The latest Roon 1.8 release talks about Art Director as a way of fixing up artist photos in Roon, and now that we have over 500,000 images already adjusted by our community, I’d like to expand on that.
Getting high-quality (and highly accurate) photographs of artists has been a challenge for every service that displays them. 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 made a major improvement in 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’ve released 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: 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?
Now that we have started to get 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 in an future release of Roon.
You can find Art Director at https://valence.roonlabs.com, where we’ll introduce more of these types of tools in the future. You will need to log in with your licensed Roon account (not a trial) to contribute.