting useful information about an individual and not creating aesthetically pleasing art.

So no, I don't think this algorithm would 'magically' stop working because of the blur coming from the camera or not, the algorithm is going to do what it's designed to do regardless of the reason behind a blur. Results may vary obviously.
that_guy
not rated yet Oct 13, 2011
I don't think the guy who wrote this article had a full knowledge of what he's talking about. I'm a bit dissappointed. I've read up a lot on this for the last couple days.

First, what he got right: This deblurring tool is only for motion blur. The algorithm analyzes the distortion path and is able to reverse the process to clean up the picture. Namels is correct that it is primarily for camera movement. It will only work for a moving object if the object is moving uniformly like a car. You would still need to clean up the background afterwards. if you are jumping and waving your hands at the same time, it will do no good.

Now, for all you guys wanting this on a camera...
-First, it takes a huge amount of processing power not available on cameras.
-Second, there are professional cameras that have very little blur of any kind. You can already pay for a camera that takes better pictures on the front end.
-Third, there are higher end consumer cameras
-Continued-
NameIsNotNick
not rated yet Oct 13, 2011
SincerelyTwo. The poster whom I quoted was suggesting that the camera's accelerometer could be used to determine the blur vector.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2011
higher end consumer cameras already have systems in place that help compensate for unsteady hands.

Also, If a picture is out of focus, you cannot resurrect it to the degree that the picture on top shows. The tools in photoshop are limited in that regard, because out of focus pictures are missing some amount of information, that does cause some artifacts. (This can be compensated for if you know the exact focal length and distance sometimes.)

This is an awesome tool for post processing, but there are already better things in place for higher end cameras. I don't think the author of the article has more than a passing knowledge in camera tech or photoshop.
Myno
not rated yet Oct 13, 2011
The accuracy of the tiny accelerometers and gyroscopes built into some mobile devices is extremely poor. They can provide a hint of camera motion, but with LOTS of noise. Probably better to try and use motion artifacts in the image.
georgert
5 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2011
They should have used the program on the video. I couldn't make out much difference when everyone said, "Wow!"
gopher65
5 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2011
that_guy: If you read my post carefully, you'll note that I mentioned processor issues:P.

Course, if processors continue to get faster on a per-unit-power-used basis at the current rate, then in *does quick math* less than 20 years this kind of thing could be built right into a camera, and used in real time with no noticeable lag. That's certainly not possible yet, but it will be.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2011
First, what he got right: This deblurring tool is only for motion blur. The algorithm analyzes the distortion path and is able to reverse the process to clean up the picture. Namels is correct that it is primarily for camera movement. It will only work for a moving object if the object is moving uniformly like a car. You would still need to clean up the background afterwards. if you are jumping and waving your hands at the same time, it will do no good.

Yes. In order to restore information in a picture the information has to be there (as ina uniform blurring vectorfield where you can calculate the motion blur vector)
But information that is lost (i.e. by simple blur due to bad focus) cannot be restored - no matter what you do.
Ricochet
5 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2011
The idiot running the camera in the Youtube video didn't really show us anything. I remain skeptical until I see something up close and stable.
stardust magician
not rated yet Oct 14, 2011
"Focus Magic" software has been around for years. If fixes motion and out of focus blur. So, whats new adobe?
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2011
Well, "the hype" is the new thing, and the popcorn and cola paid audience to shout wooaw simultaneously ....