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Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing

Video: John McCann on color vision challenges in electronic imaging

Teaching cameras how to "see" as humans do is both an art and a science, and Edwin Land spent his career pursuing that goal.

9 November 2011, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201111.01

John McCann received a BA degree in Biology from Harvard University in 1964. Under the direction of Edwin Land, he worked in, and later directed, the Vision Research Laboratory at Polaroid from 1961 to 1996.  He has studied human color vision, digital image processing, large format instant photography and the reproduction of fine art. His more than 120 publications have studied Retinex theory, color from rod/Lcone interactions at low light levels, appearance with scattered light, and High-Dynamic-Range imaging. He was interviewed for SPIE Newsroom in May 2011.

McCann developed systems that capture natural scenes, calculate appearances, and write the computed image on media. These systems convert 1000:1 ranges found in scenes to 30:1 ranges usable in prints. The ratio-product-reset Retinex model simulates what a painter would do to reproduce a scene. His Polaroid work began with photography, progressed to paper collages with controlled illumination; then to computer-controlled images and electronic imaging. He set up Polaroid's first digital imaging laboratory in 1975. He developed and patented efficient algorithms for making spatial comparisons among all pixels in an image, an early form of pyramid processing. At Polaroid he published more than 60 papers and nine patents on color sensations from the interaction of rods and long-wave cones; display size dependence of human MTF; color constancy and Retinex Theory of color vision.

After 35 years at Polaroid Research Labs he retired as Senior Laboratory Manger to work with his wife Mary as consultants on imaging. Together the operate McCann Imaging, offering services on the theory of colorimetry, color appearance and image processing, and the practical implementations of color in photographic and electronic imaging systems. Recent work had measured the role the accuracy and appearance of high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging.

McCann has served on the program committee for the Human Vision and Electronic Imaging conference at SPIE/IS&T Electronic Imaging for more than 10 years, and has presented more than 35 papers at SPIE conferences. He holds 12 patents, including two with Edwin Land. He is a Fellow of and past president of IS&T, and received the IS&T/OSA Edwin H. Land Medal in 2003. He is coauthor of the book The Art and Science of HDR Imaging (Wiley/IS&T; January 2012).