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  #1  
Old 12-20-2006, 04:45 PM
Darius Wey
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Default High-Resolution Album Art with Firmware / Zune Software 1.2

We've had a couple of days to acknowledge that Firmware 1.2 for the Zune was a godsend for having introduced significant enhancements in performance across the board. But there's an extra surprise - one that remains undocumented, so you'll have to see it for yourself to believe it.



You all know that the Zune has a habit of taking high-resolution album art embedded in files, downgrading it to an offensive 200 x 200 (or thereabouts), and then upscaling it to 240 x 240 to fit its QVGA display. Blech! That nasty habit is gone with Firmware / Zune Software 1.2. I performed a little experiment today. I decided to start fresh by nuking the contents of my Zune and the Zune software, re-adding the media to the Zune software, and re-syncing my library. Each and every track in my library has 480 x 480 album art, so if the Zune wants to make album art look good, that's a perfect ingredient to work with. After the sync, I loaded up my first track and noticed immediately that album art looked clearer than ever before. In disbelief, I loaded up a few more and was not left disappointed. The Zune was actually taking advantage of the 480 x 480 album art and scaling it appropriately (without the 200 x 200 intermediary) to 240 x 240 for its QVGA display. There was a catch, though. Artifacts were still visible (but less pronounced), so the Zune was still compressing album art to a degree. But hey, you can't have too much of a good thing all at once. Perhaps Microsoft will tweak this in the next firmware update. ;-)

And now it's your turn to savour the moment. Delete an album or two off your Zune and Zune software, or your entire music library if you're feeling gung-ho, re-add the media, ensure that you have relatively high-resolution album art embedded in your tracks, and re-sync. Can you see the difference?

Note: If you're familiar with the Folder.jpg album art system in PlaysForSure devices, you may be interested to know that the Zune utilizes a similar mechanism. Prior to the availability of Firmware / Zune Software 1.2, 200 x 200 Folder.jpg files would be generated from embedded album art, transferred and converted to another file format on the Zune, and then upscaled to 240 x 240 (blurry). With the updates in place, Folder.jpg files are now 240 x 240 in size - perfect for the Zune's QVGA display. The end result? Clarity.
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Old 12-20-2006, 06:05 PM
grommet
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Don't know why I was special... but that's the same behavior I saw with the previous version. The embedded images took a priority over the non-embedded while doing a sync. It only used the 200 x 200 images if there was no embedded image. I use 400 x 400 in much of my content, and it always looked good when it sync'd and re-scaled on the Zune.

The only difference I see with Album Art on the 1.2 PC software is that the "Paste Album Art" feature (which writes images to both Folder.jpg & inside the music files) now auto-scales to 240 x 240, the maximum resolution for the Zune device, instead of 200 x 200. That's good, right? Maybe. There is a bad part: The overly aggressive JPEG compression is still there. I think it's worse than it was at 200 x 200, at least for hard to compress images. They need to relax it a bit to make the "Paste Album Art" feature robust.

It's all a little odd... like not everyone is on the same page. The online Album Art from the metadata servers for personal rips is still natively 200 x 200, too... but, thankfully, not badly compressed... so it's pretty good, even when Zune scales it to 240 x 240.

Cheers...

Last edited by grommet; 12-20-2006 at 06:10 PM..
 
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Old 12-20-2006, 06:10 PM
Darius Wey
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If any of you read this when it first appeared on the front-page, you may want to read it again. I added an update that helps explain what you may need to do on the Zune software to get this working.

Note that this only applies to existing media. Any new music you add to your library later will sync with 240 x 240 album art automatically.
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Old 12-20-2006, 06:12 PM
Darius Wey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grommet View Post
Don't know why I was special... but that's the same behavior I saw with the previous version. The embedded images took a priority over the non-embedded while doing a sync. It only used the 200 x 200 images if there was no embedded image. I use 400 x 400 in much of my content, and it always looked good when it sync'd and re-scaled on the Zune.
Interesting that you experienced something different. Most others who I've spoken to were stuck with the 200 x 200 album art even with higher-resolution art embedded in the file.

But yes, 240 x 240 is the new standard that the Zune software uses, as opposed to 200 x 200.
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Old 12-21-2006, 12:24 AM
Jason Dunn
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Ok, this is ALL screwed up now - I have 200 x 200 images that were pulled from my album art, but the Zune software is only using them. I think I might need to delete them all to get the larger images pulled...? Their system is SO messed up!
 
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Old 12-21-2006, 01:53 AM
grommet
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Yes, to get the 240 x 240 (and heavily compressed) Folder.jpg extract... I think you'd need to at least remove and re-add the content in the Zune software. Not sure about having to delete the original Folder.jpg system files beforehand... but go ahead.

Of course, that should be moot since the embedded images should win the race...
 
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  #7  
Old 12-21-2006, 02:12 AM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grommet View Post
Of course, that should be moot since the embedded images should win the race...
Yes, exactly! Embedded should be the #1 place it looks first...it's ridiculous that it doesn't.
 
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  #8  
Old 12-21-2006, 02:27 AM
Darius Wey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Dunn View Post
Ok, this is ALL screwed up now - I have 200 x 200 images that were pulled from my album art, but the Zune software is only using them. I think I might need to delete them all to get the larger images pulled...? Their system is SO messed up!
Yep, I tried it on another system and had to delete the images before they were generated again as 240 x 240 versions.

That said, I've looked into this a bit more and the Zune may not actually be tapping into Folder.jpg; rather, a different but related file. I'll have to investigate this further.
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  #9  
Old 12-21-2006, 03:58 AM
grommet
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Jason, but it does win the race on my system. Art looks great on the Zune.

Darius, the Zune software has it's own album art caching for speed purposes... which is generated from the various ways art can be tied to a track. Embedded in metadata, Folder.jpg or AlbumArt_ {GUID}_Large.jpg
 
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Old 12-21-2006, 07:40 AM
Darius Wey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grommet View Post
Darius, the Zune software has it's own album art caching for speed purposes... which is generated from the various ways art can be tied to a track. Embedded in metadata, Folder.jpg or AlbumArt_ {GUID}_Large.jpg
Right, nothing new there. It's exactly the same as PlaysForSure + WMP, except the point worth noting here is that JPG files aren't simply copied over to the Zune and read directly, so there's a bit more of a hack job involved. We'll be posting on this separately in the future.
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