Shenanigans! on Microvision

A few years back there was a lot of excitement about the invention of the pico-projector, basically a hand held video projector that uses either a laser or LED as its light source, having the advantage of being very power efficient and able to project sharply onto any surface at any distance. Weirdly, even though such a device would have been at the top of my geeky wish list 20 years ago, I have yet to really try one out probably because about a thousand other tech advances have happened in the intervening period leaving me with a little bit of technological ennui.

So anyway, I finally decided to have a look what’s available out there, and the very first site I hit was for Microvision’s SHOWWX laser pico projector. Awesome I thought, that looks really cool HANG ON A MINUTE…

Figure 1. (detail from website screenshot)

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it isn’t immediately obvious, but to my knowledge there is currently no known technology that can project darkness. And yet that is what this “actual photo” of the product in use is illustrating– Note that much of the projected image is actually darker than the rest of the [ambiently lit] door. What this indicates to me is not that Microvision have made a truly incredible breakthrough that most DARPA scientists would give up a gonad to achieve; rather it tells me that the company is happy to promote their products with DIRTY STINKING LIES which are compounded by the explicit claim of authenticity [see bottom left of the image]. It also implies that their web designers don’t even know how to use Photoshop properly, and because I am so lovely I offer here a quick lesson in getting this effect right.

First take your original shot of people pretending to use your mockup product as though it is real:

Figure 2.

Then take your mocked up corporate bullshit screenshot:

Figure 3.

Now clean up the target surface with the clone tools, paste the mockup into a new layer, then use the Transform tool position it on the original where you think would be a good spot, only this time don’t just adjust the layer opacity; instead choose the blending mode Screen (it’s called that for a reason).

Et voila! a reasonably accurate representation of what your bullshit product would look like if it actually worked* and was actually being used by your pretend office workers:

Figure 4.

Sure it may not look as vivid as if you just threw verisimilitude out the window, but then you wouldn’t get pedantic assholes like me calling shenanigans on your ass! Of the six photos cycling on the page, there is at least one other faked shot seen here (see the red color channel) and the only one I would bet isn’t fake is this one.

But seriously, I am not really that upset that this company faked a product shot and called it real… It’s just that this particular mistake happens all the time and I am really sick of seeing it, so if this post can prevent just one pixel monkey from making this mistake again it will have been worth it.

Other places you can see this type of error include in-shot monitor images added to  TV shows in post-production… although it’s not as bad as it once was when chroma-key was employed to awful effect. A quick hint here for photoshoppers is to start with a picture of the TV turned off, then add your image as mentioned above (using the screen blend mode); this way the basic color of the screen and the reflections off it will be retained as they would in real life.

Another common example is the fake red laser sniper dot in cop shows… often it will be seen on a bright white wall or shirt, and the red dot will actually be darker than the surrounding surface**. Again, you cannot make a surface darker by shining more light on it!

UPDATE: An enterprising reader [who really needs to start his own blog] pwns me at Photoshop:

Figure 5.


* I do believe the thing works, here is video of a dude demonstrating it (and interestingly he even points out the “can’t project black” issue). The tech is actually pretty sexy, since unlike every other projection technology out there a laser scanning projector uses very little power when the source image is black. It seems the main criticism of this device is the “speckling” that you get from using lasers (if you’ve ever tried to look at a laser dot on a wall you’ve probably noticed the shimmering speckled quality of the light).

** In real life you can see the dot because it is so much brighter than a plain white surface, but on TV white things are often over-exposed already so a laser dot should be virtually invisible (solution: always show laser dots on dark surfaces, because even on a very dark color they will still show up very bright).

34 Responses:

  1. Shaun says:

    I’m pretty sure Gomez Addams once invented a ‘dark’ bulb that filled a room with darkness.

    Perhaps they are using a variant of his tech?

  2. George says:

    You’re an idiot!

  3. Shaun says:

    I’m pretty sure Gomez is smarter than you, George.

  4. richardn says:

    When I used to sell TVs [CRTs in the 90s] we had an old TV in the WallOTellies and the “killer close” was to turn off all the tellies and demonstrate the “blackness” of the new, good, tellies versus the grey look of the old, cheap one[s]. Always shocked people to show them that what they were seeing as black was really grey – funny thing was I could never really convince myself that it was true that the tubes didn’t somehow get blacker when they turned on.

  5. richardn says:

    BTW excellent post Mark!

  6. Bob says:

    You doctored the original picture. That is not how it looks on the MVIS website.

  7. mark says:


    Ok Bob, you will see there are convenient labels on all images in this post, so that you can answer this question without confusion, and future trolls can be more specific with their strange, pointless accusations.

    Exactly which “doctored” image are you referring to?

  8. Bob says:

    You doctored the original picture, meaning, the one at the top. That is not how it looks on the MVIS website.

    You are a crook.

  9. Shaun says:

    Looks the same to me, dude.

    How about instead of just saying “It’s doctored!” you actually try to explain why you think the image is doctored? Because right now you’re looking like a bit of a dumbass.

  10. Shaun says:

    Here’s a screencapture I just took from the site:

  11. Rachel says:

    Bob, cropping out a desk to the right of the image, and doctoring are two completely different things.

    Your incapacity to perceive this valid and humorous point of Mark’s is both ironic and absurd.

    Perhaps you should read a blog on fashion or…disney, I hear they’re much easier to understand…

  12. Bob says:

    The picture at the top of this website is doctored, and not just cropped. Anyone with eyes can go to the MVIS website and look for themselves, instead of looking at other peoples screen captures. On the MVIS website, the black area on that shot is nowhere near that dark.

    Compare it for yourselves, don’t just trust other peoples screen shots.

  13. Shaun says:

    Well I’m looking for myself, Bob, (with my eyes!) and on the MVIS site the dark area in the so-called projection is definitely as dark as it is in Mark’s Figure 1. shot.

    So either there’s some sort of weird colour-space issue going on with your PC, or your judgement is off.

    Or maybe you are a crook! Or a heel. Or a chump.

  14. mark says:

    Oh poor Bob, it is clearly killing you that I have managed to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and you are the only one who can see the TRUTH! If only they could see with your eyes and know with your heart the depths to which I will sink in order to fabricate a snarky and slightly educational blog post.

    Screw you, dipshit.


  15. Shaun says:

    I’m still laughing at the idea of a crook whose MO is to construct an elaborate ruse in order to dispense free Photoshop tips.

  16. Bob says:

    Shaun = Rachel = Mark

    Anyone who doubts, just go to the MVIS website and look at the original picture yourself. You will see that the one posted here at the top is doctored.

  17. mark says:

    No please don’t [click that link I included in the post], or my complex web of sock puppets will come tumbling down!

    Help me out with a hunch here, Bob. You wouldn’t be one of those “moon landing was a hoax” people by any chance?

  18. Shaun says:

    Bob = Chuck Palahniuk?

  19. Bob says:

    I am not sure what the moon landings have to do with the fact that you doctored the image from the MVIS website to make the blacks look blacker than what is shown on the website.

    It’s very easy to get the original picture from the MVIS site and alter it to get it to look just like your first picture at the top. Comparing your top picture to your screen shot is irrelevant because the same alterations can be done to the screen shot.

    Anyone with eyes can go to the MVIS website for themselves and see that what they have posted is not what you have posted at the top. There is no need to take my word for it. Not only are the dark areas much darker, there are also differences in skin tones and other things in your doctored image that give it away.

    It’s really a rather amateurish stunt. The multiple identities agreeing with yourself also fits the pattern of types like you.

  20. mark says:

    This is the truly the strangest comment thread in ages… now I know how Buzz Aldrin felt.

    BTW since you’re apparently not going away, so-called Bob, does whatever you’re accusing me of doing in any way invalidate the actual premise of the post:

    That some of the projected images in product shots on the MVIS website are clearly and measurably darker than the surfaces onto which they are projecting.

    If you can’t even accept that this is the case, then I think there might be something wrong with you, and I feel bad about that.

    If on the other hand you actually agree and just enjoy going on an on about how A looks slightly different to you than B, then please just STFU.

  21. jo says:

    Bob, perhaps you are the one responsible for the original image on the MVIS site and your feelings have been hurt somewhat? I have been sitting here with multiple tabs open flicking between images and trying to work out what your problem is… Can I just ask – even if the image was doctored (which it plainly wasn’t) are you saying that the image on the website is truly representational of their product? Are you saying that if people go and check out this particular image on the MVIS site then it WON’T depict a projected image darker than the surface it purports to be projected on? To be fair, this is the only image in that set that sticks out like a sore thumb – all others (at first glance anyway) seem much more likely to be the purported ‘actual photos’.

  22. Bob says:

    On the MVIS website, the dark areas of the image “appear” to be slightly darker than the wall it is projected on. This is a function of the way the eye and brain process images. There are countless studies about this out there that explain this. “Mark” took that picture and then enhanced it to make it much more pronounced.

    This is also a photograph of a projection, so the there are additional processing effects that come into play. A video of images from this projector will frequently show black scan lines running down the image although the human eye never sees it in person. A similar effect is also visible with videos of CRT monitors.

  23. mark says:

    “Mark” is my name, you dipshit, it’s my blog FFS, and that’s why my email address is You, on the other hand, are utterly anonymous; I have neither an email nor an URL to verify your identity. Hence you will remain so-called Bob aka Dipshit until you find the balls to provide such information.

    Just what is your stake in this anyway? As Jo suggested, perhaps it is your own shitty handiwork I am denigrating, so perhaps you are just trying to cover your ass?

    Everyone is free to follow the link and decide for themselves, but weirdly no one seems to be seeing things the way you do, and that seems to be causing you some pain. I don’t know why you think repeatedly insisting I am lying (especially when that is predicated on other regular commenters being fake!) is going to change anything.

    I was going to suggest you do a screen cap of your own and post a link here (you still can if you want) but then how would that change anything, since we would probably still see exactly the same thing and you would keep harping on that my images have been doctored.

    I just don’t know what to do with you, Dipshit, I’m at my wit’s end!

  24. Bob says:

    Yes, everyone is free to compare the picture on the MVIS website to your doctored image. Seeing is believing.

  25. phuzz says:

    Ok, I’m going to try looking at both.
    First up, just eyeballing both pictures side by side I can’t spot any difference between the two, although I do notice that there’s a gradient to the background of the slide on the projection, so the top is noticeably lighter than the bottom.
    However, I’m slightly colour blind so I can’t always trust my eyes, so, let’s see what the colour values are of the pixels.
    Eyeballing the zoomed in images side by side I can see that Mark’s picture is a bit smaller, also both images have different JPEG artefacts visible when zoomed in, which makes the picking the same representative colour from both images a bit tricky. I’m going to pick an area in the middle of the image of the slide just to the left of the 4th and 5th rows of text, which seems to be consistent between both images. (close to the text is quite aliased, so I’m picking an spot of the background which is as far as possible from other colours on both images).

    From the image on the Microvision website (which is resolving for me as, are we looking at the same site I get:

    R:80, G:71, B:40 (H:31, S:80, L:56).

    Taking colour values from the same place in the middle on Mark’s image I get:

    R:80, G:74, B:45 (H:33, S:67, L:59).

    Well, I was actually expecting them to be the same, but Mark’s image is very slightly brighter it seems. Putting an area of both colours right next to each other I can /just/ see a slight difference.
    Sorry Mark, I was expecting to see no change, but it looks like when you cropped the image and shrunk it which ever software you used fucked the colours up slightly, it also added a whole new set of JPEG artefacts on top of the existing ones, and my guess would be that in the shrunken image the proximity of the background of the image (the ‘black’ area which is actually more greeny brown up close) to the surrounding lighter areas brightened it somewhat. I think (but I’m not sure), it’s relented to this:

    Damn, I can’t believe I just spent 20 mins trying to prove a troll wrong, just to end up proving that trolling troll actually has super human eyesight or something, what a waste of fucking time :(

    (NB, I took a screen grab of both pages side by side in firefox, and loaded that in MS Paint, and used the eye dropper tool in that to check the RGB values)

  26. Bob says:

    I get 80, 71, 42 on image at the top of this page and 103, 92, 62 at the same spot on the original picture on the MVIS website.

    Big difference.

  27. Shaun says:

    @ Phuzz

    Bob is claiming that the dark areas in Mark’s Figure 1. image are darker than the corresponding dark areas in the image on the MVIS site, so if you found Mark’s image to be ever so slightly brighter, that would run contrary to Bob’s claims.

    For what it’s worth, here’s what I see:

    Side by side comparison:

    Dragging and dropping from one to the other:

    Bob, if you are indeed seeing Mark’s image as being darker than the original, then it’s possibly some kind of odd colourspace/gamma issue.

    However even if that’s the case, you’re still an unbelievable douchebag for assuming that:

    a) Mark must have doctored the image!

    b) Mark, Shaun, and Rachel must be the same person. There is no other explanation! Mark has been commenting here under the name of Shaun for several years in order to pull off this potentially PERFECT CRIME with no apparent benefit.

    I mean, you have to admit that’s pretty damn douchebaggy of you.

    Wait, what’s that? Shhh. Listen carefully… I think I hear I hear a legion of youtube comment threads calling your name.

    Go. Be free. Frolic amongst your people in the land of the douchebags.

  28. mark says:

    I concur with my sockpuppet Shaun

  29. Shaun says:


    I think I’ve found the issue. What browser are you using, Bob? Firefox?

    If you go into about:config and search for the key:


    …there’s a good chance you’ll find it is set to 1.

    The default, and correct, setting is 2.

    When set to 1, the browser will perform colour adjustments on a image even if the image doesn’t have an embedded ICC profile.

    When it is set to 2, colour management is only applied to tagged images (ie: ones with an embedded ICC profile).

    See here for more info:

    Setting colour management it to 1 will have no effect on the image on the MVIS site as that image is embedded in a Flash movie, however the effect it has on Mark’s Figure 1. image is to darken it, leading to a brightness difference compared to the original website image, as seen in the capture below (note that the image on the left is a bit darker):

    To Bob, however, both sides will most likely look darker than they should.


    a) Bob is seeing Mark’s Figure 1. as darker than it is supposed to be due to his incorrectly configured browser (Firefox or otherwise) forcing a colour management profile on the image when none is meant to be applied.

    b) Bob is still a douchebag for assuming treachery and multiple aliases were afoot instead considering that the possibility of a colour management issue (on his end, no less!).

    c) Regardless of all of the above, the image on the MVIS site still shows darker shades in the so-called projected image than the surrounding surface. Which pretty makes Bob an uber-douchebag, as his whole clueless argument about doctoring does nothing refute the premise of Mark’s post. (Bear in mind too that when he sees Mark’s image as darker, the entire image is darker, therefore the differential between shades in the projection and the rest of the image are preserved, hence making his entire argument even more misguided.)

    d) I need to get out more. But at least I’m not a douchebag.

  30. phuzz says:

    must not stay up before a work day trying to prove people wrong on the internets.
    Anyway, just wanted to add, I could find a difference between the images when I spent ages checking the colours, but I couldn’t SEE a difference, so I assume Mark couldn’t either and it was an honest mistake on his part.
    Or maybe my copy of firefox was buggering up the colour balance.
    Bob, are you using a properly calibrated monitor or something? Either that or you have super human colour vision or something I guess.

    Anyway, take home message, fiddling with graphics can change them in unexpected ways, and if Mark IS just trying to ruin the reputation of microvision he’s put a bit much effort into it (write software, create blog, update blog for multiple years, only to finally say that they’re a bit shit at photoshop in one post, sandwiched between a post slagging of a rubbish film, and one slagging off banking websites). Really Mark, that’s a bit over the top don’t you think ;)

  31. Personally I think a projector that you can hold at any angle you want while still projecting onto the wall where your psychic mind power is focusing the image would be very convenient.

  32. RichardC says:

    Maybe if the device lights the wall around the projected image it would appear to project black.
    Quick! To the patent office…!

  33. Shaun says:

    Interestingly enough, the Microvision folks have now reverted to what is most likely the original shot as it must have appeared before some overeager employee decided to darken the projection:

    Plus they stopped using Flash for the gallery.