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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  • quiksilvr - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    Go to HTC's Smartphone page and see how many phones are called the "One" or have "One" in the name.

    http://www.htc.com/us/smartphones/

    SEVEN. SEVEN phones have "One" in the name. What the hell were they thinking? Why didn't they call it the HTC Aluminium or the HTC Ultrapixel? Something that distincts it from the flustercuck of phones it has.
    Reply
  • dyc4ha - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    you want to count how many samsung devices are named galaxy? they are building a brand name, it is the right thing to do. Reply
  • hp79 - Friday, April 19, 2013 - link

    They should have named it HTC One Ultrapixel or something. Samsung's Galaxy is the family name, and then there's a model name which makes the distinction. Every time I search for something related to HTC One, I have to do "htc one -v -x -vx -h -evo -z" to filter out everything. It's kinda crazy.

    Anyways, I received my HTC One today and I'm dissapointed at the build quality. What's with the gaps between the screen and the aluminum speaker grill, and one of the corner has a protruding black plastic (which wraps the screen on left and right edge). The sim card eject hole looks like the plastic has been drilled with a electric home drill. I can probably drill it cleaner than that. Maybe I was expecting too much from them. I do like the performance overall, but the quality control really sucks.
    Reply
  • dyc4ha - Friday, April 19, 2013 - link

    Are you guys going to review the US version with LTE and update the review by any chance? That would be greatly appreciated! Reply
  • gnx - Sunday, April 21, 2013 - link

    I second this. I checked out a few at the AT&T store, and the screen, sound and form were gorgeous, but would appreciate a updated review that considers the US models (rather than UK/international ones) with LTE and more importantly updated software (especially for the camera, hopefully).

    Also, I have to say, 3 of the 5 models displayed at the huge AT&T store had a visible slight gap on top and bottom where the white metal strap meets the back aluminium. It was disturbing to see, and I even took a photo, lest I get accused of being a nay-sayer. Personally, I'm guessing this is just first production model quirks, like the first round of Iphone5s having chipped strips on the side, so I'll wait till the more mature batches come along, and hopefully an updated review to help me settle on what to buy too!
    Reply
  • rohini - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - link

    I've become a fan of aluminium body. It was iphone 5 first but now i've fallen in love with the HTC One. The camera is also very impressive and the quad-core processor is more than capable of doing any task that you throw at it. Talking about the octa-core phones, do you really think that you'll really require 8 cores for doing some calculation on a smartphone?
    I've prepared a table of what Samsung has been doing for years and what the Koreans must learn from HTC.
    http://www.speedmango.com/htc-one-the-last-flamboy...
    Reply
  • sAiyAnstAr - Wednesday, May 01, 2013 - link

    Are you saying that the iPhone first came out with the Aluminium body, or you liked the iPhone 5's aluminium body first? My HTC Sensation came out in 2011 and it has an aluminium body... Reply
  • Thud2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    All bullshit about camera resolution aside this camera is great , AMAZING in daily use. The HDR mode produces great indoor photos. Just captures everything. No black holes or white flares. Great for the average user (me) Reply
  • Thud2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    OK, just got home and took a pic out my back window in night mode. Have never been able to get anything but black noise with other cams (albeit phone cams and low end cameras) I wish I could post this pic, amazing! They have achieved their goal of expanding the useful range of the phone cam. Reply
  • Thud2 - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    In the interest of full disclosure I do have to say that I am a fan of great industrial design and precision machining. I was enamored with the CNC work described in this article. I am on Sprint but before I went in order to the phone I went to AT&T to get a look at it and found that the speaker cover had a sharp overhang and was not smooth to the body. I looked at many phones and the "GAP" described in some comments was nowhere to be found but I guess early production models were not smooth from body to speaker cover. Knowing this, when I went to the store to pick up my phone I noticed the rough edge. the store rep noticed to and said he was sending the phone back. I went to another Sprint store and their phones had no ridge, smooth as ... I don't know, but pretty smooth, so I bought it and it's really really nice. Enough said. Reply

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