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Software brings photos to life

By Julie Clothier for CNN

The computer software allows video to be transformed from this...
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Arts, Culture and Entertainment
Computer Software
Arts (general)
Great Britain

(CNN) -- Computer scientists at the University of Bath in England have come up with a way to make even the dullest of holiday snaps, quite literally, animated.

John Collomosse has designed software that can transform videos into cartoons, and photographs into cubist portraits.

Traditional animation methods are labor intensive and time consuming, but Collomosse's technique requires very little human intervention for the transformation to take place.

The user chooses from a selection of artistic styles -- including cartoon, oil painting, sketch or cubist -- as to how they want to transform their photograph.

Collomosse created the program for his postgraduate studies, with the help of his supervisor, lecturer Dr. Peter Hall.

He told CNN that for the process to happen automatically, the computer had to be able to identify important features of the photo.

"The central role of the project was to turn video into cartoon. We asked, 'To what degree can we produce a cartoon-style image?'"

Collomosse said until now human intervention was needed to create different styles of images out of photographs, using computer software such as Adobe Photoshop to do so.

"For a cubist image, for example, they would need to pick out the features of the photo, such as the eyes, nose and mouth in an image of a face," he said.

"We had to teach the computer to identify what the important elements were."

By giving the computer an "aesthetic sense," Collomosse said they were able to create a series of automated artworks with new effects, including Picasso-style cubist pictures.

Work on the software began in 2001, and was completed last year, although Collomosse said the program was still a prototype and a lot of development would be needed to turn it into a commercial product.

Potential commercial applications in the future included using it as a "novelty item" in photo booths, where customers could transform their ordinary photos into works of art, he said.

Animator Neil Glasbey, of London-based company Framestore CFC, told CNN that the idea would be a fun tool to use on home videos.

"I think the idea of taking a home video and turning it into a cartoon could be really useful, particularly for the younger generation."

He stressed that for the idea to work, it would need to be simple and easy-to-use.

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