The latest Roon release talks about Art Director as a way of fixing up artist photos in Roon, and I’d like to expand on that. We’ve been testing this internally for a while now, and a small number of you (a few hundred) have already been using Art Director as well. I wrote this post for those early users, but I’d like to share this with you all now that this stuff is out the door for all to use.
Getting high-quality (and highly accurate) photographs of artists has been a challenge for everyone. Even the major music services (with considerably more resources than Roon) struggle with this problem.
Over the years, we’ve continually improved the artist photos in Roon, both by licensing new data sources and by implementing image analysis. Facial recognition in particular has improved the way artists are presented, but it hasn’t been a comprehensive solution and in fact, we’ve found that it doesn’t help at all on a certain class of photos. For example, facial recognition algorithms are notoriously biased when it comes to skin color and gender, and are rarely effective when dealing with group photos.
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As part of our Valence development, we’ve built a tool called Art Director that lets our team manually adjust photos, but we just can’t produce enough data fast enough. We’re a small team and there are many artists.
Rather than attempt the impossible, we settled on a different approach: we improved Art Director and made it suitable for use by a wider audience. Now, we’re releasing it to the Roon community, so everyone can help make perfect artist images a reality. Not only will this effort improve artist images in Roon, but it will provide our machine learning algorithms with valuable training data for improving images automatically in the future.
Some Roon users have complained that circular photos are the problem, but that’s not quite right. It’s true that they’re not great when you have a row of performers lined up for a band photo, but square is equally bad in those cases. Going “square” creates additional problems in UI design, where artists and albums look too similar when presented together.
To solve the difficult circular cases, we’ve gone back to a concept that we’ve always wanted anyway: the logo. Artist logos can be used as the “avatar” of the artist – the circular image. Circular avatars are now distinct from the large rectangular “banner” images shown at the top of artist pages. For example, the London Symphony Orchestra has a beautiful and unique logo; a wide-angle photo of the LSO on stage just looks like any other orchestra. The same goes for many bands; would you rather see the 4 to 6 members of The Rolling Stones in a small circle or their “Hot Lips” logo?
Once we start gathering contributions at scale, another positive side effect of this project is that we will be able to show multiple great images of each artist in Roon.
After updating your Roon Core and Remotes, you will find it can take up to 3-4 days for our content delivery network (CDN) to update its caches and make Art Director’s “adjusted photos” available in Roon. If no adjustments exist, you’ll continue to see the older data that is quite “dumb”. Feel free to improve them for everyone!
Please try to spend some time on this and let us know about any confusion, bugs, or any general commentary you may have. Also, let us know if you find it engaging and fun, or frustrating and confusing, or something in between.
You can find this at https://valence.roonlabs.com, where we will place more of these types of tools in the future. You will need to log in with your licensed (non-trial) Roon account.
Thank you and we looking forward to hearing your feedback.