Zoes and the Highlights Reel

The reality of the device landscape at the moment is that raw specs can certainly break a device if they’re not the right ones, but don’t necessarily sell the device. Experiences on the other hand sell devices directly, either from users indireclty marketing them to friends with demonstrations, or through well packaged advertising by an OEM. The short of it is that HTC can deliver an awesome device with great camera, speakers, and microphones, but without something compelling that touches all of them it’s just not quite as impactful or directly engaging.

Enter the HTC One’s killer app, by far, the combination of a new shooting mode called Zoe (short for Zoetrope) and a gallery feature called the Highlights reel.

Zoes are a new form of photography — part video, part still photo, part software. Put simply, a Zoe is video plus still images, specifically 3 seconds of video with 20 full resolution 4 MP images taken during the video record. HTC’s combination of ISP, SoC, and sensor choice enables them to take that 1080p video and simultaneously capture full resolution images, and that’s what a Zoe is. Inside the gallery Zoes animate and then go back to being still, and there’s a UI for scrubbing through the still images which make up that particular Zoe. To shoot a Zoe, one simply taps the button in the camera UI and hits the photo button, which then turns into a progress bar that fills with red as the Zoe is taken.


The gallery will animate thumbnails with Zoes and video content inside (left). Tapping on the big double wide icon up top triggers the Highlights Reel (right)

Zoe video is slightly lower bitrate and framerate, 1080p24 8 Mbps H.264 High Profile, but in practice these are good enough if you’re trying to balance a mode that essentially treats videos like photos.

ZoeMediaInfo

When I first heard about Zoes I was worried that HTC would break the DCIM (Design Rule for Camera File System - Digital Camera IMages) rules and dump the Zoe in some proprietary file extension or zip inside another directory. I was at first overjoyed when I learned they didn’t do exactly that. Instead these are just videos and photos with a different name that the gallery app parses and turns into the Zoe experience, eg “IMAG0815_ZOE005.jpg” and “IMAG0815_ZOE006_SHOT.jpg” for the shot you’ve chosen and “IMAG0815_ZOEVIDEO.mp4” for the corresponding video.

I say at first I was happy because I use Dropbox Camera Upload for all the myriad phones I have in conjunction with a python script I made that sorts the images into appropriate folders based on the camera type in use. The unfortunate part is that Zoes plus Dropbox’s camera upload file renaming makes looking through images a nightmare, and you wind up with 20 per. Hopefully the two will arrive at some collaborative solution since Dropbox and HTC have partnered to offer free storage on non US variants of the One. The rest of the Zoe experience, however, is quite good.

The only thing that takes a bit of a hit is low light performance while taking Zoes, partly because video framerate is prioritized and thus HTC can’t run as long exposures. Most of the time this isn’t a big deal until you’re in an extremely dark scene.

The real advantage to shooting Zoes instead of normal photos or videos is what you can do with them on the One with the next feature — the Highlights Reel.

HTC has combined the concept of events inside its gallery with a unique computationally edited 30 second video experience called the Highlights Reel. After tapping on the top icon in a gallery in the element view, you’re greeted with a short video built from all the images and videos from the event. Zoes, images, and videos get arranged into a video with music and appropriate editing, and it looks awesome.

Still images get a Ken Burns effect with panning and zooming, videos play back in short little sequences, it seems as though HTC also does face detection to pick out what images and videos to use, and the result usually is enough to tell the story of an evening or some social engagement if you’re actively taking Zoes and other media. There are six different themes, with different filters and moods that range from dreamy to making you feel like you’re part of some reality show. At present only those six combinations of music, filters, and cuts are available, though in the future HTC will add the ability to include custom music and perhaps more themes.


The Highlights reels can be viewed immediately (rendered in real time on the device, which is impressive) or encoded and saved out to a video for doing what you want with. In addition HTC has a first party sharing service called Zoe share which stores the Highlights Reel, Zoes, and media on HTC’s servers for 180 days with either an HTC account or Facebook login. I uploaded an example Zoe Share based on my low light downtown test photos and videos, and another one based on a few outings with friends.

I’ve made a lot of great Zoes in my time with the HTC One, and the best ones have people and friends in them, unfortunately those are the people most likely to get angry about me sharing videos of their antics. If you shoot Zoes for an evening or take a trip and only shoot them however, the One will produce some awesome Highlights reels. The HTC software does an incredibly good job creating something engaging and professional looking videos with minimal interaction. It’s really optimal to shoot Zoes if you’re going to be looking at the Highlights reel afterward, and this is the exact kind of content you want to use with the front facing speakers. It’s the perfect example of a killer app which shows off all the cool parts of the HTC One.

Video Quality Analysis Display Quality - 4.7-inch 1080p
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  • jbrandonf - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    I don't think you know how it works but carrier reps receive no additional money for selling a specific platform. -ex carrier rep Reply
  • bnathan - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - link

    Maybe with your one carrier in your one country but most carriers offer commissions for selling handsets and plans. The carriers I have dealings with they ALL offer commissions as incentives to sell and the Iphone gives the lowest commission to sales people as there is no money in Apple products. Sell and Iphone and the payment (handset subsidy) barely covers the cost of giving the handset away for free with the plan, sell Android or WP8 and the payment covers the handset and you get enough to make a tidy sum of money. The only saving grace to sell an Iphone is that you can just be an order taker there is no selling involved so you can do the contract and move onto the next customer hence higher numbers to make the same commission and the fact there is so many add ons which you can add to an iphone. Walk into any shop and they will have 100+ Iphone accessories and a couple for each Android handset if any. The only people who make money out of Apple products is Apple. Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    A ridiculous comment. Apples cost are only a little higher than the rest and they make more from android because they can load up the devices with their garbage software. All the developers of iOS devices, accessory makers. People who produce using would find your comments ignorant and amusing. Compare that to the meager Android aftermarket and developer revenues. Not even close. Reply
  • Thud2 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    He didn't say "Carrier Rep" Reply
  • Thud2 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    The OP I mean. Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    Either you weren't really a carrier rep or you are lying. Reply
  • TinaE - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    Me too. I ordered today at the ATT store and received the media link for free. Reply
  • sjain - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Just pre-ordered on the AT&T website and got my free media link. I am an existing customer so am surprised at your comment. They clearly spell out that you have to add the media link manually and it shows up as $0.00 in your cart. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    The thing that stops me from jumping off the Win 8 phone ship is that I think MS is just beginning to get serious about smart phones. The idea of a Surface Pro Smart phone, with its VaporMg body and full-blown Win8 OS, isn't all that far-fetched, and until MS proves they are never going to make such a thing, I'll be waiting for it. :) Reply
  • kyuu - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Full Win8 on a smartphone isn't going to happen, and I'm not sure why you'd *want* it in the first place. Reply

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