LOS ANGELES — Google has a cool new feature for the weekend: The ability to make a Mother’s Day movie based on your photos and video clips, automatically.
Just click a button, and within seconds you could get a heartfelt, tear-inducing masterpiece set to music and created by robots.
But come on, let's face it. The Google machine learning is really great at face detection, and figuring out who you hang with, but I'll go with my own eyes for picking the best, most attractive shots. As beautiful as the sample Google Mom's Day online videos are, my multiple "Mother's Day" tests found shots that were under-exposed, her eyes were closed and sometimes she's not even in the shot at all.
The beauty of Google Photos, an app I love and have advocated for many times here, is that it backs up all your smartphone photos into one place, for free.
So, you don’t have to hunt through various folders on your smartphone, tablet or computer, or sync folders to find them. Everything’s in Google Photos, no matter which device you use to look for them. And because Google's face-tracking technology is so good, I can call up photos of my wife, son, mom and others within seconds. Beyond Mother's Day, the Google Photos "assistant" also creates animations, collages and mini-movies based on recent photos and videos.
So, when the automatically generated images are made on Google Photos, guess what? It pulls from everything you’ve shot. The Google robots are really, really good but sometime they seem to have a hard time knowing the difference between a great expression and one that’s gone south. Of course, that's understandable. Should we expect any less from computers?
Again, the beauty of the app is that we send everything we shoot up to the cloud. The downside is that we don’t take the time to delete and edit, because why bother? While we have many great photos, we also have ones with poor lighting, over and under exposure and shut eyes. The rule of thumb in the film era was that three shots were keepers out of a 36-exposure roll. Now we're taking many more photos, and thus, we have way, way more turkeys in our online photo collections.
The Google computers make selections by starting with face tracking. It knows who we are and whom we associate with. Additionally, it then looks for subjects that are looking into the camera, with open eyes and better exposed shots, Google tells me.
Still, the "technology isn't perfect, and won't be for some time," says David Lieb, a Google product manager. "The machine can get it right 80 to 90 percent of the time."
So, the answer, for anyone spending the weekend trying to perfect a great-looking Mom's Day view on Google Photos is simple: Use the manual controls to fine tune your production.
Google offers these via the mobile app, but not on the computer.
So, until the robots can learn about the rules of thirds, great composition, attractive lighting and flattering poses, we have a tip. Skip the automatic tools, and try your own manually created production. Use Google Photos to create an album of shots where Mom and the kids look fabulous, and share it with her. (Do a search for Mom in Google Photos, highlight your picks, and then click the plus sign to "Create an Album.")
You won't get pretty background music, but she will look her best. And who better than you to be the judge of that?