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2 October, 2007

Liquid rescale

Most people, and hopefully all web designers, are aware of liquid layout*, whereby a web page's layout (especially text flow) changes to accommodate different widths of browser panes.

Dynamic text formatting is fine, but graphics have always been a problem.
However, work by Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir on 'seam carving', is moving towards images which rescale 'intelligently' as page dimensions change.
Rather than an entire image shrinking or enlarging uniformly, maintaining its aspect ratio, parts of the image are discarded (or generated) preferentially. For instance, in a picture of a person on a beach, areas of background are discarded before the figure is affected at all, and even then, areas such as the face can be protected to avoid distortion. See the video at the aforementioned link for examples.

The technique can already be applied to one-off image resizing (rather than dynamic resizing), which is itself very useful. Lifehacker suggests two free utilities (whilst noting that the results don't necessarily match the standard in the research video). One is a downloadable plugin for GIMP, the open source image editor, whilst the other is a standalone online utility, 'Rsizr'. I can certainly imagine this being built into the next generation of commercial image editors as standard.

*: I hope web designers are also aware of the distinction between liquid and elastic layout, and tend to use the latter!

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