Dan Byström’s Bwain

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Archive for October, 2004

ColorMatrix Reloaded

Posted by Dan Byström on October 31, 2004

I hadn’t planned for a follow up on this – therefore I’m not going to apologize for the horrible blog title.

Earlier this week, I was sitting on the train to Stockholm, reading the C/C++ Users Journal when I came across an article about writing C++ extensions for Matlab in order to do transformations of RGB into different color spaces. This was enough to make my mind drift back to my previous blog on colors.

I thought “If we can simulate a defect red-green color vision by smoothing out the difference between the red and the green component in an image, pixel by pixel, then how about doing do the opposite? That is, increase the gap in order to make it easier to visualize for a color blind person?”

If we for each pixel in an image determine which one of the red and green component is the most contributing (have the largest value of the two) and then amplify that component and at the same time reduce the other component, then we should make it easier for the eye to distinguish the red from the green.

If we try such an algorithm on the flower picture from my previous blog, then for the “simulated image” we would simply return to the original picture. Not much gain, you might think. But when we try this algorithm on the original image, we would instead get a more colorful image. Psychedelic, a normal seeing person might call it. Or if you grew up in the sixties, you might just long for a smoke.

Let me show you what I mean. Below are two buttons, one green and one red. The “problem” is that they may appear very similar to a color blind person. Really – this is often hard to grasp for many people. Interestingly, the concept of fuzzy viewing (so that you need eye glasses in order to see sharp) is never questioned. I guess this is because even people with perfect seeing understand what is going on because their seeing becomes fuzzy too when they try to view something at a (sufficiently) far distance.

Original images – before we apply any transformation.

I have applied the above described “color sharpening” algorithm to the buttons to produce the new buttons below. And suddenly the colors have become much more distinct and easier to make out. Notice that the blue color is unaffected.

Transformed colors – the same algorithm has been applied to both buttons.

Now how do we implement such an algorithm? One way is certainly by looping through each pixel and perform an “if statement” and a little calculation. But indeed there is a better way. Yes, you guessed it… the ColorMatrix of course!

In order to produce the “color smoothing” last week, I used the following ColorMatrix:

   1 – z   z   0   0   0  \
   z   1-z   0   0   0   |
M(z) =   0   0   1   0   0   |
   0   0   0   1   0   |
   0   0   0   0   1   /

In order to reverse the process, we just have to use the inverse matrix M-1(z). Inverting a (large) matrix is a whole science, but our case is almost trivial. Since rows and columns 3-5 are identical to the identity matrix, we only have to deal with a 2×2 matrix. Numerically we can even use the Matrix.Inverse method (namespace System.Drawing.Drawing2D) to do so:

int z = 0.3; // z should be in the [0,0.5[ interval
Matrix M = new Matrix( 1-z, z, z, 1-z, 0, 0 );

Now we have our sought coefficients in M.Elements[0..3] ready to be used in our ColorMatrix. But this is cheating. Instead, pulling out our trustworthy paper&pencilTM, we soon arrive to this solution:

   1 – z 
1 – 2z
  – z 
1 – 2z
 0   0   0  \
M-1(z) =  – z 
1 – 2z
  1 – z 
1 – 2z
 0   0   0   |
   0   0   1   0   0   |
   0   0   0   1   0   |
   0   0   0   0   1   /

We observe than for z = 0.5 this matrix isn’t defined, since we will get a division by zero if we try to calculate its coefficients. This is something we knew from the beginning, for two reasons:

  • Mathematically. M(0.5) has a determinant of zero (denoted det(M) or |M|) and therefore we know that no inverse matrix exist.
  • By context. The meaning of z = 0.5 is “remove ALL difference between red and green”. Any little hint of what they might have been before M(0.5) was applied is completely lost and gone forever. Logically, no inverse can therefore exist.

Anyway, applying the above calculated M-1(0.3) to our flower photo from last week, this time we get this result:

The image to the right has been created by applying the M-1(z) color matrix to the left image, using a z value of 0.3, giving the more dominant red/green color a boost while supressing the other.

Well, the idea of inverting a color matrix was really all I wanted to tell you about.

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Enter the Matrix

Posted by Dan Byström on October 14, 2004

Last week, I ran into the GDI+ ColorMatrix for the first time ever. I was amazed, because it was a totally obvious way to handle a common task and yet I had never seen it or thought of it before!

A ColorMatrix is in perfect analogy with a regular transformation matrix. For those unfortunate of you who have never encountered a transformation matrix before I’ll recapitulate the fundamentals – just for fun. If you don’t know how to do matrix multiplication you need to
get familiar with that first.

  Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics.
— Siméon Poisson

If we restrict ourselves to two dimensions, we can express a point with its rectangular coordinates x and y, respectively, like this: ( x , y ).

A transformation matrix is a matrix you multiply with the coordinate vector to move it to another place. A rotation matrix, for example, looks like this:

 cos α   -sin α   \
 sin α   cos α   /

Multiplying it with ( x , y ) gives the new position:

(x·cos α + y·sin α , x·sin α – y·cos α )

Apart from rotation, we can also get scaling matrixes as well as sheering matrixes. But we cannot get translation (moving along the coordinate axes a fixed distance) in this way. To get that, we need to augment our representation of both the coordinate vector and the matrix like this:
( x , y , 1 ) and

 m00   m01   0  \
 m10   m11   0   |
 0   0   1   /

This is called homogenous notation and in the form above it doesn’t affect the previous form in any way. Nor does it contribute in any way. But if we make use of the third row, we will be able to do translatation too:

 1   0   0  \
 0   1   0   |
 Tx   Ty   1   /

Multiplying the above matrix with (x , y , 1) gives the new position ( x + Tx, y + Ty , 1 ). Great.

If you want to apply a rotation around a different point than origo, then you have to first translate your coordinate by that point, rotate and then translate back. Three consecutive matrix multiplications? No – now comes the cool part. You can create a new transformation matrix first, which includes all three steps! A great way to optimize your code!

The above is a description of the transformation matrixes used in GDI+ (found in the System.Drawing.Drawing2D namespace). Since we never use the third column (it will always be
( 0 , 0 , 1 )T), GDI+ has simply thrown it away. While I’m still at it; GDI+ provides a Matrix.RotateAt method for us lazy programmers, which will immediately create the “translate, rotate and translate back” matrix for us in one step.

When we move up to three dimensions, we will also be able to work with projection matrixes, which will help us to project our three dimensional world onto a two dimensional plane (=the screen). But now we have moved away from GDI+ and entered DirectX. Enough said about transformation matrixes.

Now a ColorMatrix does the very same thing… to colors!!! It will help us transform a color into a new color. By passing a ColorMatrix to the Graphics.DrawImage method, you can apply your color transformation to every single pixel in an image while painting. A color (or you may read pixel) is expressed like (R , G , B, A , 1) for its red, green, blue and alpha components and then finally the 1 for the homogenous notation (although we never will notice it in practice).

By multiplying a single color (pixel) with this ColorMatrix:

 1   0   0   0   0  \
 0   1   0   0   0   |
 0   0   1   0   0   |
 0   0   0   1/2   0   |
 0   0   0   0   1   /

What will we get? Obviously we get (R , G , B , A/2 , 1). We have, in other words, halved the color’s/pixel’s alpha component and therefore gotten a semi-transparent image! Way cool! Trying out something weird::

 0   1   0   0   0  \
 1   0   0   0   0   |
 0   0   0   0   0   |
 0   0   0   1   0   |
 0   0   1   0   1   /

This will give (G , R , 1 , A , 0 ), which means that we have swapped the red and green components around in our new image as well as tinted it heavily blue (maximum blue component), distorting it considerably.

This may be a little more useful (and is something I use in an application I’m currently writing):

 1.2   0   0   0   0  \
 0   1.2   0   0   0   |
 0   0   0.5   0   0   |
 0   0   0   1   0   |
 0.05   0.05   0   0   1   /

This yields ( 1.2(R+0.05) , 1.2(G+0.05) , 0.5B , A , 1 ). It enhances red and green and suppresses blue (leaving the alpha component intact). In other words, it gives the image a yellow tint, which I use on a picture of wood in order to distinguish wet wood from dry wood in the user interface.

The image to the left has been created from the right image
(the short side of the packet, which are only partly visible on the right packet
here) by using the above color matrix. We also see
a “ghosted” image (with alpha 0.25) showing the size of a full packet.

In this MSDN article, we learn that .NET doesn’t provide a way to create a gray scale image. The author therefore writes a method doing this on a pixel per pixel basis and also demonstrating the use of pointers in unmanaged C#. It’s a good article, and I even thought of rewriting it into hand optimized assembler to show what a boost you can get from that. However, the claim that .NET doesn’t provide a way to create a gray scale image is completely wrong! How do you do it? With a ColorMatrix of course!

A grey color is a color where the red, green and blue components are equal. In order to produce a gray scale we simply have to calculate the brightness for each color. Taking the average of the red, green and blue component will do the trick:

 1/3   1/3   1/3   0   0  \
 1/3   1/3   1/3   0   0   |
 1/3   1/3   1/3   0   0   |
 0   0   0   1   0   |
 0   0   0   0   1   /

People who know more about color vision that I do may claim what this is wrong because the eye is more sensitive to green than blue (maybe) and that the factor 1/3 shouldn’t be applied to all components (although PaintShop Pro appears to use exactly these values BTW). Maybe (0.35 0.4 0.25) is more accurate… or other factors… but that’s not the point. The ColorMatrix will do
the transformation for you once you know the exact factors. (If this calculation is taking place in the graphics card while painting, we cannot beat the performance how hard we try, otherwise a specialized grayscale method will be able to execute slightly faster.)

Finally, a little experiment. I myself belong to the 5% – 20% (according to whose number you should believe) of the male population who are color blind. Most people I talk to have no idea what is meant by that, believing that all I see is black and white or have even funnier guesses.

There are different kinds of color blindness. The most common one is caused by a misalignment of the green and red receptors in the eye. Blue defectiveness is uncommon.

By applying this color matrix to an image:

 1 – z   z   0   0   0  \
 z   1-z   0   0   0   |
 0   0   1   0   0   |
 0   0   0   1   0   |
 0   0   0   0   1   /

You should be able to get a feeling for what is happening when you “can’t see red or green clearly”. By giving z a value of zero, we get the identity matrix and therefore a completely undistorted image. By varying z in the ]0 , 0.5] range you create a weighted average of the red and green component (smoothing out the distinction between them), which should in some way mimic what’s happening when the eye cannot distinguish clearly between red and green. A value of 0.5 will in effect make a “gray scale of red and green, leaving blue unaffected”. Eh, that
sounded weird. Values in the ]0.5 , 1] range will start to swap the meaning of red and green. A funny observation: a z of 1 means that red and green are completely swapped, but that no information is lost. Theoretically a person with such a decfect color sight would have perfect color vision and simply learn that the word for what he sees as green is red and vice versa.

The image to the right has been created by applying the above color matrix to the left image, using a z value of 0.3, simulating a defect red-green vision. 

As I said, this is a little experiment and I may really be totally out of line here. If you’re interested, there are numerous web pages dedicated to this concept.

Can Color-Blind Users See Your Site?
is a good MSDN article discussing UI design also and gives a few pointers to other sources. I’ve come across applications which I haven’t been able to use without pasting screen shots into Paint Shop Pro and investigate the “bad” colors using the color dropper.

Time to leave the Matrix.

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Pirates of the crabwise …

Posted by Dan Byström on October 10, 2004

I’ve written an application called PurmoMaster (its current incarnation is called PurmoMaster 2003 and a PurmoMaster 2005 will probably follow) for a company called Rettig Heating. PurmoMaster is used to calculate heat loss in buildings and then to find exactly what radiators is needed to correctly heat a building. PurmoMaster is given away for free and the obvious reason is that it will only suggest radiators from Rettig’s product line (there is still 2000 radiators to choose from). Rettig wants to keep track of their customers in order to inform them of product updates, new prices etc. Therefore a user must register a mail address on Rettig’s web site and is then given a license code in return, which is all that is needed to run the application. Simple.

I just googled for PurmoMaster 2003 and found the most amazing thing. A cracker group has TAKEN THE TIME to create a key generator for a FREE PROGRAM! According to their web page, this heroic deed has been performed by two master minds using the nicknames absolut and oktan. Their parents must be proud.

(As a side note: IF the program WAS NOT free, this would have been useless anyway, since Rettig would immediately spot a pirated version once the customer placed an order, but that’s another story.)

Apart from being a good story, this is also tragic. If people can spend their time doing things like this (with absolutely no gain what so ever) – what chances are there that a “real commercial” application should ever be left alone?

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