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
POST A COMMENT

625 Comments

View All Comments

  • Thud2 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    Sigh ....

    Harrumph...
    Reply
  • funnyhog - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    As for the camera, you are right in saying that it is a compromise and trade off instead of a glowing fanboyish review like so many other reviewers. And in terms of trade off, it works if the person only wants to share over the web (and not to large screen format either, else it really really look horrible) or view their photos over small format viewers.

    But for most consumers who wants to print their photos, view it on their 17 inch HD laptop display or otherwise needs large format printout, it is a no go as the lack of details really really show, especially when the composition have lots of details or words/numbers. It is so bad that it can really detract from the overall quality of the photo, if it is enlarged and viewed over a large display or printed out onto just an A4 size paper. ( I tried both using the review images that claims to be the actual full size).
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    You do realize there are no 17-inch laptops in existence with displays that have more pixels than this camera sensor? The only laptop with a screen resolution greater than 4 megapixels is the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Also, prints up to 5"x9" could still be output at 150 LPI from a 300 DPI source.

    So yeah, the camera in this phone isn't exactly the same quality as a DSLR, but it is very well suited for "most consumers".
    Reply
  • peter123 - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    You people need to calm down with the bashing of this review. Anandtech also reviewed SGS2 and it was highly praised, REMEMBER? If you don't accept that a company other than samsung can produce an excellent device than I'm sorry but you are a fanboy. HTC is an excellent device. Period. Reply
  • praftman - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    17 Pages and only one on UI? How can I have just read every comment and yet nobody speaks with surprise about this amazing lack in an otherwise exceptional review?

    I'm purchasing this phone, and I like it for many of the same reasons Brian gives. I respect this review and yet…

    The UI is probably more important to the experience than all of the hardware; It's at least as important. Yet we receive one of the slimmest run-throughs of Sense 5.0 I've come across. I was hoping this indicated a companion review…but weeks in and there remains no Sense 5.0 review. What sacrifices are made by the lack of Jellybean 4.2.2? How do the quick-access functions differ from main competitors (silence, notifications, etc.)? How does the browser stack-up (it's an internet device after-all)? There is not even a quick breakdown or reminder of the main bullet-points for any of these significant topics, though apparently we need a refresher on all sorts of other things, hardware based of course.

    Moreover, the obvious competitor to this phone [GS4] has built its efforts with a particularly strong focus on software tweaks. But evaluating the phone's hardware with such heavy emphasis…the very battleground most-contended is largely ignored, making the real-world use of this review questionable. Did anyone really wonder if the HTC ONE was going for build-quality? Did we need this review to figure that out? It seems two-thirds of the review speaks the language of the obvious, the fact obfuscated in magnificent detail...Detail that almost no bearing on purchase-decision. I love that kind of detail, but I certainly wouldn't want in to substitute the meat of what determines a review's real-world value: Should I buy this?

    As a doc on technology, and to learn about the development of hardware, this is a fantastic piece. But in that sense [pun!] it is like a case-subject for technological education in general, industry education or even archiving. It's akin to the [deservedly beloved] engineerguyvideo series. That isn't for purchase decision, unless the reader is swayed by being lost in the brilliant and impressive information-overload, information that ultimately…isn't the right context.

    Context…that fails to address the blogosphere. We see no redress to the rumors of QC issues with gaps, no mentioning of availability or carrier-exclusivity. No discussion of carrier-comparison at all. No setting-the-record-straight with regard to inaccuracies in well-published reviews. No discussion on sticking points for many reviewers (such as the difficulty in customizing the home-screen with an awkward increase in dragging, pausing, dropping). …Part of the advantage to such a late review is to address all the other reviews and opinions now out there--but this one seems largely in a vaccum. Those concerns floated to the top, virally, for good reason. With each further review the gaps [pun!] they all share become more apparent. Here we have the best review to-date, but it's merely rehashing what we've already seen, just at a finer level. The community is asking questions this review still does not begin to address.

    Then there are the sort of flaws we'd expect when one reviewer attempts to 'do it all'. No single person designed this phone, and a single reviewer expecting to be minute in detail and *definitive* in their review is not likely to succeed. So we see the claim:

    …that softer metals are easier to machine; False in most situations.

    …of performance based on benchmarks Anand.com itself refutes with newer, better methodology. Odd that.

    ...that larger photosites are best to fight noise; Despite his expertise in this specific area Brian continues this simplistic and ultimately false refrain. Technology does not develop uniformly, and the nature of noise is multi-faceted. All things being equal bigger photosites are best. But…all things are not equal. Increasingly the best real-world strategy for fighting noise has been an *increase* in pixel count up to our current limits. This is from page 46 of the comment section, and many here would do well to read it:

    *
    *
    sigsegv0x0b - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    There is only one problem with HTC's ultra pixels. DXO Mark seems to disagree

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOM...
    *
    *

    People have said the HTC ONE is just flash and form over function. Another iDevice [if you believe the common anti-fanperson's refrain]. I think it has stellar function, and again--this will be my next phone--but admittedly it does trade some real-world practicality for that build 'quality' [and here I thought quality was something built right, not something built to give the appearance of right]. The phone has a smaller screen [but I think that bezel will protect against errant contact] and they could have used that extra wiggle-room to protect the glass from all sides…instead they used the same glass expanse as the GS4, just with a large able unused portion. That's form over function...and over build-quality. No SD-card and the poor excuse they couldn't fit it in. The GS4 does. The Sony Xperia Z does, even though it's water-proof. The metal will not be comfortable in the sun (glare, hot to the touch) so when you place it on your accessory car-dock…make certain it isn't catching rays the whole time across its various edges. The metal will not be comfortable in the cold (now we have a reason not to wear gloves with this phone…and to wear gloves with this phone). The battery…ugh. I replace my phone every year and I still think this is an obvious misstep. Even the iPhone, while not user-replaceable, has a battery that a service technician can remove. It's clear that with the ONE many more phones will need to be fully replaced over otherwise minor fixes. I'd pay money to have this phone *not* constructed in this manner. I'll take a subtly rubberized exterior, please.

    This review is being celebrated as some sort of benchmark. It is…with regards to hardware. I'd hate to see the ball dropped so heavily on the software side by its blogger-imitators. This review, with its undue focus on the physical object, and its stark glossing over of the actual battlefield this phone faces, shares the same superficiality. Well made [review/phone]? Yep. Like an Armani Jacket. Functional [review/phone]? Not as much as it might have been…had the focus been on wearability.
    Reply
  • dyc4ha - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    ill be honest i didnt read the whole thing, but just a quick comment: I believe the black version is the polycarbonate version, similar to the one x (someone correct me if im wrong) Reply
  • nerdstalker - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    See my reply two posts below... :) Reply
  • Thud2 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    I HAVE USED THE PHONE. It is extremely solid, really nice looking, VERY fast, Browser is very fast. Apps open instantly, screen is bright and sharp, it's very thin and fits the pocket well. Sound is better than any phone I've heard. Camera is fast and gets great shots that you would not be able to get with other phones. Stop fanboy trashing to start rumours. Nobody wants to hear your biased bull****. Reply
  • praftman - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    Maybe the comment system is messing up, or maybe you are responding to the wrong comment by accident, or maybe you just didn't read my [admittedly] lengthy comment...but I'm no fanboy. Not biased. Not much anything like what you're saying. Reply
  • gnx - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Just one point on why there isn't enough analysis of UI. This is Anandtech, a site built on review of hardware, which began with reviews of motherboards. Software and UI is really not the main focus of Anandtech. Hardware and Build, whether as in the external aluminum case, or in the internal SoC, are the main (and strong) suits of Anandtech and their reviews. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now