Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Faces and Places

Over the course of an investigator's career, he/she may amass thousands, if not tens of thousands of images relating to cases across all sorts of crimes. Tying these cases together has been a frustrating and expensive task - so much so that many departments have yet to go completely digital. But some new software offers a glimpse at the future. It's called iPhoto '09.

I've received numerous e-mails and calls about iPhoto's newest version, so I thought I'd address the feature that's got the cop world buzzing ... Faces and Places.

Other image management programs allow for the grouping of files. Just drag them to folders, label, sort, and etc. iPhoto goes a step further ... it does the grouping automatically using image / facial recognition. And, while it's not perfect ... it's pretty good. Good enough to get people talking.

The Faces portion of Faces and Places analyzes at the images on your hard drive by examining the unique characteristics of each face in the photo - eyes, mouth, hair, nose, and etc. - and puts similar faces into groups. No need to worry about configuration options or which buttons to push ... iPhoto will attempt this process when you first start the program. At this point, you just open the program and wait for it to sort through your hard drive.

If you are like me, and have GB's of images, this initial scan will take some time. Not to worry, however. You can run the scan in the background and continue to poke around the interface (who reads the manual?).

... and speaking of manuals ... there is none. iPhoto 09 comes as part of iLife 09. The $79 suite only ships with a small getting started guide. No detailed manuals ship with the installation DVD. So, is there a manual or not? Well, there is ... sort of. There's a couple that you might want to run out and pick up, or download from O'Reilly. The first is iPhoto 09 - the Missing Manual. True to the name and the concept of the Missing Manual series, the iPhoto 09 Missing Manual delivers all of the valuable information that you'll need to get the most out of this very interesting addition to Apple's software offering. LE users will appreciate the depth of chapters 4 and 13, dealing with Faces and Places and File Management respectively.

Also included in iLife 09 are updated versions of iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, and Garage Band. But remember, no manual for these either. (Don't worry, I've got you covered here too) iMovie 09 and iDVD - the Missing Manual is the place to go to learn how to import video, build your movie, add a few effects, stabilise, fix colour, add photos, and export your movie to YouTube, your boss' iPod, or elsewhere.

I think that the Missing Manual series was conceived with LE in mind - the books offer easy to understand and well organised instruction without all of the techno-jargon usually found in user manuals.

... back to iPhoto 09 ... the algorithm is certainly not as powerful as the stuff the big agencies are using, so it's bound to miss a few faces on the first pass. You can fix these manually with the Add Missing Face button. The people that are tagged will then be placed on the cork board.

While iPhoto's editing skills are not quite ready for prime time (stick to Photoshop for LE - please), Faces and Places adds a useful tool to the investigator's tool chest.

... what about Places? More on that later ...

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