This has been standing in my draft queue for quite some time now. It wasn’t quite done yet, and there were a couple of things I needed to check first, but here we go then (a couple of days mentioned below isn’t quite accurate anymore, that’s a month and a half or so ago by now )
Wow… I’m getting the feeling I’m being watched
A couple of days ago I revisited my Digimarc experience and I wrote how I was contacted by Ms Gina Giachetti, representing Digimarc, and asked if I wanted to blog about the new Digimarc.
I wasn’t too keen at first to write about it, since my first experience with Digimarc wasn’t all that spectacular, but Ms Giachetti promised to put me in touch with a product manager to “talk things over”. For some reason that went all south because of a miscommunication, as it now appears: holidays from both sides (I had no idea Digimarc was located in Oregon, otherwise I could’ve stopped by the office in March when I was in Oregon!), busy time schedules, etc. etc.
Anyway… I posted the revisited the 28th in the morning, and that same day in the evening there’s a mail from Ms Giachetti waiting in my inbox. Yep, things had gone all south, and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So we gave it a second try and last Wednesday she set me up in a telephone conversation with Digimarc’s product manager Ben Bounketh. Very agreeable guy, I must say (I’m also not getting paid to say this, dang! ). We had a really interesting conversation in which he told me a bit more about Digimarc in general and more specifically about the watermarking process and product. I’m not going to repeat that all here, so you’ll have to head on to the Digimarc website. And -I already mentioned in my first post about Digimarc that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their customer service- he set me up with a free Pro account for a year for me to test the new product. Wow!
Mr Bounketh presented me with a little video on how the new Digimarc Watermarking would be really imperceptible. And no matter how nice he sounded, my first reaction was “Sure, that’s a generic picture, the OLD watermarking would even work on that. You’re not getting off that easily with me!” So… You all probably remember the jellyfish picture I put my test on? That was the OLD method. Ghastly… Autch!
Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark
So I thought, let’s see how Mr Bounketh’s statement will hold up in this image.
Again, left the example without Digimarc watermark, right with.
And well… Kudos, Mr Bounketh. Kudos to you and Digimarc. Compared to the old version this is a world of difference. Where you could see the obvious difference in the first example, even without the need to view full, in the second example I had to enlarge the areas to show the difference, and even then you can’t see it without looking at the full view.
When looking at a 4000+ pixels image at 100% you can see some slight noise in these even areas, but the quality of the images with watermark has improved so much that you can’t even really make a decent comparison anymore.
I’d still be a bit reluctant uploading images with an even background like this in full resolution to for example a stock agency, but for the “normal” images, with a more diverse and detailed background it will be no problem whatsoever, and for web images it will be perfect.
The watermark itself is pretty solid in terms of durability. I put the watermark in a 4000+ pixels image, downscaled in stages and in one go to 300pixels and only at that point was the watermark not found anymore. Upscaling and cropping the same story.
However… as with all editing with images you ARE supposed to do it in the hi-res version, and when I tested adding the watermark to a lower res version it came out with the same ghastly result. So added in a 4000 pixel image and then scaled down to 800 pixels is perfectly acceptable, but adding the watermark straight to the 800 pixels picture is a big no-no (still). When presenting this issue to Mr Bounketh, he did give a plausible explanation. In short and super-simplified something along the lines of the watermark having to be hidden in less available pixels).
Left the image in which the watermark was added at 800 pixels, right the image where it was added at 4000 pixels and then downscaled to 800 pixels (click to enlarge).
I can’t say anything on the reporting and scouting/tracking of images, yet. That will take some time, but I’m going to upload a batch of generic images with Digimarc watermark to my website and see if they are picked up and where they end up. Mr Bounketh did explain a little on how the searching and “tracking” works. He also noted that, because of the time and costs involved, at this point only larger sites with a lot of traffic will be scanned/indexed on a regular basis. I’m not really sure if it will be super useful for (starting) artists who don’t have much traffic to their website, since those websites would be scanned/indexed only like once per 3-6 months. But since the price has gone down and the scouting/tracking is included in that price, there’s little to do about it anyway.
I’m happily testing away now, and I’ll probably do a re-re-revisited in a year or so, or if/when I get some data in on the scouting/tracking.