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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Computer mimics great masters' style
Sunflowers
One mouse click and this could look like a Van Gogh
A computer programme has been invented which transforms an ordinary photograph into a picture in the style of a famous artist.

US computer expert Dr Aaron Hertzmann was inspired to create the software after he wondered if it would be possible to digitally apply key aspects of an artist's style on to a photograph, the New Scientist reported.

Working with a team of experts from Microsoft and the University of Washington, Dr Hertzmann created a package which performs the operation at a click of a mouse.

The programme works by comparing a photo of, for example, a sunflower and a scan of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.

Sunflowers, painting by Van Gogh
Van Gogh's style can be be transferred onto holiday snaps
It then analyses the relationship between the pixels, which are the tiny dots that make up the digital image, and the painting.

The information can then be applied to any other photo.

When a set of snaps is presented to the software it looks for patterns in the pixels which are similar to those found in the original images.

Once this has taken place it is able to transform the photographs into pictures which mimic the painter's style.

In the above scenario it would apply Van Gogh's artistry to the snaps.

Watercolour

Dr Hertzmann is not alone in his quest to develop a new genre of painting, British company Segmentis is developing a similar system, reports The Independent.

Professor Andrew Bangham from the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, told the newspaper they were adopting a new approach which differed from Dr Hertzmann.

The system used by Segmentis simplifies pictures, by removing strong tones while retaining edges, to produce a watercolour effect.

Eugene Fiume from the University of Toronto told the Independent that the software has beneficial effects and is about more than making the pictures look classy.

"This work gets people thinking about what constitutes an artist's style," he said.

Dr Hertzmann is currently planning to develop his software in order to apply the technique to moving pictures.

"You could have an animated movie set in a Van Gogh painting," he told New Scientist.

See also:

02 Apr 01 | Wales
'Platfform' for digital era
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Big three back digital film school
24 May 01 | New Media
UK debut for 'computerised painting'
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